NEW YORK (MainStreet) Can't stand that sweater that sweet Aunt Mary bought for you, or how about that set of screwdrivers you already own?
No worries if you want to return a gift, unless the store at which the gift was purchased is cracking down on returns.
There are still a lot of retailers taking back unwanted presents. According to the National Retail Federation, approximately $264 billion worth of merchandise was returned last year, and about a quarter of those were purchases presumably made for the holidays during November and December.
A recent study conducted by FedEx shows that about a third of people who received gifts this holiday season will return them.
MainStreet has put together a list of tips to help you through that gift return line:
1. Can't wait to get in line? Maybe you should. Unless you have to have the item immediately, it might be better to wait, say the experts. "Wait until a few days after Christmas to return the gift," says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert at the WellKeptWallet.com. "The day after Christmas is one of the busiest days in retail, so don't go on that day unless you want to wait in a long line."
2. Choose your location wisely. "Many retail stores will let you return items bought at a different location," Hayes says. "You can also consider going to a location that is known for having less customers so that you can avoid having to wait a long time."
3. Know what you want. "If you are going to exchange an item, figure out ahead of time exactly what you want to exchange it for and then call the store and ask if they will hold it for you," says Hayes. "This way you don't have to drive all over the place trying to find what you are looking for."
4. If it's personalized, you still may be able to return it. Kathy Schultz, a lifestyle expert, advises not to throw away that personalized or monogrammed gift you don't want or cannot use. Websites such as lollydaisy.com connects buyers and sellers of new and gently used personalized and monogrammed items.
5. Drive it or ship it? "Always check to see if you're better off returning the gift in-store via the mail," says Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com. "Some stores require online purchases to be returned via the mail, but many like The Gap, American Eagle, Lands' End, and Barnes & Noble allow online purchases to be returned in-store saving you the cost of postage. If you're returning more than one gift that can add up to significant savings."
6. Don't rip and tear. James also advises to never open a package you might be returning to the store. Doing so may cost you a 20% restocking fee, he says.
7. "Check inside boxes for gift receipts and set them aside so you don't accidentally toss them when you start ridding the living room of boxes and wrapping paper," says Kathryn Drury Wagner, senior manager of content at Gifts.com.
8. Call or check online before you return. "Before you make a return, check the merchant's policy online, because those can vary widely," says Drury Wagner. "Target gives an extra 30 return days to its REDcard holders, for example. Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic offer free shipping on returns. Or you might find out something less pleasant, such as Office Max's policy on not letting you return anything it no longer stocks."
9. May I see your ID? Make sure you carry your ID with you when you go to return an item. Even purchases made by cash may require an ID for return, says Harrine Freeman, CEO/owner of H.E. Freeman Enterprises.
10. Timing is everything. Dan Nainan, a comedian and actor knows a little about timing. He says one thing that works for him when returning items is to take them in to the store five minutes before closing. "The employees just want to get out of there as fast as they can," says Nainan. Their hurry makes returning the gift much less of a hassle for the customer, he says.
--Written by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell for MainStreet