Many Happy Returns -- Tips for Gift Givers and Gift Recipients

December 22, 2010

As shoppers check off the final names on their Christmas shopping lists, Better Business Bureau notes that not all gifts are winners. Some gifts will be returned to merchants for refunds or exchanges. BBB offers tips for both gift givers and gift recipients to help make the return process go smoothly.

Tips for gift givers

Ask the store about its return policy. Can a customer obtain a refund, a store credit, or exchange for unwanted merchandise? How long does a gift recipient have to return the item? Some stores have different policies for holiday purchases.

Ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. Most stores require a receipt for returned items, even gifts. Ask for a gift receipt to include with the present. A gift receipt provides all the details about the purchase – except the price. With a gift receipt, the recipient won’t know what you spent unless they want to return the item. The gift receipt will also ensure that the recipient receives full credit for the price you paid, instead of any reduced prices that may be in effect after the holiday. And before you start wrapping, be sure not to remove electronics or similar products from their boxes as the original packaging may be required for a return.

Do not assume the regular return policy applies to sales or clearance items. Some merchants consider sales items to be final, so ask to be sure. If you are the gift recipient, do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted present. Like the shopper, you are bound by the merchant’s return policy. Health regulations, which can prohibit the return of hats and intimate apparel, also apply.

Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking or “open box” fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items. Ask if that is their policy. Restocking fees can be as high as 25 per cent of the purchase.

Look for a posted return policy when shopping online. If returns are permitted, find out what procedures and timeframe need to be followed. Many online retailers will post their return policy on their website. If you can’t find one, ask.

Save your receipts. Whether you are the giver or the receiver, be sure to save your receipts and know the return timeframe. You likely don’t have to brave the crowds the day after Christmas, but don’t wait too long to return the item.

Tips for gift recipients

Get in there. Return items promptly, whether in-store or to online merchants. After-holiday sales may limit the choices for exchanges, so you want to get into stores as soon as possible. Most return policies have an expiration date, which may be shown on the receipt. Returning an item promptly helps make sure that the return policy will be honored.

If available, bring the receipt and packaging. If the gift giver has provided the receipt or a gift receipt, be sure to bring it with the item. Leave items in original packaging if possible. When returning something purchased online, check first to make sure you kinow the procedures and policies for returns.

Be flexible. If a refund isn't available, you may still get a store credit or be able to make an exchange. Ask to see the return policy and see what options are available. If you don't have a receipt or gift receipt for an item, understand that the return policy may be limited.

Speak up. If a merchant isn't honoring a return policy, ask for a manager and try to work it out.

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