Christmas is over and the holiday season is winding down, so now it’s time to decide whether you’re going to keep those gifts or exchange them for something a little more your style. While various retailers have loosened their return policies during the holiday season, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin advises consumers to plan accordingly when returning or exchanging gifts. Some stores could have tighter return procedures due to an increase in return fraud.
If you’re exchanging or returning your gift, it’s important to make sure you have a receipt and original packaging. But, you may be asked for identification as well. According to National Retail Federation’s 2013 Return Fraud Survey, retail companies are estimated to lose $8.76 billion to return fraud this year, with $3.39 billion during the holiday season alone. Overall, 5.8 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, up slightly from 4.6 percent the previous year.
Return fraud comes in many forms, but the main methods of return fraud involve purchasing merchandise for short-term use and then returning the item; returning stolen merchandise; or using reused, stolen or falsified receipts to return merchandise for a profit.
To put you and your gift recipients in the best position for a happy return or exchange, BBB offers this advice:
- Know and understand the seller’s return policy. Most return policies will be listed on a company’s website or on the back of the receipt. Make sure to fully understand what’s required for a return or exchange, and if you have questions, call the store directly to ask about your specific situation.
- Keep original packaging. Some stores may require products be returned in original purchase condition, unused or un-opened.
- Bring identification. Because of return fraud, some retailers will ask for identification when making a return. If you’re returning or exchanging a gift that you bought, bring the credit card used to make that purchase.
- Read product warranty first. In some cases, retail stores are not liable if the product turns up defective or damaged. They may require consumers to mail the product directly to the manufacturer in order to receive monetary refunds, credit or product replacement.
- Don’t delay. In almost every case, a store will require an item be returned within a specific time frame. If you wait too long, you may miss your chance at returning the item.
- Keep the receipt. If you didn’t receive a receipt when you opened your gift, ask the giver if they wouldn’t mind supplying one for you, if you’re comfortable asking them. It’s easier for the recipient to return or exchange the gift if you have a digital or paper copy of the receipt.