The weeks following the Christmas holiday are often busy for retailers exchanging or refunding holiday gifts. As consumers interact with businesses, it is important to consider a few key facts regarding product returns or exchanges.
Stores are not legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented. While most retailers offer refund and exchange programs, policies vary significantly from one store to another. Fortunately for shoppers, one positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many retailers have become more lenient in their return policies. Despite this, be sure to double-check policies this holiday season, even if you are familiar with the brand, as stores can change their policies frequently.
The following tips from your Better Business Bureau should help to make your holiday returns run more smoothly.
Get to know store policies. Before you make a purchase, find out if the store has a return policy and, if so, how it works. Understand that many retailers change their policies for the holiday season. If the store does allow returns or exchanges, find out if you will need to pay a restocking fee. Ask the seller if they offer cash refunds, exchanges, or store credit. Store policies are usually posted at the check-out counter or printed on the back of receipts.
Understand online store return policies. If you are shopping online, search for the seller’s return policy and read it through before clicking "buy." Find out if they accept returns or exchanges and who pays the shipping when an item is returned. In some cases, you can save on shipping fees by returning an online purchase to the local brick-and-mortar store.
Get the details on a product’s warranty. Most electronics and home appliances come with warranties honored by the manufacturer, not the retailer. Find out how returns and repairs are handled if an item stops working or needs replacement parts. Will the retailer ship the item to the manufacturer for you, or will you need to deal with the manufacturer directly? Knowing the answers will leave you well-prepared for any future issues.
Keep your receipt and packaging. Most stores will only accept returns and exchanges if you present the item with its receipt and original packaging. Always include a gift receipt with items you give and hold on to any gift receipts you receive.
Bring your ID. Many stores ask to see your ID when you return an item to avoid holiday return scams. Sometimes retailers require you to bring your ID and the original form of payment. If this is the store's policy where your gift is from, you may need the assistance of the gift giver to obtain a refund or exchange.
Make returns in a timely fashion. Almost all return policies are valid during a specific period. Some stores modify their return period during the holidays, so don’t risk missing your chance to make your return. Take the item back to the store without delay.
For more holiday tips, visit BBB.org/Holiday.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2020, people turned to BBB more than 220 million times for BBB Business Profiles on 6.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at BBB.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico.