Whoever coined the phrase “many happy returns” probably wasn’t talking about trying to get a refund or exchange on a purchase or gift after the holidays. Too bad there’s no such thing as a universal return policy to take the guesswork and frustration out of those post-Christmas customer service visits.
The good news is that in the age of gift receipts and competing for customer loyalty, more major retailers are adopting a spirit of giving by extending their normal return policies so as not to penalize early bird shoppers. And others are working to build year-round, hassle-free policies to make returns a cinch.
In general, keep these tips in mind:
- Whether you’re a gift giver or a recipient, having a receipt, packing slip, or gift receipt will always put you in a better position for an exchange. If you hate saving paper, snap a photo, or take advantage of e-receipts that you can store in your email inbox.
- Don’t wait too long after the New Year to hit the mall for returns. Even stores with generous return policy extensions aren’t likely to help you come February.
- Read the fine print. Exclusions always apply, and most retailers expect items to be unopened and in original packaging.
That being said, here’s a roundup of some major chains’ return policies for the 2014 holiday season and beyond:
Amazon: Any items shipped by Amazon.com between November 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015, may be returned until January 31, 2016, for a full refund. If you’re the gifter, include the gift receipt or packing slip so the recipient has the order number handy for returns.
Walmart: Its general policy is that most returns can be made within 90 days after purchase. While certain items only have a 15- or 30-day limit (like TVs, cameras, computers, DVD and music players, etc.), for purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, the limited return period will begin Dec. 26.
Target: Like Walmart, most unopened items in new condition can be returned within 90 days, but electronics and entertainment items have a smaller 30 day window. Anything purchased between 11/1 – 12/25, however, will use the start date of 12/26. Target debit and credit REDcard card holders will receive an extra 30 days to return nearly all items purchased with their REDcard at Target and Target.com. Watch out for modified return policies noted on the receipt or packing slip of certain items.
Best Buy: While their normal return policy is a skimpy 15 days, you can return or exchange almost everything bought throughout November and December through January 15, 2016.
Kohl’s: Kohl’s has one of the best return policies around, 365 days a year. In essence, it has no time restrictions on purchases, and if the item was bought with a Kohl’s charge card, you don’t even need a receipt.
JC Penney: All items purchased at JCP are eligible for exchange or refund of the purchase price on the original method of payment. There is no time frame mentioned except for fine jewelry, and some electronics, which have a 60 day policy; furniture has 30 days. Without a receipt, items purchased at JCP are eligible for exchange or refund at the item’s lowest selling price within the last 45 days issued in the form of a merchandise return voucher.
K-Mart: Any returns at this discount retail giant are accepted within 30 days of purchase. While no specific holiday policy is noted, an original receipt or email confirmation is required for all returns and exchanges. Special items like Consumer Electronics, Gas Powered Equipment, and Watches & Jewelry will have shorter grace periods (like 7 days), so inquire if you plan to buy things in those categories.
Macy’s: As long as you have proof of purchase, you can receive a full refund in the original form of payment or store credit if you’re returning a gift. If you do not have proof of purchase, credit will be issued in the form of a “Happy Returns” Gift Card for the item’s lowest selling price within the last 180 days.
Sears: To accommodate holiday returns, select items purchased between 11/8/15 and 12/24/15 will have extended return periods as follows: Items which typically have a 30-day return period under the standard return policy may be returned through 1/24/16. Of course, there are always exceptions, and at Sears that includes floor care equipment, vacuums, major home appliances, sewing machines, water treatment, plumbing, heating equipment – none of which will be covered by the extended Holiday Return Policy.
Toys “R” Us: They’ve gotten better about their return policy in the last couple of years, but be sure to have a receipt or gift receipt. Most returns can be made within 90 days of the purchase date.