Christmas Returns: Amazon vs Foot Locker

If your family is anything like mine, you probably need to return a few items after Christmas. Maybe your kid got duplicates of a toy or the wrong size jacket. At our house I have had several returns, including a couple pairs of shoes. Returning shoes to Foot Locker has been an eye-opening experience for me because I have been spoiled by Amazon Prime the last few years. Here is how my experience compares between returning shoes to Amazon and Foot Locker.


Amazon Prime is far from perfect during the Christmas season. Sometimes it seems like Prime 2 Day Shipping really means, “it gets there whenever Amazon feels like getting it there” during December. I had one order with 3 items take a week to arrive after they guaranteed 2 day shipping, and it was only shipping from a warehouse in Chattanooga 90 miles from my house. Most Amazon Prime items took 3 days to arrive instead of 2 during the holidays. However for the most part my experience with Amazon Prime has been good, and their 2 day shipping is almost always on time throughout the rest of the year for me.

While Amazon Prime Shipping is usually extremely fast with the occasional slow-downs in December, Amazon Prime returns is where they really shine. I ordered a pair of shoes in early December, and they arrived within 2 days. I tried them on and within minutes knew they were the wrong size, so I immediately got online and printed a return shipping label. I ordered the bigger size, which arrived 2 days later, and the next day I took the return package to UPS (Staples) to send the first pair of shoes back. As soon as UPS scans the bar code of the return package, Amazon is alerted that the return package is on its way. If you opt for Amazon Gift Card Credit on your account, then Amazon does not wait till they receive the item back and then start to process your return. They apply the credit for the return as soon as they get the notification that UPS has the return shipment. In other words, Amazon gives you the money back before they even receive the item at their warehouse! If you opt to receive the refund back to your credit card, then the process is slower, but I always opt for the gift card balance because I want my money back instantly and know I will quickly use the gift card balance anyway.

Fast forward a couple weeks, and now I am returning the bigger pair of shoes to Amazon. The shoes are the right size, but there are some quality / manufacturing issues that make one of the shoes uncomfortable. I hate to have to return the shoes again, but the process at least is seamless and fast. On the same day I am returning this pair of shoes to Amazon, I am also returning another pair of shoes to Foot Locker, and the experience is vastly different.


I do not usually shop at Foot Locker simply because there is not a convenient location where I live. There is one about 45 minutes away inside a mall, but there are plenty of other places to buy shoes and sporting goods that are closer and more convenient. In this case I ordered a pair of shoes from Foot Locker’s website because I had a 25% off coupon and because this particular shoe was not on Amazon or at any nearby stores in my small town. I was not expecting to return these shoes, but I thought I would have options if I did need to return them. The first option for an online order is obviously to mail the return order back to the store’s warehouse. In the case of Foot Locker, they really play up the fact that you can order online and return to any of their hundreds of locations nationwide.

Here is the exact wording from the returns page on the Foot Locker website:

Take the item(s) you would like to return to any of our stores nationwide. Please bring your invoice, order confirmation or shipping confirmation to the store for proper processing of your return or exchange. We will exchange the item or give you full credit for the purchase price of the item.

They make similar statements throughout their website, making you feel at ease about returning items if necessary. Most people will be relatively close to a mall with a Foot Locker, and while it is a bit of a drive for me, we go to Huntsville near this particular mall fairly often during school breaks. Foot Locker makes it a big point that it is easy to return your website orders to their stores and get your money back quickly.

This does not sound so bad compared to the slow processing time of mailing your shoes back to the Foot Locker warehouse. Also, mailing the shoes back is confusing and annoying as far as returns go. I now actually think Foot Locker intentionally makes their returns more difficult and complicated than necessary in order to deter people from returning their items. I had a couple questions about the return as they leave out some obvious things from their return instructions, so I waited to chat with a customer service rep online using the Chat message window. She was friendly and helpful and answered all my questions, but through this conversation with her I picked up some unfortunate information.

First I discovered how slow the return process is at Foot Locker if you mail the shoes back to the warehouse. If you use the return shipping label that came with your online order it says that it will probably take about 2 weeks for your item just to reach the Foot Locker warehouse, before they even start processing anything. But that is only the beginning of how slow this whole process is. Here are the exact words exchanged between me and the customer service rep:

Stephen: Ok thank you. I will mail them today. Once the box is received by foot locker, how long does it take before the money shows up back on my credit card?

Foot Locker Rep: Our Returns Department is a bit behind due to the holidays, but you can expect your return to be processed within 5-7 days of receiving it. Once processed, it will take another 5-7 business days for the refund to be returned to your credit card. All in all, the process will take 3-4 weeks to complete.

