Many Happy Returns: Some tips for shoppers

via Many Happy Returns: Some tips for shoppers | Consumer Watch,, 1/1/2013

So you have finally decided to brave the crowds at the stores to return that light-up sweater from Aunt Doris, or the CD of the Greatest Hits of 1932. You don’t want to hurt the feelings of those who gave you the gifts, so when you opened them, you faked a smile and said a genuine thank-you. But what you really wanted was a new set of drill bits.

Recently, I posted an online poll asking you for your opinions of which stores treated you best when you returned gifts. An overwhelming six responses later, it is safe to assume that many of you are really ambivalent when it comes to returning gifts. For the record, since I told you I would publish the responses, Target and Wal-Mart tied for 1st place, with two votes apiece. Live and learn.

But since I am convinced that many of you will be in the return lines, here are a few tips for making sure you have the best return experience possible (with some help from

  • Stores take returns as a service; they are not required by law to do it, unless the merchandise is defective or sold deceptively. Therefore, they are free to determine whether, and how, refunds will be handled.
  • Know the seller’s return policy and timeline. Retailers often provide extended return/exchange holiday opportunities. Make sure you know those dates, and it will help you plan accordingly. Also, keep in mind that some items are not returnable, and policies vary by store.
  • Don’t assume that you will get your money back the way you expect it. The store has the option to decide how you will be paid, whether cash-back, credit card refund, store credit, or a check.
  • Check if there are re-stocking fees for returned items.
  • Save your receipt along with any other documentation regarding the purchase. Your receipt serves as proof of purchase. Target and other stores provide convenient gift receipts, so hopefully the giver included the gift receipt.
  • Don’t open the package. If you do, try not to destroy the packaging when you open it. Some retailers will only provide exchanges for open box items.
  • Be patient. Keep in mind that you generally have some time, so it’s not necessary to rush to the store right now. Waiting a few days can help you avoid the crowds.

From our house to yours, here’s wishing you a happy, prosperous and blessed 2013!


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