Return policies vary during holiday season
By Jennifer Osieczanek
That pair of cat socks you got from your grandmother not quite your style? Not in the market for a vacuum cleaner – at least not for Christmas?
No worries, most stores gladly will accept your holiday returns, but it’s important to check the fine print before you head back to the store because policies can vary greatly.
According to the National Retail Federation, 28 percent of stores change their return policies for the holiday season, with many extending the acceptable return period.
For example, Amazon allows items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 to be returned until Jan. 31, 2014. General return rules such as the product must be in new condition and include all the original packaging and accessories apply. Movies, music, video games and other software must be unopened and still in their plastic wrap. Shoes and clothing must be unworn.
Sears has multiple return policies in place, based on the type of item purchased. There are 30-day, 60-day and 90-day policies.
Items that fall into the 30-day category and were purchased between Nov. 17 and Dec. 24, can be returned through Jan. 24, 2014. Vacuums, sewing machines, video games, movies and jewelry fall into this category.
Toys, games and sporting goods fall into the 60-day return category at Sears and can be returned until Jan. 24 or 60 days after purchase, whichever is longer.
Items that have 90-day return policies are not impacted by the extended holiday returns.
At Target, most unopened items are valid for exchange or refund within 90 days.Target also offers an extra 30 days for returns on purchases made in store or online with the company’s REDcard debit or credit card.
At least one company has shorted its holiday return window this year. Best Buy’s holiday return policy runs through Jan. 15, 2014, for purchases made between Nov. 3 and Dec. 31. That time period is actually shorter than last year, when Best Buy allowed holiday returns until Jan. 24, according to ConsumerWorld.org.
Best Buy also requires identification when returning items in store. But, it’s not alone in that regard. According to the National Retail Federation, 73.7 percent of stores require ID when a customer does not have a receipt and 12.3 require it even with a receipt.
This is in part to help combat retail fraud, a crime that has a large impact on the retail industry.
“The industry will lose an estimated $8.76 billion to return fraud this year, and $3.39 billion during the holiday season alone,” according to the NRF. Overall, 5.8 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, up slightly from 4.6 percent last year.
Among the most prevalent styles of return fraud is “wardrobing.” That’s the return of special occasion dresses after they have been worn. Companies like Express, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s require that such clothing be returned with tags in place in an attempt to prevent customers from wearing the dress one time and then returning it.
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