If you’ve ever regretted the purchase you just made — also known as buyer’s remorse — you’re not alone. Everyone suffers from occasional buyer’s remorse.
And it’s not just the little things. A recent Liberty Mutual Insurance survey found 43 percent of homeowners didn’t research neighborhood factors including noise, traffic and area driving behavior before buying their home. Nearly four out of 10 homeowners would have reconsidered the purchase of their home had all the facts.
So how do you avoid buyer’s remorse — and what do you do if you have it?
“Buyer’s remorse happens when we perceive that a purchase we have made, upon reflection, appears to be inconsistent with other knowledge we have,” explains Colleen Kirk, who teaches at the New York Institute of Technology School of Management. “Inconsistencies can come from becoming aware of alternative attractive products, from learning information about lower prices on the same product, or even from becoming more conscious of our own feelings or values that may be inconsistent with the purchase.”
How to prevent buyer’s remorse
There’s only one proven way to prevent buyer’s remorse. Do your research.
“Consider the purchase,” says Catherine Franssen, a psychology professor at Longwood University. “Make a ‘pros and cons’ list. Talk with others and review your budget.”
In other words, research, research, research.
And don’t I wish I’d talked with Franssen before I bought my 2015 Honda Pilot (way too big for my family) or my Canon 1D camera (too many bells and whistles) or even the house in Florida (12 years of regret, that one). But alas, I didn’t have her number. Catherine, where were you when I needed you? (Related: His broken Fitbit is worthless. Can he get a free replacement?)
How to get out of your purchase
Don’t worry, there’s a way out. Here are a few things you can do one you have a bad case of buyer’s remorse:
Take advantage of a company’s return policy
Many businesses have refund policies that allow you to return your purchase within 7 days, and some for as much a month. Ky Trang Ho, founder of Key Financial Media in Los Angeles. Most notably is Nordstrom, which takes back items long after the purchase. “Of course, the rules change depending on the type of service or good you purchased, the price and terms of the contract signed,” she says.
Invoke the “cooling off” rule
Many states have cooling-off rules that protect you from a buyer’s remorse situation. If you’ve bought a car, and it doesn’t work right, your state’s Lemon Laws may also protect you. “You need to know the rules,” warns Julie Ramhold, a consumer analyst with DealNews.com, a shopping comparison site. “For instance, buying something at a seller’s permanent or primary place of business means your purchase isn’t covered by a cooling-off rule. If it’s determined that what you buy is covered, you should have about three days from the time of purchase to change your mind and back out. Know that this rule can vary from state to state though, so do your research carefully.”
Get help from a third party
You might ask an, ahem, consumer advocate for help with a shoddy product. People like us exist because there’s a gray area between what you can return and what you should be able to return. Sometimes, you have to nudge a company to do the right thing, and a third party can help. (You can always contact me directly through my help form. My team and I advocate all kinds of cases. You’d be surprised, and sometimes shocked, by the kinds of causes we take up.)
If you purchased your product with a credit card, don’t forget the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), which allows you to get a refund for certain products that didn’t meet your standards. Technically, the FCBA settlement procedures apply only to disputes about billing errors, such as unauthorized charges, charges that list the wrong date or amount and math errors. But — and I probably will get into trouble for saying this — you can use credit card disputes for so much more. Check with your bank or review our help forums for information on how others have leveraged the nuclear option to reverse buyer’s remorse.
These strategies will help you avoid or reverse your buyer’s remorse. (Also, check out my ultimate guide to product returns.) Remember, good businesses have customer-friendly return policies, and most states have laws that can protect you from a bad purchase. You can also lean on me or your bank’s credit card dispute department. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)
Bottom line: You don’t have to live with a product you regret purchasing. Help is available.