Must-Know Rules for Holiday Gifting Returns

December 24, 2016

Looking to return or exchange some of the holiday gifts you received this year? To get the most bang for your buck, you need to be aware of the specific rules retailers abide by. Read on to find out how to experience a successful return at some of the country’s most popular stores.

Always Save the Receipt

If you’re giving a gift, make sure to provide a gift receipt, and if you’re the gift recipient, stash that receipt away somewhere safe until you decide on whether or not you want to keep the item. While some retailers may give you store credit if you show up with no receipt, most retailers will require proof of a receipt if you’re looking to get full cash back for your item.

Protect and Keep the Item’s Original Packaging

Rushing to open your gift can be exciting, but if you accidentally damage the box or plastic wrapping your item came in, you may be jeopardizing your chances of getting a full return. Some stores offer store credit for your gift and charge you a re-stocking fee when the original packaging is missing or damaged. Others will charge you a small fee if you try to return an item with a dirty or missing User’s Manual.

Refrain From Returning Used Items

Having second thoughts about a pair of boots you’ve worn once? Used or worn items are usually non-refundable unless the product is defective in some way. A few stores like Nordstrom and Sephora have a more lenient policy, but in general, if your item is used or previously worn, you won’t get a full refund.

Be Prepared to Show Proof of Identity  

In an effort to prevent retail fraud, a number of retailers are relying on Refund Verification Systems to keep track of customers’ spending and return habits. This means they’ll ask you for a government-issued ID every time you make a return and will keep track of your activity. Some stores like Walmart will allow you to make a maximum of three returns (without a receipt) in 45 days and if you try to make a fourth in that time span, they reserve the right to ban you from making any further returns. Popular e-retailer has been known to suspend users’ accounts if they suspect fraudulent return habits.

Return Electronics in a Timely Manner

When it comes to electronics, most stores offer a shorter 15-day return window versus the traditional 30-to-60-day window offered for clothing and other items. Some retailers are extending their policies just for the holidays. Apple is extending its return window to January 8 and at Best Buy, you’ll have until January 15 to return unwanted electronics.

Know Who the Most Lenient Retailers Are

Most retailers have a time-sensitive return policy, but a handful of popular retailers will accept returns no matter how much time has passed. For example, Nordstrom is so liberal with their return policy that you can return gifts and purchases at any point for money back or store credit. At Costco, you can return most items (except some types of electronics) whenever you wish. There are no time limits on returns at Bed, Bath & Beyond unless you purchase mattresses from the store. But do note: If you don’t have the original packaging, proof of purchase, or a receipt, Bed, Bath & Beyond policy states that you’ll receive the current selling price of the item minus a 20% fee.

Make Your Returns During Off-Peak Times

Instead of going to the stores the day after Christmas, hold off for a day or two. Not only will you be in a less hectic shopping environment, but chances are your salesperson will be less crazed too so he or she might be more willing to help you out if you’re trying to make a more complicated return.

Practice Kindness
Be nice and smile. Store clerks face busy times and tough customers this time of year. If you’re extra gracious, they might be more likely to go out of their way to help you get money back for an item you’re not interested in keeping.



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