Many Happy Returns

by Chris Bjorklund

Have you hit the malls with your holiday shopping list yet? Even the best gift giver occasionally misses the mark, so it’s wise to understand a retailer’s return policy before you buy. Policies can vary greatly, from unlimited returns on most items with a receipt (Macy’s) to 14 days for certain electronics (Best Buy), gift returning policies.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), some stores are more lenient about accepting returns during the holiday season, while others have made their policies stricter in response to an increase in return fraud. To avoid disappointment or hassles this holiday season: Ask about a store’s return policy before you pay. This is particularly important when it comes to digital cameras, computers and opened merchandise, which Consumer World says may be subject to limited return rights, restocking fees or no returns at all. Software, video games, CDs and DVDs typically aren’t returnable after they’ve been opened. Understand how the refund will be provided: in cash, as a credit to the buyer’s credit card or as store credit. Be aware that the return policies for online and in-store purchases may differ, even if they’re both from the same retailer. Ask for a gift receipt and include it when you give the present. Contact the store manager or customer service department if you’re unhappy with the return process. If you’re still unhappy, you can complain to your local consumer protection agency or the state attorney general’s office.