Either way the gifts are returned, consumers will confront a dizzying array of policies set by retailers and shipping companies, some intended to make returns easier and inspire consumer loyalty, others designed to protect businesses from fraud.
Many retailers adjust their normal return policies this time of year to make them more lenient, or to at least extend the time period during which returns will be accepted after the sale. This allows gifts purchased in November to be returned until mid- to late-January, well beyond the normal return deadline in some cases, according to Consumer World. So even if you think you have missed a return deadline, it never hurts to ask.
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In its 16th annual survey of return policies, ConsumerWorld.org also found that retail stores continue to “slice and dice” their policies, creating complicated rules for different categories of items. Electronic items may be subject to shorter return periods than other items, such as clothing, ConsumerWorld.org officials said.
That’s certainly the case at Kohl’s, which allows customers to return gifts and merchandise within a rather generous window of about six months (180 days) from the date of purchase — with the exception of premium electronics, which must be returned within 30 days from the date of purchase with original packaging and a receipt, according to the company’s web site.
In 2018, the National Retail Federation estimated that $72 billion worth of holiday merchandise would be returned, or slightly more than 10 percent of retailers’ total holiday sales.
At Best Buy, most purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 have an extended return period through Jan. 14, 2020. But that extended window does not apply to cell phones and cell tablet devices, which have a 14-day return window, nor does it apply to major appliances, which have a 15-day return window, according to Best Buy's web site.
And chances are, you had a gift or 10 delivered via Amazon this year without knowing precisely what its return policies are. In general, most items shipped via Amazon between Nov. 2 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 31. Certain return packages are eligible to be dropped off at an Amazon Hub Locker, several of which are located throughout the Miami Valley, including the Amazon-owned Whole Foods store on State Route 725 in Washington Twp.
If the hub-locker option is available, customers will see the option on Amazon's Online Returns Center (www.amazon.com/returns) when when they type in the order number for the item. Customers will choose a locker location and receive a Locker drop-off code via e-mail they can use to return the item at the locker hub for pickup.
Shoppers might be better off waiting a day or two beyond today to return their gifts, ConsumerWorld.org officials suggest.
“Don’t fight the crowds on the return lines the day after Christmas; grab some of the advertised bargains instead,” the organization said in a release. “Go back a day or two later.”
GIFT RETURN TIPS
Here are some tips to reduce the hassle of your holiday returns, courtesy of ConsumerReports.org, which is affiliated with Consumer Reports magazine:
• Don't open the box. If you try to take back an item and the original packaging isn't intact, merchants may impose a restocking fee (often 15 percent of the purchase price). That's especially common for electronics. Other products, such as computer software, CDs, and DVDs, generally aren't returnable once their packaging has been opened, unless they're defective.
• Keep those gift receipts. Make sure you don't toss them out with the wrapping paper, because merchants often turn you away if you don't have one. If you didn't get a gift receipt (and you don't want to ask the giver for the original), you may be eligible for store credit, though it may be in the amount of the lowest price the item sold for recently.
• Bring ID. Some chains use computerized return-authorization systems to detect abuse. So you may be asked to show your driver's license or other government-issued ID when you return an item in person.