5 Important Things to Know Before Returning Gifts

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giftbagThe holiday season is over and you’re left with a bunch of gifts you don’t really need. But be careful; that $100 gift could be worth only $50 if you tear the packaging, and it could be worth nothing if you miss the time window for returns. Each store has its own policies, so you could lose half or even all of an item’s value if you neglect to consider the terms and conditions. In particular, holiday returns can be tough.

Five tips to avoid costly losses:

Refund vs. Store Credit

Although gift buyers can usually return items for refunds, gift recipients often receive only store credit, depending on the items’ condition.

In-Person vs. Mailed Returns

Check to see if you’d get a better deal by returning in-person or by mail. Most stores require online customers to return products by mail, but some stores (like The Limited, Barnes & Noble, and The Gap) allow people to exchange online purchases in-store. Often totaling $7 or more, postage expenses really do add up.

Being Careful vs. Going Nuts

We know you’re excited, but control yourself. If, in your gift-driven zeal, you pierce the plastic wrap or packaging of gifts, you risk ripping into the expected return value of the items, too. And if you break an item, you really might go nuts–because you’d risk erasing all of its value. For example, the folks at Apple won’t offer too much holiday cheer in the face of an opened Nano; they’ll automatically subtract 10% of its value right there.

Fees vs. Well, No Fees

If your gifts have already been opened, you could be slapped with fees up to 25% of face value. Restocking fees are also an issue, particularly for electronics purchases. These charges can be as high as 25% in their own right.

Holiday Sales vs. Regular Purchases

We’re sure that the person who gave you the present felt good about getting a steal-of-a-deal, but now you might be stuck with it. Purchases from holiday sales are almost always non-refundable and non-exchangeable. If this happens to you, we suggest chalking it up to karma and regifting that sucker.

Here’s a summary of some large retailers’ return policies:

return policies chart