Did you get a gift for Christmas that you weren’t thrilled with? Well, don’t feel guilty about returning it! According to the National Retail Federation, 40% of North Americans take back at least one gift after the holidays. Before you race to return the singing fish your brother-in-law gave you, know this: Store return policies have become stricter. Basically, more stores are charging restocking fees for opened boxes or missing packaging – and not just for electronics. For example, Sears now has a 15% restocking fee for some appliances, tools, and lawn-and-garden products.
Stores have also become increasingly persnickety about receipts. For example, Target allows only two returns per year without a receipt – and only if the item’s less than $20. Why? Because they’re trying to prevent people from “returning” stolen goods for money. Stores like Kmart, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart use computer systems to monitor how often customers return items without a receipt. If you come back too often, they may say “no.” Still, if you’re headed to the mall, here’s how to successfully return a gift, courtesy of Consumer Reports:
- Check the store’s return policy online or on the phone. That way, you won’t be in for any unpleasant surprises at the returns counter.
- Handle with care. Returns are often rejected if the box is damaged or the packaging is missing. Also, some retailers won’t accept returns if the UPC square on the box is gone. The “proof of purchase” tag that’s sometimes used for rebates. Other retailers charge a 15% restocking fee – even if you didn’t open the box.
- Bring the receipt. If you don’t have one, the retailer might only credit you with the after-Christmas sale price – or reject your return altogether.
- Clear your good name. If your return is denied - and you don’t know why – you may have been incorrectly flagged by a store’s computer for committing “return fraud.” You can try to correct the matter by sending an email to The Return Exchange – a company that monitors returns for retailers.