Above / Notes on how to avoid most of the problems for an anticipated 20% of gifts to be exchanged are featured below. Let this space also suggest that saving presents to regift is another option. Many folks appreciate regifts and “hand-me-downs” that come with a personal story any time of the year. Note also local resale shops that benefit charities such as Serendipity (461 S. Route 59) and Second Chance Resale (1512 N. Naper Boulevard) welcome donations of new items, too. Thanks. —PN
News received from the Better Business Bureau on Christmas Day notes that shoppers spent “billions of dollars this year buying the perfect gift for family and friends.” However, the reality is some gifts just aren’t right, and according to the National Retail Federation, almost 20% of gifts will be returned or exchanged. They either don’t fit, don’t work or aren’t needed. Those gifts get returned.
The motto, “The customer is always right,” was a marketing slogan made famous by past retailers Marshall Field and Gordon Selfridge, with others following suit. But times have changed. And so have many policies regarding exchanges or refunds.
“The fact is…now it’s a matter of goodwill and customer service,” said Naperville resident Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau. “However, stores are not legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented.”
Bernas continued that while most retailers offer refund and exchange programs, how and when they do is strictly up to them.
“Be sure to double-check policies this holiday season, even if you are familiar with the brand, as stores can change their policies whenever they want,” Bernas advises.
BBB tips to avoid / assist gift returns this year and from now on…
Get to know store policies. Find out if the store has a return policy and, if so, how it works. Understand that many retailers change their policies for the holiday season. If the store allows returns or exchanges, find out if you need to pay a restocking fee. Ask the seller if they offer cash refunds, exchanges, or store credit. Store policies are usually posted at the checkout counter or printed on the back of receipts.
Understand online store return policies. If you are shopping online, search for the seller’s return policy and read it through before clicking “buy.” Find out if they accept returns or exchanges and who pays for the shipping when an item is returned. In some cases, you can save on shipping fees by returning an online purchase to the local brick-and-mortar store.
Get the details on a product’s warranty. Most electronics and home appliances come with warranties that are to be fulfilled by the manufacturer, not the retailer. Find out how returns and repairs are handled if an item stops working or needs replacement parts. Will the retailer ship the item to the manufacturer for you? Or will you need to deal with the manufacturer directly? Knowing the answers will leave you well-prepared for any future issues.
Keep your receipt and packaging. Most stores will only accept returns and exchanges if you can present the item with its receipt and original packaging. Always include a gift receipt with items you give and hold on to any gift receipts you receive.
Bring your ID. Many stores ask to see your ID when you return an item to avoid holiday return scams. Sometimes retailers require you to bring your ID and the original form of payment. If this is the policy of the store where your gift is from, you may need the assistance of the gift giver in order to be reimbursed.
Make returns in a timely fashion. Almost all return policies are valid during a specific time period. Some stores modify their return period during the holidays, so don’t risk missing your chance to make your return. Take the item back to the store without delay.
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Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois
BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois is a nonprofit organization that has served consumers and trustworthy businesses for 97 years and is a part of the IABBB. We help protect consumers from scams and provide a free database for consumers to see business ratings and reviews to find businesses they can trust. We connect customers to businesses they can trust.
The International Association of Better Business Bureaus (IABBB) is the network hub for BBBs in the US, Canada, and Mexico.