Tips : Holiday Returns

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Sooner is better (but you might get a reprieve). Best Buy set off shock waves when it shortened its usual return period to 15 days. But Best Buy holiday shoppers have until Jan. 15 to return goods bought after Nov. 1. Amazon.com gives you until Jan. 31. You’ll have to ask about policy extensions because few retailers advertise them. Consumer expert Andrea Woroch said: “Get your returns done now to make sure you’re not stuck with something you don’t want. If you can’t find something, ask for a gift card and use it later.”

Darn, no receipt. Good gift-givers include a gift receipt. But if you don’t get one for something you’d like to return, politely ask where the item was bought. You should be able to get store credit or a gift card for its current sales price (a downer if it happens to be a seasonal item on sale). You’ll almost never get cash, said Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org. One exception: Wal-Mart, where you don’t need a receipt for items that cost less than $25, and you get back cash.

Do it in person, if you can. You may be able to make an even exchange. Most retailers will allow you to return an item to a brick-and-mortar branch even if it was purchased online. But call ahead before you make the trek because there are exceptions. Many online merchants make it easier to return an item by mail by providing a shipping label. However, the cost of shipping may be deducted from the credit. Shoe merchants are particularly lenient; in order to encourage online ordering, companies such as Zappos.com and Piperlime.com offer both free shipping and free returns.

Watch out for restocking fees. Restocking fees are common on electronics, particularly DVDs and video games, because of the potential for burning the content and then returning the item. Amazon allows its partner sellers to charge a 20 percent fee on unopened media and a 50 percent fee if the item has been opened.

Give these retailers a gold star. Costco, Kohl’s, L.L. Bean and Nordstrom are known for their open-ended returns on most items (Costco has a 90-day return policy on electronics). Nordstrom will take back items without a receipt. REI gives you a year to return an item, no questions asked. Target will take back an item without a receipt as long as the purchase was made with a credit card, check or Target GiftCard the store can track.

Source : Dallas News/Kiplinger’s

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