At the end of this in-depth look at gift returns, our cohorts at ShopSmart include a list of “7 Gotchas to Avoid”:
1. Not all stores take back online purchases. Macy’s stores won’t let you return area rugs or lighting purchased online. Ann Taylor won’t take back swimwear, extended-calf boots, or “wedding and events” clothing in-store, and Loft has the same policy for maternity and swimwear items. Sports Authority won’t take any online purchases back in its stores. Some items at OldNavy.com (and sister sites Gap.com and BananaRepublic.com) are “Return by Mail Only,” so read return policies before you buy.
2. Some gift cards aren’t returnable. Apple, Kenneth Cole, and other stores ban gift-card returns. Nordstrom, known for its open-ended return policy, won’t take back gift cards. Bloomingdale’s will, but there’s a catch: Money is refunded to the purchaser’s credit card, so you could end up with no gift.
3. Using PayPal can limit returns. You can get cash for in-store returns of Target items purchased using PayPal, but only store credit for online returns. At American Eagle Outfitters, you’ll get store credit no matter where you return. At The Limited, PayPal returns can be conducted only by mail.
4. Free gifts can cost you. If you return something that came with a promo item, many retailers will hold part of your refund hostage if you don’t also return the gift. Macy’s and Toys “R” Us deduct the value of the gift from your refund. Ulta.com won’t even issue a refund without the gift; you get a gift card instead. Best Buy deducts the value of promo items, and if you return part of a bundle, the discount is voided.
5. No gift receipt could mean no return. Williams-Sonoma won’t take a gift back without a receipt unless it’s defective. Bloomingdale’s gives only store credit for the lowest selling price in the past three months for receipt-less gift returns.
6. You may be stuck with outlet items. The Land of Nod, Crate & Barrel, and others won’t accept items bought at their outlets.
7. Restocking fees can bite you. Amazon, for example, takes 20 percent for unopened media items and nonmedia items 30 or more days after delivery. Sears charges a 15 percent restocking fee for electronics without their packaging or accessories.