The Customer is Always Right? – Not Really on Big Exchange Day! BBB Tips for Easier Gift Returns and Exchanges

December 28, 2016

Peoria – December 28, 2016 – Not everything Santa leaves is going to be the right size or color so returns and exchanges are common. The BBB cautions a retailer’s policies on accepting returns and exchanges are generally determined by them and there are few state or federal laws to protect consumers.

"If you find yourself with an unwanted gift, many stores will allow refunds or exchanges for the sake of good customer relations," explains Jessica Tharp, Vice President of the Better Business Bureau serving Central Illinois. "However, customers need to remember these actions are privileges stores may allow. They are not consumer rights."

“There are some retailers who have very liberal return and exchange polices, including no questions asked, but that is not true for all”, noted Tharp. “Some allow up to 45 days but others have as few as nine.”

Here’s what consumers need to know:

  • The stores return policy - Ask what specific return policy applies to the item you are purchasing. Do not assume the regular return policy applies to sales or clearance items. Some merchants consider sales items to be final.
  • Save your receipts - They are usually needed for returns. And bring your I.D.
  • Keep the original packaging - Don't remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping, as the original packaging may be required for a return. 
  • Know the online return policy - If you have shopped online, read the posted return policy. If returns are permitted, be sure to print a copy of what procedures and time frame need to be followed, along with complete contact information for the business. Find out whether shipping fees are charged for returning items and whether shipping costs or restocking fees are deducted from the price of returned items. For additional online shopping tips visit
  • Returns are a courtesy - 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.
  • Understand unusual policies – Such as health regulations, which can prohibit the return of certain items like hats and intimate apparel.
  • Time your returns to avoid hassles – You don’t have to brave the crowds the day after Christmas, but don’t wait too long to return the item. Pick a time when the store is not likely to be crowded and be polite when talking to customer service. If you are a regular customer, or have a store credit account, mention that fact as you discuss your return options. Merchants are usually willing to accommodate loyal customers.

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ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2015, people turned to BBB more than 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation.