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15 stores with the best return policies

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By Maryalene LaPonsie

Even the most thoughtful gift-giver can't get it right all the time. According to a 2015 report from the Retail Equation, 10 percent of holiday sales are returned, and one-third of gift recipients returned at least one item that year.

To ensure your loved ones are able to exchange that too-small sweater or return the extra toaster, consider shopping at one of these 15 stores.

1. Lands' End

The Lands' End return policy is short and sweet. If you aren't happy with a product, return it at any time for a refund or exchange. It doesn't get much better than this.

The fine print says if you return something with a receipt and the item was purchased more than nine months ago, you'll get a refund check. If you don't have a receipt, you'll get the item's lowest sale price in the form of a Lands' End gift card.

2. Ikea

Thanks to its "No-Nonsense – 365 Days to Change Your Mind" policy, Ikea is one of the best stores to make returns. As the policy name suggests, shoppers get one year (365 days) to make a return for a full refund. The only catch is you need to have a receipt. If you don't, the store will attempt to locate your purchase in its system. Should that fail, you'll get a merchandise credit equal to the lowest selling price of the item from the previous 365 days.

If you're shopping at Ikea, here are some more tips: "6 Ways to Save More at Ikea."

3. Bath & Body Works

If you're looking for something sweetly scented as a holiday gift, Bath & Body Works may be the place to go. The store has a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Return an item for any reason with a receipt to get a full refund. No receipt? Your refund will be the lowest selling price of the item. Merchandise credit will be offered for items returned with a gift receipt.

4. REI

For the sportsman or woman in your life, try holiday shopping at REI. A mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, the store also has a liberal return policy. You can return or exchange anything from the store within one year. The only exceptions are outdoor electronics which must be brought back within 90 days. Just be aware that REI won't take returns on items for normal wear and tear or damage caused by accidents or improper use.

However, keep your receipts or make purchases through an REI member number. Because if the store can't locate proof of your purchase, you may be out of luck.

5. Costco

Selling everything from caskets to cucumbers, Costco says it stands behind its products 100 percent. You can get a full refund on anything. The only caveat is that some types of items must be returned within 90 days of purchase for a full refund. These are: televisions, projectors, computers, cameras, camcorders, touchscreen tablets, iPod/MP3 players and cellphones. Diamonds larger than 1.00 carat and items with a limited lifespan are subject to special terms.

Love shopping at Costco? Be sure to check out "8 Ways to Squeeze the Most Out of Your Costco Membership."

6. Zappos

You don't need to worry about buying the wrong shoes online if you make your purchase from Zappos. The shoe retailer gives you 365 days to return unused products and will pay for the return shipping. That means if those strappy heels don't look quite as cute on you as they did on the model, you can send them right back. Just don't wear them to the party first; returns must be unworn and in the original packaging.

7. Athleta

A division of Gap, Athleta specializes in workout gear for women. However, while other Gap brands will only take back unwashed or unworn items, Athleta lets you return anything for any reason thanks to its Give-It-a-Workout Guarantee. They will even pay for the return shipping and the cost to ship out an exchange.

8. Nordstrom

Among department stores, Nordstrom used to be the gold standard for return policies. Once upon a time, you could return anything in practically any condition for any reason. However, they made some changes earlier this year that have some customers wishing for the good old days.

Still, Nordstrom's return policy remains one of the best around, and there is no time limit on returns or exchanges. Also, you can still return items without a receipt. However, in those cases, the store will try to find the purchase in their computer system. If they can't, customers get the current sale price back on a Nordstrom gift card.

All gift returns are issued on a gift card as well. Special-occasion dresses are an exception to the store's liberal return policy and must be returned unworn and with tags attached. The store reserves the right to refuse other returns on a case-by-case basis as well.

9. L.L. Bean

L.L. Bean is another store that had a legendary return policy. It would take back any item it made and in any condition. Finally worn through the soles of the boots you bought 10 years ago? No problem. L.L. Bean would take them back. However, all you folks buying used clothes at garage sales and returning them to the retailer have gone and ruined it for everyone.

