BBB Tips: Happy Holiday Returns, Refunds, and Exchanges

November 27, 2008

BBB gets many calls after the holidays from upset consumers who are stuck with items they can’t return. Before you go shopping for a loved one this holiday season, BBB wants to remind you to know your rights, before making a purchase.

Some stores give refunds, issue store credits, or allow an exchange. Others consider all sales to be final. A store is not legally required to accept items for refund, exchange, or credit unless the merchandise is defective or was misrepresented. BBB advises you to look for the store’s policies when you go shopping. They are usually posted near checkouts. If it’s not posted, ask!

A BBB survey, conducted by Kelton Research, shows that nearly three in 10 adult consumers don’t carefully read return and exchange policies when making a purchase in a store or retail outlet. BBB has this advice for happy holiday returns, refunds, and exchanges:

  • Ask the store about its return policy. Can a customer obtain a refund, a store credit, or exchange unwanted merchandise?
  • Ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present.
  • Don’t remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping as the original packaging may be required for a return.
  • Some merchants charge a restocking or "open box" fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items. Ask if that is their policy.
  • Do not assume the regular return policy applies to sales or clearance items. Some merchants consider sales items to be final, so ask.
  • Health regulations, which can prohibit the return of hats and intimate apparel, may apply.

If you are the gift recipient, don’t assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted present. Like the shopper, you are bound by the merchant’s return policy. Make sure you save your gift receipt. Also, keep the item in its original packaging and be aware that some merchants charge “open box” or restocking fees. Don’t wait too long to return the item. The store could have a deadline on its return policy. Following these tips will help you to keep your holiday spirit just a little bit longer!