So today I am returning 2 pairs of shoes, one to Amazon and one to Foot Locker. With Amazon I will literally have the money back on my account TODAY. With Foot Locker I will be lucky if I see the money applied back to my credit card within a month. On top of that Amazon does not charge any return shipping fees for me to send my shoes back, but Foot Locker charges me $7 to mail the shoes back.

That has me thinking that maybe I should just make the 45 minute drive to the Foot Locker store in Huntsville and get the money back immediately. I might spend the $7 on gas, but at least I would get my $100 back quickly for returning the shoes. After all, Foot Locker has told me numerous times that I can order online and make easy returns to one of their retail locations. That convenience factor sounds really appealing when you realize it will take several weeks to get your money back by mailing the shoes. This is where things really get interesting. My conversation with the customer service rep continues:

Stephen: If I returned them to a store would I get the money back immediately?

Foot Locker Rep: That is possible, but only if the store stocks the item. I suggest that you give your local store a call to see if they can process a refund for your item.

Stephen: So you can’t really just return them to any foot locker?

Foot Locker Rep: You are more than welcome to return your item to any Foot Locker, but in some cases the stores cannot process the refund or exchange immediately. In cases like this, the item needs to be shipped back to our warehouse, but any store location would be able to ship that back for you.

Stephen: It says on the returns page of your website: “Take the item(s) you would like to return to any of our stores nationwide. Please bring your invoice, order confirmation or shipping confirmation to the store for proper processing of your return or exchange. We will exchange the item or give you full credit for the purchase price of the item.” So if i return them to a store, they still might have to just ship them back to the warehouse for me? So even if I go to a store I will still be charged $6.99 in return shipping fees AND have to wait at least 3-4 weeks to get my money back?

Foot Locker Rep: If you choose to take your item to a store, you will not be charged the return shipping fee even if the item must be returned to our warehouse. If it needs to be mailed back to the warehouse, the processing time is 3-4 weeks.

Stephen: Wow that sure is extremely misleading to not include that bit of information on the returns page of your website. It makes it sound like an easy return to a store and instantly get your money back

Foot Locker Rep: I do apologize, but we are unable to guarantee that a store will be able to process your return immediately. I will be sure to forward your feedback about the wording on the site to a member of our leadership staff.


Returning or exchanging items is a normal part of the retail buying experience, but I never realized just how poor the user experience can be with some retailers. It is no wonder that malls (and stores that are primarily located in malls, such as Foot Locker) have been shutting down all over the country the last few years. Walmart is one of my least favorite places to shop on Earth, but I know that I need to return an item to Walmart it is easy and convenient. I am not sure what Target’s return policy is now, but I remember trying to return a Target website order to a Target store a few years ago. They would not let me return the item, which was annoying, but it was their advertised and official policy at the time. Foot Locker right now puts out misleading information and intentionally leaves out key details about their return policy. Smaller sporting good stores like Foot Locker, Hibbett’s and Champs do not all carry the same items at all their locations. They might release the newest Lebron’s, KD’S, Curry’s or Kyrie’s only to certain stores in larger markets, but they might have last year’s model (or none at all) at stores in smaller markets. This pushes people in smaller markets to order online, and you do so with the confidence that you can at the very least return the shoes to your local store for an easy refund.

Let the buyer beware that it does not work that way at Foot Locker. If you live in a small market that does not carry a popular shoe at your local store, you cannot order from the website and expect to easily return that shoe to your local store. You only get a quick refund if that particular store carries that particular model.

Whatever it says on their website, they leave themselves the freedom to do whatever they want by adding this small caveat at the bottom of the returns page.

Offer may be modified or terminated at any time. Other restrictions and exclusions may apply.

In other words, everything we say on this page really means nothing. This return policy is really just a marketing gimmick to make you feel better about ordering from our website. Regardless of what they claim on the website, in most cases if you order from the Foot Locker website you will be wasting your gas and time by trying to return the item to a Foot Locker store. Usually all the local store does is mail them to the warehouse for you, the same thing you could have done yourself, and then you still have to wait at least 3-4 weeks before you see your refund.


I will most likely never order anything from the Foot Locker website again. Even if I was getting the exact size and model of shoe that I already wear, I would not feel confident ordering there compared to other options. What if they accidentally send me the wrong thing? Do I want to spend $100+ on shoes, and then if I accidentally receive the wrong item, have to wait a month for them to process my exchange and send me the correct shoes? Amazon would have my money back the same day or have my replacement shoes at my door in 2 days. Foot Locker needs to get with the times. At the very least Foot Locker needs to have realistic, not misleading or deceitful information about their policies on their website.