This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Using Tech for Many Happy Returns

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Returning unwanted purchases isn't fun, especially during the holidays. Retailers obviously don't like it either.

But sometimes, you need to return an item that either doesn't work, isn't what you expected or you no longer want. While there are people out there trying to game the system -- causing some of the National Retail Federation's projected $2.9 billion in fraudulent returns this holiday season -- most of us just want to buy the right thing the first time.

Technology is helping make returns a lot easier. Shopping online means you always have a record of purchases. You just have to pay attention to return policies and possible restocking fees. Offline, several stores are now accepting returns made at their online counterpart, not to mention easing return policies to help those who just want to return an unwanted item.

Limit those returns by following these suggestions:

Do the research. If gifts are going to be given this season, make sure you give something the person wants or make sure you're telling people what you want. You can always ask. Or be a little sneaky by using a gift-recommendation service.

  • Search for the person's online gift list. Amazon (AMZN) is a good start. Just type in a person's name on Amazon's Wish List page. Even easier, if you link your Facebook (FB) and Amazon accounts and Amazon can pull up wish lists of friends.
  • Let Facebook recommend gifts for your friends. Various retailers are using a gift-recommendation engine to match your Facebook friends' likes with gift ideas. Sites like CafePress (PRSS) and SheKnows allow shoppers to connect Facebook accounts, scan friends' "likes" and offer suggestions.
  • Giftivo.com is a new site offering social recommendations. Link it to your Facebook account for suggested gifts based on a friend's interests.
  • Ask for a digital receipt. The surest way to ensure a successful return is keeping the original paper receipt. But that's easy to lose and today, not always necessary. Start the potential returns process easier by asking for a digital receipt or creating your own.

  • Several retailers including Old Navy, Apple (AAPL) and Macy's (M) will email you the receipt so you only need to search your inbox.
  • Take a picture of the receipt with your camera phone.
  • Apps like Evernote, Expensify and Proximiant snap a photo and digitally file it away. Some retailers accept the screen image of the receipt for returns.
  • Newer apps like ReturnGuru just do receipts -- it takes a picture and sends a reminder of the last day to return an item.
  • Shop at stores that go out of their way to help if you don't have your receipt. Target (TGT) will look up purchases made in stores or online within 90 days. Lowe's (LOW) can look up purchases based on the credit card. Walmart (WMT) limits no-receipt returns to 3 within a 45-day period. Costco can scan your membership card and look up past purchases.
  • Get help on the product. About 8% of consumer-electronics devices are returned annually, which is projected to be $17.2 billion in the U.S. this year. Of those, 70% have nothing wrong and that's a problem, says Christopher Fabian, president of Professional Service Solutions, which works with electronics companies and stores to limit returns. Some returns are big-screen TVs after the Super Bowl.

    But a larger issue is devices are more complicated and harder to figure out these days. The industry is tackling how to teach customers without including a printed manual by increased customer support and online services.

    1 of 2

    Select the service that is right for you!

    COMPARE ALL SERVICES
    Action Alerts PLUS
    Try it NOW

    Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

    Product Features:
    • $2.5+ million portfolio
    • Large-cap and dividend focus
    • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
    • Weekly roundups
    TheStreet Quant Ratings
    Try it NOW
    Only $49.95/yr

    Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

    Product Features:
    • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
    • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
    • A custom stock screener
    • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
    Stocks Under $10
    Try it NOW

    David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

    Product Features:
    • Model portfolio
    • Stocks trading below $10
    • Intraday trade alerts
    • Weekly roundups
    Dividend Stock Advisor
    Try it NOW

    Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

    Product Features:
    • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
    • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
    • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
    Real Money Pro
    Try it NOW

    All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

    Product Features:
    • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
    • Intraday commentary & news
    • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
    Options Profits
    Try it NOW

    Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

    Product Features:
    • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
    • Actionable options commentary & news
    • Real-time trading community
    • Options TV
    To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
    Submit an article to us!
    DOW 16,982.59 +22.02 0.13%
    S&P 500 1,978.91 +0.57 0.03%
    NASDAQ 4,444.9090 -4.6550 -0.10%

    Brokerage Partners

    Rates from Bankrate.com

    • Mortgage
    • Credit Cards
    • Auto

    Free Newsletters from TheStreet

    My Subscriptions:

    After the Bell

    Before the Bell

    Booyah! Newsletter

    Midday Bell

    TheStreet Top 10 Stories

    Winners & Losers

    Register for Newsletters
    Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs