CONSUMER ALERT: Tips to tackle your holiday gift returns

Staff Report

After the holiday shopping buzz winds down, many consumers return at least some portion of their holiday gifts. Retailers are making it easier than ever to exchange or return items after the holidays, and some even modify their standard return policy to accommodate the holiday returns.

Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell offers the following tips for hassle-free returns and exchanges:

•   Keep your receipts. If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. This will make returns easier.

•   Read the retailer’s return policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise.

•   Keep original packaging. Some stores may require products be returned in original purchase condition, unused or unopened.

•   Bring identification. Because of return fraud, some retailers will ask for identification when making a return.

•   Monitor the return clock. Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame and that time frame usually begins when the item is purchased, not when it is given.

•   Understand return policies for sale merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.

•   Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics or large-ticket items.

•   Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store instead of the online merchant.