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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Holiday Returns

Sad young lady unpacking wrong parcel, delivery mistake
Prostock-Studio/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Wrong Item Concept. Sad unpset asian lady sitting on couch and unpacking cardboard box, received parcel with damaged staff, covering face in disappointment, feeling dissatisfied with bad purchase

No one enjoys taking things back to stores or sending products back to online retailers, and doing so after the holidays can be especially onerous. Knowing store policies and planning ahead can reduce the stress of returning gifts. You’ll help yourself and gift recipients if you find out how a store handles returns before you buy.

It’s always better to ask about the policy than to find out you made the wrong assumption. Some retailers have expanded their return options, particularly ahead of the holidays. Walmart recently announced it will allow members of its Walmart+ service in some areas to schedule home pickups of returns. Kohl’s announced coupon incentives earlier this year for Amazon returns completed in their stores.

Remember: Stores aren’t legally required to accept items for refund, exchange, or credit unless goods were defective or misrepresented. Some stores provide refunds, while others only issue store credits. A few stores consider all sales to be final. Seasonal stores may have limited hours after the holidays, making it awkward to return unwanted items.

Better Business Bureau’s tips can help shoppers avoid post-holiday frustration. Ask the store about its return policy. Some stores have extended return periods for gifts, while others limit returns to a week or less after the item is purchased. Ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the gift. Don’t assume that regular return policies apply to sale or clearance items. Some merchants consider the sale of such items to be final, so ask before buying. Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking or "open box" fee for returns of electronic products or large-ticket items. A restocking fee can be as high as 25 percent of the purchase price.

Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO, and is responsible for outreach efforts in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations. Quick enjoys helping educate consumers in the southeast Missouri region by sharing consumer tips with groups and educating them about BBB’s resources.