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BBB: Holiday returns and exchanges
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When it doesn’t fit, or the color’s wrong, or the style doesn’t grab you, or it’s exactly like something you already have, it’s time to jump into the gift-returning after-Christmas ritual. Retailers are not legally required to take back an item purchased unless it is defective or was misrepresented. Of course, most do as a courtesy to customers, but policies vary greatly. Warranties also can figure into the equation. It all can get rather complicated quickly. Here is your Better Business Bureau’s (BBB’s) advice for those who do need to exchange their gift.

Patiently peruse the policy

Whether you suspect the gift you’re buying may end up getting returned, or you want to be sure about your chances of returning your own gift, arm yourself with the knowledge of a store’s policy. Some tips:

• Ask at the time of purchase in a store. It’s usually posted at the check-out counter or printed on the back of receipts. Anything unclear to you should be asked about.

• Inquire: Do they offer cash back, exchanges only of same item or only of store credit? Does policy extend to sale items even during holiday season?

• For online sales, search for their policy and read it, don’t simply skim over it. Find out about shipping costs. You may be able to save money by returning an online purchase to their local outlet.

• Electronics and home appliances have warranties that the manufacturer fulfills, not the retailer. Get details regarding shipping, how much and to whom.

• When returning to a store, bring your ID. You may also need to bring the original form of payment such as a credit card. Know that this may require help from the one who gave you the gift.

• Always give and get a gift receipt to speed along the process.

• Check whether there is a restocking fee and know that some items may not be returnable if taken out of original packaging.

• Don’t procrastinate. Return the item as soon as you know you can’t use it or don’t want it. Some stores have a narrow window of time during which returns can be made. It’s cold this time of year. Don’t get stuck outside the window!

Retailer policies are sometimes surprising liberal. Some may not even require a receipt or have a time limit. But unless you are well acquainted with policies, don’t take the risk of getting stuck with an unwanted gift. Smart holiday shoppers educate themselves ahead of time. 

If you do find yourself stuck with an unwanted gift and cannot exchange it, you have two options: Re-gift it to someone else or donate it to a worthwhile charity. Don’t let it waste away on a closet shelf. Someone out there could use it.

For other questions or concerns about holiday gift returns, contact the BBB by calling 800-856-2417 or visit the website