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Returns Can Be Costly

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RALEIGH — Millions of people are returning Christmas presents this weekend. Some folks want exchanges. Those who seek refunds may walk away with less than the item's original cost.

A growing number of retailers, especially those in electronics, arecharging people a "restocking" fee if they return certain items.

In some cases, the fee is 15 percent, so if someone buys a newcomputer system for $2,000, a return will cost $250.

It's bad enough to wait on long return lines this time of the year, butimagine if you got zapped with this 15 percent restocking fee.But Best Buy, one of the first retailers to start charging a restockingfee, designed it primarily for those customers who have the worst ofintentions.

Best Buy Inventory Manager Tony Joyce says that some customersintend to take advantage of thestore -- and other customers -- by buying an item, using it temporarilyand then returning it. In addition to becoming a second-hand item, theproduct may be missing parts or have been damaged, resulting in a loss for the store or annoyance for the next soul who buys the product.

The key to avoiding the fee? Return an item in the exact condition inwhich you purchased it.

So what if you buy an item and try it, and then decide you don'tlike it?Best Buy's policy dictates you would have to pay the restocking fee, evenif it's in perfect condition.But decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

During a recent visit to a Raleigh Best Buy store, no one was found whofelt the restocking fee would be a burden. Most customers didn't have aproblem with the policy, which the store displays on a sign.

The fee also helps replace parts, manuals and other items that aren'treturned.And if an appliance has been used, the company is not supposed to sell itat the regular price. The restocking fees help cover that discount.Other retailers that have similar policies include Circuit City and CompUSA.

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