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MONEY GUIDE: Making gift returns after the holidays

The National Retail Federation and the BBB are weighing in on holiday returns, offering tips so you don't get stuck with something you don’t need.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The season of shopping for holiday gifts will soon become the season of returning holiday gifts. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shoppers are expected to return about $816 billion worth of goods that were purchased.

“That equates to about 16.5% of everything that's purchased, so it's a pretty big number,” said Mark Mathews, VP of Research Development and Industry Analysis for the NRF. “Generally speaking, we expect to see a higher percentage of returns from online sales.”

In some cases, making a return is easy.

“You can go to places like UPS, you can go into the store, and you can just drop it off,” Mathews said. “You don't need to package it. All you need to do is print off a QR code, hand over that QR code, and you're done.”

But it’s not always that simple, especially this time of year. According to the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, some retailers change their return policy for the holidays.

“It's best to just check so that when you’re going to take something back you're not surprised,” said Katie Grevious, Marketing and Community Relations Manager for the BBB. “Maybe you're used to a 60-day window, and suddenly it's a 15 or 30-day window, or there's maybe a restocking fee over the holidays.”

All the information for returns can generally be found on the receipt. That’s why it’s nice to include a gift receipt when giving someone a present.

“It's going to make their lives easier, if they do need to return it,” Grevious said. “Maybe you bought them some clothing and it's the wrong size or wrong fit, and they just want to exchange it. So giving that gift receipt, you as the gift receiver can also look up that store's policy."

When making returns this holiday season, keep these three things in mind:

  • The return policy might be different than what you’re used to, so double check the receipt. If you don’t have a receipt, call the store directly and ask about the return policy.
  • Don’t wait to make a return, because you might not have much time. If it’s clothing, go ahead and try it on. If it’s electronic, fire it up and make sure it works.
  • If it’s a tech gadget that’s not working properly, you might have to return it to the manufacturer, rather than the store where it was purchased.

Doing all of this will cost you a little extra time, but it can also save you a lot of money.

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