BBB on homes: Read the fine print when returning items this year bbb on homes

December 23, 2016

The holiday season is upon us, but what happens if a gift you give or receive needs to be returned or exchanged?

The first few weeks after the holidays often consist of using gift cards, exchanging items and returning gifts.

Before you stand in a long line to return holiday gifts, it is important to read and understand the store’s policy on gift returns and exchanges.

In most states, stores are not legally required to accept items for refunds, credits or exchanges unless the merchandise is defective or was misrepresented; however, stores must comply with their own stated return policy, which should be sufficiently conveyed to the customer before purchase.

Many retailers have their return and exchange policies posted on their website or displayed in the store.

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas offers the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges:

Keep your receipts. If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. Also, do not remove tags if you may return an item.

Read the retailer’s return policy before you purchase products. Make sure you understand whether you, or the recipient of your gift, can get a refund, exchange or store credit for unwanted merchandise. Ask the salesperson whether a particular item is returnable or exchangeable, and to clarify any policies that may be unclear to you. You may also check out a business’ report on BBBHouston.org to read consumer complaints and reviews, which may mention return issues.

Monitor the “return clock.” Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame and that time frame usually begins when the item is purchased, not when it is given.

Save time and frustration. Consider arriving at the store when they open to avoid long return lines and bypass the stores’ major crowds on big shopping days like the day after Christmas.

Understand return policies for sale merchandise. Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.

Don’t remove items from their boxes. Some stores will not accept returns unless the merchandise is in its original packaging.

Ask about restocking fees. Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.

Have a grasp on store credit restrictions. Refunds issued in the form of merchandise credit may be subject to expiration dates and/or other restrictions may apply like “not redeemable online.”

Ask about return shipping fees. Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a store instead of the online merchant.

The Better Business Bureau is an unbiased nonprofit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving Reports to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. For information or to check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit www.bbbhouston.org, which includes our BBB Accredited Business Directory, or call 713-868-9500. Leah Napoliello is senior director of Investigative Services with the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston and South Texas. Send questions regarding homeowner issues to Leah Napoliello, Better Business Bureau, 1333 West Loop South, Suite 1200, Houston, TX 77027, or e-mail her at lnapoliello@bbbhou.org. Include mailing address and phone number on letters and emails.