The Ultimate Guide to returning that unwanted gift

The season to be jolly is over and now you have a serious pile of unwanted gifts that need attention. Hopefully you’ve kept the packaging and left the original price tags intact, and haven’t worn or used the gift that you are thinking of returning.

Now that you’ve sorted out what’s staying and what is going back to the shops, you need to find out the best way to maximise your gift, whether the store will offer cash, store credit or a gift card.

So to help you return your unwanted presents, here’s a step by step guide to returning your gifts:

Time limit

Most stores will have a time limit, usually around 28 or 30 days in which to exchange or return Christmas gifts, but check online or with the retailer to be sure.

Goods Receipt

Check to see if you have the receipt for the gift, if you do this makes the return process a whole lot easier, as the retailer has to give you either a refund or exchange of the original price of the gift, regardless of whether it is now on sale or not (which it probably will be).

If you do not have the receipt see if the original price tags are still on the gift, as a few retailers, such as Nordstrom and Macy’s, use specific barcodes on the items that act like receipts, so you are still covered for the original price of the item, even if it has been reduced in a sale. Other stores are quite entitled to only offer you the value of the gift at the current price.

Returns online or in store

If you purchased a gift online make sure you check to see if they offer a free returns service. Many do, such as Topshop, Gap, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, however some charge for returns shipping, like H&M.

If you are going to take a return to a bricks and mortar retailer, remember to be pleasant but assertive and don’t say ‘I bought this from you and she doesn’t like it’, instead use more friendly terms such as ‘I bought this from this store and unfortunately it is not suitable’.

Restocking fees

Some electronic stores charge a restocking fee from between 10% to 25% of the product value. This is so that the retailer can get back some of the money that it costs to repackage an opened item or recoup any cash lost from offering it now at a sale price. Check before you head off to the store to see if this is the case.

Gift cards

If you have received a gift card for a store you are not likely to frequent, you may wish to sell them on. You cannot return them to the issuing stores for cash, but you can sell them on auction sites such as ebay. Experts suggest waiting until after the New Year to sell gift cards as many people flood the market with them directly after Christmas, so you should wait until it has settled down a little.

There are a few rules with gift cards that recipients need to be aware of.

  • Some of the prepaid ones come with fees, like point-of-sale fees, monthly maintenance fees, and reloading fees.
  • And whilst there is legislation to ensure that gift cards cannot expire for five years and are exempt from inactivity fees for one year, if you buy a ‘buy-one-get-one-free deal’, these are not covered so make sure you check.

Finally, remember that many charities could do with your unwanted presents, so if you can’t sell it or return it, why not consider donating it instead?

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