The sweater didn’t fit right, the color was all wrong and you already have a singing bass on a plaque. For whatever reason, if you need to return a gift you should know a few things first.

According to the National Retail Federation, 62 percent of retailers have ID requirements to make a return. Your information is likely stored on The Retail Equation, a service that tracks how often you bring stuff back and identifies habitual returners.

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The retail exchange has said return fraud and “renting” (buying an item to wear and return) costs the retail industry billions each year. In an effort to stop that practice, they’re tracking you, and all of your returns at their participating stores, in a database.

Return items too frequently, and you may lose your right to bring back your purchases anywhere. 

I can understand retailers needing to put the brakes on people who buy things, use them and bring them back. But this is annoying for a person who really does need to return things often.

Follow these simple tips to make returning an item easy for you and the retailer:

Try to get the receipt. Things will go more smoothly if you can get the gift receipt from the giver.

Act immediately. Sure, the singing bass cost $98 before Christmas, but if it’s marked down to $8.13, that’s the amount you’ll get in return.

Return the item in its original packaging. It should look exactly the way you received it.  You may get a choice between a greatly reduced value in cash, or the full value in store credit. Take the credit.

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. You’ll receive a credit back to that card, not cash.

Be nice. Really nice, thoughtful, kind and cordial. Store personnel are often given discretion on how they handle a return. Just imagine how they might choose to respond to a real jerk.

Time your trip. Figure out what time of day is the busiest in that store and then don’t even think about showing up then. Frazzled employees are not always in the mood to deal generously. Go instead when they’re fresh and friendly.

If you can’t get cash, opt for store credit. If you can’t get credit try for an exchange. And if the clerk insists on obeying that 9-foot sign posted at the check-out that screams Absolutely no refunds, exchanges or credit … EVER, don’t panic. Remember there’s always re-gifting.

Question: Do you have a favorite “return” story? Share it here

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