Question 90: RETURNING DEFECTIVE ITEM WITHOUT RECEIPT
By Rabbi Yisroel Belsky
I recently had bought something with a credit card,
but the item was defective. When I went to exchange
it for a new item, I realized I lost the receipt.
The store wouldn't replace it, although the store
did have a record of my credit card purchase. Would
it be permitted to go and buy the same item from
another store in the same chain, and with the new
receipt, return the original defective item to the
second store? Could I do the same thing if the two
stores were not part of the same chain?
If they're part of the same chain, and all centrally owned,
there may be a justification for doing it. If the stores
are not part of the same chain, then you are causing one
company to lose money unjustly. Let's focus on the
situation where we are dealing with two stores that
are part of the same chain.
There's no question that you are entitled to get a new
item if the original item is defective. The technicality
that you need the receipt is a rule that is meant to
ensure that no monkey business is taking place. They
want to be sure that they won't receive a defective
item that you found in the garbage. Then they will be
giving a new item, in exchange for an item that wasn't
sold in their store. Unfortunately, people do these kinds
of things all the time. That would chas v'sholom (G-d forbid)
be gezel (stealing).
If you bought something and it doesn't work, you're
entitled to get a replacement. Although there is a rule
that you have to bring the receipt, that rule is created
only to protect the store. In our case that reasoning doesn't
apply because this is the actual item you purchased from
them. Especially when they have a record of your credit
card purchase, they should accept that.
There may be clerks that may not be able to exercise
reasonable judgment, simply because the store has to make
a policy without exceptions. Still, you do have the right
to get a replacement for this item since the replacement
belongs to you. Just because you don't have the receipt,
that doesn't mean you lost the right of replacement. You have
no way of getting a replacement, but that doesn't take away
from the fact that the replacement is coming to you. It's
a debt that the store owes to you, no matter what happens
to the receipt.
If you're missing the verification, which allows you to
collect a debt that's owed to you, it doesn't mean that
you lost the money you spent.
Therefore, I think you're allowed to figure out some
other way to get the replacement.
When you do return Item A with the receipt that you got
from Item B, is that considered lying? If so, is it
No. Just do it in a way that doesn't require you to
tell a lie. Try to be vague as to what specific store
you bought it at. It's a shame that you have to do this,
and a person should try to avoid it, even though he's
You once made a distinction between the three levels
of lifnim mishuras hadin, (acting beyond the letter
of the law). Only the tzaddik (righteous person) is
required to observe the topmost level. Would you say
that a person who wants to observe the highest level
of lifnim mishuras hadin should not do this?
Yes, I would think so, but for a different reason.
There we were talking about lifnim mishuras hadin in
relation to seeing that other people are treated not
only fairly, but kindly and generously as well. That's
about what the relationship between people should be.
But here we're talking about a different aspect of
lifnim mishuras hadin, concerning the purity of your speech.
Are you saying that a person who is a baal nefesh
(conscientious person), when it comes to bein odom
l'atzmo (the relationship between a person to himself)
should not do this, even if he lost fifty dollars?
Is that what you're implying?
All I'm saying is that you should be extremely careful
about what you say, so that a dvar sheker (false words)
shouldn't come out of your mouth. But there's nothing
wrong with using truthful statements, and phrasing the
words in a careful way, that will allow you to take what
is rightfully yours, what's owed to you.
In other words, the action is permissible as long as there
is no chance of sheker (lying) or gezel (stealing).
You have to be careful how you do things. Think it
through carefully, plan out what you will say, so you
should not have to come to lying. The implied geneivas
da'as (misleading of others), that people in the store
might think you bought it there when you really didn't,
is not considered to be sheker (lying). The owners of the
store owe you the money or a replacement for the product,
and they're required to pay you the money that they owe
Let's say the manager comes over and asks, "Did you buy
this item in this store?" You have your yarmulke on.
If you say, "I did not," then he now knows you're doing
a haromoh (act of trickery), and the fact that he sees
your yarmulke might also make it a chilul Hashem
(desecration of Hashem's Name). But if you say,
"I did," it will be sheker. To avoid a possible chilul
Hashem and to avoid sheker, should you go in there with
a baseball cap?
You could, or you could explain yourself as follows.
"I bought this item at your chain, and I have a credit
card receipt to prove it. The product never worked, and
I feel that I deserve a replacement. I'm sure the store
would have given it to me if they trusted my word, and
what I am saying is absolutely true. I originally bought
a broken item from your store chain, so now I'm returning
the item, which the store should replace."
EDITOR'S NOTE: It goes without saying that this procedure
cannnot be extended beyond the example mentioned. For
example, doing this to replace an item that is out of
warrantee would be stealing.
NEXT WEEK'S QUESTION 91: TALKING TO OR ABOUT SLACKING EMPLOYEES
At work I sometimes see other employees who are not
working according to what might be considered minimum
standards. For example, they might be wasting time,
resources, or perhaps even being dishonest. Am I obligated
to say something to the other employees or even to a manager?
Would this be comparable to retrieving a lost article,
in this case being the work that the employer lost?