In this study we investigate the desired level of recovery under various inventory control policies when the success of recovery is probabilistic. All the used and returned items go into a recovery process that is modelled as a single stage operation. The recovery effort is represented by the expected time spent for it. The effect of increasing recovery effort on the success probability together with unit cost of the operation is included by assuming general forms of dependencies. Alternative to recovered items, demand is satisfied by brand-new items. Four inventory control policies that differ in timing of and information used in purchasing decision are proposed. The objective is to find the recovery level together with inventory control parameter that minimize the long-run average total cost. A numerical study covering a wide range of system parameters is carried out. Finally computational results are presented with their managerial implications. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.