5 Tips for Many Happy (Gift) Returns

Photo (cc) by MShades

The holiday shopping season isn’t even half over, but many Americans are already asking themselves the Big Question: How will I return all the crappy presents I’ll probably be given this year?

Consumer advocates are already on top of the situation. From Consumer Affairs to Consumer Reports to Consumer World, advice abounds for getting your money’s worth from gifts you don’t want. But Consumer Reports just this week issued the most succinct and helpful list we’ve seen this holiday season …

  1. Know the time frame. Big retailers usually allow 90 days for returns of most items but might have shorter periods for electronics, software, and CDs and DVDs. Retailers sometimes extend deadlines during the holiday shopping season. Electronics bought at Walmart usually must be returned within 15 or 30 days, for example, but this year the clock doesn’t start ticking until December 26 for purchases made between November 15 and December 25.
  2. Get a receipt. Many merchants used to offer at least store credit to shoppers without a receipt, but now some shoppers might be out of luck. If the purchase was made by credit card, debit card, or check, some stores will try to find an electronic receipt, but cash customers might be out of luck.
  3. Bring a driver’s license. Some companies, like Best Buy, require a government-issued ID with a receipt to make a return. (That way they can track serial returners even if the transaction is in cash.)
  4. Be sure before you open the box. Merchants can’t resell an item as new after the package has been opened, so they impose a restocking fee, usually 15 percent of the product’s cost. The fees apply mostly to electronics, but Sears also charges for mattresses, built-in appliances, and special orders on hardware, sporting goods, and other merchandise. Even a missing instruction manual, cords and cables or warranty card can give retailers reason to deny the return. Items like computer software, video games, CDs and DVDs aren’t generally returnable for another title after the seal has been broken. If an item comes with a rebate offer, make sure it works before removing the UPC code to redeem the rebate.
  5. Know where to go. If the item was purchased online and the merchant has a walk-in store, check the website to see whether the store accepts returns to avoid repacking, a post-office trip, and shipping fees.

Concludes Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert: “Return policies are a moving target, so you always have to be sure to read the current fine print. Start by purchasing gifts from retailers with flexible return policies, like web merchants that include free prepaid return shipping labels with purchase.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales
7 Things You Should Buy at Estate Sales

Here’s what an experienced estate sale shopper considers a great find.

8 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of Debt ASAP
8 Surefire Ways to Get Rid of Debt ASAP

Here’s how to painlessly speed up your debt-reduction efforts.

Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best
Homeowners Say These 2 Kitchen Appliance Brands Are Best

One brand takes five of the top honors, while another ranks highest in three categories.

8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying
8 Things You Should Rent Instead of Buying

You may think you’re looking at a must-have purchase. But do the numbers and think twice.

This Pastime Can Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age
This Pastime Can Keep Your Brain Sharp as You Age

It’s never too late to benefit from taking up this type of activity.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.