So the deal is usually this: magazines and television programs will ask you to “send XYZ over”. Because we are in a recession and because media is in a pinch, and because they are the power players, our PR team will 7 times out of 10 do the delivery (or clients do) themselves. This is expense #1 people should be aware of. If you are in NYC you can have an intern (or yourself) deliver it, or pay for a messenger. You can ask a magazine to pick up, but if they don’t volunteer it don’t be needy, just do it. Often they WILL send back on their dime though. (*Note: make sure you give them your correct return info.)
In terms of sending samples, if it is make-up, food, a book, etc. don’t expect it back. If it is something someone has to use to experience consider that as well. If it is apparel, accessories, baby toys, or other physical products and you are sending them to a magazine, and THEY request it, they should be returning it. You can even double check and make sure they aware you have limited samples and this is a returnable sample.
National television rarely returns unless it’s something expensive or one of a kind. Why? Because they have too much going on. With bloggers, it depends. Some see products as currency for reviews, and sometimes that’s fair enough if it’s a good blog. Other times, I let them know “this has to be returned”. If they say no, decide on your ROI (return on investment) and if it’s worth it to your brand before you send.
PS: The Oprah Winfrey Show ALWAYS returns my products! Even after a YEAR.
PPS: If you send a sample without them asking for it, no matter who they are, don’t expect it back.