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OnLine Purchases -- How To Return

If you received a gift this past holiday season that needs to be returned to an online merchant, BBB forewarns you that the refund and exchange process might not be as easy as the purchase process. Some online return policies can be hard to find, difficult to understand and involve paying extra fees.

To make your online return easier, BBB offers the following tips:

*Find out which location to return the merchandise. Does it go back to to a mailing address or can you return it to a retail store? Visit the company's web site and carefully review its return policy. If it's not listed, call or send an e-mail to the company to request specifics.

*Don't delay. Many sites have time limits for returns. In most cases, you can stop the clock by notifying the company by e-mail and letting them know that a return is on the way. Put the time and date in the body of your e-mail message and type "return" or "exchange" in the subject line of your e-mail. Print or save the e-mail message and any responses you may receive.

*Expect to pay some fees. Companies that have web-only businesses typcially do charge customers a restocking fee or shipping and handling fee on returned merchandise. If you're a long time customer or purchased the item using the merchant's credit card, mention that fact and ask for a waiver of the fees.

*Keep the original packaging. If you know you don't want the gift, don't open the box or break the manufacturer's seal. If you already opened the box, make sure you return all parts and packaging materials in the original box.

*Be patient, but persistent. If you feel you're being ignored, send a fax or letter that references earlier attempts to contact the company, and express your dissatisfaction.

*If all else fails, contact your local BBB for assistance.
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