So the purple and chartreuse shirt you bought for your honey didn’t work out, Junior wasn’t crazy about that hot new toy you gave him and even your mother wasn’t thrilled with the sweater you just knew she would love. Back to the trenches! With the crush of people showing up at the customer service counter on December 26, you can only hope for “happy returns.”
It’s too late for this year, but a mental note for next year is in order: Always check the return policy before you purchase a gift with an eagle eye on the fine print. Exclusions, restocking fees and other restrictions can make for “no return” at all. Ditto for the 14-day return window when you show up on the 15th day.
A receipt is the holy grail of the retail business so always, always, always hold onto yours. They are the ticket to those “happy returns.” Gift receipts are helpful but, remember, in most cases the item you — or the recipient — is returning will likely be exchanged for a gift card for that store.
Here are highlights of some major chains’ return policies:
Barnes and Noble: You must act fast for a return here — B & N will only will do a refund to your original form of payment for 14 days. If you have a gift receipt, the refund will be in the form of a gift card. Items must be returned in their original condition; shrink-wrapped products must be unopened. Items purchased online are accepted within 14 days of the date that you received your order.
Bed, Bath and Beyond: The store accepts returned items for exchange, refund or a credit at any of the company’s stores nationwide or you can send the item to the returns processing center. Bed, Bath and Beyond will send you a pre-paid shipping label. Read the guidelines and follow the instructions on the website. If you don’t have an invoice or pre-paid shipping label, call 9-800-GOBEYOND (800-462-3966) for help. Without the original packing invoice and your credit card, you may exchange the item or get a merchandise credit. Items bought with a gift card will be refunded as a merchandise credit. If you send your item to the returns processing center, you will get a merchandise credit that can be used in any Bed, Bath and Beyond story or the gift recipient may receive a check refund.
Best Buy: Best Buy is extending the return period for items purchased between Nov. 4 and Dec. 24, 2012, through Jan. 24, 2013. Some items are not returnable. The company requires the original receipt and gift receipt or packing slip for all returns or exchanges. You must also show a valid photo ID if you’re doing an in-store return. Your refund will be in the same form of payment as your purchase. Usually Bestbuy.com purchases can be returned to a store or by mail. For proof of delivery, Best Buy recommends you return items via UPS or, if you use the U. S. Post Office, that you insure the package.
Kohl’s: Kohl’s offers a “No Questions Asked – Hassle Free” return policy for all purchases. There are no time restrictions on returns, and sales associates can locate Kohl’s Charge purchases up to 12 months after the purchase date, to credit your account. Non-Kohl’s Charge purchases or purchases made beyond 12 months qualify for a Kohl’s merchandise credit or a corporate-issued refund check. You can return items bought on Kohls.com by mail or you can bring them into any Kohl’s store for return or exchange.
JC Penney: JC Penney calls it: “happy returns, any item, anytime, anywhere.” If you have a receipt, JC Penney will exchange the item or refund the purchase price on the original method of payment. If you’re returning the item with a gift receipt, you will get a JCP gift card. Without a receipt, you can exchange the item or get a refund at the current price in the form of a JCP gift card. Valid photo ID is required for items exchanged or returned without a receipt. If you purchased the item online, complete the “returns or exchange” form on the invoice and return it with the item. If you don’t have the invoice, send your name, address, phone number and approximate date of purchase to the nearest JCP.com facility. Items purchased online can be returned to a store or a jcp.com pick-up and return center or by mail. Details are on the company website.
K-Mart: In general, K-Mart accepts items for return for 90 days after date of purchase with an original/email confirmation. Some items. like jewelry and air conditioners, must be returned within 30 days. Refunds will be issued in the original method of payment online and in the store with the exception of purchases made in the store by check. They will be refunded with cash. Returns without a receipt /email confirmation will not be accepted. For returns by mail, fill out the bottom of the packing slip, including the reason for your return to include with the item. Put the return address label from the packing slip over your original shipping address on the package. K-Mart says you should insure your package and keep a copy of the tracking number.
Macy’s: Macy’s says it will accept for exchange or return merchandise that “doesn’t completely satisfy you.” If you have a receipt, you can return the item at any time and receive a full refund in the original form of payment, regardless of the purchase date. If you don’t have a receipt, you have 180 days to return the item. The sales associate can scan the tag on the item to tell if you purchased it within the 180 days. Without proof of purchase, you will receive a store credit for the item’s lowest selling price within the last 180 days. Most items purchased at macys.com can be returned by mail or to a Macy’s store with original proof of purchase. There are some restrictions.
Sears: The return period for Sears purchases varies depending on the item–from 90 days for things like clothing to 60 days for items that include major appliances and fitness and outdoor merchandise to 30 days for items such as computers, jewelry and office supplies. Sears has extended the window for returning holiday gifts. Items purchased between Nov. 11, 2012 and Dec. 24, 2012 that usually have a 30-day return period can be returned through Jan. 24, 2013. Items purchased between Nov. 11, 2012 and Dec. 24, 2012 that usually have a 60-day return period can be returned through 60 days from the date of purchase or Jan. 24, 2013 whichever comes later. Sears.com purchases can be returned to any full-line Sears store or by mail. See the website for details.
Target: Target prints a “return by” date on its receipts and says it promises to “attempt a return” on every item it sells. The return by date is usually 90 days from date of purchase although some items must be returned within 30 days. If you use Target’s REDcard debit or credit card, you get an extra 30 days to return nearly all items. For Target.com returns go to the online return center to print a prepaid Target.com return label. Return options and methods will be be shown. Shipping and handling fees will be deducted from your refund unless the return is because of Target’s error. You can also return the item to a Target store. Bring the packing slip and the credit card you used to purchase the item.
Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart is extending the return period for items that would otherwise have a 15-day or 30-day return period. This applies to items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24. You can start counting the 15 or 30 days from Dec. 26. You must still return items with a 90-day return window within 90 days. Wal-Mart does accept returns without a receipt. You have the option of a cash refund if the purchase was under $25, a shopping card for the amount of the purchase if it was over $25 or an even exchange. You can return or exchange items purchased at Walmart.com to a store or you by mail for a refund or replacement. Follow the instructions on the website to get a pre-paid return label. You will receive a refund or replacement if the item is in stock.
You can find information about some other stores’ return policies at DealNews.