For holiday returns it pays to know the rules

How many gifts have you opened today? How many do you plan to actually keep?

Not only is Dec. 26 the day for shopping post-holiday sales, it is also the day many people will return the presents they don’t want. From gift cards to ugly sweaters, retailers will be ringing in returns as they ring up sales.

Just be sure you know the rules of returns, as many aren’t as straightforward as they may seem.

One of the biggest issues is the time limits placed on holiday returns.

Some stores are requiring merchandise purchased between October and Christmas be returned by mid-January, says Carey Rossi, editor-in-chief of ConsumerSearch.com. “Even if you receive a gift, you have to think, ‘Omigod, if I really don’t like this I have to return it within the first two weeks of January.’ Some people don’t get around to some of their presents until then.”

Retailers such as Amazon offer slightly more time — until Jan. 31. Kohl’s advertises hassle-free returns and does have fewer restrictions than many other retailers, as does J.C. Penney, Rossi says.

In general, returns on clothing are a little easier than on products such as electronics, Rossi says. Consumer Search studied return policies for a range of retailers and all have some special conditions. Barnes & Noble, for example, has a special 14-day return policy for its Nook e-reader, Rossi says.

Electronics in particular may also be subject to restocking fees, says Rossi. TVs, computers and larger items may require a fee to have someone properly repack and shelve the item. “There is a lot of hassle [with re-stocking] for the stores and this is the way they deter that from happening.

“But is it fair? No.”

While many folks have turned to online shopping for Christmas gifts, recipients should be aware that not all items purchased online can be returned to a brick-and-mortar store. According to Shop Smart magazine, restrictions vary by store. Sports Authority, for example, does not accept any online purchase returns in-store. Ann Taylor and Loft prohibit certain items from being returned in-store.

Some stores will take returns only with a gift receipt. Otherwise, you may be able to get store credit but, again, policies vary by retailer.

Many gift cards are nonreturnable, but a growing number of online resellers will buy your unwanted cards at just less than face value. You can sell your card — or swap it for one you think you may use — at several sites, including GiftCards.com, GiftCardRescue.com and PlasticJungle.com, Rossi notes.

And though gifting from deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial has become popular, that’s one gift you generally can’t return.

What is the worst gift you got this holiday season? Will you return it?

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– Nedra Rhone, for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

3 comments Add your comment

Tom

December 25th, 2012
8:49 am

Any gift that someone takes the time to purchase and wrap is great for me because of the thought behind it-it doesn’t matter what it is.

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Henry Ikechukwu Orueze

December 27th, 2012
12:01 pm

Gift is a display of courtsy,an expression/symbol of comitment.