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How unbelievable that today is the final column of 2020 (and thank goodness the end of this terrible first year of the new decade)! As readers may recall, I usually follow the holidays with advice on gift returns, and this year is no exception. I've taken previous tips from over the years and combined them with more excellent advice, compliments of Tom Drake, owner and head writer of the award-winning MapleMoney.

Let's look at specific areas to consider the best methods for returns.

Time periods. Most companies/stores give us 36 days to return "regular" purchases; however, this isn't generally accepted practice for the holiday shopping season. Instead, hit the stores as quickly as possible before January's end. In fact, Mr. Drake tells his own readers one of the best days to re-enter shops is New Year's Day. Folks generally hunker down on this holiday to eat, drink, and cheer on their favorite team. Well, while all this "hunkering" is going on, you and not-so-many other patrons can leisurely do your thing with the gifts you're bringing back. (Note: I've always stressed to first contact a store about its policy, and numerous other experts agree.)

Restocking fees. A fee that might be flat or a percentage of the original purchase price is even more likely if the box has been opened or if some of the packaging is damaged or missing.

Unfortunately, you might not get as much cash back or exchange power for an item of equal value if this is the case. Be aware that electronics most always debit this fee from the original price paid. As I've discussed in many venues, selling online can be a great idea, and Tom states that holiday gifts are no exclusion. Don't forget the major sites, such as eBay, Craig's List, Amazon, and Facebook Marketplace, as well as many of the smaller legitimate sites, such as OfferUp and BriskSale. Just be realistic about the hassles of selling online and make sure you understand the risks before placing the ad.

No receipt? Lots of gifters enclose a gift receipt for ease in swapping and so forth. Nevertheless, if not, don't you dare give up! Some stores are more consumer-friendly than others and, if the item is stocked (even if not originally purchased at that retailer), will give us a refund; others offer only an exchange or store credit, which certainly is fine with me. Most all stores will only allow the lowest recent price since there's no way to confirm the original price. (Of course, you could call Great Aunt Hortense and ask her if she still has her receipt for that hideous purple hat with sheep dancing all around the brim) Of course, If the item was on sale in the last 60 days, we might only get back the store price at that moment, regardless if Sheep & Co. cost $7,500 — still some cash/credit is better than nothing. MapleMoney says to call ahead to find out whether you can bring something in without a receipt and, if the item is commonplace, phone a few different stores. Further, an individual store may do better for returns than indicated on its website, particularly with a bit of sweet talking.

Remember my adage about asking first to speak to a manager and then reminding this person of your past customer loyalty.

Happy New Year and may 2021 be a much better and healthier journey for each of us!

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

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Ellen Phillips

 

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