Yikes! You hate that gift you got for Christmas. Here's what to know about holiday returns
Shopping for other people is hard. Even the best-intentioned gift giver gets it wrong now and then.
Who hasn't perfected their "I love it face!" while secretly scanning under the tissue paper for a gift receipt?
This year, 77% of consumers plan to return some of their gifts, and nearly 20% expect to return more than half, according to a survey of 15,800 consumers by Oracle, an online retail platform.
Returns have become so common during the holiday season that UPS named a National Returns Day – a date in January after the December gift-giving glut when shoppers return their unwanted presents.
This holiday season, returns are expected to peak Jan. 2 at 1.9 million – a 26% increase from last year.
No wonder one-third of holiday shoppers say a store's return policy is an important factor when deciding which retailers to shop, according to a survey in 2018 by the National Retail Federation.
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Here's what you need to understand about returns: Not all store policies are the same, and local stores are going to have different policies from big-box or department stores. As a consumer, it is your responsibility to research and understand how an individual business handles returns before you make a purchase that you can't give back.
If you are in the store, ask the sales clerk for details before he or she rings up your purchases. Or before you do your shopping, do your research online.
We can pass this information on to the recipients of our gifts – although we can't imagine they'll want to return them.
Retailers will commonly give you at least 30 days to make a return, and some are more generous. Certain stores give you 60 or even 90 days, but there's usually a cutoff for getting cashback – and you may have to settle for a gift card.
Some stores expand their return policies during the holiday season, so do yourself a favor and ask about specific return dates for purchases you made in November and December. Always read the fine print to ensure you understand the retailer's policy, so you won't be in for any surprises.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when returning this holiday season:
Is a receipt required to make a return?
If you don't have your receipt handy, you may still be able to return an item in exchange for store credit. But some retailers will reject your return altogether.
All the more reason to request a "gift receipt" when checking out. Gift receipts include a bar code that allows a return without listing the price of the item.
Some stores will only refund the price of the item at the time of the refund. That means if that cashmere sweater you bought for $150 in November is priced at $75 when you try to return it in January, you may be refunded only the lower price.
Will you need to provide identification?
Some retailers request a valid form of ID when you make a return. This helps businesses stop those who shoplift because thieves may be less inclined to return an item for cash if their name is attached to the transaction. Plus, it helps retailers track irregular return patterns.
Retailers with great return policies
- Bed Bath & Beyond: Returns with a gift receipt will be exchanged or refunded in the form of a merchandise credit for the amount paid for up to 180 days from the date of purchase.
- Bath & Body Works: This retailer offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee on each purchase and lets you exchange the items or return them for a refund or merchandise credit. An exchange or merchandise credit will be issued for the purchase price on the gift receipt.
- Kohl's: You get 180 days to return your items with an original receipt to get a refund or even exchange. Premium electronics are the exception. If they were purchased from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25, you have until Jan. 31 to return them. Returns that are missing receipts and/or don't have an original purchase record are granted through a store credit; it'll be based on the item's lowest 13-week sale price.
- Nordstrom Rack: You have 45 days to make a return on items unless they are marked final sale or nonrefundable.
- Zappos: Customers may return unworn items for a full refund within a year of purchase. The company pays for the return shipping.
- Amazon: The online retail giant will accept returns through Jan. 31 for most items shipped from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.
- Best Buy: Best Buy will accept returns through Jan. 14 for items purchased from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, excluding some electronics and major appliances.
- Walmart: Items purchased from Walmart from Oct. 24 to Dec. 25 with a 14-day return window may be returned until Jan. 10. Items with a 30-day return window may be returned until Jan. 25.
One final note: Since you know that Jan. 2 is expected to be the biggest return day of the year, you may want to wait until the madness dies down to head to the store.
Many happy returns!