6 keys to fast holiday gift returns
OK Lucy, why are you posting an article on gift returns before the big day? There are just some things you need to know before you "tear" into that package...I HATE returning gifts more than anything, but if it's something that just isn't going to work for me, then I want to return it properly and get my fair share back. I was reading this article and thought it had good information on making returns. Have a happy Christmas and hope that you don't have to return anything.
For hassle-free returns, make sure you have a receipt, the package is unopened and you return the item promptly. By Kiplinger's Personal Finance MagazineYou know the drill: Everything must be returned unused and in the original package, and you should have a receipt. Without it, you may get only a merchandise credit -- and then only for the lowest price at which the item was sold in the past 30 days."This year in particular, given all the promotional activity, markdowns could be substantial," says Ellen Davis, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
Some retailers have even stricter rules. For example, at Target you may only be allowed to exchange for an item that comes from the same department. "We encourage people to give a gift receipt," says Lena Michaud, a Target spokeswoman. The other five keys: Don't delayYou usually have from 60 days to 90 days to return unwanted gifts. But, says Davis, you should act quickly, especially where apparel is concerned. "Inventory is tight, so there might not be a lot left over."
When it comes to electronics, waiting isn't an option; you generally have just 14 days. For example, digital cameras and camcorders purchased at Best Buy as Christmas gifts must be returned by Jan. 8.That return could cost youNot the flat-screen TV you wanted? Wrong computer or portable DVD player? Don't open it. A growing number of retailers -- from Circuit City to Sears -- will charge you a percentage of the purchase price (generally 15%) for restocking. Although retailers say they're merely trying to recoup the cost of repackaging items, the fee is meant to discourage one-time use of electronic equipment. Some consumer advocates think it's unfair. "The fee is not only poorly disclosed, but it's also too high," says Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney at Consumers Union. Know the store's policy in advance.
Habitual returners may be blacklistedReturn fraud, which includes bringing back used merchandise for a full refund, costs the retail industry $16 billion a year, according to the National Retail Federation. That's why an increasing number of chains have teamed up with the Return Exchange to monitor returns. Each time you bring back an item, your driver's license will be swiped. If you exceed a store's set limit for returns, you're out of luck. "What concerns me is that this system punishes both the honest consumer -- for example, the busy mother who buys clothing for her kids to try on at home -- as well as the crooks," says Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World, an online consumer resource guide.
Online returns could get confusing. Most of the big retailers will let you return online purchases to their brick-and-mortar stores. But there are caveats. For example, items marked "online only" may need to be mailed back. And retailers that have teamed up with Amazon.com may or may not allow items to be returned to their physical stores. For example, books and DVDs must be mailed back to Amazon. But if you return toys to Amazon's partner, Toys "R" Us, the return is subject to the policies in place at Toys "R" Us, not at Amazon. Keep your packing slip handy to avoid additional hassles.
You can swap a gift cardGiven the popularity of gift cards, chances are you got one, if not several. But what if you usually don't shop at, say, Old Navy? At Swapagift.com, you can buy, sell or even trade your card for someone else's. Participating retailers include Barnes & Noble, J.Crew and Tiffany. Swapping a card will cost you $3.99, regardless of the face value.
By Vera Gibbons, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine