Following the gift-giving season, if you find that you need to return or exchange one or more presents, here are some tips from the Better Business Bureau and the National Retail Federation that will make your return trip to the shopping center not such a frightful experience:
• Know the retailer's return policy before you head out to the store. Most retailers display return/exchange policies in their stores and post them on their websites. If policies are not clearly displayed, ask a sales associate or a manager to explain them.
• What if there is no receipt? Some retailers allow you to exchange merchandise without a receipt, but oftentimes will only provide merchandise credit for the lowest markdown price at which the item was sold.
• Some retailers won't accept returns unless the item is in its original package. If you plan to take back a gift after it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open it or play with it. No one wants to buy someone else's merchandise.
• Returns are a part of shopping, no matter where you buy. If the gift was purchased online, find out who pays for return shipping - you or the merchant? Some merchants will pick up the delivery charges for exchanges, but not for returns; others offer free return shipping on every return.
Find out if returns or exchanges can be made at an online retailer's nearby brick-and-mortar. Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company. Some merchants have off-site service centers to handle returns that may be in a different location from where the merchandise is sent.
• Be patient. Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the year for retailers. With people's frustration high and tolerance low, be patient when returning merchandise.
Polansky is the education and outreach manager for the Better Business Bureau.