MARYLAND — If you received an ugly sweater from Christmas that the giver thought was cute, or you already have enough knit scarves? Many retailers have extended the time you have to return holiday gifts, even if you don’t have a receipt.
Most retailers will exchange gifts, although a receipt simplifies and speeds up the return process. There’s one area where that isn’t true: Do not open the packaging for music, movies, video games or computer software if there’s a chance you will return it. Once those items have been taken out of the package, the best you can hope for is an exchange for a similar item in the store.
Return policies vary widely among national retailers, from practically no limits at American Eagle Outfitters, Land’s End, Nordstrom and Kohl’s, to stringent rules that allow only unopened DVDs and computer software to be returned at Best Buy and other retailers.
Many businesses extend their normal deadline for returns for the holiday season, including Amazon’s holiday policy, which gives you until Jan. 31 to return gifts that were purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Among the stores known for the easiest return policies are Nordstrom, L.L. Bean, Costco, Eddie Bauer, Zappos, JCPenney and Kohl’s, according to Consumer Reports.
Retailers deemed among the worst for returns Sears, Kmart, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Apple.
Patch has checked the return policies of some of the country’s biggest retailers in case you find a present from Santa you’d rather swap out. Hopefully, you can avoid the long lines at customer service starting on Thursday, Dec. 26.
- Amazon: Most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon can be returned within 30 days of delivery for a full refund. Items shipped by Amazon between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned until Jan. 31 for a full refund.
- Banana Republic: The standard return policy allows 45 days after an item is purchased. Jan. 15 for orders placed Nov. 1-Dec. 24 or within 45 days of purchase, whichever is later.
- Barnes & Noble: The book, music and toy seller has a 14-day window for returns.
- Bass Pro Shops: The outdoor store has a 60 day window for returns.
- Belk: The department store chain allows 180 days for returns.
- Costco: The warehouse chain has a 90 day return deadline for some electronics and appliances; there is no deadline for most merchandise.
- Eddie Bauer: The outdoor-themed clothing chain has no deadline for returns.
- Target: Most unopened items can be exchanged or returned for a refund within 90 days of purchase. Electronics and entertainment items must be returned within 30 days for a refund or exchange. If these items were purchased between Nov. 1 and Christmas Day, the 30-day refund period will start on Dec. 26. Open music, movies, video games and software cannot be returned but may be exchanged for the same title.
- Apple: Items purchased at the Apple Online Store that are received between Nov. 15 and Dec. 25 may be returned through Jan. 8, 2019. All purchases made after Dec. 25 are subject to a 14-day return deadline. Items that may not be returned include: opened software, electronic software downloads, software upgrades and Apple Store gift cards.
- Bed Bath and Beyond: Returns with an original receipt can be made at any stores nationwide for an exchange or merchandise refund for the amount paid for 180 days. If you don’t have a receipt, the store will exchange the gift for 20 percent less than the current selling price, give a merchandise credit for 20 percent less than the current selling price.
- Kohl’s: There are no time restrictions on returns for most merchandise. Whether a gift was purchased in store or online, take the item and your gift receipt to the Customer Service Desk of any Kohl’s store near you. If you don’t have a receipt, you can return your item for a merchandise credit based on the lowest 13-week sale price toward anything in the store. The return deadline is Jan. 31 for premium electronics purchased from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25.
- Walmart: For the holidays, Walmart has a limited return/exchange period for cameras, computers, DVD and music players. For electronics, the limited return period of 15 or 30 days will begin Dec. 26. For all others, returns are accepted within 90 days after purchase. CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, audiotapes, videotapes and video games must be returned unopened.
- Macy’s: Holiday returns must happen by Jan. 31 for orders placed Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, for items that have 60-day policy, or 60 days, whichever is later.
- Victoria’s Secret: Within 90 days of purchase, customers receive credit back to the original payment method shown on a receipt. After 90 days, you will receive a merchandise credit.
- Best Buy: Most items purchased between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 14, although that doesn’t apply to cell phones and devices with a carrier contract. Opened computer software, movies, music or video games can only be exchanged for an identical item.
- Nordstrom: There is no firm policy, the upscale department store says on its website, and no time frame for returns and exchanges. A receipt will help with returns, but the company says it can find the transaction without it most times.
- Old Navy/ The Gap/ Banana Republic: You have up to 45 days to return items purchased at Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. Items that are unwashed and unworn or defective are eligible for returns or exchanges. The stores will exchange gifts or return them for a gift card for the original price paid.
- Zappos: You can return your item(s) for a full refund within 1 year of purchase. Returns must be unworn, in the state you received them, and in the original packaging.
- T.J. MAXX: Returns must be made by Jan. 25 for orders made between Oct. 13 and Dec. 24.
You can find the full list of 100+ Holiday Return Policies for 2018 on the Offers.com website.
The Better Business Bureau and Investopedia offer a few tips to help make the return process easier.
- Know the Return Deadlines: The time period allowed for returns varies by store, and even by item, with typically only a couple of weeks allowed for electronics. Some shops offer store credit, while others do exchanges or refunds.
- Get the Receipt: As a gift-giver, you should ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the gift. There are ways to ask for a receipt – either the original or a gift receipt. Some stores may offer store credit on items brought back without a receipt, and the value given is usually the store’s most recent price.
- Don’t Remove Tags: Opening packages or removing tags makes it more difficult, and with some sellers impossible, to return gifts, and you can be charged a restocking fee. Don’t take off tags until you’re sure you want to keep the gift.
- Beware Sale or Clearance Items: Some stores consider the sale of these items to be final, so ask before buying. If you are the gift recipient, do not assume you have the right to return or exchange an unwanted gift.
- Bring A Photo ID: Many stores will scan your driver’s license or other government ID to ensure that shoppers aren’t taking advantage of the system if they want to make a return without a receipt.
- Timing is Key: Expect long return lines the day after Christmas, so head to the store when it is less likely to be crowded. Keep in mind that the customer service clerks probably have holiday fatigue, so be polite when talking to them. If you are a regular customer or have a store credit account, mention that as you discuss return options. Merchants are usually willing to accommodate loyal customers.