Individual states — and even cities and counties — can create their own rules on alcohol, so whether or not you can return alcohol varies by location. Alcohol laws are complex and ever-changing, so some stores have a no-return policy even if it’s legal to accept returns in the state. We outline store policies on alcohol returns for ABC liquor stores, AmazonFresh, Costco, Sam’s Club, Total Wines, and Walmart. To learn more about alcohol return laws in your state, scroll through our list of laws by state and find your location.
In This Article
Can You Return Alcohol?
In general, yes and no. Stores are not required to accept alcohol returns, and, in some states, it’s illegal to do. But in states where it is legal, you may be able to return alcohol to specific stores.
Since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, individual states have the right to create their own regulations on alcohol. Some states even allow counties and municipalities to pass their own, stricter restrictions. This means, there’s not just one rule — or even 50 rules — on alcohol returns, but, likely, thousands. Military bases and Indian reservations can also have stricter (but not looser) rules for the sale and return of alcohol.
Alcohol Return Policies at Major Vendors
We contacted a few major retailers, including ABC liquor stores, AmazonFresh, Costco, Sam’s Club, Total Wine, and Walmart, to ask about their alcohol return policies. We’ve outlined the store policies below:
1. ABC Liquor Stores
The designation “ABC” on a liquor store stands for “Alcoholic Beverage Control” or “Alcoholic Beverage Commission.” In 17 states, known as “control states,” alcoholic beverages are tightly controlled by the state agency. Some control states have a total monopoly on alcohol sales, while others allow some beverages — like beer and wine — to be sold by privately-owned stores.
The 17 control states are: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming. (Montgomery County in Maryland is a control county.)
Return policy: ABC liquor stores’ return policies will reflect the state and local laws. See more on state laws below.
AmazonFresh is a grocery store delivery service available in some states; it is a subsidiary of Amazon. AmazonFresh sells alcohol to those over 21 for attended delivery or pickup.
Return policy: Grocery items, including alcohol, are not returnable. You may be able to get a refund if the item arrives damaged or is otherwise undrinkable. Refunds are issued up to 30 days after delivery.
Costco has warehouse locations in 44 states.
Return policy: You can return alcohol to stores where it’s legal to do so. Costco does not typically require you to bring a receipt to return an item, but some local laws only allow alcohol returns by the original purchaser, so you may need to bring your receipt. Contact your local Costco for details.
4. Sam’s Club
Sam’s Club has warehouse locations in 44 states. Sam’s Club is owned and operated by Walmart.
Return policy: You can return alcohol with a receipt to the store where you bought it, where it is legal to do so. Without a receipt, you may be able to get store credit. Contact your local Sam’s Club for details.
5. Total Wine
Total Wine sells wine, beer, and spirits in 21 states and online.
Return policy: You may be able to return alcohol, depending on your location. Total Wine stores in California, Georgia, and Wisconsin will only accept returns if the item was purchased in error or it is unfit for consumption. In other states, you should be able to make a return at the store you purchased from, where it is legal to do so. For online order, contact Total Wine customer service for instructions.
Walmart has store locations nationwide and is the world’s largest company by revenue.
Return policy: Unopened alcohol can only be returned with a receipt to the store where it was purchased, where it is legal to do so. Contact your local Walmart for details.
Alcohol Return Laws by State
We’ve outlined alcohol return laws by state below, but, keep in mind, state laws can change, and state agencies can change the way they enforce the law. For example: In California, a recent change in interpretation by the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control allows stores to accept returns of unopened alcohol. The state law says stores can only buy alcohol from licensed dealers. In the past, the department viewed alcohol returns as the consumer selling the item back to the store; since individual consumers aren’t licensed to sell alcohol, returns were banned. The department has since decided that a return does not count as a sale, so returns are now legal.
Note: Even in states where returns are legal, stores are not required to accept alcohol returns.
- Alabama: Alcohol sales are regulated by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control board, which operates ABC liquor stores. Private stores in some areas are allowed to sell beer, wine, and liquor. Alabama laws vary by city and county.
- Alaska: Alaska retailers are not allowed to buy alcohol from anyone except a licensed dealer. Some stores may consider this a ban on returns.
- Arizona: Arizona retailers may accept alcohol returns at their discretion.
- Arkansas: An Arkansas state law banning purchase from an unauthorized seller was repealed in 2011. This may allow for alcohol returns, but Arkansas laws vary by city and county.
- California: California allows for the return of unopened alcohol.
- Colorado: Colorado state regulations permit retailers to make returns to wholesalers and require unused products from charity events to be returned. Customer returns aren’t specified, but they appear to be allowed: LiquorMart in Boulder, Colo., and Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs accept alcohol returns.
- Connecticut: The unauthorized sale of alcohol without a permit is illegal in Connecticut. Some stores may consider this a ban on returns.
- Delaware: Customers can return alcohol in Delaware if it is spoiled or tainted. Organizers of licensed gatherings where alcohol is sold (i.e., a charity event) may return unopened bottles within 30 days.
- Florida: Florida state regulations allow vendors to return unopened alcohol to the distributor. Customer returns aren’t specified, but they appear to be allowed: ABC Fine Wine and Liquor accepts returns within 30 days.
- Georgia: Alcohol returns in Georgia are not allowed. Some stores may make an exception if the product is unfit for consumption or was purchased in error.
- Hawaii: There are no laws or regulations in Hawaii prohibiting alcohol returns. On a TheKnot.com wedding planning board, consumers reported being able to return excess, unopened bottles to stores in Hawaii.
- Idaho: Idaho is a control state. Private stores can sell beer and wine, but hard liquor is only sold at state-run locations. There are no specific provisions about alcohol returns in Idaho statutes.
