I was asked to drop my two cents in on this by someone in a comment thread, as a debate has been rating in a forum over at planetfeedback.com.
The debate is whether or not items purchased at other stores are returnable at Wal-Mart. The answer is yes. And no.
If you don't have a Wal-Mart receipt for an item, you're going to get store credit for an item. I start this process by smashing some buttons on my register and then scanning the item(s) in question and telling you how much credit you're going to get.
There is one fairly stiff law for returns without a receipt. If the item doesn't ring up, you're not getting any credit. When I say "doesn't ring up," I mean that I hit the barcode on the item with my little gun and I get a message that says 'ITEM NOT FOUND - PRESS CLEAR'. Yeah. It's not a Wal-Mart item.
Maybe one percent of the time, the item in question is from another Wal-Mart with a different product line, although we only accept these items if it has a Wal-Mart tag or is a verifiable Wal-Mart item, like something from one of the Wal-Mart only clothing lines. In two years, I've taken back some clothes and two pairs of shoes, all from Wal-Marts in different states.
Most of the time 'ITEM NOT FOUND' stuff is purchased from another retailer — like Target, K-mart or Sears. Whenever I get the 'ITEM NOT FOUND' message, I always look at the tags or the barcode. I love to say to people — in a loud voice, too, so everyone knows they're stupid — "Ma'am, this item is from K-Mart."
Now, AND THIS IS THE INTERESTING PART, things that are sold to multiple retailers from the same supplier, such as some toys, video games, movies and certain household appliances and electronics HAVE THE SAME BARCODE ACROSS THE ENTIRE RETAIL SPECTRUM.
Think about it. Would Pixar really manufacture a special DVD package for Wal-Mart, another for Target, another for Best Buy, another for Circuit City, another for K-Mart, another or Virgin Megastore, et al.? One DVD. One barcode. (Please note that any two-for-one or multi-pack sales promotions will always have a different barcode, because they are a different item.)
Yup. That's right. That "Cars" DVD has the same barcode at Wal-Mart, Target, K-mart and Best Buy (unless someone is running a special "only at XXX" promotion). The same goes for that blender and toaster.
It is official Wal-Mart policy that as long as an item rings up, it is returnable — but only at the price it rings up for. We did have a gentleman once who bought 50 sticks of deodorant at a Big Lots and tried to return them at a Wal-Mart. Well, they did ring up, but at two cents. He tried to argue that there must be some "computer mistake" but a manager checked the computer and found out that the stuff was part of the Sam's Club multi-packs. We told the man he could return all 50 sticks of deodorant — for two cents a stick. He left.
The reason that you DO NOT just return stuff to Wal-Mart that you bought at K-Mart (or anywhere else) is that usually, Wal-Mart is going to give you less than what you paid for it. Wal-Mart's entire existence is predicated on having the lowest price in town.
So, say you bought the "Cars" DVD for $24.99 at Best Buy. Wal-Mart is probably selling it for $14.99. That's all you're going to get back — as a Wal-Mart store credit. So you're out ten bucks and you can only spend what's left at Wal-Mart.
Electronics and toys are easy, because everyone usually carries the same stuff. Clothing is much more difficult, because of the trend for stores to have "brands" now, such as Wal-Mart's failed attempt at high fashion, the Metro 7 line.
And one time, I almost yanked some heifer's weave out when she just absolutely refused to take no for an answer when I told her "Ma'am, Wal-Mart does not sell Garanimals. That is a boutique brand." I've seen Liz Claiborne shirts, Banana Republic shirts (how could you even confuse Banana Republic and Wal-Mart is beyond me), Seduzione and every other mall store in existence.
There are rumors of major changes to Wal-Mart's generous return policy. Nothing official, but look for something similar to Target's where you get a gift receipt as well as the complete return policy on the back of the receipt. Also, because of such drastic theft issues, Wal-Mart may consider ending returns without a receipt, but I doubt that. The customer base Wal-Mart serves is too used to returning anything, anywhere, at any time.
So I hope I shed some light on the topic. The key thing is that if the item rings up, you can return it, but only for what it is selling for right now at the Wal-Mart. Otherwise, just try your luck elsewhere.