To clarify at the outset: The bad_service I feel I received is not necessarily the fact that the employee I dealt with was enforcing store policy... but that the policies in place are bad service to begin with.
To make a REALLY long story short (which was half my fault for making assumptions, and half the employee's fault for not being forthcoming with details) I got two 10 cent Euros and one Deutschmark drilled at a local upscale jewelry boutique (Baubles by Maclyn) in order to make a necklace out of them. I had thought the price ($16/coin) was for the full package (coin drilling, little metal ring, necklace and spacer beads), but it was ONLY for the coins. The sign for the service was quite misleading (next to a fully completed necklace, it said something like "Remember your adventures for always with a personalized travel necklace! Only $16 per coin"), and the woman never once asked if I understood I'd have to buy every single little piece individually or reminded me of that fact. Just let me blunder my way through.
When I went to pick up the drilled coins and "pick out the necklace", the woman (same as the one who took my order where I specified "I want one pretty much exactly like the display") just smiled, scanned the necklace I picked out, and told me my total was an additional $20 (for 18" of faux leather with a simple clasp!). I was like "Oh, wow, I didn't know the necklace part was extra. When I paid for the coins, I thought I was paying for the whole thing, like the display" and the woman gave me an o_O look, and said in what I felt to be a condesending tone, that the display was custom made and if I had specified that I wanted something like it, I should have said so when I turned in the coins because it would have to be special ordered. She could still send out for the work but it would take another 2 weeks and cost around $50 for the spacer beads and the individual care. That was my turn to give the o_O face, just paid for the plain neclace part, and figured I'd go to Hobby Lobby or something and get my own damn spacer beads. I felt decidedly swindled.
So I went to Hobby Lobby, discovered that the clasp on the necklace I bought was too big to fit any spacer beads around, and found materials to make my own necklace including spacer beads for 1/2 of the cost, figuring I'd return the one I bought at the boutique. (the hand-made necklace turned out really well, by the way)
But when I went back to return the necklace part not only did I have to drive an extra 7 miles (the store had abruptly changed location in the ensuing week), which was annoying, but the SAME woman was behind the counter. I handed her the necklace and my receipt, saying I'd like to return it. She asked if there was anything wrong with it, and to be fair, I didn't have the nicest response ("yeah, it was too expensive"). She processed the return and then just stood there staring at me for a little bit. I was waiting to see if she needed my credit card to put the money back on or not, but when she didn't say anything, I asked her about it. She then said "Oh no, we don't do returns, just exchanges. What would you like to replace this with?"
I said, "...but I paid with a credit card, can't you just put the money back on? I have my card with me..." and said responded with the same phrase. No returns, just exchanges.
I checked over the receipts I've gotten from this store, and nowhere does it say "Store credit only" or "no return policy, exchanges only". Their website is only slightly more informative, but it's mostly about online order return/exchange policy. I told her I didn't want anything else in the store, and plaintivly asked "you really can't give me my money back?" She just smiled and said "nope! Store policy! What would you like instead?"
I was really annoyed at that point, because if I had known I couldn't get money back for a return, I probably would have shopped around before buying a $20 string. I know it's not the woman's fault that the store only does in-store transactions, but I feel that's a really crappy policy to have. I ended up getting store credit, and saying something kinda snotty about how I hope they enjoy their free $20 since I don't like anything in that store anyway....
So.... am I just unschooled in the ways of these boutique things? Or does this place just suck at taking care of its customers?
TL;DR: I'm probably overreacting about uninformative jewlery boutique purchasing and "return" policies, and am out $20
ETA: Thanks for the insights (and the lulz, I'm looking at you, "chicken pox liquid"). I'm not going to attempt to do a charge-back since it seems to be an abuse of that system, and I now know to ask waaaaaay more questions. I'm going to ask around and see if someone I know shops there, and if so, see if they'll trade me real money for Bauble's money.