The day after Christmas: Tips for holiday gift returns

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Jim Leute
December 26, 2014

'Tis the day after Christmas, and all through the house,

many are stirring, most definitely your spouse.

The gifts were all given, and they rest on the floor,

but several are headed back to store.


Even some gifts given with the best of intentions just don't work out.

That hot PS4 game, for example, won't work in your son's Xbox.

When your daughter envisioned jeans, she wasn't thinking Carhartts.

And after your wife said she really didn't want or need anything, you came through with a digital pedometer.

Really, you shouldn't have.

A National Retail Federation survey found the average person returned nearly four holiday gifts last year.

If you're one of those heading back to the stores to return a gift, here are some tips from the federation, the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to make the experience as efficient and easy as possible.

-- Understand that you won't be the only one in the store.

The week after Christmas can account for as much as 15 percent of retailers' holiday sales. While millions of people head to the stores to do a little self-gifting, millions more are there to return or exchange video games, jeans and digital pedometers.

--Understand return policies.

The same National Retail Federation survey found that 29 percent of consumers don't carefully read return policies. In Wisconsin, a store is not legally required to accept items for refund, exchange or credit unless the merchandise is defective or was misrepresented.

The return policy should be posted by the checkout. If it's not, ask.

Also understand return policies for sale or clearance merchandise, which might be different than merchandise sold at full price.

--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.

--Receipts are critical.

While many retailers may allow consumers to make returns without an original or gift receipt, some don't. To ensure a hassle-free return, it's still a wise idea to present one.

--The clock is ticking.

Pay attention to the time frame allotted by the retailer for returns. Find out if the countdown to the last day for returns started on the date of original purchase or if there are extended holiday return time frames.

--There might be a restocking fee.

Original packaging is a must for some retailers when it comes to returns. As best you can, make sure all boxes and gifts are returned in the condition they were purchased.

Some stores charge a restocking fee for opened items or those without their packaging, particularly electronics.

--Know online store policies, too.

While millions of gift-givers are in-store shoppers, many bought online. When making an online return, it's important to know who pays for shipping and the exact location where returned items should be sent.

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