BBB Tips for Hassle-Free Holiday Returns

December 21, 2010

As shoppers check off the final names on their Christmas shopping lists, Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to know their return rights before making any purchase.

Unfortunately, not all gifts are winners, so BBB advises that you remember the following before you make your purchase:

Ask the store about its return policy.

Can a customer obtain a refund, a store credit, or exchange for unwanted merchandise? If so, check to make sure the return time limit doesn’t start until December 25th if it is a gift.

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. And before you start wrapping, be sure not to remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping 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 you 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.