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Some retailers are tightening their return policies

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, at 2:04 p.m.

OK, so maybe the 12 drummers drumming that your true love gave to you were not something you want to keep.

Their drums are the wrong size, their uniforms the wrong color or perhaps you already had more drummers than you need. Now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to consider how you will return those gifts.

Worth considering is this statistic from the National Retail Federation: It is estimated that return fraud will cost retailers $8.76 billion this year. Of that amount, $3.4 billion will take place during the holiday season.

Last year the holiday-return fraud was 4.6 percent of returns. This year it is expected to rise to 6 percent.

That’s a big part of the reason that some stores are tightening their return policies. Some of the changes they are making may affect you as you trek to the stores in the coming days.

Here are our tips for easier gift returns:

• Receipts, receipts, receipts. Since time immemorial it has been a truism that having the gift receipt smooths the process considerably. The price of the item may have dropped (it happens!) since it was purchased. You may not be able to get the full price originally paid if you have no proof of when it was purchased. Furthermore, you may not be able to return the item at all without a receipt.

In a best-case scenario, when the gift was given to you, the giver included a gift receipt. Of course, some stores will accept the item back without a receipt, but their numbers are decreasing for the reasons stated above.

• ID, please. Also in an effort to cut into return fraud, stores are frequently asking for photo ID when an item is returned. Sometimes they are requiring a government-issued ID card, like a driver’s license. If you are returning a gift you bought yourself, have the credit card with you that you used for the original purchase.

• Packaging. Hopefully you have not disturbed the original packaging. Some items cannot be returned if they have been opened. Among them are computer software, CDs and DVDs. Some stores will charge a restocking fee of 15 percent for electronic items.

• Wait, but not too long. It’s OK to wait a few days until most of the rush is over before returning an item. Some retailers put time restrictions on certain items for returns so don’t wait too long.

• You may not have to ship back to the online seller. Some retailers will allow you to return the item to the local store even if it was purchased at their online site. But usually the original shipping fees will not be refunded.

• Get the facts first. Know what the retailer’s return policy is before making assumptions about it. A check of the store’s website is advisable before you make the trip to return the gift, though the policy may be posted in the store as well.

• Be nice. Workers in stores can have bad days this time of year as they deal with irate customers. They will appreciate a little politeness from you and, who knows, perhaps they will go the extra mile to accommodate you out of gratitude.

Denise Groene is state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Reach the BBB at 800-856-2417 or www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

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