Tips for Hassle-Free Returns and Exchanges

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Holiday Ribbon photo courtesy: National Retail Federation

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), some retailers make their return policies more lenient during the holiday season, while many have begun to change their policies to account for an increase in return fraud. This holiday season, BBB offers consumer tips for hassle-free purchasing, returning, or exchanging.

Holiday Ribbon photo courtesy: National Retail Federation
Holiday Ribbon photo courtesy: National Retail Federation

“Not every retailer has the same return policy and some businesses even implement separate policies around special sales and holidays,” said Paula Fleming, spokesperson for the local BBB. “We encourage consumers to carefully read and make sure they understand all policies that come with purchases.”

Massachusetts law requires that a business must disclose the store’s policies where the customer can clearly see and understand it before a purchase is made. A business cannot misrepresent the store’s policy or fail to honor it.

Maine law only requires a business to give cash refunds when the customer immediately finds an item defective and returns it right away. If an item is not defective, then whether or not a customer can return it depends on the store’s policy.

Rhode Island law requires businesses to post their return policy at the point of display, cash register or store entrance. If there is no policy posted, a customer is entitled to a refund within 10 business days from the date of purchase if the item is unused and with the original receipt.

Vermont law requires businesses to post their return policy on a sign located at the point of display, cash register or store entrance. If not displayed, a store cannot refuse a refund if the item is non-defective, unused, and returned within a reasonable time from the date of purchase.
BBB offers the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges:

• Keep your receipts. If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present.

• Read the retailer’s return policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise.

• Monitor the ‘return clock.’ Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame and that time frame usually begins when the item is purchased, not when it is given.

• Save time and frustration. Consider arriving at the store when they open to avoid long return lines and bypass the stores’ major crowds on big shopping days like the day after Christmas.

• Understand return policies for sale merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.

• Don’t remove items from their boxes. Some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging.

• Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.

• Have a grasp on store credit restrictions. Refunds issued in the form of merchandise credit may be subject to expiration dates and/or other restrictions may apply like ‘not redeemable online.’

• Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store instead of the online merchant.

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