Strategies for hassle-free holiday returns

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

ATLANTA -- Giving and receiving gifts is a big holiday tradition, but there is a downside to the usually happy exchange. Retailers expect to lose $3.4 billion to return fraud this holiday season, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

The types of fraud include everything from "wardrobing" -- the practice of buying an item, wearing it with tags, then returning it -- to e-receipt fraud. This year, retailers expect 10 percent of holiday sales to result in returns, and 28 percent of retailers say they have changed their holiday return policies.

Some have gotten more strict with their holiday return policies, while others relax their policies around the holidays, says Cameron Huddleston, contributing editor of Huddleston recently compiled a list of stores that stand out for their generous policies including Anthropologie, Costco, J.C. Penney, Kohl's, Macy's and Zappos. Nordstrom, a super standout, doesn't even have a return policy -- they just work with each customer on a case-by-case basis, Huddleston says.

But even the generous stores may restrict returns on certain items such as electronics, furniture or jewelry, and they may charge a restocking fee.

If you find yourself having to return something this holiday season, keep a few tips in mind:

-- Avoid making returns the day after Christmas. Check the store's holiday return policy and find a less hectic day before the deadline. If you have any problems with your return, you'll have an easier time getting help from staff and managers if stores aren't crowded.

-- Confirm the return policy details before you go. Retailers with special holiday return policies may extend returns through January for items purchased as early as October. Be sure the item you want to return doesn't have a smaller return window, and if the policies are not clearly provided online or on your receipt, call customer service, Huddleston says.

-- You may be able to return gifts purchased online in a physical store, but check first since some retailers may not allow the practice.

-- Take a gift receipt, packing slip or some proof of purchase. While it isn't always necessary -- some stores can track purchases internally -- it makes the process smoother. Also, be sure to return the item in its original packaging. And know that when returning a gift, you are going to receive a gift card or store credit.

Nedra Rhone writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: nrhone(at)

Story Filed By Cox Newspapers

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