The L.L. Bean return policy still says it will take back any item that doesn't live up to customer expectations, but there are now times when the store will require a receipt or decline to make return or exchange. These exceptions include items that are missing a tag, have been defaced by Fido or destroyed in a natural disaster, have been soiled or contaminated or are being returned for a reason unrelated to product satisfaction.

10. Macy's

While we're on the theme of stores updating their return policies, let's turn our attention to Macy's. This department store was one of the places with few limits on returns and exchanges. Like other stores, it decided its policy was being abused, so it made changes. The updated policy is still among the best in the business even if it's only a shadow of its former self.

The new Macy's return policy gives you 180 days to make a return. That excludes some categories of items that must be returned within 30 days or, in the case of Apple smartphones, 14 days. Its holiday return policy extends returns for items purchased from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31 until Jan. 31, 2018. If you don't have a receipt, you can still make a return in most categories, but you'll get a store credit for the item's lowest selling price in the previous 180 days.

11. Kohl's

Hassle-free returns are the name of the game at Kohl's. It will take back any item at any time regardless of whether you have a receipt. The only exceptions are gift cards, which cannot be returned, and premium electronics, which must be returned within 30 days with original packaging and a valid receipt or account look-up. However, you'll have a few extra days to return premium electronics bought this holiday season: Purchases from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25 may be returned by Jan. 31, 2018, with the same conditions.

Returns to Kohl's without a receipt may be handled in one of the following ways:

  • Refund to your Kohl's charge card or credit card (if you paid with one)
  • Even exchange
  • Merchandise credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price
  • Corporate-issued refund

Kohl's website is a little short on details regarding which option is offered when, so it may be left up to store staff to decide. It's probably safe to assume you're more likely to get store credit than a corporate-issued refund.

12. Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's is another department store with an accommodating return policy. For most items, you have 365 days to make a return. If you don't have a receipt and they store can't look up the purchase on your Bloomingdale's account, you'll receive the lowest selling price from the past 180 days.

Some categories have special restrictions as well. For example, certain special event dresses cannot be returned once the tag is removed. Mattresses can only be returned within five years and are subject to fees, and return freight on furniture is the responsibility of the buyer.

13. Target

The Target return policy can't match some of the others on this list, but it's not bad for a big-box chain. Its actual return policy varies depending on what you purchase and its condition:

  • Target brand items, such as Cat&Jack or Mossimo, can be returned with a receipt within one year for a refund or exchange.
  • Other items that are unopened and in new condition can be returned within 90 days for a refund or exchange.
  • Electronics must be returned within 30 days. For such items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25, the 30-day period for returns starts Dec. 26.
  • Music, movies, video games and software that have been opened cannot be returned but may be exchanged.
  • Open or defective collectible items cannot be returned.
  • Returns and exchanges without a receipt may be limited.

If you need more time, you could always make purchases with your Target REDcard, which gives you an extra 30 days to make a return.

Have kids on your shopping list who seem to have everything already? Consider "8 Great Gifts That Teach Kids Math and Money Savvy."

14. JCPenney

Like Target, JCPenney has a return policy that varies significantly based on what you've purchased and whether you have a receipt. Here are the highlights of their refund policy:

  • Most items with a receipt can be returned for a full refund or exchange. Returns made with a gift receipt will receive a JC Penney gift card.
  • Electronics must be returned with a receipt within 30 days and jewelry must be returned with a receipt within 60 days.
  • Other items can be returned without a receipt, but the refund with be issued as a JC Penney gift card in the amount of the lowest selling price in the last 45 days. A photo ID is required for all returns made without a receipt.
  • Heavy or bulky items (think furniture) that must be returned via truck are subject to a restocking fees.

15. Bed Bath & Beyond

Bed Bath & Beyond promises easy returns. If you have a receipt, you're in luck. You can take back your unwanted doodad, with few exceptions, for a full refund. If you have a gift receipt, you'll get a merchandise credit. If you don't have a receipt, things get a little trickier. If it was purchased within the last 365 days, Bed Bath & Beyond will try to find a record of the transaction. If they can't, you get an exchange or merchandise credit for the current selling price minus 20 percent.

Those are 15 of the retailers with the best return policies in the business. What you can learn from this list is that even among the best, policies vary widely. So wherever you shop this season and beyond, always ask about return policies before you buy.

This story originally appeared on MoneyTalksNews

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