Hope everybody had a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday or whatever is politically correct these days. Now that we got the season’s greetings out the way, lets talk about being thankful for what you have and not what you don’t have….nevermind. Lets talk about the dumb gift you may or may not have got from a friend or family member. So you got stuck with a holiday gift you can’t use, don’t want or wish you’d never laid eyes on? The obvious solution is to hop down to the store that sold it and get a refund.
But doing that involves two knotty problems. First, you have to get the store to accept the item — and give you the money. Depending on the retailer, that may be easier or harder than you anticipated. According to a November survey by the National Retail Federation, about a third of retailers say they ease their return policies for the holidays and 5.5 percent actually loosened them a few years ago. Chief among them was Best Buy which abandoned its 15 percent restocking fee. Nevertheless, 11 percent of merchants polled said they would make life a little harder for returners this year. Second problem? Human relations. To get the info you need to return the offensive things, you may have to explain to the gift-giver why you’re taking it back — and do that without alienating his or her affection.
So here’s a step-by-step guide for getting the job done while managing to stay on speaking terms with your relatives and friends.
1. Find out where the gift was purchased. Yes, if it came in a Tiffany’s box with a special Tiffany’s gift receipt or was mailed to you from Amazon.com, you’re there. But most gifts come in holiday wrapping paper with no hint of their origins. If you get a gift you loathe and open it in the presence of the gift-giver, you should immediately declare, “Oh my, is this the one I saw at Bloomingdale’s?” You can hope that your gift-giver blurts out, “Yes, it is!” or “No, I got it at Walmart!” Don’t despair if this ploy elicits no information. Instead, jump on the Internet and put the product’s name in your search engine. In a fraction of a second, you’ll have a list of merchants who sell it; one may generously take it back.
2. Arm yourself with a receipt. The thoughtful gift-giver will provide you with one, but, of course, not everyone is thoughtful. While many retailers provide you store credit (no cash) if you can’t supply a receipt, you won’t get full price if you can’t prove how much was paid for the item. Target, for example, won’t accept any returns without a receipt and, if the item has dropped in price, that’s what you’ll get. What’s more, if you don’t have a receipt, many merchants will ask to scan your I.D.; the information goes into a database that tracks frequent returners. With a bad reputation, you could have trouble months hence when you try to return a hat your spouse thinks is hideous. If you’re willing to live with such consequences, fine. If not, you’ll have to ask the gift-giver to provide the proof of purchase — and present an excuse for returning the item. Here are three sample explanations that have stood me in good stead over the years: 1) “The purple mukluks are adorable, but they were a bit too tight. Alas and alack, when I went back to the store, they were fresh out of everything in my size!” 2) “I love the shrunken head paperweight, but my mother-in-law gave me one last year!” 3) “The pashmina shawl is fabulous, but you probably didn’t know I’m allergic.”
3. Take your time. You can let a few days lapse before you confront your loved one with the suggestion that his or her hard-shopped-for gift was not exactly welcome. Most stores provide plenty of leeway for returning gifts. A few years back Macy’s did away with any deadline for returns. L.L. Bean will take just about anything back at any time in any condition. Best Buy is allowing holiday returns until the end of January. But before you go trotting down to a store or calling customer service, you should look up the store’s return policy because some merchants are not particularly forgiving. Barnes & Noble, for example, won’t take back its Nook e-reader after 14 days. Home Depot has a 90-day return policy, except for gas-powered equipment, which must go back within 30 days. And some on-line retailers, like Amazon, require you to request a return. If you procrastinate, you could easily run out the clock.
4. Prepare to eat restocking fees or return shipping charges. Overstock.com has a particularly stringent returns policy. If the item was opened, the company says it will reduce the refund by its shipping and handling charges. It won’t accept large-screen TVs for return at all. And, returned jewelry undergoes a gemological inspection for which you are charged $10. If the inspection determines that your ring or necklace has taken a beating, you may get nothing back. There isn’t much you can do about such fees; they are, if not very consumer-friendly, completely legitimate as long as the merchant discloses them upfront — which Overstock does (albeit in a very non-prominent link from the bottom of its home page). Of course, such policies were disclosed not to you but to the person who bought you the gift. You can try boo-hooing about that on the phone to a customer rep –“Oh dear, I had no idea, and here I was planning to use the money to buy dad a new walker.” Don’t count on mercy, however. Whatever you do, don’t ungraciously complain about the charges to the gift-giver.
5. Suck it up if the item was purchased on sale. You can’t very well blame a gift-giver for being thrifty. But if he or she bought you an item on sale, it may not be returnable at all. Remember those signs you see declaring “all sales final?” Alternatively, you may receive store credit or a refund only for the sale price. Again, nothing you can do but use the money to buy something else on sale.
6. Be discreet if you can’t return your gift to a store. Okay, if the gift-giver lives out of town and only sees you once every other blue moon, you are free to get rid of it. He or she will probably never know. You can put it on Craig’s list or e-Bay or, more privately dispose of it on a swap network run by your employer or a community center. I’m all for giving stuff to charity. Then you earn a tax deduction and the satisfaction of knowing that you gave the item to somebody who might just love it. If, on the other hand, the gift-giver is someone you see frequently, you may have to display that cupid-covered vase when he or she shows up for your next party. Look on the bright side: maybe somebody will break it.
Hope this helps. What do you do when you get an awful gift? Would you ask the gift giver to return an item and try again? Whats the worst gift you’ve ever gotten?
Thanks for tuning in…..