Q. I really like most of my gifts, but the inevitable loud tie didn't come with a gift receipt. Since I'm not sure where it was bought or how much it cost, can I get the full refund? Ralph Return
Dear Mr. Return: Like many of us, you received a present you don't like for any number of reasons. Since it's certainly your prerogative to exchange it for refund or for an item you really want rather than shelving this particular one to collect dust, good sense helps to achieve your goal.
• Always check store policy. Assuming you find out where the tie was purchased, immediately check the company website to see when and under what circumstances you can return the gift. It also wouldn't hurt to print a copy of the policy to take with you; some employees are seasonal and aren't necessarily aware of store regulations. (To try to identify the store, Google the style number on the tag or box and see if any retailers pop up.) Remember that different companies have different policies; in fact, policy may even differ from employees within the same location or department.
Be there at the right time. Usually, two weeks mark the return limit for a full refund on a gift. In fact, by the time you're reading this, the item has gone on big sale and you risk getting a store credit and a decreased one at that.
Smile and turn on the charm. Call the salesperson by name to establish a friendly relationship at the onset of the dialogue. All too often, sales clerks have borne the brunt of a complaining tongue. A little common courtesy and "Southern" niceness go a long way in ensuring the employees bend over backward to give you that extra assistance. Mention good experiences you've had at this store, especially when employees have been helpful and accommodating. On the other hand, if you're rude or hateful, more than likely you'll find yourself paddling up that proverbial creek without a paddle.
If all else fails, ask (nicely) to speak to a manager. Most stores in today's economy want your business and want to keep you, the customer, happy and willing to come back another day and spend some money.
And if the tie or other item/product is defective, you don't have to rely on your good looks. The law is on your side. Look up state regulations before entering the store.
Happy New Year and here's to a safe, successful, and consumer-savvy 2014!
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.