According to the California Alcoholic Beverage (ABC) Control Department:
Returns by Consumers to Retailers
Returns of all types of alcoholic beverages by consumers to sellers were once ruled to be illegal
under both State and federal law. In 1961, the Federal Government approved the return by
consumers of alcoholic beverages which were spoiled, deteriorated, contaminated, or otherwise
unfit for human consumption. This approval was made on the condition that there would be a
bottle-for-bottle exchange or cash refund for the unsatisfactory merchandise. It was necessary for
a consumer to bring back a partially emptied bottle or a bottle which clearly showed deterioration
of the product, such as sediment, to qualify for the refund. The Department adopted the federal
policy that same year. Later, the Department modified its approval to the extent that other types of
alcoholic beverages could he exchanged for those which were unfit for human consumption.
A consumer may also make an exchange or receive a refund on an item purchased in error if the
unopened container is returned to the seller. The advertising of "money-back guarantees" is
specifically disapproved, however.
A consumer cannot overbuy for a party and then return any of the unused alcoholic beverages.
Neither can the recipient of a gift exchange it for other merchandise or be given a credit, because
the recipient is not returning alcoholic beverages; if the retailer gave anything of value for the
beverages, the retailer would be buying from other than a wholesaler. Sales to consumers are final
except as previously set forth. The Department and federal law agree in this respect.