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Make the Most of Your Post-Holiday Returns

written by: moonshadow•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 6/30/2011

Almost everyone gets at least one gift that is not quite perfect, so use these tips to make sure that you make the most of the return.

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    Get a Gift Receipt

    When the economy is tight, accepting holiday gifts that are not quite right makes even less sense than usual. So, how do you get the best return for your gift?

    If you receive a present that is just not everything you had hoped for, and it’s from family or someone you know will not be insulted, ask if they thought to get a gift receipt. Many stores will take post-holiday returns, but without a receipt will give you credit worth the lowest sale price from the last 30 days.

    Getting a gift receipt can mean a significant difference in the amount of the refund. So, to be a good giver, attach gift receipts whenever possible. To be a good recipient, ask if the giver kept the receipt. This can be especially important with electronics, video games and music and dvds as most people have trouble keeping track of their own collection let alone someone else’s.

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    Exchange or Return?

    If you have a receipt and the item is simply the wrong color or wrong size, check the current price before deciding to simply exchange it. After all, that $30 sweater bought in November that is the wrong size, might be on sale now for $15. If you return it, rather than doing a simple exchange, you come out ahead.

    However, if the item has gone up in price or is the same price, an exchange can be easier to do and save you time in the store.

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    Choose a Store

    If you don’t have a receipt, know which store to take it to. This is a lot like shopping around for a present. Since you don’t know where it was bought, why default to taking it to the lowest priced store around? Sure, Walmart makes post-holiday returns easy, but it might be worth checking to see if you can return it to a specialty store at a higher price.

    You also want to be sure that you return it to a store where you will want to spend the gift card. If you can return it for a higher price, but it's at a store where you don't normally shop, you might be better off going to the store that gives you a smaller return.

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    Go On the Right Day

    Avoid doing your returns early the day after Christmas. Wait and go later in the day or even later in the week. This will save you the frustration of the huge lines. In addition, it will mean that you are likely to deal with a friendlier clerk. As a returns clerk, no day of the year is more dreaded than the day after Christmas.

    Wait a few days and then return the item at a time when the store is not swamped.

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    Be Polite and Friendly

    Be sure that you are willing to take store credit in exchange for your return. Most stores will put the money from the return on a gift card with much less fuss than if you demand cash. Some will even refuse to give cash refunds. Just be sure to use your gift card relatively quickly. Many stores begin charging a monthly maintenance fee on gift cards within three months of the time they are issued, so the sooner you use it, the more money you get on the return.

    It’s also a good idea to be certain to be friendly with the clerk handling your return. Make small talk and be polite. The clerk has probably had to deal with dozens of cranky people. When you are polite, people are more willing to help you.

    In addition, the absolute best way to get the greatest value for your post-holiday returns is to use the cash from the returns at post-holiday sales. By looking for good sales, you can often turn a less than perfect gift into something you really want or need.