Returning gifts is such a drag many of us simply toss unwanted presents into a closet with the hopes of re-gifting them in the future. Sadly, waiting in line for returns and exchanges is a ritual many of us still honor. A recent Consumer Reports survey revealed one-in-five Americans plan on celebrating this post-holiday tradition. If you anticipate joining the lengthy queues, keep these seven tips in mind.
1. Don't Open What You Don't Want
Because the merchant can't resell opened items as new, you could be charged a hefty restocking fee just for cracking the lid. Amazon cranks up the charge to 50 percent for software, used books and DVDs; but Overstock takes the cake at 60 percent for open or used products.
2. Keep an Eye on the Date
Some stores have extended the number of days during which you can return holiday gifts, but most still hold to their standard policy. Remember the expiration date is from the time of purchase. In "Return rules at 8 big retailers" published last year, Consumer Reports found the average return period ranged from 30 to 180 days.
3. Resell Gift Cards
You don't need a receipt to exchange unwanted gift cards for cash. Visit GiftCardGranny.com, where you can resell gift cards to several companies for a percentage of the face value.
4. Keep the Gift Receipt
If some thoughtful friend or loved one was kind enough to include a gift receipt, this is your golden ticket for exchanges or returns. Keep in mind that, because such receipts don't indicate the purchase price, the store likely will only reimburse you at the going rate.
5. If You Don't Have a Receipt...
...bring an ID. More than 60 percent of retailers require a customer to show ID when returning an item without a receipt. This is because some stores limit how many times you can return purchases within a set time period.
6. Research the Return Policy
Retailers with websites almost always post their return policies. They may be difficult to find at first, so search under links for "Customer Service," "FAQ" or "Help." You'll find lots of small type, but it's worth reading through all the mouse scrawlings to know exactly what you'll face.
7. Avoid Shipping Charges
Many major retailers -- but not all -- will accept returns of online purchases at their brick-and-mortar stores. You might have to wait in line, but you'll save a bundle on shipping and the hassle of re-boxing a gift and mailing it out.
Guest poster Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. Her goal is to teach consumers how to live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. Andrea has appeared on The Today Show, ABC News NOW, NBC Nightly News, FOX, MSNBC, CW and been quoted in SmartMoney.com, Kiplinger Personal Finance and many others.