5 on Your Side

5 on Your Side: Rules of holiday returns

Posted December 15, 2010

We don't buy gifts with the idea the people we give them to will need to return them. But it happens, A LOT!

Last year, more than 219 billion dollars in products were returned. That's why it's important to do what you can on the FRONT END, to minimize problems.

The first thing you need to know -- retail stores do NOT have to accept returns -- or even exchanges. And those that do allow them, do NOT have to give you cash back. They can offer store credit or just an exchange. That's why BEFORE you buy something, make sure you check the return policy!

And watch for "restocking fees"-- especially with electronics. Some are as much as 25 percent of the cost of the item! Also-- if you return something through the mail, you may have to pay shipping costs.

Whatever the policy -- a good and simple way to make it all a little easier for the person who has to make a return - give gift receipts! Without one -- they may only get the current mark down price of the item, instead of the full price you paid!

And of course -- if you have to make a return -- it'll go a lot smoother if you remember the three P's: be prepared, polite and patient.


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  • turkeydance Dec 15, 2010

    you are giving away your age, Monica.
    it's not A LOT, it's *a lot*.
    and it will change Tuesday.
    and again Tuesday afternoon.

  • BigUNCFan Dec 15, 2010

    Just give cash, it is what people want anyway.

  • cad Dec 15, 2010

    I tape receipts to the package.

  • blahblahblah Dec 15, 2010

    To keep lines moving once the holiday return season begins on December 26, have your receipt in your hand (not in your wallet in the bottom of your pocketbook) and your return item out of the bag/box. I work at the customer service desk of a local store and this is one of our pet pieves. Slows things down so much when customers have to dig around for receipts.

  • sumpinlikedat Dec 15, 2010

    Prepared, polite, and patient... definitely good advice! Sounds like it came straight from a retail worker's brain. Having worked in retail for years in the recent past, I know how irritating the return process can be. Many retailers have done their best to make the process more streamlined, but please please PLEASE make sure you read the return policies on things you buy!! If you came into a store expecting to get cash on something that you purchased with a credit card, chances are you're going to be disappointed. If you don't give gift receipts, the person you give an item to may run into a situation where the store credit they get for an item is MUCH less than what you paid for it. I've seen it happen many, many times.

    Be informed! And retail workers - remember to be patient as well!

About this Blog:

In addition to the stories you see on TV, Monica is always looking for ways to help consumers find deals and avoid fraud. She'll blog about what you need to know here.