If returning a singing Santa is key to preserving your sanity, heed these tips to save time and avoid being turned away by retailers:
Many stores have extended holiday return policies; you usually have 60 days to 90 days to give back unwanted items. But hurry if your return belongs in the electronics aisle -- you typically have just 14 days. The same applies for apparel you want to exchange: winter inventory is limited after Christmas and you might be hard-pressed to find your size.
Handle with care.
Many retailers enforce stricter exchange rules for the holidays, so missing price tags, opened packaging or damaged boxes could make gifts harder to return. Popular big-box stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City also charge a 15% restocking fees for opened electronic equipment, unless the item was defective when you unwrapped it.
Swap your gift card.
More than half of all consumers this holiday season received at least one gift card. If you cannot be bothered to redeem yours, or if you simply don't shop at the store that issued it, don't let it languish. You can trade it for someone else's or sell it for cash at www.swapagift.com. Swapping a gift card will cost you $3.99 regardless of its value, or a percentage of the balance if you exchange it for cash.
Go through the proper channels.
If your gift was purchased through a catalogue or online, be sure to return it to the address the retailer specifies. If those details are not printed on the gift receipt, you can probably find them on the company's Web site. Remember: the retailer might also have a location near you that accepts catalogue returns.
By Marshall Loeb