17 Tips for Gracefully Returning Holiday Gifts

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Oh, joy, you got another crockpot for Christmas. Here's your guide to delicately and cleverly turning unwanted gifts into cash, store credit and more.

Gift cards are the favorite holiday gift — to receive, at least — by a long shot. When the National Retail Federation surveyed adults who plan on celebrating winter holidays this year, 60 percent said they wanted to receive gift cards and certificates. That’s opposed to, say, gifts of:

  • Clothing: 52 percent
  • Books, music, videos and games: 40 percent
  • Electronic gifts and accessories: 31 percent
  • Jewelry: 23 percent

Home improvement gifts, beauty care products, sporting goods and home decor scored in the basement — each less than 2 percent.

So, before you wrap up that 40-piece socket set for your beloved, think hard about returning it and picking up a gift card instead. If not, ask for a gift receipt with the purchase and tuck it in with the gift. Gift receipts reveal purchase information but not the price paid. They make returns super easy, often enabling a recipient to get cash back or at least store credit.

But, let’s say you didn’t give the socket set — you received it. And, even worse, you already have one just like it. Now what? How do you tactfully get rid of it and, if possible, get something you’d rather have?

1. Adjust your expectations

If your gift included a gift receipt, you’re golden. If not, be realistic. A merchant is more likely to offer store credit than cash back.

2. Suss out the situation

When the gift you’ve received is a mystery — there’s no gift receipt and you don’t know where it came from — you may need to ask the giver.

Tact and caution are in order. You don’t want to hurt the feelings of someone who was kind enough to give you a present, and it’s possible that Aunt Birdie found your socket set on the sales rack for a rock-bottom price that she’d rather not disclose. Here’s where your powers of intuition come in. You might ask if she still has the receipt, or where she made the purchase. But if you think she’ll be offended, ask yourself if it is worth it first. Either way, be sure to first make it very clear how much you appreciate the gift and her thoughtfulness.

3. Keep receipts

If you get a gift with a gift receipt, do yourself a favor and hang onto the receipt. That will save you a lot of trouble.

4. Return gifts to their stores of origin

You’ll have an easier time, generally, returning an item to the store from which it came. Even if you don’t have a gift receipt, the merchant may be able to track down your purchase through electronic records, making returns easier. If you don’t know where it came from, do some research to make certain that you are making your return to a store that carries the item.

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