National Consumers League

Thought you were done with the mall?


Think again. Many of us will be back there tomorrow, bright and early, to take advantage of after-Christmas sales or - gulp - try to return well-intentioned gifts that didn't go over so great. Are you ready for your returns? Tips from the experts:

  • Know a store’s return policy before you go back. Know what you’re getting into — whether the return will be in the form of cash or store credit, at full price, the price that was paid by the purchaser, or some more recent marked-down price. Know whether having the receipt factors into this so you can decide whether politely going back to the gift giver to ask for the receipt is warranted.
  • Keep a paper trail. Find your receipts and keep them handy. Having a receipt dramatically increases the chances of an outcome that’s to your liking.
  • Don’t open the packaging of anything you know you don’t want to keep, particularly electronics. Policies that don’t allow returns for opened electronics items are common. If they do take it back, they may withhold a certain percentage of the return price and call it a “restocking fee.”
  • Spend your gift cards. They may lose value over time, so look at the fine print and spend them before they expire.
  • Prepare yourself for the worst. Stores have been tracking customers’ return habits for years. Some retailers subscribe to services that keep track of what consumers are purchasing and bringing back in an attempt to curb consumer return fraud — the returning of stolen goods. For honest consumers, this can cause problems, as some stores limit the amount of return activity to a certain number or value of annual merchandise returns. There’s a possibility if you’ve returned a lot of merchandise, you’ll be denied.
  • Be smart. Don’t wear it. Don’t damage it. Increase the chance of having a successful return by taking care of the item on its way back to the store and being a pleasant, polite customer. The holidays are stressful enough. Don’t contribute with a less-likely-to-be-helped attitude.