ANNAPOLIS, MD — Some presents can easily be exchanged for something more to your taste than the Snuggie, cheap cologne or ugly sweater you receive in a holiday gift exchange, even if you don’t have a receipt.
There are still options to exchange gifts at the store, although a receipt makes the gift-return process easier. And a warning: Don’t open the packaging for any music, movies, video games or computer software if you plan to return it. Once it’s out of the packaging, the best you can hope for is an exchange for a similar item in the store.
Return policies vary widely among national retailers, from practically no limits at Nordstrom and Kohl’s, to stringent rules on DVDs and computer software at Best Buy, Toys R’ Us and other businesses.
- Know the Return Deadlines: The time period allowed for returns varies by store, and even by item, with typically only a couple of weeks allowed for electronics. Some shops offer store credit, while others do exchanges or refunds.
- Get the Receipt: As a gift-giver, you should ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the gift. There are ways to ask for a receipt – either the original or a gift receipt. Perhaps the size is off, or you already have the movie, or book. Some stores may offer store credit on items brought back without a receipt, and typically that is worth the store’s most recent price.
- Don’t Remove Tags: Opening packages or removing tags makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to return gifts, and you can be charged a restocking fee. Don’t take off tags until you’re sure you want to keep the gift.
- Keep Electronics/DVDs in Packaging: Don’t remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping. The original packaging may be required for a return. In some cases, such as DVDs or music CDs, the package must remain sealed.
- Beware Sale or Clearance Items: Some stores consider the sale of these items to be final, so ask before buying. If you are the gift recipient, do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted gift.
- Bring A Photo ID: Many stores will scan your driver’s license or other government ID to ensure that shoppers aren’t taking advantage of the system if they want to make a return without a receipt.
- Timing is Key: Return lines can be lengthy the day after Christmas, so pick a time when the store is unlikely to be crowded. Remember the customer service clerks likely have holiday fatigue, so be polite when talking to them. If you are a regular customer or have a store credit account, mention that as you discuss return options. Merchants are usually willing to accommodate loyal customers.
Patch has checked the return policies of some of the country’s biggest retailers in case you find a present from Santa you’d rather swap out. Here’s hoping you can avoid the long lines at customer service on Dec. 26.
- Target: Most unopened items can be exchanged or returned for a refund within 90 days of purchase. Electronics and entertainment items – including laptops, eReaders, tablets, cameras, camcorders, digital audio players, GPS systems, videogame hardware, and personal DVD players — must be returned within 30 days for a refund or exchange. Drones must be returned within 14 days. If these items were purchased between Nov. 1 and Christmas Day, the 30-day refund period will start on Dec. 26. Open music, movies, video games and software cannot be returned, but may be exchanged for the same title.
- Walmart: For the holiday gift-buying season, Walmart has adjusted its return policy for items with a limited return/exchange period, such as TVs, cameras, computers, DVD and music players. For those purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, the limited return period of 15 or 30 days will begin Dec. 26. For all others, returns are accepted within 90 days after purchase. CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, audiotapes, videotapes and video games must be returned unopened.
- Macy’s: If you bring the receipt with your item, the store will issue a full refund in the original form of payment. If you do not have a receipt, you will receive a gift card for the item’s lowest sales price within the last 180 days.
- Toys R’ Us: Returns for many items in new condition, with original packaging, are made within 90 days of purchase. Include all paperwork, such as manuals and assembly instructions, and all accessories. Gifts returned will issue a refund to the purchaser in the original form of payment used to purchase the item, if you have a receipt. To return something without a receipt you need a debit or credit card number, check number, or driver’s license. Returns can only be made in 30 days for camcorders, cameras, DVD players, cell phones and video game consoles. And the window for returns shrinks to 15 days for eReaders, laptops, netbooks and tablets.
- Victoria’s Secret: Within 90 days of purchase, customers receive credit back to the original payment method shown on a receipt. If you’re past the 90-day mark, you will receive a merchandise credit. If you don’t have the receipt, the store will exchange merchandise or issue a merchandise credit, based on the lowest selling price of the item.
- Kohl’s: The chain has one of the most liberal return policies among national retailers; there are no time restrictions on returns. Whether a gift was purchased in store or online, take the item and your gift receipt to the Customer Service Desk of any Kohl’s store near you. If you don’t have a receipt, you can return your item for a merchandise credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price toward anything in the store.
- Best Buy: Most items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 15, although that doesn’t apply to cell phones and devices with a carrier contract. Opened computer software, movies, music or video games can only be exchanged for an identical item.
- Nordstrom: There is no firm policy, the upscale department store says on its website, and no timeframe for returns and exchanges. “We handle returns on a case by case basis with the ultimate objective of satisfying the customer. We stand behind our goods and services and want customers to be satisfied with them. We’ll always do our best to take care of customers — our philosophy is to deal with them fairly and reasonably; we hope they will be fair and reasonable with us as well.”
- Sears: Some items purchased between Nov. 8 and Dec. 24 will have extended return periods through Jan. 24. Items in their original packaging, with the original receipt, can be returned for a refund or exchange in many cases. Floor care equipment, vacuums, major home appliances, sewing machines, and heating equipment are not covered by the extended return policy. Opened music, movies, computer software and video games can only be exchanged for an identical item.
- Burlington Coat Factory: An original receipt dated within 30 days of purchase is required for all returns or exchanges in stores. Merchandise must be in new condition, unused and unwashed and in its original packaging. Refunds will be issued in the original form of payment. Returns without a receipt and returns after 60 days require a photo ID (driver’s license, state issued non-driver ID, passport, or military ID); the shopper will receive a gift card for the lowest selling price.
- JCPenney: If you have a receipt, your item will be exchanged or refunded for the purchase price on the original method of payment in most cases. A store gift card will be given for items that have a gift receipt, or an exchange can be made at the store. Customers without a receipt can receive a refund at the lowest sales price within the past 45 days, or exchange the item.
- Old Navy/ The Gap/ Banana Republic: You have up to 45 days to return items purchased at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. Items that are unwashed and unworn, or defective, are eligible for returns or exchanges. The stores will exchange gifts, or return them for a gift card for the original price paid.