Mechele Mills BBB

Mechele Mills, Courtesy

The holiday season is coming to an end and many may be heading back to stores for refunds or exchanges.According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) Return Fraud Survey, the retail industry will lose an estimated 13.95 billion to retail fraud in 2020. And while returning an item can be frustrating, particularly if you aren’t aware of the company’s return policy. Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) reminds consumers that in Texas,refund and exchange policies are not required by law so it’s best to know before heading to the counter.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many retailers have become more lenient with regard to their return policies,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, Presidentand CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “However, some mayhave tightened their return policies during the holiday season to account for an increase in return fraud this year.”

BBB offers the following consumer tips 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. Return policies for sale, clearance or “as is” merchandise may not apply or may be different than merchandise sold at full price.

• Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online 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.

• Keep the box and the receipt. Some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging. Without a receipt, some stores will either only provide store credit or will not accept the return at all.

• 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.

• If all else fails, re-gift. If you get a gift that is non-returnable, recycle it by giving it to someone else, sell it online through a classified site or donate it to a charity.

BBB also reminds businesses to have a simple written return and exchange policy and be consistent in its implementation. Develop a policy that works for your business and make sure it’s visible to your customers. Make sure your employees are aware of the policy. Remember, even a customer’s return experience is a chance to develop a loyal patron to your business.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. There are over 100 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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