Views / Opinion

Ellen Roseman: Dollarama customer short-changed by murky refund policy

Sellers are supposed to make their refund policies clear, but that doesn’t always happen.

Dollarama is a national retail chain with 1,100 stores.


Dollarama is a national retail chain with 1,100 stores.

“Can I get my money back if I change my mind after buying a product or service?”

“If I have paid in full for a service I can no longer use, can I get a refund?”

Such questions are frequently asked by Toronto Star readers. Here’s a brief guide to the rules in Ontario.

Stores are not legally required to offer refunds or exchanges. That’s why you should ask questions before buying at a retailer for the first time.

If you don’t want a product any more — it’s the wrong size or colour or you saw it selling for a better price elsewhere — you’ll have to rely on the company’s refund and return policy.

Things are different if a product is defective. You have the right to a refund, or at least a replacement, when a purchase breaks down prematurely, doesn’t work as advertised or doesn’t match what you ordered.

While sellers can set the conditions of sale as they wish, they’re supposed to make their policies clear at the cash register or through signage at the store. But some people only learn about a no-return policy after making a purchase.

Mike Styles told me about going to the Dollarama store in Meaford, Ont., to pick up eight drop cloths at $4 apiece. He and his wife were doing some renovations.

“Unfortunately, they were not the ones my wife wanted. We did not open any of the packages. I drove straight back to the store, arriving about 20 minutes after the purchase,” he said.

“I explained to the casher what happened, but she said they had a ‘no exchange, no return’ policy. Admittedly, it does say this on the receipt.”

Dollarama is a national retail chain with 1,100 stores. It has boosted sales and profits by gradually allowing prices to rise beyond the $1 level. Some items sell for $3.50 or $4.

After mulling over this complaint, I did a little research on the ground.

Going to a large and fairly new Dollarama store on Yonge St., north of St. Clair Ave. in midtown Toronto, I hunted for signs that said NO EXCHANGE, NO RETURN (as on the receipt). I found nothing.

No manager was on duty, so I asked a cashier where the return policy was posted. She surveyed a wall behind her, covered with merchandise, and seemed puzzled that she couldn’t find a sign either. It’s on the receipt, she reminded me.

I went online and used the search box at to look for “refund” and “return,” but came up dry. “Exchange” led to information about the company’s TSX listing. There was no mention in the FAQ (frequently asked questions) either.

Then, I did a Google search for Dollarama’s return policy and found a link that took me to the company’s privacy policy instead.

Last weekend, I sent a media inquiry through Contact Us. I’m waiting for a reply.

I can see the rationale for adopting a no-return policy. It saves time-consuming staff work to process them and helps keep Dollarama’s prices as low as possible.

But is a lack of flexibility appropriate in Mike Styles’ case, where he bought eight of the same items for $32 and brought them back in the unopened packages within half an hour?

With prices at $3.50 to $4 and maybe heading higher, does this discount chain need to revise its rules?

In another complaint, RBC customer Jeffrey Round said his refund came up short because of currency fluctuations.

His branch wired a $1,202.82 payment to Mexico for a vacation condo last fall. But an employee shortened the name of the receiving bank — since the software didn’t allow entering a full name — and the payment was not received.

RBC opened an investigation and later returned a smaller amount to his account, blaming changes in the exchange rate for Canadian and U.S. dollars.

“While $130.50 is not an extraordinary sum of money, I dislike having to pay for the bank’s error, especially since they have far more money than I have to rectify the situation,” he said.

A few days later, RBC spokesperson AJ Goodman said the matter was resolved.

“I can confirm that the client has been made whole. We regret any inconvenience this has caused our client,” she said.

What do you think? Should Canadian companies do a better job of explaining their refund policies?

Is it enough for stores that don’t accept returns or exchanges to put a message on a receipt, which you see only after you pay for an item?

Do you like the idea of flashing an electronic message on a checkout screen while your purchases are being scanned? What about posting large-print signs on walls, counters and doors?

Please write to me at I’ll have more to say about returns and exchanges next week.

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