Not all gifts are created equal, especially at the return counter. Return policies have grown more complicated by the year, with stores imposing specific terms, fees, and deadlines on different products.
Stores try to ease the headaches by relaxing policies this time of year. But the looser rules may not apply to your particular gift. Here’s what you need to know to avoid a post-holiday retail hangover. – By Associated Press
A policy for each product
The bigger the seller, the more dizzying the return policies are likely to be. Amazon.com and Walmart list more than a dozen product-specific policies. In general, jewelry and electronics are subject to much shorter deadlines, and anything bought on sale can be difficult to take back. Big box stores also tailor rules for categories such as clothing or items for the home.
Was that unwanted gift bought online? Best call ahead or check the store’s website before leaving the house. The same rules may not apply as for in-store purchases. Differences between online and brick-and-mortar product lineups and discounts also can lead to varying rules on returns.
The holiday factor
Retailers try to spread the cheer beyond the holidays, with many extending return deadlines far into January, according to the National Retail Federation. That doesn’t mean any gift you receive will be eligible.
Holiday return policies are for purchases made between specific dates, typically sometime between November and Christmas. But the time frame can vary, and if your gift wasn’t purchased during the specified period, you may be stuck. And there may be no leniency for certain types of gifts.
Another bonus during the holidays is the relaxed rules regarding receipts. Given the likelihood that a receipt may have been lost or not included with your gift, stores often don’t require receipts for returns and exchanges immediately following the holidays.
In most cases, however, it will be an exchange and not a return that will be offered, or store credit. Many stores also slash prices after the holidays, so the credit you get could be far less than what was spent on the gift.
Returns can come at a cost
Restocking fees have become a sore point for shoppers. It typically applies to electronics that have been removed from the packaging, which can cost you around 15 percent of the original purchase price. So for a $200 digital camera, the restocking fee might be $30. But it can be worse. So unless the delight you express on Christmas morning over that gift is sincere, don’t open the package.