Tips for Successful Holiday Returns and Exchanges

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If you received gifts from friends and family this holiday season, you’ve likely gotten a few gifts that you would rather have not received. Or maybe you did get a great gift, but it wasn’t the right size or color. Whatever the issue, this week and next will be a busy time for returns and exchanges. Last year, roughly $284 billion in merchandise was returned, according to National Retail Federation. Here are some tips for making sure your returns are painless.

Familiarize yourself with store return policies

Returning or exchanging gifts during this time of year means you may have to stand in long lines and deal with some incredibly rude shoppers for a lot longer than you’d like. Don’t make your experience worse by having to turn right around and go home after your return is rejected. Following directions is key to a successful return (and maintaining your sanity). Also familiarize yourself with online return policies, as they may be different.

Handle gifts with care—even if you hate them

Don’t even think about wearing that new sweater for a day and then returning it, complete with hidden ketchup stains and hamburger grease. And don’t crush or rip the gift packaging or remove tags. Many retailers require customers to return items in the original packaging, and that includes tags and labels.

Don’t forget gift receipts

If you received a gift receipt, make sure to bring it with you. While some stores do not require a receipt, having one will make for a smoother return. Better yet, before the holiday season rolls around again, tell loved ones that you would like them to include gift receipts with their presents if possible.

Consider skipping the return or exchange altogether

If you’re looking to make some extra cash, consider selling your unwanted gifts online. Some great places to sell your items are Amazon and eBay. You can sell unwanted gift cards at websites such as Gift Card Granny.

Know before you go: store return policies

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Here are return and exchange policies for popular retailers.


During the holiday season, Amazon has special return rules. If you purchased an item shipped by Amazon anywhere from Nov. 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015, you can make a return until January 31, 2016 for a full refund. Items that were not shipped by Amazon may have different return guidelines, so check with the seller to make sure you are in compliance. For more details, go here.

Best Buy

Best Buy also has a special return policy for the holidays. During this time of year, Best Buy offers extended returns and exchanges. If you made a gift purchase from Nov. 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015, you have until January 15, 2016 to make your return. However, some exclusions apply. Among the exclusions are mobile phones and devices with a carrier contract. Best Buy’s holiday returns and exchange details are here.

Land’s End

Receipts are not required. What’s even better is that there is no limit to when you can return an item. You are allowed to return items whenever it is convenient for you. In addition, online items can be returned at a Sear’s store. Find additional details here.


You will be granted a refund or exchange as long as your item is returned in its original condition (Target defines this as unopened and unused). You must also make sure to bring your unwanted purchase within 90 days. Know that returns for electronics and entertainment items have a shorter return period (30 days), so don’t delay when it comes to these gifts. If you are a Target debit or credit REDcard holder, you’re in luck. All customers with these cards automatically receive an additional 30 days to return almost all items purchased with one of these cards.

Target notes some items may have a modified return policy, which should be outlined on your receipt. For example, Target Owned Brand items can be returned within one year, provided you have a receipt. Go to here for more return and exchange details.

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