7 Questions You Need to Ask Before Returning Gifts
You know it’s going to happen. Someone you gave a gift to this holiday season will return it. Maybe you will, too. When it comes to refunds, exchanges and return shipping, not all stores are created equal.
Never assume. Some stores that you think would be generous and understanding are really scrooges or very, very picky. They’ve either been burned before by dishonest people or don’t have the resources to keep up with a large influx of take-backs. Make it a habit of checking return policies before you buy.
Of course, high-ticket electronics like TVs and cameras, and intimate apparel are difficult to return unless there is a manufacturing defect or breakage. Customized or monogrammed items generally can’t be returned for obvious reasons. And more stores, even super-generous Neiman Marcus, are not allowing refunds on clothing for special occasions. People have been known to wear one to an event and return it – sweat-stains and all – the next day. Imagine!
Return Policy Questions to Ask
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to get the information you need if you go to a store’s site. Or check out the merchant on a coupons website. Be sure to find out:
- Under what conditions you can return an item? Some stores will only issue refunds for defective pieces, others for any reason.
- How long do you have to make a return? Some stores will refund the full amount within a certain time frame, less if the item goes on sale later.
- Does packaging have to remain intact? Open boxes very carefully and keep all the contents inside just to be safe.
- Where can you return a gift? Research whether you can return an unwanted item to a brick and mortar or by mail only. Returning to a physical store saves shipping fees both ways.
- How is the money refunded? Ask whether you’ll be issued store credit, a gift certificate, or money back on your credit card. Some stores only accept exchanges.
- Who pays for return shipping? Find out whether you or the merchant is responsible. Even stores with free holiday shipping might charge you for return postage.
- Is there a restocking fee? Free return shipping doesn’t mean the recipient won’t pay for something. Restocking fees can run from 10% to more than 50% of the item’s sale price. Usually reserved for things that couldn’t be sold again, more stores are using it to deter returns. If the retailer’s policy is not in writing (by law, it should be), get it.
Some stores will allow free return shipping if you join their rewards club, spend a certain amount, or sign up for their credit card. A little research beforehand takes the stress out of gift-giving, especially if you’re spending a good sum. If you’re giving a present to someone who’s difficult to buy for, it might be wiser to give a gift card and skip the store return issue altogether.