One in five adults will spend two or more hours dealing with the hassle of returning unwanted holiday gifts this year, according to a recent Consumer Reports poll. And those same people say they will probably spend about an hour just making those returns. If you count yourself among them, you can prep before making that trip to the store, and follow our tips to steer clear of gift-return hassles.
- Be sure before you open that box: Merchants can impose a restocking fee (often 15 percent of the product's cost), and many do for electronics items. Products such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs aren't generally returnable once they're opened. It might also be hard to return products with damaged packaging or missing tags.
- Keep all gift receipts:These days, more merchants will turn you away if you don't have a receipt. If you didn't get a gift receipt with a product you want to return, you may be out of luck, unless you're prepared to ask the giver for the receipt.
- Check store return procedures online and note any time limits: Big merchants usually allow 90 days for returns of most items but might have far shorter periods for electronics, software, and CDs and DVDs. During the holidays, retailers sometimes extend deadlines.
- Bring your ID: Some companies require a government-issued ID with a receipt. That way, they can track serial returners even if the transaction is in cash.
- Know your options: If an item was purchased online and the merchant has walk-in store locations, check the website to see if you can return it at a store and avoid repacking and a trip to the post office, as well as shipping fees.