The day after Christmas dawns with the realization that you just don’t want every gift you received. You’re no Scrooge and you’re not alone if you decide to return an unloved item. Some 28 percent of merchandise sold during last year’s holidays was returned, according to a survey by RedStag Fulfillment and Optro. Exchanging a present that you’re never doing to use is probably smart. Even if you adore the giver and appreciate the thought, who needs the extra clutter? What’s the smartest way to exchange unwanted gifts? Here are tips to make returns stress free.
Check out the exchange policy.
If you are lucky, your gift came from a savvy sender. One-third of holiday shoppers said they paid attention to a store’s return policy when deciding which retailer to shop, according to a 2018 survey by the National Retail Federation. Some retailers have strict rules that make returning purchases almost impossible. Others have a no-questions-asked policy. Smaller retailers often have much stricter return policies.
Find out what you’re getting into before you head out to the store. The store’s return policy often can be found on the back of the receipt or on the merchant’s website. If the gift was bought online, see if the merchant has bricks-and-mortar store locations where you can make the return in person. That would save you the effort of repacking the item and paying return shipping costs.
Learn the deadlines.
Big merchants may give you up to 90 days to return most items, but don’t assume that guideline applies to all retailers. Merchants may impose much shorter periods for certain goods. Some retailers will extend their deadlines during the holidays, often until late January. You’ll know quickly whether you want to keep or return a gift, so don’t delay in checking on deadlines.
Avoid the crowds.
You can expect that crowds will be out the week after Christmas as people rush to return. If your deadline allows you to wait, you may be happier avoiding the crush and waiting until after Jan. 1. Early mornings and late evenings can be less chaotic times to make a return.
You may be asked for your driver’s license or other government-issued ID when you show up to make a return. Some chains will check your ID looking for fraud. They use computerized return-authorization systems to detect abuse. These merchants keep track of the dollar value of your returns, how often you make returns, how frequently you return items without a receipt, and the time between returns. You can expect Best Buy and Victoria’s Secret to ask for identification.
Leave the packaging intact.
Make sure you want to keep the gift before you open the box or remove the tags. If you try to take back an opened package, you may run into trouble. You should be prepared to pay a restocking fee of up to 15 percent of the purchase price if you’ve opened the box. That’s especially common for electronics.
Other products, such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs, generally aren’t returnable once you’ve opened the package, unless they’re defective.
Don’t throw away gift receipts.
Returns without receipts are based on the discretion of the store. You may not be able to get a refund or exchange if you don’t have a receipt for the purchase. Store policies vary, and you may be eligible for store credit without a gift receipt. But merchants often will turn you away if you don’t have one.
There’s no way for a retailer to know what was paid for the item unless you can show a receipt. If you are able to return an item without a receipt, you’ll only be able to get a refund for the lowest sale price if the item is on sale now.
If all else fails…
Sell unwanted gifts if you can’t return or exchange them. Consider selling the item on eBay or similar apps and websites. Or donate them to charity. Or re-gift them next year, but be cautious. Everybody knows a story about someone forgetfully giving an unwanted gift back to the original giver.