Returning a holiday gift? What the Better Business Bureau wants you to know

Consumer Alerts

People carry shopping bags while crossing a street in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 29, 2019. Black Friday once again kicked off the start of the holiday shopping season. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — With the giving of gifts during the holiday season comes an influx of merchandise returns and exchanges. Those who have tried to return a gift they received for something they really want know that it’s not always an easy process.

According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Virginia, stores are not legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds, unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented. While most retailers do offer refund and exchange programs, policies vary greatly from store to store.

During the coronavirus pandemic, however, many retailers have become more lenient in their return policies.

But even for shoppers familiar with the brand from which they are buying, the BBB says it’s best to double-check return policies at time of purchase.

The following tips from the BBB should help make holiday returns run more smoothly.

Get to know store policies. Understand that many retailers have changed their policies for the holiday season and the COVID-19 pandemic. Before you make a purchase, find out if the store has a return policy and, if so, how it works. If the store does allow returns or exchanges, find out if you will need to pay a restock fee. Ask the seller if they offer cash refunds, exchanges, or only store credit. Store policies are usually posted at the check-out counter or 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 thoroughly before clicking “buy.” Find out if they accept returns or exchanges, and who pays 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 with 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? 

Keep your receipt and packaging. Most stores will only accept returns and exchanges if you present the item with its receipt and original packaging. 

Bring your ID. To avoid holiday return scams, many stores ask to see your ID when you return an item. Sometimes retailers require you 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. 

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