Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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 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, 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


At 9:12 AM, Blogger Melody said...

Returning gifts is the WORST...I hate it. Thanks for the tips though. Happy Holidays

At 11:10 AM, Blogger puremood said...

I hope I don't have to return anything... tho likely will as there is no telling what the in-laws have purchased for the kids and what-not. Sigh. LOL :)

At 2:46 PM, Blogger curious servant said...

Good advice...

But, come to think on it, I don't think I have ever returned anything!

Merry Christmas!

At 4:56 PM, Blogger Nettie said...

As a person in the retail industry- thanks, be nice to 'em.

At 5:56 PM, Blogger Mitey Mite said...

My problem is people who think it's rude to return gifts, but then never use what they got. I might as well have thrown my money away, for all the use they got out of it. That's why I do more and more gift cards and "money trees."

At 5:48 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Very informative, thanks.
I love surprises too but it does make everything so much more complicated that's why I try to ask everybody to make a list.

At 6:02 AM, Blogger Lavender Dawn said...

Target's gift receipts are really nice; they don't show the price you paid. I think I would only return/exchange if something didn't fit the kids or if we got two of the exact same thing. Then again, sometimes two is nice; things break!

Have a Merry Christmas!

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Big Dave T said...

My sister-in-law is big on buying clothes for her family, then taking them back to the store for an exchange or refund if they don't fit. I warned her she might get blacklisted. She says if she does, fine, she won't shop at that store again. Makes sense.

Regarding your comment on my blog, I have since got a new ATM card to replace the one I lost. I should say I'm trying harder to keep track of this one. But the other day, instead of wearing my employee ID around my neck as we're supposed to do at work, I was wearing my new ATM card instead. Nobody noticed, though. So much for security here.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I usually do not return gifts, because the wait can be painful.

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Chirstmas, Lucy. May it be a time of joy, peace and good celebration.

At 5:10 AM, Blogger Danny Sims said...

Wow. So much information.

I got some argyle socks last year. Too late to return them?

At 8:09 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

I hate having to return gifts.
Merry Christmas Lucy :o)

At 2:34 AM, Blogger Live, Love, Laugh said...

outstanding info!! thanks!

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Running2Ks said...

That is good info--I can't believe there are habitual return penalties, but Oh well. I hope everyone gets what they want this year :)


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