Holiday Gift Returns | 5 Tips for Returning Unwanted Gifts
Surprisingly, many people don’t feel comfortable returning things to stores. They end up stashing it somewhere and it goes to waste. I had a dear friend who was a shop-a-haulic (and drowning in debt). She would not dream of returning things to the store for a refund. Instead, she’d give away things she decided she didn’t want to her friends and family. There’s nothing wrong with being generous, but she had over $25,000 in credit card debt that she couldn’t make minimum payments on. If you’ve read my feature on the evils of credit card debt you already know how I feel about that subject. It’s a losing battle that you have to change, drastically, and right now.
So, I thought I’d cover how easy and FUN it is to return stuff that didn’t work out for whatever reason. In hopes that people on both sides – the giver and receiver – can see how useful and integral a part of retail it really is.
- GUILT FREE Don’t guilt yourself into keeping something you don’t want, won’t use or that doesn’t fit for whatever reason. Let’s be honest, if someone cares enough about you to give you a gift, they probably also want you to be happy with it! If you’re not happy with it, look past the gift itself and see the love behind giving it. Thank them and mean it. Gift giving shouldn’t be about the item or how much it costs, it should be about the generosity and love behind giving it. Focus on what’s important! If the item itself isn’t quite right, changing it for what is right is incidental and has little to do with the act of giving or the giver. In other words, don’t get hung up on “will I make them feel bad if I return it?” Show your true gratitude, and then do what’s right for you.
- RECEIPT When you’re the giver, include gift receipts with your gift. In many stores, gift receipts are available when you purchase the gift. Some stores give them automatically with the regular receipt. The gift receipt doesn’t include a price, so your secret is safe. Returning items with a receipt is MUCH easier than without one. Depending on the store, you may be able to return the item without a receipt. Some stores will not issue cash back without a receipt; you may end up with store credit. I bought almost every one of the gifts I gave this year online (and have for several years now). Returning things online can be more challenging for the receiver, but not impossible. Major stores such as Walmart, Kohl’s and Target accept returns for online purchases in store the same as if you bought in store, making returns very easy and hassle-free. Stores that are only online may require you to pay return postage. That’s when it’s a great idea to buy using services such as Shoprunner which offers free return shipping and free 2-day shipping.
- TIMELY Don’t wait too long to return the item. Depending on where the item was purchased, you may have anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to return it. Keep in mind that starts on the date it was purchased, which may have been a few weeks or months before you received it. Best bet: wait a few days to avoid long return lines at major stores, but not too long so you miss your window of return.
- DO NOT OPEN If you suspect something isn’t right for you, don’t take it out of the box. Don’t wear it, remove tags or get it dirty. Don’t break seal which clearly states that you can’t return after removing. Use common sense. Return it in new condition to avoid hassle. If something doesn’t work or is broken, you have the right to exchange it for a working/unbroken version of the same thing no matter what the store return policy states. If you broke it, that’s a different story. Again, use common sense. If you plan to return it, keep it in its original condition so they can resell it.
- SMILE My last tip for returning unwanted gifts is to remember to BE NICE and smile! Customer service reps are just doing their job. Even if you don’t have your receipt, it’s not unreasonable for them to require a receipt for return. Some stores ask for ID when you’re making returns because of the high incident of fraudulent returns. The National Retail Federation estimates that retailers will lose $3.4 billion this year to return fraud. Hopefully that helps put into perspective why they’re being cautious.
If you have trouble returning an item, and their return policy states you should be able to return it, you may need to file a complaint with your state attorney general, state Department of Consumer Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov or 1-877-382-4357) and to the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org.