BBB offers tips for returns, exchanges


By John North

Guest columnist

Many of us have begun our holiday shopping for family and friends. However, with so many gifts to give, you’re likely to run into an issue with sizing, wrong color, etc. and have to return or exchange an item. While this seems like an easy process, you may run into problems. Before you return or exchange any items, make sure you know what you need.

Retailers see the biggest number of returns and exchanges after the holiday season. Not only will it be busy, but roughly 60% of retailers said they’re also making changes to existing returns policies, with fewer promising free returns, according to a recent survey of retail executives. Many retailers are rethinking their return policies, shortening the return window and even charging a return or restocking fee. Before you make any returns or exchanges, have a plan in place and understand the store’s policy.

The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to help:

• Find out if the store has a return and exchange policy and, if so, how it works before purchasing. Store policies are usually posted at the check-out counter or printed on the back of receipts.

• Ask the seller if it offers cash refunds, exchanges or only store credit.

• Check if there is a restocking or open box fee.

• Keep your receipt and packaging. Always include a gift receipt with items you give and hold on to any gift receipts you receive.

• Keep in mind if you use the item, it’s less likely a store will accept your return.

• Get details about warranties. Find out how the store handles returns and repairs if an item stops working or needs replacement parts. Some repairs may need to be done by the manufacturer, not the retailer.

• Bring your ID as sometimes retailers require you to bring your ID and the original form of payment.

• Make returns in a timely fashion. Some stores modify their return period during the holidays, so don’t risk missing your chance to make your return.

• Understand return policies for sale and clearance items. They may be different from items purchased at full price.

• Be wary shopping at seasonal stores. Ask if they will be open after the holiday, how long they plan to stay open and if they will accept returns after the holiday season.

• Remember, stores aren’t legally required to accept exchanges or give refunds, unless the merchandise was defective or misrepresented. While most retailers do offer refund and exchange programs, policies vary greatly from one store to another.

• Be kind, it can go a long way in the return process.

If you need to return merchandise online be sure to verify the seller, read reviews, save your order confirmation number and receipt, save the packaging, check whether the item can be returned in the mail or in-store and, as always, watch for scammers.

If you’ve been a victim of a holiday scam, report the matter to BBB Scam Tracker,, and the Federal Trade Commission, For more holiday tips and advice, visit

The writer is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and the Miami Valley.

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