Whether buying gifts during online or at a store, it’s worth considering the return and exchange policy of that particular merchant. Sometimes that can mean reading the fine print. Sometimes signs are clearly posted that state what that store’s policy is. Then there might be times when it’s up to the customer to ask the right questions.
A Better Business Bureau survey conducted by the Kelton Research firm found that nearly one-third of consumers don’t carefully read return and exchange policies when they make purchases. Because those policies can vary from business to business, you might be giving someone a headache along with that gift.
A lot of gifts get returned every year. The National Retail Federation reported that in 2010, holiday gift returns totaled about $44 billion. Chances are someone on your shopping list will want to return or exchange your gift to them. You can do them a favor by educating yourself about a merchant’s policies before buying.
Some stores offer full refunds while others offer only store credit or exchanges. Many of the major retailers will allow you to bring back any purchase at any time and for any reason. But don’t assume that all outlets will accept returns.
Receipts are critical. Always ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the item purchased. It’s also a good idea to leave the price tag on the merchandise, removing only the price from the tag.
Some merchants consider on-sale items or clearance items to be nonreturnable. Other items such as hats or swimwear may not by returnable for health reasons. When in doubt, ask.
When giving electronics or similar products, don’t remove the item from its original package, which is often required for a return. Some retailers charge a 15 percent for a restocking or “open box” fee for large-ticket products and electronics. Some sellers require 25 percent of an item’s value when the packaging has been damaged.
Sometimes time is of the essence. It may be wise to avoid the crowds in the first few days after Christmas, but be aware that many stores have a limited time frame to return gifts.
When shopping online, look for a merchant’s return or refund policy to be clearly posted on its website. If the policy is not posted, then you should e-mail or call to request the specifics. For those receiving online merchandise, be aware that some companies charge a restocking, shipping or handling fee for returned items. If you know you do not want the gift, do not open the box or break the manufacturer’s seal. If you have already opened it, make sure all of the packaging and parts are put into the original box before sending it back.
There are times when a polite attitude and good manners can expedite the return or exchange. It can sometimes be a good idea to let the seller know if you are a longtime or steady customer. Many try harder to please their loyal public.
An e-mail scam using the Better Business Bureau name and logo is continuing. Most of the emails come with a subject line that says, “complaints from your customers.”
At one company in western Michigan, the opened e-mail launched malware that accessed bank numbers and passwords and attempted a fund transfer from the company’s account.
If you receive one of the suspect e-mails, the BBB recommends that you:
• Forward it to email@example.com.
• Do not open any links or click on it.
• Delete the email from your inbox and then delete it again from your recycling folder.
If you suspect the e-mail is real, contact the local BBB and ask them if there are any complaints pending that are related to you or your company.
If you receive an e-mail and are not sure who it is from, copy and paste the link into Notepad. Notepad does not support html so if the link is a fake address, the real link will show up.