The end of the holiday season can bring great sales—but long lines for gift returns.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), gift returns for the 2011 holiday season accounted for approximately $46.3 billion in transactions—that’s up from $39.7 billion in 2007.
To help save time and reduce stress, follow these tips:
Read the fine print. Hop online to research retailers’ return policies before heading to the store. Check to see if they involve restocking fees and return shipping costs, which can catch consumers by surprise. If your gift was purchased online, find out if you’re allowed to return it to the physical store. Some stores don’t accept items that were purchased online.
Make it snappy. Many stores impose a time limit for returns. For example, some allow you to return items within 90 days of purchase, while other stores give you 30 days—or as few as 14.
If you try returning a gift after the time limit has expired, chances are the store won’t accept the return, or may give you store credit only.
Include gift receipts. Tuck the gift receipt into the package when you give a gift—including this slip of paper allows the recipient to make hassle-free returns or exchanges. (According to the NRF’s 2011 Holiday Returns Survey, more than 60 percent of holiday shoppers say they provide a gift receipt some or most of the time.)
Keep gift packaging intact. It’s tempting to try out a new toy or gadget, but resist the urge to remove tags and be sure to open the packaging carefully. You have a better chance of returning or exchanging a gift in its original, undamaged packaging.
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