USU Extension: The Rules of Return

So, back to the stores we go—in fact, by the hundreds people will be returning Christmas gifts.

Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension, Family and Consumer Science Educator say that many consumers believe that retailers are legally required to offer refunds. They aren’t. Retail stores set their own policies which may include cash refunds, exchanges, credits or perhaps nothing at all. But don’t despair…

Here are 5 simple steps from the National Retail Federation for hassle-free returns after the holidays:

1. Know the retailer’s return policy before you buy. Most retailers have return policies prominently displayed, especially at this time of year. Gift-givers should read and remember them—even include them with the “gift receipt—if not printed right on the receipt. If you do not see the policies displayed make sure to ask a sales associate.

2. Keep all receipts! Receipts are still the key to hassle-free returns. Many retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt. However, without a receipt, a retailer may only provide merchandise credit for the lowest markdown-price at which the item was sold in the past 30 days. Make sure to destroy the receipt once you are sure that you will no longer need it.

3. Provide all original packaging and all parts when giving a gift, so if it is returned all is there. This includes Styrofoam, plastic product wrapping, the box, instruction manuals, and all parts (including tags). If you plan on returning a gift, avoid tampering with the packaging. Some retailers won’t accept returns unless the item is in its original package. If you plan to take back a gift when it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open it or play with it. If the gift isn’t wanted, don’t open the package. Open boxes may be subject to a restocking fee. Open movies, music and computer software packages usually cannot be returned or exchanged at all except for an exact exchange for a working copy if the original is damaged. No one wants to buy someone else’s merchandise.

4. Ask for a gift receipt to make gift returns easier. Ask the retailer if he issues gift receipts. These receipts contain all the necessary information to prove the items were purchased, minus the price.

5. Don’t delay! Consumers should plan to make returns as soon as possible after the holidays to take advantage of extended hours and extra help, and to get the best selection of merchandise for an alternate gift.

A Note About Online Purchase Returns:

In addition to the other common sense rules of returns, here are a few things to find out before you purchase a gift online:

• Who pays for shipping the return, you or the merchant? Some merchants will pick up the delivery charges for exchanges, but not for returns. Many will also have extended “return” days during (and right after the holidays). Check the website for their policies the same as you would for other shopping. If you are the giver of an online gift—provide the recipient with the return information or website.

• Where to make returns ? Does the online retailer have a physical store, and can returns or exchanges be made there? Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company. Some merchants have off-site service centers that handle returns that may be in a different location from where the merchandise is sent.

Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the retail year. The frustration level is high and tolerance is low, so be patient when returning merchandise.
For more information, go to or call (801) 399-8200>

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