Better Business Bureau: Don't wait too long to return unwanted gifts

Published: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 5:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 10:13 p.m. CDT

Undoubtedly some of those Christmas gifts just didn’t work out for residents and now they have to be returned or exchanged for something else or a different size.

The rush to the stores may seem busier this holiday season, as many retailers have tightened return policies to thwart fraud, according to the Better Business Bureau in Chicago and northern Illinois.

The changes mean consumers shouldn’t wait too long to return those unwanted gifts.

“Many retailers can change policies to place restrictions on returning items this year,” Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB, said in a news release. “Shoppers need to keep in mind that returns are a customer service and are not required by law unless the merchandise is defective.”

A number of big-box retailers have shortened the amount of time they give for returns and have made specific changes to their policies, according to the BBB. Affected most will be returns of electronics and appliances.

Where consumers have been used to having as many as 45 days to return their unwanted gifts, that has been reduced to 30 days in some cases, but can be as few as nine days, Bernas said.

Marvin’s Toy Story in downtown Crystal Lake exceeded sales expectations during the holiday season.

The 6-month-old business will accept returns until Jan. 8, and store credit will be provided after that time, owner Lori McConville said. Consumers have 30 days to return or exchange unopened items.

After the holiday season, the standard policy of store credit after 30 days applies.

“We want people to be happy with what they have,” McConville said. “We had a great season, and you could feel the spirit of Christmas in our store. We want people to be happy with what they get from Marvin’s [Toy Store], and know we have a good quality product.”

Other stores in downtown Crystal Lake apply similar policies, such as Ms. Bossy Boots, whose standard procedures include customers having 10 days to get their money back, 30 days to exchange, and store credit offered after 30 days.

With policy changes, consumers are encouraged to become knowledgeable with the return policies at the stores they shop at, according to the BBB. They shouldn’t rely on what a sales clerk may say, and should look for a written policy, which by law must be displayed.

For information, visit

Gift return tips

• Know the store's return policy and ask what specific return policy applies to the item purchased. Don’t assume the regular return policy applies to sale or clearance items because some merchants consider sale items to be final.
• Save receipts because they usually are needed for returns. Also ask for a gift receipt.
• Keep the original packaging and don't remove electronics or similar products from their boxes before wrapping, as the original packaging may be required for a return.
• Know the online return policy. If returns are permitted, be sure to print a copy of what procedures and time frame need to be followed, along with complete contact information for the business from which you are ordering.
• Returns are a courtesy, so if a person is the gift recipient, don’t assume he or she has the right to return or exchange an unwanted present.
• Understand unusual policies, such as health regulations, which can prohibit the return of certain items, such as hats and intimate apparel.
Source: Better Business Bureau

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