Wishing You Many Happy Returns

In my cousins’ household the day after Christmas was more exciting than the actual day. That’s when they all rushed around returning the gifts they had just received from each other. It was a strange dynamic. Even when they were opening gifts they would smile and proclaim, “You know this one is going back!” I never understood it and looking back I understand it even less. Returning items is always a hassle and over time this tradition has become more and more frowned upon by retailers. But, if you must return you’ll need to follow some guidelines.

You may have to pay to return. Many retailers have initiated restocking fees, especially for large or pricey items like electronics and special orders. Restocking fees can run anywhere from 10% to 15% of the original price. Restocking fees are often charged to open items. So, if you don’t want it, don’t open it.

Return time might be limited. Don’t let that gift linger in your closet while you decide whether or not you want it. More retailers are tighten return times. Here are a few:
Best Buy—14 days
Amazon—Return by Jan. 31, 2010 for purchases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
Target—90 days
Walmart—15 to 30 days for electronics, general merchandise 90 days

Stricter receipt policies. You might only get store credit if you don’t have a receipt and usually you’ll only get the current price value, which after the holiday rush is often much lower. When giving gifts, it’s always a good idea to include a gift receipt.

Retailers are making a list, and you might be on it. Return fraud is a real problem for retailers. That’s why some have gotten wise and are tracking returns. If you exceed the store’s return limit, your return could be rejected. Returns without a receipt are especially suspect. Some stores are beginning to swipe I.D. such as driver’s licenses for no-receipt returns to help them track.

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