Consumers scour shelves and websites for the perfect holiday gift, but sometimes even the best ideas don’t work out. While some stores loosen their return policies during the holiday season to allow for an easier return process, Better Business Bureau warns that some stores could be tightening their policies due to an increase in return fraud.
In a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation, retailers estimate that 4.6 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, costing the retail industry an estimated $2.9 billion. Return fraud comes in many forms, but the main methods of return fraud involve purchasing merchandise for short-term use and then returning the item, returning stolen merchandise, or using reused, stolen or falsified receipts to return merchandise for a profit.
To put you and your gift recipients in the best position for a happy return or exchange, BBB offers this advice:
- Know and understand the seller’s return policy. Most return policies will be listed on a company’s website or on the back of the receipt. Make sure to fully understand what’s required for a return or exchange, and if you have questions, call the store directly to ask about your specific situation.
- Keep original packaging. Some stores may require products be returned in original purchase condition, unused or un-opened.
- Bring identification. Because of return fraud, some retailers will ask for identification when making a return. If you’re returning or exchanging a gift that you bought, bring the credit card used to make that purchase.
- Read product warranty first. In some cases, retail stores are not liable if the product turns up defective or damaged. They may require consumers to mail the product directly to the manufacturer in order to receive monetary refunds, credit or product replacement.
- Don’t delay. In almost every case, a store will require an item be returned within a specific time frame. If you wait too long, you may miss your chance at returning the item.
- Keep the receipt. Include a gift receipt with all gifts, so it’s easier for the recipient to return or exchange the gift if it’s not the right fit.
Following these tips may not prevent returns, but it can help make them easier - and possibly help you to keep the holiday spirit a little longer.