How to Make the Most of Holiday Returns

Despite shoppers best efforts to buy thoughtful holiday gifts, many consumers will find themselves at customer service come Dec. 26. According to the National Retail Federation, 38% of gift recipients returned at least one gift last year. Returning products with a receipt makes for the most hassle-free experience, yet only 32% of gift givers included a receipt with their gift in 2014.
Holiday Returns
To avoid getting stuck with something you don’t want or receiving less than what the giver paid for the item, follow these eight tips to make the most of your holiday returns.

  1. Review return policies.
    Many retailers offer extended return policies over the holiday season, but it’s still important to review dates and return unwanted items as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the deeper some items will get discounted and you don’t want to get stuck with a very low sale price if you don’t have a receipt.
  2. Don’t get stuck paying restocking fees.
    To avoid paying 15% or more in restocking fees, keep all original boxes and don’t open packages you don’t plan to keep. Restocking fees are typical with electronic purchases or big-ticket items like TVs and furniture. Amazon Marketplace sellers may also charge a restocking fee of 20-50%, depending on the condition of the item.
  3. Negotiate for free return shipping.
    If an online retailer is charging you a return shipping fee and you’re dissatisfied with the product, open a live chat or call customer service to ask them to waive the fee as a one-time courtesy. You may think this is a long-shot, but in reality most customer service reps want to make you happy especially if you’re unsatisfied with the product!
  4. Sell unwanted gift cards or store credit.
    Since 81 percent of shoppers intend to buy a gift card during the holidays, it stands to reason a few of these will miss the mark. Happily, unsatisfied gift card recipients can exchange their card for cash at Walmart and now Target, who recently launched a gift card buy-back program. The amount you receive depends on the gift card merchant and balance.
  5. Plus-size your exchange.
    Stretch your returned dollars by using coupons on sale items. You can expect an abundance of end-of-year sales and promotions from your favorite stores, so hit the shops early for the best inventory. Apparel, holiday decor and video games are especially good buys after Christmas. For easy search and redemption, download the Coupon Sherpa mobile app for instant access to hundreds of top coupons.
  6. Organize receipts and shipping documents.
    The best way to ensure hassle-free returns is to have your gift receipt or purchase confirmation handy. Request digital receipts to instantly organize purchase slips in your email, or download the OneReciept app to digitally store all your receipts.
  7. Review card protection.
    If you’re missing receipts or attempting to return past a limited-time period, call your credit card company. Many cards offer extended return protection and other helpful return options for purchases made with the card. You will likely need to send the merchandise directly to the credit card issuer, but they will usually cover shipping costs. Just make sure the goods are in like-new condition.
  8. Sell items you can’t return.
    On December 26 and 27, at eight Westfield centers across the country, eBay pop-up kiosk and drop box locations make it easy for consumers to sell their unwanted holiday items on eBay, through eBay Valet or by listing the items on directly. What’s more, clothing can be sold through online consignment stores such as LikeTwice or, and unwanted gadgets can be sold to big-box stores like Walmart and BestBuy, or online through such sites as NextWorth or Gazelle.

About the Author

Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance, CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her website at for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money tips.