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Five Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Returns

November 25, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

The long and winding bill by Maica | iStockphoto.comTo ensure that recipients are happy with holiday gifts, millions of Americans will rely on gift receipts to enable loved ones to return or exchange a gift seamlessly when the holidays are over. According to NRF’s 2009 Holiday Returns Survey, 58.6 percent of shoppers said they enclose a gift receipt most of the time or some of the time when giving a gift. The survey also found that 87.9 percent of shoppers feel that retailers’ return policies are fair. 

“Whether it’s a toy, an appliance, a DVD or a sweater, gifts of all shapes and sizes can be easily returned when a gift receipt is attached,” said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation. “In this economy, no one wants to worry that a present will be a duplicate, or go unused, so many people are relying on gift receipts to make the returns process easier.”

Although gift receipts make returns easy, many people didn’t need to return a thing last holiday season. According to the survey, more than two-thirds (67.1%) of gift recipients said they did not return any gifts last year, up from the 65.2 percent who went sans returns in 2007. 

NRF’s tips for stress-free returns after the holidays:

1.  Know the retailer’s return policy before you buy. Most retailers have return policies
prominently displayed, especially at this time of year. Gift-givers should read and remember them. If policies are not clearly displayed, ask a sales associate or a manager to explain them to you. Most retailers also outline their return policy on their website.

2.  Save and file all receipts! Receipts are still the key to hassle-free returns. Some retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt, but oftentimes will only provide merchandise credit for the lowest markdown-price at which the item was sold during the holiday season. Make sure to provide the recipient with a gift receipt to save hassle after the holidays. 

3.  Provide all original packaging and all parts (including tags) when giving a gift. 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. 

4.  Make online returns easy! Returns are a part of shopping, no matter where you buy. In addition to the other rules of returns, here are a few things to find out before you purchase a gift online:

–  Know the process: Who pays for shipping the return–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.

–  Where to make returns: Does the retailer have a physical store, and can returns or exchanges be made there? Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company. Some merchants have offsite service centers to handle returns that may be in a different location from where the merchandise is sent.

5.  Be patient. Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the retail year. With people’s frustration high and tolerance low, be patient when returning merchandise.

By: Kathy Grannis
Published: December 8, 2009

The NRF 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 8,692 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, November 3-10, 2009. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent. 

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.

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One Response to “Five Tips for Stress-Free Holiday Returns”
  1. When it comes to stress-free holiday returns, tip number 3 is definitely the most forgotten tip due to Christmas wrapping paper. Even though many retailers will return gifts during the holiday return grace period, they definitely discount the return value.

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