According to the National Retail Federation, 38 percent, more than one-third of all consumers, are expected to return at least some portion of their holiday gifts. As the holiday season nears an end, many consumers are heading back to the stores, but this time for returns, not more purchases.

The same survey from the National Retail Foundation indicated that 29 percent of consumers do not pay careful attention to return and exchange policies when making a purchase either in a store or online. BBB reminds consumers that although most do, retailers are not legally required to accept items for refund, credit or exchange. However, stores must comply with their own stated return policy — which should be sufficiently conveyed to the customer pre-purchase.

Every store has its own return policy, and it's important for consumers to understand the policy before expecting a full refund. Before spending your money, make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise. This is a tough lesson to learn at the return counter.

BBB has the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges: 

- Read the product warranty. The retail store may not be liable if the product turns up defective or damaged. You may be required to mail the product directly to the manufacturer in order to receive monetary refunds, credit or product replacement.

- 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. You don't have to brave the crowds the day after opening gifts, but don't wait too long to return the item.

-Understand return policies for sale, clearance, or "as is" merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may not apply or may be different than merchandise sold at full price. 

Does the merchant charge a restocking fee or "open box" fee? Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products 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.

-If you are a gift recipient, don't assume that you have the right to return it. Like the shopper, you are bound by the merchant's return policy.

Keep in mind, health regulations can also prohibit the return of such items as hats and intimate apparel.

-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 facilitate returning the gift. 

-Bring identification. Because of return fraud, some retailers will ask for identification when making a return. If you're returning or exchanging a gift that you bought, bring the credit card used to make that purchase.

-Don't remove electronics from their boxes. Keep in mind, some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging.

 

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline, 903-581-8373, and remember to look for the seal.

 
 

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