Get­ting the most from your hol­i­day re­turns

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Court­ney Jes­persen

The hol­i­days are a time for cel­e­bra­tion and gifts, but not all presents hit the mark and re­turn­ing them doesn’t feel very fes­tive.

Nearly a quar­ter of the peo­ple re­spond­ing to a 2015 hol­i­day sur­vey by shop­ping app Re­tale said they were likely to re­turn or ex­change at least one of the presents they re­ceived.

A re­cent hol­i­day shop­ping re­port by per­sonal fi­nance web­site NerdWal­let found that cloth­ing was the most com­monly re­turned gift last year, at 14 per­cent.

Many re­tail­ers al­low peo­ple to ex­change or re­turn goods that didn’t sat­isfy, but the poli­cies of­ten must be fol­lowed to a T.

“Read the fine print,” said Narayanan Janaki­ra­man, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in mar­ket­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Ar­ling­ton who writes about re­turn poli­cies. “Most of us know that the fine print has got all kinds of re­stric­tions on what is qual­i­fied for a re­turn.”

First, comb through the pol­icy to see if your prod­uct is el­i­gi­ble for re­turns. Many re­tail­ers ex­clude cer­tain cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing clear­ance prod­ucts, opened soft­ware and video games (usu­ally el­i­gi­ble only for ex­change), worn cloth­ing and gift cards. For ex­am­ple, Best Buy won’t ac­cept re­turns on dig­i­tal con­tent and pre­paid cards.

Next, en­sure you have all that’s re­quired for re­turns — usu­ally your re­ceipt or gift re­ceipt and all of the item parts and pack­ag­ing in good con­di­tion. You also may have to pay a re­stock­ing fee.

Then, de­cide the tim­ing. Dec. 26 is pre­dicted to be the se­cond-busiest shop­ping day of 2016, ac­cord­ing to re­search firm Shop­perTrak, so tak­ing some­thing back that day may not be com­fort­able if you don’t like crowds. For re­turns by mail, en­sure that the pack­age will reach the re­tailer be­fore its dead­line.

Janaki­ra­man said le­nient re­turn pe­ri­ods can be risky.

“The more you pro­cras­ti­nate, and the more time you have it, the more you feel own­er­ship of it,” Janaki­ra­man said. That means you may fail to re­turn the gift.

Mail­ing back re­turns is one con­ve­nient way to un­load un­wanted gifts, but it could come at a cost. Some re­tail­ers charge a re­turn ship­ping fee for us­ing their pre­paid la­bel and deduct the cost from your re­fund. That could make in-store re­turns more af­ford­able.

Some ma­jor out­lets like Wal­mart al­low con­sumers to re­turn gifts that were bought on­line at a phys­i­cal store lo­ca­tion. If you de­cide to go to a store, take the re­ceipt, a form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and the pay­ment method used (such as a credit card) if you bought the gift.

Ryan Ko­ral of Michi­gan thought his lo­cal sport­ing goods store would be able to pull up his or­der via his credit card when he re­cently went to make a re­turn within the pol­icy pe­riod. But he was sur­prised that a re­ceipt was re­quired. The best he would get with­out a re­ceipt was a store credit for the low­est dis­counted price of the item.

Hav­ing a gift re­ceipt doesn’t en­sure a mon­e­tary re­fund, you may be of­fered mer­chan­dise credit.

The key is to read the re­turn pol­icy be­fore you do any­thing and then de­cide on your course of ac­tion early, Janaki­ra­man said. Re­turn poli­cies gen­er­ally are de­tailed on­line, but you may need to search the re­tailer’s web­site for the fine print.

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