How To Return, Or Use, Tech Toys

Many of this year's hottest holiday gifts were high-tech.

But what do you do if you don't like your new gizmo, or can't figure out how it works?

CBS News technology correspondent Daniel Sieberg stopped by The Early Show Friday to lend a hand.

He also offered clues on where and how to get hold of some of the tech toys that were nearly impossible to get.

MANY RETAILERS HAVE SPECIFIC RETURN POLICIES FOR TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTRONICS THAT ARE MORE RESTRICTIVE THAN FOR OTHER ITEMS. WHAT SHOULD PEOPLE LOOK OUT FOR?

The key is having the receipt; it's probably going to be a gift receipt. But that's the first thing you need to have. If you have something small, policies will vary. They don't make it all that easy, so you need to check the fine print. They do give you about 30 to 90 days as long as you have that all-mighty receipt. If it's a CD or DVD that's been opened, there's a possibility you can't return it, because they worry about piracy. There's might also be a 15 percent restocking/repackaging fee for something that's been opened. Bottom line: If you don't think you want it, don't open it.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER ELECTRONICS: HOW LONG DO PEOPLE HAVE TO RETURN THEM?

It varies. For something like a large television from Target, you've got about 90 days, but you need to have the original packaging. Keep all the components together, all the accessories, virtually everything, so Target can resell it. You don't always have as long as you might think: A lot of stores, such as Best Buy, have a must-be-returned-by date of Jan. 8. Some extend it until the end of January, but if you're talking about hi-tech stuff, it's usually the first week in January, so you don't have a lot of time to waste.

WILL YOU GET A FULL REFUND FOR EVERYTHING RETURNED?

It depends on whether the item is totally intact, and whether you have the receipt. If you have the receipt and you're within the window of time, you should be able to get a full refund whether it's cash, credit card, or exchange. If you bought online, there are totally different returns policies. If you just don't like it, you would need to pay to ship it back, and they'd give you some credit. But some stores require a 15 percent restock fee for some of the hottest electronics, such as digital cameras. Again, read the small print from the store you're going to, so you know what you'll be dealing with.

NOW THAT THE HOLIDAY SHOPPING SEASON IS OFFICIALLY OVER, WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO FIND SOME OF THOSE HOT HI-TECH TOYS?

It will be tough, still. There may be some out-of-the-way stores not in big cities that didn't end up selling out. But the cities will still be pretty empty of the PlayStation 3s. The Wii may be a little bit easier to come by, but they're still in high demand because of the lower price. It may be tough to find the big-ticket items. You could also go to a Web site such as eBay and pay a little more money if you're desperate to get one, but you should probably wait until they're back in the stores, possibly for a lower price. Also, some Web sites have message board on which people coordinate among themselves, telling where and when they've spotted hot items.

WHAT KIND OF POST-CHRISTMAS SALES WILL WE SEE; WILL ELECTRONICS BE AS MARKED DOWN AS, SAY, CLOTHING?

There will definitely be some discounts. I think a lot of stores will be looking to get rid of their stock. Sometimes technology turns over very quickly: The next version, or next model of something comes out fairly quickly, and stores are trying to make room. There's a high possibility of finding a good deal if you were holding out until after Christmas, though.

SHOULD YOU LOOK OUT FOR TECH LEMONS?

I believe stores do need to say "previously opened," or something similar, on the box. They'll give you a really big discount because it's been opened. If you see a package you think has been opened, ask about it.

IF YOU GOT A NEW HI-TECH TOY, BUT CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE IT WORK, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

Many people who return things are frustrated with them, and aren't actually unhappy with them; they just can't make it work. Before you do that, turn to a family member or friend who might have some extra tech knowledge, and take another stab at translating the instructions, which can be difficult. The other thing is to go online. There's a wealth of information there, and a lot of people share the same concerns. There are forums where people will post word of their experiences and they'll walk you through, step by step, to get your toy working.
  • Brian Dakss

Comments