It can be difficult for obscure aunts, and even your spouse, to get it right every time when it comes to gift-giving. But which retailers are going to make it most difficult to rid yourself of that doozy of a bad gift in exchange for cash?
There's bad news all around on that front. Even with a short holiday shopping calendar, retailers haven't been so flexible with shoppers who began their holiday shopping early. That's been an increasingly frustrating issue as more shoppers pick up holiday presents early. The National Retail Federation found that roughly 40% of holiday shoppers planned on starting their shopping before November. In fact, more than 14% had finished 50% of their shopping or more by November 10.
Considering how unforgiving store return policies have been in recent years, that isn't great. Last year, a Consumer Reports holiday survey found that 43% of shoppers tried to return items in the six months prior to the holidays. Even before holiday return policies when into effect, 23% said they couldn't get their money back and could only get store credit. Some 11% had to pay shipping charges while 3% had to pay a restocking fee.
It doesn't help that average consumers are being punished for others' fraudulent returns. Because retailers say fraudulent returns accounted for $3.6 billion of all holiday returns last year, retail return polices are just about always in flux. However, Consumer Reports says there are a few ways to make the return process a bit easier.
First off, never take a gift out of its packaging unless you're 100% sure you want it. Retailers can impose a restocking fee (which often adds up to 15% of the product's cost), especially on electronic items. That's if they take them back at all. Meanwhile, computer software, CDs and DVDs aren't generally returnable once they're opened and any product with damaged packaging or missing tags is going to be a tough return.
Also, if you received a gift receipt, hang on to it. Many merchants will flat-out turn you away if you don't have a receipt and if your think asking the person who gave you the present for a receipt is gauche, then you're squandering your last chance to return that item. Also, even if you have a receipt, bring some government-issued identification with you if you're returning the item to the store. The stores card customers in an attempt to track down serial returners, who surprisingly haven't been purged from the system by now.
Even if you play by the rules and follow the above suggestions, you still might not get a full refund or exchange. In sifting through this year's return policies, we found 6 that left shoppers with unwanted gifts and a whole lot of resentment toward stingy retailers: