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The Season of Returns

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.

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5 replies
  1. kay mills says:

    One year after Christmas I was shopping at a local department store. They had beautiful little-girl Christmas dresses on sale. After estimating what size my granddaughter would be the next Christmas, I chose two. A burgundy one was $5 and a lovely green velvet one was $12. Caitlyn chose the burgundy so I returned the green one. As the clerk processed the return, she started to laugh. The dress rang up as 99 cents. My response was, “You mean if I buy it back it will cost me 99 cents?” The dress was re-purchased in a heartbeat and was given away the next Christmas. Amazing what 99 cents can do at Christmastime!

  2. Richard says:

    When we moved, we knew that we had to buy a new Toaster oven. We got one at Target and left it in the box to open it when we got to our new home. After moving, we opened the box and found the unit broken. We did not have the receipt, and we had bought it some months earlier. I took it back to Target and they said just get another one and there will be no charge. We still shop at Target because of this customer service action.

  3. Kathy says:

    My husband was so upset that the weed killer he spent hours applying to our rock yards only served to make them grow. He was disabled and used an electric scooter to get around, so this had been a major effort. He took the receipt and the empty container back to WalMart, put it on the counter and announced “It didn’t work. The weeds are healthier than ever.” The customer service lady took one look at it, said “It didn’t work for me either!” and gave him a full refund!

  4. TM says:

    I work in a Hallmark store. Yesterday I had a woman return 8 Christmas ornaments, before Christmas, because she said they had bought too many. Wouldn’t you have thaough she would have figured that out when she was buying them? People get so crazy buying for the holidays that I think when the credit card bill arrives, they think twice about their purchases.

  5. Dana says:

    Unfortunately, it isn’t those who actually purchase the items that are the problem. I work retail and the shoplifters are the problem. They steal many items and then try to return them for money or gift cards. I actually had a customer tell me her husband paid her child support in gift cards! We also have a pawn shop in town that will give them 1/2 pmt for a gift card. It seems 1/2 is better than nothing when you didn’t pay for it in the beginning.


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