- Illinois: In Illinois, alcohol returns are allowed. There was a recent change in interpretation similar to the change in California: In the past, consumer returns were counted as an illegal sale and were banned. Recently, the regulatory authority changed its interpretation and now allows returns.
- Indiana: Alcohol purchases from anyone without a permit are not allowed in Indiana. Some stores may consider this a ban on returns.
- Iowa: Iowa retailers are allowed to make returns to wholesalers. Customer returns aren’t specified in Iowa’s regulations.
- Kansas: The official handbook for Kansas retailers states that all sales are final, unless the product is damaged or unfit for consumption.
- Kentucky: There are no Kentucky state laws on alcohol returns, but Kentucky has “wet” and “dry” cities and counties, so laws vary by location.
- Louisiana: Unused alcohol may be returned after special events in Louisiana with a temporary liquor permit. Wholesalers may also accept alcohol returns for ordinary and usual commercial reasons like spoilage, breakage, leaks, etc. Customer returns aren’t specified in Louisiana laws.
- Maine: In Maine, alcohol can only be returned within 10 days with a receipt.
- Maryland: Montgomery County in Maryland is a control county. In Montgomery County, you can return unopened alcohol with a receipt to a state-run store. Other Maryland laws may vary.
- Massachusetts: Alcohol returns are allowed in Massachusetts for “ordinary and usual commercial reason.”
- Michigan: Alcohol returns are only allowed in Michigan if the product is damaged, spoiled, or contaminated — or if the container is damaged.
- Minnesota: Minnesota retailers may offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee on alcohol purchases.
- Mississippi: Mississippi stores may accept alcohol returns for refund or exchange with the original receipt.
- Missouri: Missouri retailers may offer a money-back guarantee on alcohol purchases.
- Montana: Montana state law prohibits retailers from purchasing alcohol from any source except a licensed distributor. Some stores — like Montana Spirits and Wine — consider this a ban on returns.
- Nebraska: Nebraska retailers may not advertise any guarantee of refund or exchange on alcohol purchases.
- Nevada: The State of Nevada does not regulate retail alcohol sales; retail laws are set at the city and county level, so rules will vary by your location.
- New Hampshire: Customer returns aren’t specified in New Hampshire state alcohol laws. However, the New Hampshire Liquor and Wine Outlet allows alcohol returns within 30 days of purchase with a receipt.
- New Jersey: Customer returns aren’t specified in New Jersey state rules for retailers. However, Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet in Lawrenceville, N.J., accepts unopened alcohol returns within 30 days with a receipt.
- New Mexico: New Mexico law allows returns to a wholesaler for “ordinary and usual commercial reasons.” Customer returns aren’t specified.
- New York: New York stores may accept returns at their discretion.
- North Carolina: State-run stores abide by North Carolina county and city regulations on alcohol returns. Some allow returns, and others don’t.
- North Dakota: Customer alcohol returns aren’t specified in North Dakota state regulations. North Dakota allows city and county governments to make laws that may be more strict, so rules may vary by location.
- Ohio: Ohio distributors can accept alcohol returns from retailers if the product is damaged or has become “unpalatable.”
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma retailers can’t return any merchandise unless it was delivered in error. Customer alcohol returns aren’t specified in Oklahoma regulations.
- Oregon: Customer alcohol returns are not specified in Oregon state laws or liquor control rules, but retailers may only return expired or damaged products to wholesalers.
- Pennsylvania: Alcohol purchased from a state-run store in Pennsylvania may be returned within 30 days with a receipt. Online purchases may be returned to a physical store.
- Rhode Island: Customer alcohol returns are not specified in Rhode Island state laws or regulations. However, City Liquors in Providence, R.I., accepts returns on defective wine within 30 days with the original receipt.
- South Carolina: Customer alcohol returns are not specified in South Carolina state laws. However, Owens Liquors accepts alcohol returns within seven days of purchase.
- South Dakota: South Dakota retailers can only purchase or receive alcohol from licensed wholesalers. Some stores may consider this a ban on returns.
- Tennessee: Tennessee retailers may return damaged or unmarketable products to the wholesaler. Customer alcohol returns are not specified. Cities and counties are also allowed to make laws restricting retail practices, so rules may vary by location.
- Texas: Liquor stores in Texas accept alcohol returns in the original packaging with a receipt within 30 days of purchase.
- Utah: In Utah, you can return alcohol that’s spoiled, leaking, or contaminated. Unopened containers of in-stock items may be returned at the store manager’s discretion.
- Vermont: Customer alcohol returns aren’t specified in Vermont laws and regulations.
- Virginia: Purchases from state ABC liquor stores in Virginia can be returned within 90 days for a refund with your receipt. Returns without a receipt will be made as store credit.
- Washington: Washinton state liquor stores accept returns of unopened, saleable merchandise with a receipt, according to state police.
- West Virginia: West Virginia legislative rules governing alcohol sales state that customers may return the unused portion of defective or spoiled products and that retailers may offer a satisfaction guarantee with a promise of a refund.
- Wisconsin: Customer alcohol returns aren’t specified in Wisconsin laws and regulations, but towns are allowed to make their own laws on alcohol control, so laws may vary by location.
- Wyoming: Customer alcohol returns aren’t specified in Wyoming laws and regulations. However, The Liquor Store in Jackon, Wyo., accepts returns within seven days of purchase with a receipt.
Whether you can return alcohol depends on what state — and sometimes what city or county — you’re in. The laws on alcohol returns are so complicated that some retailers like AmazonFresh simply won’t accept returns. Costco, Sam’s Club, Total Wine, and Walmart allow alcohol returns where it’s legal to do so. To learn more about alcohol return laws in your state, scroll through our list of laws by state and find your location.