Re­turn un­wanted gifts soon

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS -

Be­fore “Auld ac­quain­tance be for­got,” don’t ne­glect to re­turn un­wanted gifts as quickly as pos­si­ble. While many re­tail­ers’ re­turn poli­cies are ex­tended for the hol­i­days, the end date can come up be­fore we know it.

These hurry-up ex­change/ re­turn pro­ce­dures in­clude Ama­zon with its Jan. 31 dead­line for pur­chases be­tween Nov. 1 and Dec. 31, Wal­mart, which gives us un­til Jan. 25 for items with a thirty-day re­turn win­dow, and Best Buy un­til Jan. 15. Items with a 15-day re­turn win­dow can jump us even faster so gifter and gif­tee be­ware.

I love shop­ping at CVS as the com­pany em­ploys a lib­eral re­turn pro­gram; in fact, CVS even calls it “has­sle-free.” How­ever, even the “h-f” pol­icy en­com­passes a 30-day sen­tence, Christ­mas or not. On a funny note, though, the com­pany is much more gen­er­ous when we re­turn CVS-branded prod­ucts. Store brands have a 100 per­cent re­turn pol­icy, opened or not. Re­ceipts are re­quired, al­though if a reg­u­lar cus­tomer whom em­ploy­ees know and you don’t make a habit of re­turn­ing items, the re­ceipt isn’t nec­es­sar­ily manda­tory.

On the other hand, we’re pretty lucky is we re­ceived gifts pur­chased from some of the most gen­er­ous com­pa­nies with re­spect to their re­turn poli­cies. L.L. Bean, Es­tee Lauder, Neiman Marcus. Nord­strom, or Zappo of­fer cus­tomers up to a full year to de­cide what to do about that

un­wanted present. Costco is the star on top of the friendly re­turns tree so keep this in mind if you de­cide you don’t want its watch or lawn chair.

Just to en­sure you’re not left hold­ing the bag on an un­wanted gift, fol­low these tips:

You pay for re­turn ship­ping and – more than likely – re­stock­ing fees, par­tic­u­larly with elec­tron­ics. Best Buy re­fuses to take back cell phones sold with ser­vice plans; Sears won’t ac­cept Christ­mas sea­son items; and go ahead and guz­zle that wine bought on Ama­zon ‘cause chances are the com­pany won’t ac­cept its re­turn. These are just a few up­sets with re­turn­ing gifts so al­ways care­fully check the com­pany’s re­turn in­struc­tions, be­fore pur­chase.

Hang on to re­ceipts. If an item you’ve bought for your­self or a re­turn from your gif­tee, re­ceipts are of­ten the only path to re­turns. Be sure to in­clude a gift re­ceipt in the pack­age in case Aunt Mathilda or Un­cle Ho­race needs to re­turn the pa­ja­mas the kids gave them. Even L.L. Bean, fa­mous for its re­turn pol­icy, re­jects a re­turn with­out re­ceipt in­cluded. Some com­pa­nies may only ex­change the piece for a store gift card and/ or for that ar­ti­cle’s present or low­est sale price (which could be as low as $3.99 rather than the $17.99 you paid).

Be care­ful when open­ing your own presents. Once you’ve ripped off the hol­i­day wrap­ping, don’t just au­to­mat­i­cally tear into the gift it­self. Once we look and see we al­ready have a copy of that CD or the grill Hubby wanted from Santa is not the one he re­ceived, then don’t un­wrap any fur­ther. Of­ten, when the pack­ag­ing it­self is tat­tered or torn, you might not be able to re­turn the gift(s) at all.

Don’t squan­der gift cards. Folks have a ten­dency to stick the cards in their bill­fold and for­get their ex­is­tence. I’ve writ­ten n the past about web­sites that al­low gift card ex­changes on­line (such as Gift­, and even Wal­mart now has a gift-card-tradein pro­gram. To ob­tain max­i­mum value for your cards, turn to Or bet­ter yet – en­joy them your­self for their full value!

I could go on and on, but read­ers get the idea. With this hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son burst­ing most ex­pec­ta­tions’ bub­ble, mer­chan­dise may be low in many ar­eas of the coun­try or by store. Don’t wait. Grab the un­wanted gift and re­ceipt and head on out. If worse comes to worse and we find our­selves out of luck, put the present aside to re-gift to some­one who’ll ap­pre­ci­ate it more.

Here’s hop­ing 2018 brings ev­ery­one hap­pi­ness, health, and con­sumer-savvy pros­per­ity. Happy New Year!

Con­tact Ellen Phillips at con­sumer­watch@

Ellen Phillips

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