BBB: Tips for returning unwanted gifts

Online Staff Report

The week after Christmas when the gift-return season kicks in can be as hectic as the shopping time before the holiday. To make the effort as easy as possible, consumers should be aware of store return policies.

Some retailers have changed their policies, and these may not necessarily be to the benefit of the consumer,” explained Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “Shortening the amount of time for returns and making specific requirements for different types of merchandise are all store issues that consumers need to be aware of. Returns of electronics and appliances are most impacted by these requirements”.

Horton noted that consumers who were used to having as many as 45 days to return their unwanted gifts now have, in some cases, 30 days or as few as nine days. He also urged consumers to remember that returns are a customer service and are not required by law, unless the merchandise is defective.

Consumers need to take extra care in understanding the return policies of the stores where they shop, and should not rely only on what they may be told by a sales clerk. They should look for and read the store’s written policy, which by law must be displayed.

If you plan to return an item, be prepared:

1. Know the store’s return policy — Read the store’s return policy in the store or online. Do not assume the regular return policy applies to sales or clearance items. Some merchants consider sale items to be final.  

2. Have the receipt available — Receipts are usually needed for returns and they make the transaction much easier for everyone.

3. Keep the original packaging — Electronics or similar products often require their original packaging when returning the item, so don’t destroy the boxes or throw them out. 

4. Know the online return policy — If the item was purchased online, check the online return policy for what is needed when making the return. Often, online purchases come with preprinted return forms. Ask the gift-giver if these exist.

5. Returns are a courtesy, so be courteous — Many people are returning gifts, so remember that it can be a trying time for both the returners and the store personnel. And do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted present.

6. Understand unusual policies — Your gift may have special requirements, such as health regulations, that can prohibit the return of certain items like hats and intimate apparel.

7. Consumers also should be aware that stores are on the lookout for fraud in the return process. Billions of dollars are lost as a result of return fraud. Many stores take additional steps to track customer returns and catch fraudulent or excessive returns. Because of these actions, customers may be asked for a driver’s license or some other government-issued identification when returning an item.

Find out more about Christmas returns by visiting

Posted Dec. 29, 2014

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