One out of three American shoppers will head to the mall this week to return a holiday gift. That amounts to nearly 50 billion dollars worth of rejected merchandise.
Return fraud is on the rise and so many retailers are clamping down on return policies this year. Retailers estimate they'll lose 17.7 billion dollars to fraudulent returns this year. How can a return be fraudulent? The list includes people who buy, use, and then return merchandise. Especially popular are televisions for big game weekends and special occasion dresses for big dates. I tried on a coat once and found salt packets in the pocket - obviously that coat had special night out at the movies before returning to the sales floor. Other types of return fraud include returning stolen merchandise, using fake receipts and tag swapping.
Because of these thieves, shoppers everywhere will be receive a bit more scrutiny when they try to return or exchange merchandise. Here are a few tips for smooth returns:
1. Bring your receipt, gift receipt or merchandise sticker
Without proof of the purchase price, retailers will usually return the item at its current price, which could be a sale price. Also, without a receipt most retailers will offer store credit rather than a cash refund. 65% of retailers will not accept a return without some proof of purchase.
2. Returns should be in their original packaging
If you wore it or used it - it's yours. Unless it's defective. If it is defective and you're having trouble returning it ask to speak to the store manager or customer service. It that doesn't work contact the Attorney General's Office or a local consumer advocate or agency.
3. Don't delay
Most retailers will only accept gift returns for 30 days, exceptions are large retailer like Macy's (180 days) and Penny's (90 days). Jewelry and electronics have the shortest return window, sometimes as short as 15 days.
4. Be patient
Unless you're shopping at a high service store like Nordstrom or Talbots, it's not going to be fun. But it doesn't have to be stressful if you're patient.
5. Bring a government issued ID
Just in case. Some stores are participating in a national tracking system for return abusers, others manage their own databases of purchases and some will only send a check to an address on a government issued ID.
6. Treat credits and refunds like real money
Many shoppers spend return money and credits more freely and frivolously than cash. The old "burning a hole in my pocket" adage is more true for credits (and gift cards) than any other form of currency.