Generators bought for derecho can’t be returned

Nathan Hager,

GAITHERSBURG, Md. – All those days in blistering heat with no air conditioning had many Washingtonians scrambling to get their hands on backup generators for their homes.

Now that the power has been restored in the week and a half since the June 29 derecho, those people who were lucky enough to find a generator aren’t thinking of returning them for a refund, are they?

Signs at some major home improvement stores’ cash registers suggest the stores are keeping an eye out for those wanting to turn several days of gas-powered electricity into one big freebie.

Some stores took the signs down after the weekend, but at the Home Depot in Shady Grove, they’re still up: “Generators are not returnable if they are opened or used.”

That may seem to fly in the face of Home Depot’s return policy, which states that gasoline-powered equipment may be returned within 30 days with a valid sales receipt. After that window, the item may be sent in for repair at the customer’s expense.

But a Home Depot spokesman tells WTOP that individual stores have the discretion to make judgment calls and refuse to accept recently-purchased generators if it appears they were purchased just to get buyers through the aftermath of the June 29 storm.

The spokesman says those signs also may be in place to warn customers before they buy a generator that they won’t be accepted for returns if they have a lot of wear.

Local Home Depot managers say they don’t get many customers trying to take advantage of the chain’s return policy, though they admit a slim percentage of customers do try to worm their way out of big-ticket purchases, such as generators or tile saws, which they won’t use very often.

Still, Home Depot’s spokesman says, after snowmageddon two years ago, last year’s tropical storms and the recent derecho and heat wave, the vast majority of its customers try to hold onto those generators they were lucky enough to get their hands on, when so many more of their neighbors were sweltering in the dark.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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