BBB Offers Tips for Smooth Gift Returns and Exchanges

December 28, 2011 Updated Dec 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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BBB Offers Tips for Smooth Gift Returns and Exchanges

December 28, 2011 Updated Dec 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y. (BBB news release) -- Tis the season for gift returns. The Better Business Bureau reminds consumers to know their rights regarding returns, refunds and exchanges.
 
“Inevitably, following the holidays, the BBB receives hundreds of complaints from consumers because they’re not able to return a gift,” said David Polino, Better Business Bureau President. “It’s important for consumers to know that retailers have specific return and exchange policies and unless the merchandise is defective or misrepresented, your purchase could become store credit or a final sale.”
 
Smart shoppers know store return policies can vary widely from retailer to retailer, and that it’s a good idea to know the policy before returning a gift. New York law requires retailers to post their return policies, and provide a written copy of the policy upon request. The store’s return policy should include whether returns are subject to any fees, including restocking fees.
 
When it comes to returning gifts this holiday season, BBB reminds consumers to know your rights and offers some tips to help with happy returns.
 
Keep the Receipt

Receipts make or break a smooth return process. Make a plan to keep them, get copies, or consider giving them with your gift. Keep in mind each year billions are lost in return fraud, this year estimated at $3.5 billion, according the National Retail Federation. This crime drives costs up for all of us to bear and causes tight return and exchange policies. Return fraud is often committed though the return of stolen merchandise, use of phony receipts or wardrobing, which is the return of clothing that’s been worn.
 
Policy Rules

Keep in mind that returning or exchanging items is a privilege, not a right. A business is not obligated to accept items for refund, exchange, or credit except in cases where the item is defective or misrepresented. In some cases, defective products must be returned to the manufacturer rather than the retailer based upon the product’s warranty. So make an effort to understand the terms and conditions of warranties.
 
Keep in mind that health regulations may forbid returns of such items as hats, fragrances, bathing suits or intimate apparel.
 
Don't Open Packaged Gifts

If there’s any doubt about whether the new toy is age appropriate or you really need a new blender, hold off on the scissors. Packaged toys, house wares or electronics can be difficult to return once opened, unless of course the item is damaged. Most stores have several requirements for handing over a full refund and the first one is keep the box sealed.
 
Act Fast!

The key to quick and easy returns is simple: Don't dawdle. Many stores post special holiday return policies and the more time that ticks by, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through. It’s up to you to verify your purchase with a receipt or credit card statement and know when the returns are accepted by, which is generally 30 days from the date of purchase.

Do you want cash back?

A customer’s money may be returned under the stores refund policy. Stores that offer refunds as a policy do so voluntarily and, in most cases, are not compelled by state or federal law to do so. These policies usually require that products be returned to a store within a specific period of time and in original purchase condition. In almost every case, a sales slip or some other evidence that the item was actually purchased at a particular store is also required. If a customer does not have evidence of purchase, he or she may not receive a refund or may not receive the full amount of the purchase price.
 
Check for restocking fees

If you custom order a product, many stores charge a restocking fee for the return of such a product. Many retailers also charge restocking fees for high-priced merchandise such as electronics and furniture.
 
What to do if the product has a separate written warranty

Some products have warranties that spell out the manufacturer’s liability if the product is defective. Reading a product’s warranty before returning an item to a store from which it was purchased is highly recommended. In some cases, warranties exempt stores from product liability and require consumers to mail the product to a manufacturer or other business in order to receive monetary refunds, credit, or product replacement.
 
If the purchase is made under a written contract, normal return privileges may be affected - written contracts sometimes have special provisions for the return of goods. A contract usually provides its own conditions for return of the goods and cancellation of an agreement. Always read and understand a contract before you sign it; never sign a blank contract and always keep a copy of the contract.