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How to make post-holiday returns as easy as possible — and why you shouldn't wait

Holiday Sales
Posted at 6:48 AM, Dec 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-28 10:10:55-05

Christmas is over, and now shoppers are preparing to line up at the mall to return unwanted gifts.

Lisa Gilbert is among them. She was not going to let the Grinch spoil her Christmas.

"I got an ugly Christmas sweater," she said, heading back to Kohl's with a green Grinch sweater.

Millions will be bringing back unwanted gifts between now and late January.

Katherine Cullen, the senior director of industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation, says stores want to make things as smooth as possible.

"We know that overall retailers do expect that about 13% of their holiday sales will end up being returned," she said. "Retailers across the board are really paying attention to returns as a way, not just to ensure that they are protecting their margins and their bottom line, but also building that longer-term customer relationship."

That means the stores will try to do their best to help shoppers return unwanted gifts. But shoppers have to do their part as well.

"It's always helpful to have the original receipt, but a gift receipt always helps to make returns more seamless and make sure that you get the full value back," Cullen said.

No receipt? Expect less money

Cullen says not to worry if asking for the original receipt is too awkward. She says shoppers can still go ahead and make the return, but they should know that they might not get the full value in return.

"Oftentimes, you're you are given a value back for the amount that the item is currently priced," she said. "And the longer you wait, the greater chance it is that the item may have dropped in price, and you may not get as much back as you had originally hoped."

Cullen said stores typically drop prices as January progresses. That means that for shoppers who wait to make returns, items may be worth a lot less than the original price without the original receipt.

Some retailers extending return windows

There is one bit of good news this year. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Consumer World says many large retailers are extending their standard 30-day return policies, especially since people started their Christmas shopping back in October.

Consumer World says these are among the retailers extending their normal return window this year:

  • Amazon will allow returns of most items sold since Oct. 1 to be returned as late as Jan. 31.
  • Amazon has tripled its mattress return policy from 30 to 100 days.
  • Best Buy is giving additional return time for purchases made back in October and November.

Other stores are also being more lenient, especially as the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads and keeps shoppers home.

But even with these longer return windows, the National Retail Federation says don't wait too long to make those returns, so you don't waste your money.

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