January 6 2009|09.00 AM UTC

David Tu

Six Return & Refund Pitfalls to Avoid for Holiday Gifts

Category: Uncategorized

I know what you’re thinking.  It’s been almost two weeks since the holidays are over with and you’d rather not think about the holiday seasons again for another 11 months.  If you’re like us though, you may have some of those gifts you’ve been meaning to return but just haven’t gotten around to yet — worry not, as there are still a bit of time left to return grandma’s hand picked sweater.  Don’t worry, we won’t tell her.

Here are some refund pitfalls you should avoid before you start heading out to the stores or making calls to return an item to an online store, this will both save you time and help you avoid any potential headaches:

1.  No refunds for opened package. Check the return policy for the product in question before you decide to open up your newly received DVD box set of Dora the Explorer.  Most entertainment media needs to be returned unopened in order for you to receive a full refund.

2.  High restock fees. As with opening packages, you should make sure there isn’t a restock fee associated with opening the gift you wish to return.  A 15% restock fee is pretty standard for most electronics, but you should realize that certain smaller retail stores or online retailers may have high restock fees to deter returns.

3.  Receipts required. Although some large retailers can look up the sales transaction purchased by a credit or debit card, most retailers still requires that you have a receipt or invoice available to be issued a refund.  If you don’t have the original receipt or even a gift receipt and the retailer specifically states that they require a receipt for all returns, you may be hard pressed to convince a representative at customer service to let you slide.

4.  Electronics usually have exceptions. You’ve probably already know this already, but it’s good to keep this in mind anyways.  Most electronics will have exceptions to return deadline.  Computers, laptops, video game systems and other high-end electronics will usually have to be returned within 15 days of purchase.  Along with the shorten return deadline, many will also carry with it the 15% restock fee that was mentioned earlier.

5.  Most type of medias also have exceptions. Music CDs, DVDs, video game software, computer software and other related medias will also carry with them exceptions.  Most stores will not allow you to get a refund if you have opened the plastic wrap for the software in question.  Many do however allow you to exchange defective CDs, DVDs, and software.

6.  Offline and online store exclusions. Be sure you know where the items were purchased from, as many large retailers have different return policies for offline and online purchases.  To make matters more hectic, many retailers won’t be able to accomodate online purchase returns at local storefronts.  Take Target for example, if you purchase something at Target.com, you’ll only be able to return the item through mail.  But for Walmart, any purhcases you make online can also be returned in store, as long as you bring your packing slip or order history with you.

To make returning the third blender you’ve got this year easier, here’s a list of large national retailers, a short excerpt on their return and refund policy, along with additional links and resources:


[Returns Policy] – [Returns Center]

Return deadline: January 31, 2009 for items shipped from November 1st to December 31, 2008.  Opened laptop or desktop computer will have a 15% restock fee.  Partial refund also applies for most type of entertainment media if they have been taken out of their plastic wrapping.


[Holiday Returns Policy] – [Standard Online Return Policy]

Return deadline: January 24, 2009 for most products purchased from November 1 to December 24, 2008.  Monitors, projectors, digital cameras, camcorders, radar detectors, and used video games have until January 8.  Desktop and laptop computers have 14 days from date of purchase or 14 days from date received for online orders.

Circuit City

[In-Store Returns & Exchanges] – [Mail Returns]

Return deadline: January 31, 2009 for items purchased between November 2nd to December 24, 2008.  As with Best Buy, many specific electronics must be returned within 14 days of the sale date and are subjected to a 15% restocking fees if opened or in a non-factory sealed box.  Home theater seatings must be returned within 14 days, and will be subjected to a 25% restocking fee if returned opened or in non-factory sealed box.


[Stores Return & Refund Policy] – [Online Return & Refund Policy] – [Online Returns Center]

Return deadline: 90 days within purchase dated on receipt.  Receipt required for all returns and exchanges, an ID may be required.  Camcorders, digital camera, portable DVD players and portable electronics are subjected to a 15% restock fee.  Certain seasonal items on clearance at the time of return will be refunded at the current clearance prices.

Toys R Us

[Returns Policy]

Return deadline: 90 days within purchase dated on receipt. Entertainment media including video games, computer software, DVDs, etc. can be returned within 45 days from the date of purchase.  Receipt is required and can only be returned if unopened from factory sealed packaging.


[Returns Policy]

Return deadline: Most items can be returned within 90 days of purchase.  Computers must be returned within 15 days along with any included software.  Computer components and accessories must be returned within 45 days.  Camcorders and digital cameras must be returned within 30 days, while digital music players and portable video players must be returned within 15 days.

photo credit: billaday

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

alwayslate January 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Nice list. Thanks! And remember that it never hurts to ask and then ask again. Nicely. I’ve returned used stuff without boxes that really shouldn’t have been accepted by just being polite and patient. People WILL occasionally cut you some slack.


BillShrink Guy January 6, 2009 at 10:32 pm

@alwayslate: Very good point! If you’re persistent but courteous enough, many customer service reps will be willing to bend the rules a little bit to help you out.


Shaun Connell January 8, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Ah, nice research. This year, I asked for cash gifts — and got them! But I’ll bookmark this for the links. Thanks!


BillShrink Guy January 8, 2009 at 9:33 pm

@Shaun Connell: Cash gifts are the best type of gifts! (In my humble opinion).


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