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.

2. AmazonFresh

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.

3. Costco

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.

6. Walmart

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.

In Summary

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.