11 Genius Tricks for Returning Your Holiday Gifts
We wouldn’t wish braving the post-Christmas shopping circus upon even our worst enemies, but sometimes, you just have to take care of business. Whether you over-purchased and need to streamline, or received a gift that’s destined to collect dust, we want to make this easy for you. Ahead, 10 tips to ensure you’re armed with all of the knowledge needed to swoop in there like a seasoned professional. Just make sure you ask nicely.
The first few days just after Christmas are still peak shopping days, which means you’ll be dealing with snaking lines and frazzled customer service. If you can wait until January (the later the better!), you should.
Many retailers won’t accept a return on an item that has been opened or appears to have been used. So unless you’re absolutely positive, just leave it be.
Most holiday shoppers don’t have receipts since the items they are returning were gifts—so if you can locate yours, do try, and you’ll be able to speed through the process. Whether it's a purchase or gift receipt, try your best to find the original or get a digital version of it. Check twice in boxes and gift bags for hidden gift receipts.
Take care to read up on the return policy so that you don’t miss a store’s return window, or show up to a location that doesn’t accept returns at all, only to be disappointed.
If you’re opting for an even exchange, take the time to pick out what you’re going to exchange it for beforehand. Then, call the location and make sure they have that item in stock. Holiday shopping depletes stock significantly, and you don’t want to be driving all over the place searching in vain.
Some merchants that have brick-and-mortar locations allow in-store returns of online purchases. Check if you’ll get a better deal by returning in-person or by mail. In-store returns of online purchases save time and postage expenses.
Know beforehand if you’ll be encountering any restocking fees (often between 15-25 percent of the product's cost). Most electronics incur these fees, so do yourself the favor of not being caught off guard.
Store representatives may request identification when processing a return (even if you have a store credit card!).
Most big retailers offer an extended return policy during the holiday season. For example, Target loosens their strict 90-day (and, for electronics, 30-day) return window so that, by default, the return clock on holiday purchases (items bought between November 1 and December 25) does not start until December 26. Meanwhile, Target REDcard holders get an additional 30 days on all returns.
Some other notable mentions: Nordstrom will accept returns of anything, at any time, even without a receipt. They are the benchmark for amazing customer service. L.L. Bean is much the same—100-percent customer satisfaction is their game.
Zappos has a great return policy where all shipping is paid for. If size was the problem, look for their “advanced exchange” policy. The company will ship you the replacement for free. All you have to do is send back the first item within the following two weeks. Amazon accepts holiday returns through January 31, with third-party sellers adopting the same policy unless clearly stated otherwise.
If you’ve lost your receipt, there still may be hope. Many big retailers (including Target) can locate your purchase by way of the credit card used. Just ask if they can take a look.
If the item you are returning is slightly damaged and the store will not accept the return, be prepared to ask for a partial store credit, or to sell the item on your own (hello, eBay!). If you don’t have a receipt at all, you can be straightforward with the cashier about your willingness to accept a store credit, and they will usually be relieved to get you sorted. However, do know that store credits will often be offered at the current price rate of the item (even if it’s lower than what you paid). If all else fails (let’s say the item you received was damaged upon receipt), and you’ve tried everything but are having no luck, contact your credit card company. Most credit cards offer the service of investigating and leveraging returns, and will act on your behalf to get a reimbursement if the cause is deemed just.
This should be rule Number One, but we’ve left it for the end to drive home its importance. The holidays are the pinnacle of retail craziness, with employees often harried and over-worked, so do try your best to be kind and appreciative. You’ll be amazed by how willing a stranger may be to help if you just ask nicely.
Do you have any secrets for making the return process a little less stressful? We want to know about them!