How To Be A Return-Friendly Shopper This Holiday Season

You may think you’ve bought the perfect gift for everyone on your list, but at least some of your recipients are likely to disagree: Last holiday season, nearly one in seven adults returned a gift within the first two weeks after Christmas. And many shoppers make it harder for them by leaving out gift receipts or failing to look into retail return policies.

According to a new Consumer Reports poll, only four in ten people typically include a gift receipts with their presents. And, when buying gifts, only about half of adults take the time to investigate the return policies of retailers.

To help make the return process easier on your gift recipients, consider the following when shopping for gifts:

1. Check store return policies before buying a gift: It may help to know whether your gift recipient can return something purchased at a store’s website to the store’s nearest location, instead of having to box it up again and ship it off. Big-box stores usually specify on their websites whether you can return something purchased online in a local store.

2. Look for restocking fees: Many retailers impose a restocking fee, usually 15 percent of the product’s cost, but these fees apply mostly to electronics. In general, retailers can be quick to impose restocking fees on returned electronics.

3. Check the returns window: Many big-box stores and other merchants have regular return policies of about 60 to 90 days, but usually have shorter periods for electronics, software, CDs and DVDs. Using a certain credit card can also potentially extend the return window as well. During the holidays, retailers sometimes extend deadlines.

4. Know what can and can’t be returned: Opened software–including video games, audio CDs and movies–usually are not returnable, though your gift recipient should be able to exchange it if your electronics gift happened to be defective.

5. Last but definitely not least, get a gift receipt: Many merchants used to offer at least store credit to shoppers without one. Nowadays, more turn those people away. But Walmart shoppers be warned: There have been numerous reports of people with gift receipts who, in spite of company policy, do not get the full value of their refund/exchange because the product later went on sale.