BBB Tips: Holiday Returns and Exchanges

Holiday returns aren’t easy! And we don’t mean the part where you explain to your mother why you returned the sweater she gave you. Stores are not legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds, unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented. While most retailers do offer refund and exchange programs as a courtesy to their customers, policies vary greatly from one store to another. Add to the mix warranties, which are usually fulfilled by the manufacturer, and holiday returns can get confusing. The following tips should help to make your holiday returns run more smoothly.

Get to know store policies. Before you make a purchase, find out if the store has a return policy and, if so, how it works. Understand that policies can change during the holiday season and may not apply to sale items. If the store does allow returns or exchanges, find out if you will need to pay a restock fee. Ask the seller if they offer cash refunds, exchanges, or only store credit. Store policies are usually posted at the check-out counter or printed on the back of receipts.

Understand online store return policies. If you are shopping online, search for the seller’s return policy and read it through before clicking “buy.” Find out if they accept returns or exchanges, and who pays the shipping when an item is returned. In some cases, you can save on shipping fees by returning an online purchase to the local brick-and-mortar store.

Get the details on a product’s warranty. Most electronics and home appliances come with warranties that are to be fulfilled with the manufacturer, not the retailer. Find out how returns and repairs are handled if an item stops working or needs replacement parts. Will the retailer ship the item to the manufacturer for you? Or will you need to deal with the manufacturer directly? Knowing the answers will leave you well-prepared for any future issues.

Keep your receipt and packaging. Most stores will only accept returns and exchanges if you can present the item with its receipt and original packaging. Always include a gift receipt with items you give, and hold on to any gift receipts you receive.

Bring your ID. To avoid holiday return scams, many stores ask to see your ID when you return an item. Sometimes retailers require you bring your ID and the original form of payment. If this is the policy of the store where your gift is from, you may need the assistance of the gift giver in order to be reimbursed.

Make returns in a timely fashion. Almost all return policies are valid during a specific time period. Some stores modify their return period during the holidays, so don’t risk missing your chance to make your return. Take the item back to the store without delay.