Thursday, December 20, 2012
HOLIDAY RETURNS - HOW TO MAKE THEM PAINLESS!
By Andrea Woroch
With just a few short shopping days 'til Christmas, returning items while you're still in the process of buying gifts is likely not top-of-mind. However, it's important to know your options after all the presents are unwrapped and those that didn't hit the mark are revealed.
According to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation, 83.1 percent of retailers, indicated their return policies wouldn't change much during the holiday season. In fact, more than 10 percent of stores said they'd make it easier for shoppers and ill-received gift recipients to return unwanted merchandise.
Whether it's a return or exchange you have to handle, these six tips will help make the process less of a hassle.
1. Review Return Policies
First things first: take stock of the items you don't want and review return policies for the stores from whence they came. If it's an online return, be sure the original packaging isn't tossed out with crumpled gift wrap. Ideally, you can get all your returns knocked out in one day as soon after Christmas as possible.
2. Exchange Cards for Cash
Since 81 percent of shoppers intend to buy a gift card during the holidays, it stands to reason a few of these will miss the mark. Happily, unsatisfied gift card recipients can exchange their card for cash on the aptly-named Gift Card Exchange Day scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 26. Gift cards can be sold for up to 92 percent of their value, or in exchange for an Amazon gift card.
3. Organize Receipts
The best way to ensure hassle-free returns is to have your gift receipt or purchase confirmation handy. For quick access, download the OneReciept app to digitally store all your receipts. If you're returning something you purchased yourself, some stores like Banana Republic keep transaction histories which they can reference in lieu of a receipt.
4. Return to Store
If possible, try to dodge return shipping fees by returning an item in store. While this option is obviously not available for online-only purchases, most top retailers like Target, Walmart and Best Buy will accept merchandise returns for items purchased online. If you are doomed to ship the merchandise back to the online store, avoid long lines at the post office on January 3; this is historically the busiest day to return unwanted gifts by mail.
5. Card Protection
If you're missing receipts or attempting to return past a limited-time period, call your credit card company. Many cards offer extended return protection and other helpful return options for purchases made with the card. You will likely need to send the merchandise directly to the credit card issuer, but they will usually cover shipping costs. Just make sure the goods are in like-new condition.
6. Exchange Plus
Returning something is never a fun task, but it's certainly more bearable when you're exchanging it for something you like more. If that's the case, be sure to stretch your returned dollars with coupons. You can expect an abundance of end-of-year sales and promotions from your favorite stores, so hit the shops early for the best inventory.
- Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.