Holiday Gift Guide

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Gift returns done right

Gift returns are inevitable come the holiday season. No matter how much thought shoppers put into gifts for their loved ones, chances are someone is going to return one of those gifts. Clothing may not fit or a gift might be a duplicate, while other gifts simply don't tickle a recipient's fancy. But returns should not be taken as a personal slight, and men and women can take steps to make the process of returning gifts a lot easier.

Givers

There are many ways to facilitate the process of exchanging gifts or making returns, including finding a gift that is less likely to be retuned. In a survey for the popular department store Kohl's, researchers found that clothing, items for the home and beauty and fragrance items were the gifts most likely to be returned. So shoppers may want to avoid such gifts this holiday season.

Another way to make returning or exchanging gifts easier is to make note of the policies governing such returns and exchanges. Such policies are often posted near checkout areas and are outlined on the back of printed receipts. Before embarking on a shopping trip, shoppers can visit a retailer's Web site and familiarize themselves with its return policies. If rules are unclear, ask an employee.

Shoppers also can shop at stores that allow consumers ample time to return or exchanges gifts. This allows your loved ones to return or exchange a gift when it's most convenient for them.

Many retailers have recognized the advantages to having more liberal return policies. A recent survey by ConsumerWorld.org identified which retailers have made changes and which have maintained the same return policies. Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, Kohl's, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx were found to be the retailers with the most generous regular or holiday return deadlines. Choosing retailers with more lenient return and exchange policies can make things easier on your loved ones.

Shoppers also should include a gift receipt with gifts. This shows recipients that you have their needs in mind and want to make the process of exchanging or returning a gift as easy as possible. Without a receipt, recipients may not get the full value of the item at its time of purchase and only get credited with the current price of the item. Prices are often slashed in the days following the holidays.

Many stores have become more stringent with their return policies in an attempt to avoid fraud. As a result, receipts are essential because without a receipt stores cannot verify purchases or issue a refund or exchange. Certain stores will allow a certain number of returns without a receipt, but these are carefully recorded and linked to a shopper's driver's license number. This makes it easier for retailers to monitor serial returners. Some retailers even refuse returns without  receipts.

Recipients

Try to make returns during less busy times of the day. Long lines at the customer service counter are commonplace in the days after Christmas. Check the receipt for the return deadline, and try to wait at least a week or two after the holiday rush is over, eventually visiting the store in the early morning or late evening when crowds typically have thinned.

Returns for online purchases may be challenging. Some retailers allow returns at their brick-and-mortar stores, while others require consumers to mail back the item. Some stores will only offer store credit instead of a cash refund or replacement of funds on a credit card. Online returns may require the help of the person who gave you the gift.