Connecticut Better Business Bureau recommends shoppers ask about gift return policies before pulling out the plastic to pay, as terms and conditions can vary widely from one retailer to another.
“Giving and receiving gifts is one of the great pleasures of the holidays,” says Connecticut BBB President, Paulette Scarpetti. “If there is any kind of problem with the gift, it’s important to make sure the store or website’s terms and conditions won’t create headaches for people looking to exchange or return a gift.”
Store policies are usually displayed prominently at the entrance or cash registers and should be easily accessed on websites. These may deal with many issues including a time frame during which articles may be returned, who pays return shipping costs and whether there are “re-stocking fees.” Some sellers may require as much as 25 percent of an item’s value if packaging is damaged and the item cannot be resold as new.
Connecticut BBB offers several tips to help gift givers and recipients avoid unpleasant surprises in the customer service line:
Keep all paperwork and packaging: Most retailers insist on receipts for returned items. Help gift recipients by including a gift receipt or other proof of purchase.
Not all items will be accepted for return: Find out in advance whether sale or clearance-priced gifts will be accepted. Such sales may be considered final and not covered by stores’ returns policies. For health reasons, certain items such as hats, swimwear and other garments may not be eligible for return or exchange.
Delivery dates are guaranteed by federal law: Consumers have the right to cancel a purchase and demand a refund if orders placed by mail, online or by telephone are not shipped by the date promised.
If no delivery date was specified, the item must be shipped within 30 days. Consumers also have the right to return gifts if the seller misrepresented the item, or shipped the wrong size or color, or sent items that were defective.
But beware. As generous as one might be during the holiday season, companies are not required to accept returns or exchanges nor issue refunds or credits. Before you find yourself crying Grinch, understand that refund and exchange policies can differ significantly from one seller to another.
While many major retailers have policies that will allow you to bring back any item at any time for any reason (or no reason at all), consumers should not assume all outlets will accept returns.
A store’s particular policy may only be applicable at that one location. Just because a major retailer has a liberal policy that allows recipients to obtain a store credit for an item that was opened, used, or perhaps not even purchased at that store, doesn’t mean that all branches are obliged to do the same.
Consumers can find advice on staying safe online and in stores at http://www.bbb.org/
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Founded in 1928, Connecticut BBB is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. For more advice on finding companies and businesses, start your search with trust at www.bbb.org.