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Navigate Tricky Gift Return Policies After The Holidays

The holiday season has arrived and with it the efforts to find the perfect gifts for loved ones. As the hunt for gifts gets going, so does the dread of returning the thoughtful presents that are just not the right fit. Follow these tips to get through the season of returns.
Wait! If You Don't Like The Gift, Don't Open The Factory-Sealed Box!

Remember that most stores require items to be in their original packaging for returns. Once the box is unsealed, they consider the item used or may charge a restocking fee of up to twenty-five percent. This goes for refurbished items as well. Note that stores are especially strict about electronics. Giver: Don't open the gift before you give it! Recipient: Keep items in their original packaging until you're sure you want them.

Online Vs. In The Store

Many retailers require Items purchased online to be shipped back to the source, even if the online retailers also have brick and mortar stores by the same name because companies often treat the two branches as separate entities. Exceptions are generally stores that offer online ordering with in-store pickup: Walmart, Macy's, Best Buy, The Container Store, Apple and Nordstrom, for example. Giver: When purchasing a gift, check on the store's return policy. Try to shop at stores that convenient for returning, as well as buying. Recipient: Check before you make the trip to a brick and mortar store.


The time that different stores allot for returns varies, especially around the holidays. Some stores have 30-day return policies all year around. Others give a grace period of 30 days after the holidays to aid in the task of returning. There are other stores that will allow you to return for up to three months or even a year after purchase. A few stores even offer lifetime returns.  Giver: Make sure you're allowing the recipient enough time to return the gift. Recipient: Act fast to avoid missing return deadlines. Check early to find out how much time you have.

Give And Receive Gifts That Won't Be Returned

The best way to keep returns easy? Communicate with your loved ones to avoid gifts that aren't a fit. Sound like too much work? Gift cards are the perfect gift for someone that you just cannot figure out what to buy for and are easy to send to a recipient who lives far away. Most states do not allow expiration dates on gift cards, so your loved-ones will be able to use the gift cards as long as they want. Giver: Make sure that there are branches of the stores you buy from near in your recipient's area. Not sure? Debit-type prepaid gift cards can be used in any store that excepts the credit card that the gift card's logo is attached to, such as Visa, Mastercard or American Express. Note that these cards will cost an activation fee to the purchaser. Recipient: Get ready to spend some gift cards!

Talk To The Store

Remember: Store employees are there to help you. It's their job! Giver: Ask what the policies are before you buy. Be proactive when purchasing the presents. Make sure that you get gift receipts to include with the presents to ease the recipient's return process. Recipient: Do not be afraid to negotiate when returning an item. You won't lose anything by trying to negotiate a lower restocking fee or getting store credit if the receipt is missing. The most the store will do is refuse.

For great holiday gift ideas be sure to visit!

Carol Ruth Weber began her career as a Theatrical Costume and Set Designer and segued into the world of Interior Design. As an interior designer she has twenty-eight years of experience in all phases of the business. You can read more of her work on and she can also be contacted at WeberLifeDesign.

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