Sweetwater is a phenomenal company, there’s no denying that. With their large inventory, centralized warehouse, and outstanding sales representatives, they deliver quality gear and services to buyers.
But even if the company is great, you may find yourself wanting to return a recent purchase. Maybe the product isn’t working, or you just changed your mind.
Any good company should have a solid return policy. It builds trust and dependability, and builds a positive reputation for your company.
Like most “legalese” things, Sweetwater’s return policy can be a bit confusing to read. Fortunately, after careful reading, it is transparent, reliable, and clear.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What to Do Before Using New Gear
I know, I know, when you get your new gear, you’re excited! And you should be! Still, before you’ve even considered returning anything, you should do the following.
First, keep all the boxes. This includes the ‘product box,’ the actual box the product is in. You know, the one with all the cool pictures and specs on the side.
Also keep the brown, boring cardboard box that held everything.
Also, keep the packing materials. Keep the crumpled paper, bubble plastic, and anything else. Just stuff it back in the brown box and you’re good!
Returning New Items
Now that you’ve saved the boxes and packing materials, we can dive into the policy.
If you decide to return a new product from Sweetwater, you have 30 days to return it, starting from the date of purchase (NOTE: NOT delivery.)
There are two big reasons you would want to return a new product. First, it could be defective or broken. Second, you could change your mind.
If defective, things are simple. Sweetwater includes a 2-year warranty on all their products. If a new item is broken, it obviously breaks the warranty – it’s considered “their fault.”
If that’s the case, you just send the product back and they will cover all shipping costs.
If your product isn’t broken, it’s more nuanced. Since it isn’t “their fault,” so you’ll have to spend a little money. This actually makes sense, since you’re taking the initiative to change your original decision.
Thankfully, Sweetwater makes it very simple. That’s why they call it their “No Hassle” Return Policy!
First, you choose how you get your money back: first, you can get a refund equal to the initial purchase price. Second, you can get store credit at the same purchase price.
In both cases, you will need to pay for the return shipping.
Also, if the original purchase came with free shipping, the original shipping cost will be deducted from your credit (if that’s your choice.) This is considered their “restocking fee.”
Since almost all purchases include free shipping, you’ll almost always have shipping costs deducted from credit. In light of this, I think refunds are better; you get your purchasing money back (minus return shipping prices, technically), and don’t have it tied to one store.
Returning Used Gear
In general, since Sweetwater facilitates third-party transactions, you take more risks buying used gear. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s just a reality of the market.
First, you get 90 days after purchase to return used items. This adds another two months to the trial period, which is generous.
If a used item is defective or broken, you may return it for a purchase-price refund or in-store credit. Either way, you’ll need to cover the returning shipping yourself.
Returning normal gear works the same way. There is one more small difference though: if you are trading/exchanging items, you have to pay for the shipping from Sweetwater too.
Their reasoning goes like this: since you didn’t buy a new item directly from Sweetwater, you took the risk to buy used gear from a peer, so it’s your responsibility to pay to ship it back.
That might seem inconsiderate, but quite frankly, Sweetwater is still very generous. Plus, that’s how a big company has to run to stay in business.
Sweetwater Exchange Policy
So far, everything mentioned has been about returns (except for the small difference for returning normally used gear.) However, Sweetwater also lets you exchange items if you want.
They don’t technically have a separate “exchange policy” per se, but the rules are slightly different from returning items.
Most notably, they don’t give a specific time frame for exchanges. They say “within a fair amount of time,” and suggest 30 days – but they don’t give an explicit number.
In light of this, I treat exchanges on a strict 30-day-from-purchase timeframe — or even less to play it safe!
For general exchanges, things are straightforward: you pay for returning shipping, and choose between purchase-price refund or purchase-price credit.
In both cases, if original shipping was free (again, in most cases it will be), its price will be deducted from both a refund or credit. This is different from returns, where original shipping isn’t deducted from refunds.
Used gear CANNOT be exchanged; it can only be returned. However, you can take your refund/credit and put it towards another product in a new transaction.
Easy to Miss Details!
Sweetwater lists several miscellaneous details at the bottom of their Returns and Exchanges page. They’re easy to miss, but important to know!
Here are items that cannot be returned:
- -Special orders
- -Oversize or overweight items
- -Discontinued products, closeouts, and used products
- -Replacement Speakers and Speaker Parts
- -Personal items (earphones, harmonicas, recorders)
- -Authorization keys
- -Turntable cartridges
- -Control vinyl
- -Open-box reeds
They also charge a $10-15 sanitization fee for wind instruments. Most of these restrictions make sense based on the nature of the product, or COVID-19 health precautions.
How to Return or Exchange
Once you’ve decided to return or exchange, the process is fairly straightforward. You can refer to their page for more details.
Here are the steps:
- Call your sales engineer, or if defective, call (800) 222 4700 X6400
- Get the Return Authorization number (RA) from your sales engineer
- Pack everything from your original order
- Pack items in their original boxes (this is why we saved them earlier)
- Double-box your package – not always necessary, but you should!
- Use the original packaging materials that you saved, and NEVER use peanuts
- When printing labels, include the RA number
- Send with a company that includes tracking (e.g., FedEx or UPS)
- While not strictly necessary, insurance is a really really really really good idea (did I say “really” yet?!)
Average Timeline for Shipping
Every order will be different depending on various factors. First and foremost, the shipping company you choose will determine how fast your item gets to Sweetwater.
Sweetwater should email you once they receive your package. Mistakes can be made in this process, but they’re infrequent. If they forget to email you, feel free to contact them, and they’ll get things sorted out.
After that, they usually take 1-2 days to restock and ship exchanged items. From there, it again depends on the mail system.
For returns, I would estimate 2-3 days if you live near Fort Wayne, Indiana. For the coasts and outside the Midwest, I would estimate 5-7 days.
For exchanges, I would estimate 4-5 days if you live near Fort Wayne. For coasts and those outside the Midwest, I would estimate generously to about 14 days.
Despite having to pay for the shipping in most situations, Sweetwater still provides a phenomenal, straightforward return policy. No matter what options you choose, you are guaranteed to get some money back.
You’ll also be surprised at how generous and accommodating their reps can be. I’ve heard plenty of stories where they sent replacement parts or new items free of charge. At the end of the day, they truly believe happy customers make a happy company.
In conclusion, here are the biggest things to remember: unless your item broke warranty, plan on spending shipping money. Second, used gear has a longer return window of 90 days, but has fewer perks.
Lastly, be clear, communicate a lot, and you’ll have a great experience! In the meantime, enjoy the shopping process, make music, and always have fun!