So, if you’re dreading your mother-in-law’s gift again this year, here’s
what you should do to ensure a seamless return – don’t open it, don’t
shake it and definitely don’t kick it around. Heck, don’t even look at it.
Eager to curb gift
return, retailers are continuing to make it more difficult for
consumers to return holiday presents and receive money back for unwanted
and opened gifts. In fact, shoppers may be in for some nasty surprises
the day after Christmas as stores continue to use strict policies.
Retailers are cracking down on returns to prevent abuse. They are
are also trying to protect their profits during the crucial
November-December gift-buying months, which account for as much as 50% of their sales and profits.
So what should you expect this year? More complicated return policies, a "blacklist" of "serial returners," and restocking fees. For instance, some retailers including Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Sports Authority already use a computer database to track the number of returns that individual customers make. Typically,
stores swipe the shopper’s driver’s license when a return is being
made, and if the store’s return limit is exceeded, the return is
Consumer expert Jennifer Litwin advises consumers to be aware of restocking fees. "Don’t
open your present unless you’re planning to keep it or you may get a
restocking fee," she said. This usually applies to furniture, bedding,
computer equipment, and camcorders and other electronics.
the last few years, 30% of electronics and home furnishings
returns have occurred after Christmas. So retailers are clamping down
hard with returns to not lose profits," Litwin said. Restocking fees can be as high as 15% of purchase price at stores like Best Buy, Circuit City, Apple, Pottery Barn and Target, she said.
Some stores are imposing shortened return periods, or offering no refunds at all. Target
won’t accept returns without a receipt. Amazon deducts 20 to 50%
off the selling price for certain returns after 30 days.
No. 1 tip for consumers is to hold on to the sales or gift receipt.
is not unreasonable [for retailers] to require customers to provide a
sales slip or gift receipt to establish where and when the item was
purchased, and at what price," Dworsky said.
This is also
relevant for gift cards, Litwin said. "When buying gift cards, keep
receipts and give them to the recipient. That way, if it gets lost,
they will have a record of it."
"The days of converting [gift
cards] to cash are over. It can be exchanged for merchandise only.
While most gift cards won’t expire, some stores, like Bloomingdales,
still put a [two-year] time limit on card use," she said.
Butler with the National Retail Federation (NRF) doesn’t think
retailers are being stricter. "They’re just being smarter," he said.
"It’s in retailers’ interest to take care of legitimate returns. What
they’re doing differently is using new technology to discourage
incidents of fraud, which does impact their business."
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