Tips for Hassle-Free Gift Returns and Exchanges

December 27, 2013

You spent countless hours shopping, wrapping, and preparing for Christmas morning just to find out that the small sweater should have been a medium and that your father-in-law already has electric salt and pepper shakers.

According to a survey conducted by the 
National Retail Federation, one in three consumers (38 percent) are expected to return at least some portion of their holiday gifts. The same survey indicated that nearly three in ten (29 percent) consumers don’t carefully read return and exchange policies when making a purchase in a store or online.

“Not every retailer has the same return policy so we encourage you to carefully read and make sure you understand all policies that come with your purchases,” stated Robert Shomphe, President/CEO of BBB New Hampshire. “Some businesses go as far as implementing separate policies around sales and holidays, so be sure to find out what the store's policy is if you plan to return a gift you received.”

BBB has the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges:

  • Keep your receipts. If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and give it alongside the present.
  • Read the retailer’s return policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise.
  • Monitor the ‘return clock’. Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame and that time frame usually begins when the item is purchased, not when it is given.
  • Understand return policies for sale merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.
  • Don’t remove electronics from their boxes. Some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging.
  • Ask about ‘restocking fees’. Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.
  • Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store instead of the online merchant.