Take the hassle out of gift returns


The magic of the holiday season is hard to replicate. Gatherings with friends and family members can put smiles on many people’s faces, especially for those people who only see their loved ones once a year.

But the smiles and laughter may dim when faced with the prospect of returning unwanted gifts. Few people haven’t had to return a holiday gift once or twice in their lifetimes. In fact, a survey from Consumer Reports indicates that 1 in 5 Americans will return a holiday present this year, while retail merchants expect about 10 percent of all holiday purchases to be returned.

Part of the difficulty of returning items is a result of stores cracking down on merchandise fraud. While there are scores of honest customers simply looking to exchange that paw print set of pajamas for something a little more stylish, there are plenty others who are interested in taking advantage of the holiday season to return items that may have been used, such as a cocktail dress that livened up Christmas festivities just as much as the spiked egg nog, only to be returned December 26. With the desire to curtail fraud, retailers have tightened the reigns on return policies.

Keeping this in mind and being prepared for a conversation with a store’s customer service employee can make the return process go more smoothly.

* Know the store’s return policy. It pays to go online or call the store to find out about its specific return policy. Being armed with this knowledge could help you avoid a trip to the store and waiting in line only to be turned away. Return policies may vary depending on the item being returned, so be sure to check about the item you have. Requirements often are more stringent on electronics.

* Use a receipt whenever possible. Receipts speed up the return process considerably. Whether it is the actual receipt or a gift receipt, this small slip of paper is evidence that the item being returned actually was purchased at the particular store on a particular date.


* Bring identification. Stores will sometimes honor a return for store credit when you present your driver’s license. Keep in mind that there may be a strict limit on how many items you can return without a receipt, and many stores keep track of this information by utilizing the unique scan code on your license. If you are a serial returner, you may find your efforts are for naught.

* Keep boxes closed. Restocking fees are charges exacted for items returned that have been opened. Generally they are applied to electronics and appliances — sometimes 15 to 30 percent of the total purchase price. To get the most value for your return, be sure to keep the box closed.

Cut down on the stress and hassle of holiday returns by knowing store policies and only returning items that are unopened and unused. And whenever possible, bring a receipt, even if it’s just a gift receipt