Consumer Alert: Check return policies before buying gifts

Posted: Updated:
EDISON -

The final rush of holiday shopping is underway, but what if a gift isn't quite right? Returning gifts can be easy, or tricky, depending on the merchant.

One-third of holiday shoppers say return policies are an important factor in where they shop.

Melissa Companick, from the Better Business Bureau, says retailers don't have to take merchandise back.

"A retailer is allowed to have whatever return policy they want, provided they disclose it to you up front, transparently, before you make your purchase," Companick says.

Policies can vary widely.

According to a survey by Consumer Reports, stores that offer positive return experiences include Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, Eddie Bauer, Lands' End and Kohl's. Each of these stores have no time limit on returns, as long as the shopper has a receipt.

L.L. Bean and Bed Bath and Beyond stopped doing that this year, but still offer a full year to return most items.

On the stingy side: Apple has a 14-day limit on most returns and Best Buy gives 15 days. Sears, Kmart and Forever 21 have 30-day return limits.

The Better Business Bureau says to get the best treatment, save your receipt.

"There are retailers that are very generous and say you don't need a receipt, but that doesn't mean you'll get 100 percent of your money back," Companick says. "You may get the lowest sale price during a certain time period, or you may get a store credit."

The good news is, return policies are often more lenient during the holidays.

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