Return holiday gifts without the hassle

Wednesday, January 04, 2012
By Sara Moore

The holidays are finally over and now it’s time to take back those unwanted gifts. Consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch shares her top tips for getting the most value from the returned items.

Research the return policy
Retailers with websites usually post their return policies under links for Customer Service, FAQ, or Help. You’ll find lots of small type, but it’s worth reading through all the mouse scrawlings to know exactly what you’ll face.

Keep an eye on the date
Some stores have extended the number of days during which you can return holiday gifts, but most still hold to their standard policy. Remember the expiration date is from the time of purchase. In “Return rules at 8 big retailers” published last year, Consumer Reports found the average return period ranged from 30 to 180 days.

Keep the gift receipt
Keep in mind that because gift receipts don’t indicate the purchase price, the retailer will most likely reimburse you at the going rate.

No receipt, no problem
Even if you don’t have a receipt, be sure to bring your ID. More than 60 percent of retailers require a customer to show ID when returning an item without a receipt. This is because some stores limit how many times you can return purchases within a set time period.

Avoid shipping charges
Many major retailers — but not all — will accept returns of online purchases at their brick-and-mortar stores. You may have to wait in line, but you’ll save a bundle on shipping and the hassle of re-boxing a gift and mailing it out.

Resell gift cards
You don’t need a receipt to exchange unwanted gift cards for cash. Visit, where you can resell gift cards to several companies for a percentage of the face value.

Don’t open what you don’t want
Since merchants can’t resell opened items as new, you could be charged a hefty restocking fee just for cracking the lid. Amazon cranks up the charge to 50 percent for software, used books and DVDs; but Overstock takes the cake at 60 percent for open or used products.

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