When it comes to gift-giving, it’s the thought that counts — until you get an ill-fitting pair of pants, or the proverbial ugly Christmas sweater. Then it’s back to the store to battle a throng of customers hoping to get something better in exchange for their unwanted gifts.
This year, the return lines will likely be longer since Christmas falls right before a weekend. Here are five tips from the Better Business Bureau and the Louisiana Attorney General to make your return or exchange as painless as possible:
1. Know the store’s return policy.
Make sure your item is returnable or exchangeable before you trek out to the store or post office. Figure out what you want for your returned item — a return, store credit or exchange — and what you need to get it. Consider that return policies for sale or clearance items may be different than those sold at full price. Bring a drivers’ license or other identification because some stores ask for ID to deter fraud.
2. Don’t forget the gift receipt.
Bring the receipt if you got one. That way, you get the full amount that was paid rather than the most recent price, which could have been marked down during last-minute sales.
3. Don’t mess with the packaging.
Keep electronics and similar products in the box, and some stores may require the original packaging to still be sealed. Don’t remove any tags or stickers from clothing, so you can show that it is unworn.
4. Ask about fees.
Major online and brick-and-mortar retailers are generally accommodating when it comes to returns, but some stores still charge as much as 25 percent of the purchase price to restock a returned item. Find out if the fee is waived for an exchange. For gifts that were ordered online, consider that you may be charged shipping fees for returned items. In some cases, the fees may make re-gifting an item a more attractive option.
5. Time your returns.
Find out how much time each store allows for returns and exchanges. Some may have extended return periods during the holidays, so you can wait until the crowds dissipate and avoid long return lines.