Tighter Gift Exchange Policies Make for Many Unhappy Returns

Wednesday, 26 Dec 2012 03:04 PM

By Michael Mullins

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The pants are too tight and the sweater is too ugly, so it's back to the store they go in hopes of getting a refund or exchange. And if you just love long lines and congested store aisles, then Wednesday is the best day for holiday returns.
For many disappointed by what Santa left under the tree, the days after Christmas can prove more stressful than the weeks of shopping before the holiday, especially with department stores and other retailers tightening return policies on some products, particularly electronics, and often refusing to give cash back even for items accompanied by gift receipts.
"Almost no one will give you money back if you have no receipt, or if you have a gift receipt," warned ConsumerWorld.org Founder Edgar Dworsky in an interview with Dailyfinance.com. "Everyone's policy is you can have an even exchange or a merchant credit. Only the original purchaser, with the original receipt, can get back credit card credit or cash."
In addition to avoiding returning items the day after Christmas, due to the sheer volume of returns that day, Dworsky suggests the most important thing to do prior to returning your item to a store is to know that store's return policy.
According to CosumerWorld.org, the majority of retailers have a 90-day return policy on most items. However, some make exceptions for particular products and limit their return window to 15 to 30 days, particularly when it comes to returning media items such as DVDs, CDs, and TVs.
According to the National Retail Federation, 83 percent of stores are maintaining their return policies from December 2011, with just 7 percent imposing more restrictive return policies.
Among the most notable retailers that have introduced tighter return policies, Consumer World cites:
Target, which has reduced its return window on most electronics, including personal computers, tablets, netbooks, eReaders, cameras, game consoles and GPS units, from 45 days to 30 days.
Sears, which across the board has shortened its regular return policy on most items from 90 days to 60 days.
Macy’s Department Store, which has restricted its return or exchange period for unwanted furniture to a mere three-day period.
Before using a gift card received in an exchange to purchase an item from a store where you don't shop to replace an item that you didn't want, there are options.
One of the most popular ways to obtain cash for unwanted gift cards is through gift card exchange websites, such as CardHub.com, CouponTrade.com, Plastic Jungle.com, and Gift Card Granny.com.
The sites will purchase the unwanted gift cards from the sellers at a reduced rate, generally around 90 percent of its value, and then resell the cards to online buyers. The money generally comes in the form of a check or PayPal deposit.
However, if you choose to hold on to your gift card and tuck it away in a draw that doesn't get opened till the card expires, you risk becoming one of the many who contribute toward the $2.5 billion retailers collect annually from unused gift cards, according to CNN.com.
One bright side for those who decide to return their gift in the days immediately following Christmas this year is the fact that due largely to the sluggish economy, gift sales this holiday were up only .07 percent since last year, the slowest growth since 2008.
Consequently, there might be less gift returns this season, and more sales with retailers looking to sell off overstocked items before year's end while they still have the attention of millions of consumers.


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