Research return policies when buying holiday gifts

Your Money

As we look for that perfect gift, we all hope our efforts will be appreciated. If not, many of us assume that our present can always be returned to the store for a quick refund or easy exchange. Assume otherwise.


Some stores give refunds; some issue store credits only; some consider all sales to be final. A store is not legally required to accept items for refund, exchange or credit unless the merchandise is defective or was misrepresented.

The Better Business Bureau reminds shoppers to know their return rights before making the purchase. It’s always better to ask than to assume.

Ask the store about its return policy. Can a customer obtain a refund, a store credit or exchange unwanted merchandise?

Ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present.

Don’t remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping because original packaging might be needed for a return.

Do not assume the regular return policy applies to sales or clearance items. Some stores consider sales items to be final, so ask.

Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.

Look for a posted return policy when shopping online. If returns are permitted, ask what procedures and time frame need to be followed.

If you are the gift recipient, do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted present. You are bound by the merchant’s return policy.

To help ensure a positive outcome, save your gift receipt.

Keep the item in its original packaging and be aware that some merchants charge restocking fees.

If you are a regular customer or have a store credit account, mention that. Merchants are usually willing to accommodate loyal customers.