Even Santa Claus occasionally gives a dud.
To make sure those unwanted presents can be easily exchanged, the National Retail Federation says a gift receipt is key. A gift receipt does not include the price of an item, but allows gift recipients to return or exchange it without a hassle.
Although many shoppers ask for gift receipts when purchasing presents during the holidays, the majority forget to include it in their package, Ana Serafin-Smith, a federation spokeswoman, said.
“We definitely recommend never forget to ask for a gift receipt and place it in the gift,” Serafin-Smith said. “That allows the gift recipient to return it.”
It’s also important not to remove tags and bar codes from the gift items, Serafin-Smith said. Some retailers, like Macy’s, put a second tag on the item after it is purchased. Don’t remove those either, she said.
“Some folks eliminate full tag, or whatever the price was,” Serafin-Smith said. “That is very crucial. You need to have the tag of the item on the item. Most retailers won’t accept the return without that tag.”
Brent Shelton, a spokesman with the deal hunting website FatWallet.com and the Black Friday website BfAds.net, said its also important for shoppers to pay attention to return deadlines. That information may not be on the gift receipt, he added.
For online orders, many come with a return address sticker or special instructions on how to return the item, Shelton said.
About 4 percent of gift recipients return items they received during the holidays, Serafin-Smith said.
A rise in fraudulent returns has forced some retailers to tighten their policies dealing with refunds and exchanges.
In 2015, fraud associated with returns during the holidays total $2.2 billion, up about 3 percent form 2014, Serafin-Smith said. Roughly 76 percent of retailers say they have received returns purchased on a fraudulent credit card, she added.
Returning items that have already been worn or used, known as “wardrobing” in the retail industry, has also become a problem for stores. About 73 percent 0f retailers said they have experienced the practice, a 2015 survey by the federation found.
Customers who are concerned that an item may need to be returned should ask the store about its policy before completing their purchase.
Serafin-Smith said many retailers this holiday season are also asking employees to tell customers about return policies, especially on big ticket items like television sets.
“It is really important to know what the return policy is,” Serafin-Smith said. “That will help you down the road.”
If you lose a receipt, you may still be able to return an item — as long as you paid with a credit card.
Some stores, like Home Depot, can search for a purchase just by swiping your credit or debit card. According to Home Depot’s website, credit and debit cards can be used to find a transaction for up to 90 days after the purchase.
For gift givers who aren’t sure exactly what to buy, gift cards are always a good bet, experts say.
Gift cards remain among the most popular gifts. Roughly 61 percent of shoppers are expected to purchase a gift card during the holiday shopping rush, a National Retail Federation survey found.
“More and more consumers are buying gift cards,” Serafin-Smith said. “That prevents not giving the perfect gift.”
But if you get a gift card for a store you don’t like, it can be sold or traded on third party websites like eBay and Raise.com, Shelton said.
Tips for headache-free returns
- A gift receipt is key. A gift receipt does not include the price of an item, but allows gift recipients to return or exchange it without a hassle.
- Include a gift receipt in in your gifts.
- It’s also important not to remove tags and bar codes from the gift items. Some retailers, like Macy’s, put a second tag on the item after it is purchased. Don’t remove those either.
- Pay attention to return deadlines.
- For online orders, save the return address sticker or special instructions on how to return the item
- When in doubt, ask the store about its return policy before completing the purchase.
- Some stores conduct returns off the credit card you used to make the purchase, so keep track of which you are using and where.