Rockford — You know the saying, “the customer is always right.” Well the old adage may have to be shelved for what experts call the biggest exchange day of the year. Stores are filled with customers exchanging or returning holiday gifts the day after Christmas. But the process may not be as seamless as you imagine if you aren’t prepared. Consumers can make it a lot easier by following BBB’s advice.
“Each retailer may have different return and exchange policies,” said Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau, “Stores aren’t legally required to accept items for refund, exchange or credit unless goods were defective or misrepresented, and it’s up to consumers to be aware of all the individual terms and conditions before attempting to return or exchange a gift,” he added.
Here’s what consumers need to know:
• The stores return policy: Ask what specific return policy applies. Some stores provide refunds, while others only issue store credits. A few stores consider all sales to be final. Seasonal stores may have limited hours after the holidays, making it difficult to return unwanted items.
• Save your receipts: They are usually needed for returns. Some stores offer gift receipts, which allow people to return items without showing what you paid for the gift. Make sure to bring whatever receipt and packaging that was provided with the gift.
• Keep the original packaging: Don’t remove electronics or similar products from their boxes, as the original packaging may be required for a return.
• Know the online return policy: If making an online return, find out whether shipping fees are charged for returning items and whether shipping costs or restocking fees are deducted from the price of returned items. Many online retailers provide pre-printed labels that can make returns easier but be sure you understand whether shipping costs will be deducted before you get money back.
• Returns are a courtesy: Do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted present. Like the shopper, you are bound by the merchant’s return policy.
• Understand unusual policies: Ask about exceptions, such as sale or clearance items or intimate apparel. Although some stores offer extended return periods during the holidays, you can’t assume every store or website will offer it.
• Time your returns to avoid hassles: You don’t have to brave the crowds the day after Christmas, but don’t wait too long to return the item. Pick a time when the store is not likely to be crowded.