4 steps to easier post-holiday returns

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The weekend after Christmas, the customer service line at one department store was so long, I decided I’d head back another time. Judging from the looks of things, most people in line were making returns.

According to a survey from Retale, almost one out of four people will return or exchange at least one gift they received this holiday season.

GoBanking rates recently analyzed store return policies and determined the following stores offer the best policies:

  • Nordstrom: Almost zero restrictions on its return policy, and no time limit to bring in a gift for refund.
  • Macy’s : No enforced time period for returns and online purchases can be returned in store as well.
  • REI: Up to a year to return unwanted gifts and a 100 percent guarantee; with a proof of purchase, customers can return unsatisfactory items even after the tags have been removed and they’ve been used.
  • Costco: Most items have no return time limit and customers can get a full cash or check refund with just the membership number used to buy the gift.

No matter where you are returning items, here are some tips to make the process easier:

Keep track of receipts. A gift receipt always makes returns easier and you will get the amount the individual paid for the item (rather than the current price it is selling for which could be lower). Returns without a receipt may come with monetary limits — you only get so many dollars back in a calendar year without a receipt– which could be a bummer if you’re returning something to a store you frequent. Know that if the store asks you for ID upon returning an item they are likely tracking chronic returners. This is more likely to happen if you don’t have a receipt.

Return or exchange in-store (versus online) if possible. Shoppers often report in-store interactions for returns to be quick, convenient and hassle-free. For some retailers, you can return online purchases in the physical store. It is rare that you can’t resolve an in-store return in a single visit, while completion of online returns or exchanges can drag on for days as you wait for the item to be shipped, received, inspected and a return to be issued.

Avoid fees. Some items, particularly electronics, may be subject to a restocking fee. And games, DVDs, or CDs that have been opened, are generally not returnable. Electronic items may also have a shorter return period than other items so be sure to check your receipt or store policies online. For online returns, find out if you have to pay for shipping or if it is covered by the store.

Know before you go. Always check store websites for their return policies and specifically for holiday returns, as gifts may be subject to a different set of return rules.

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