What to do with three extra coffee grinders and charming needlepoint “Puppies in a Basket” throw pillow—gifts received and much appreciated, but not quite right in your mid-century modern pad?

Here are eight general tips to help make sure that all of your returns are happy.

1. Find the receipt. If this return is for a gift you received, and if at all possible, get the gift receipt from the gift giver. Things will go more smoothly if you can.

2. Do not dawdle. Return the unwanted item ASAP. Wait too long, and that lovely $75.99 deluxe mahjong set may be marked down to $7.99. And that’s what you’ll get in return.

3. Return the item in its original packaging. It should look exactly the way you received it. Points deducted for any signs you actually wore the sweater.

4. Make the choice. You may get a choice between a greatly reduced value in cash, or the full value in store credit. Take the credit.

5. Take the right card. If it’s a gift you bought (chartreuse? what were you thinking?!) make sure you have the original credit card you used for the purchase

6. Befriend the sales staff. Niceness counts. Employees sometimes use their discretion about whether to allow return/exchange transactions.

7. Avoid peak shopping hours so employees are less frazzled and more willing to work with you. If you hit a brick wall of resentment, try a different location. And remember—smile!

8. Do your homework. Know the retailer’s return policy and guidelines ahead of time. Take Amazon for example:

If you want to return a gift that you bought or you received that was purchased through Amazon, the steps are very specific and quite user-friendly—whether you made the purchase or it’s a gift you received that was purchased by someone else at Amazon. Just make sure that you follow these step-by-step instructions.

You may return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of delivery for a full refund. During the holidays, items shipped by Amazon between November 1 and December 31 can be returned until January 31.

Whether you purchased the gift or you received this gift, you will need the 17-digit order number (or “Order ID”) found on the left side of the packing slip. If you don’t have the packing slip, contact the Online Returns Center. They will ask for information to help them locate the order, such as the sender’s name, their e-mail address, their phone number, and information about the item you wish to return.

If after following all of these tips and suggestions, for some reason you are unable to exchange, get a store credit, or cash back, don’t fret. There’s always the fine art of re-gifting, which I will be covering in detail tomorrow.

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