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Tips For Returning Unwanted Gifts After Christmas

DETROIT (WWJ) - Did Santa bring you the ugliest gift this year? Want to try and get something better? Returning gifts make most of us quake in our boots, but the Better Business Bureau is sharing tips that can turn you into a savvy returner.

Did you know that federal and state laws can dictate how and when you can return an item? Knowing those laws can help you navigate your in-store or online returns and determine if your return experience either fun or frustrating.

Federal law provides a "Cooling-Off Rule" that gives buyers three days to cancel a purchase of $25 or more. This Rule provides the consumer the right to cancel, for a full refund, until midnight of the third business day after the sale. It applies to items bought wherever the retailer offers sale of consumer items.

In Michigan, once a consumer executes a contract or purchase agreement there is no right to cancel that contract or purchase agreement; so know before you sign on the dotted line. Returns, and/or refunds, are dependent upon the policy chosen by the retailer, not the consumer. Again, know your rights before you buy.

Some retailers attempt to prevent retail fraud involving the return of used or stolen goods by enacting strict return policies. According to the National Retail Federation, of the $219 billion worth of merchandise that consumers return annually, over $11 billion of that is fraudulent. Not surprisingly, retailers that give refunds for returns may require you to show identification when you return an item.

The National Retail Federation reported online sales were expected to increase between 6 and 8 percent. Wondering what you should do when trying to return an item to an online retailer?

Where Do You Start? Research the Merchant
1. Look through the merchant's website to determine whether they accept returns.
2. Find out if you'll need a receipt or gift receipt.
3. Does the merchant give refund or just store credit for returns?
4. Are there return fees like restocking or shipping and handling.
5. Do they accept opened items?
6. Do they offer a satisfaction or money back guarantee?

When You're the Gift Giver, always…
1. Give a gift receipt.
2. Leave on the original tags and in the packaging materials.
3. Include return information for the gift recipient, such as packaging slips and other documentation.

Having trouble returning an item?
1. Make sure you understand the retailer's return policy in advance.
2. Talk to a manager if the clerk has refused the return.
3. If you paid by credit card, you may be able to dispute the charge and request a "charge back". Contact your credit card provider for more information.
4. If you receive an item that is defective or not as represented and the merchant still refuses a return, you should file a complaint with the BBB. Be sure to include copies of all documentation, including packing slips, online disclosures, receipts, etc.

Returning something to your local retailer instead? These tips also apply to traditional "brick and mortar" retailers, so go prepared and know the return policies and your rights as a consumer.

Need more info? visit

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