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Shimmy was browsing in his favorite sefarim store, Quality Sefer.

He ambled through the aisles of bookcases. In the halacha section, his eye caught a sefer, Practical Business Halachah. He thumbed through it and considered buying it.


“How much is this sefer?” Shimmy asked the salesman.

“It’s on sale for $24.99,” replied the salesman.

“Fine, I’ll take it,” replied Shimmy.

Shimmy purchased the sefer and left the store. Three blocks away, he met his friend, Eli.

“Where are you coming from?” Eli asked.

“I was just at the sefarim store,” replied Shimmy. “I bought a copy of Practical Business Halachah. It was on sale for $24.99.”

Eli wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know that I would call that a sale,” he said. “I always buy my sefarim at Zol Sefer around the corner. They’re cheaper than most other stores. I saw that sefer there for $22.99.”

“Really?” asked Shimmy. “It’s a shame I didn’t know that beforehand!”

“I know that Quality Sefer allows returns,” said Eli. “If you want, you can simply return what you bought, and buy it, at Zol Sefer. You’ll save $2!”

“Is that really fair?” asked Shimmy. “I already bought the sefer and do want it.…”

“If the store allows returns, I don’t see the problem,” replied Eli. “If you want, you can ask Rabbi Dayan.”

“I normally wouldn’t bother just to save $2, but I am interested in knowing the halacha,” said Shimmy. He called Rabbi Dayan and asked:

“Can I return something that I find cheaper elsewhere?”

“If the store has a price-matching guarantee, which offers a rebate even after the item is bought, it is certainly acceptable to utilize the guarantee,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “Even if there is no price guarantee, you can ask the owner or manager if he is willing to match the price, which is better than returning the item.”

“If price-matching is not an option, you can return the item. Although a person who verbally committed to buy an item and retracts without good reason is considered mechusar amana – lacking trustworthiness – if the store policy allows returns, the purchase is made with that stipulation and understanding. All the more so if the price differential is significant. The same applies in Israel, where consumer law allows returns within 14 days, which to many poskim establishes a common commercial practice (minhag hamedina) about this (Rema C.M. 204:11).

Nonetheless, if the return causes the store a hassle, the owner can have tar’omes – a rightful complaint. Moreover, there is a middas chassidus to honor one’s intended commitments, and certainly one’s verbal statements and actions, even when permitted to retract (Sma 333:1; Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hil. Mechira #1).

Furthermore, while Eli can point out that in the future you can get better value at Zol Sefer, it is inappropriate to encourage you to return the sefer, especially if you regularly patronize Quality Sefer (see C.M 156:5).

“Even so, if you return the sefer, the storeowner has no claim against Eli for having caused a seeming loss. The storeowner suffers no loss of principal since he receives his sefer back, just a loss of potential profit that he could have earned from the sale, which is only grama (Shach 386:25).

“However, if Eli were to cause an actual loss, he could be liable,” concluded Rabbi Dayan. “For example, if someone sold an item to a non-Jew or strongman for a certain price, and upon hearing that the price is high he simply withheld some of the agreed payment, in certain situations the person who told him that the price is high is liable. This may be considered garmi – directly caused loss, or possibly even masur – ratting inform” (Rema 386:3; see however, Pischei Choshen, Nezikin 4:23 [58-59]).

Verdict: Returning an item because you found it cheaper elsewhere is permissible if the store policy allows returns. However, there is a middas chassidus to honor one’s intended commitments, and certainly one’s speech and actions, especially if the price differential is small.


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Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to [email protected]. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail [email protected].