With the holiday shopping season in full swing, it’s easy to focus on the gift you are about to give and receive, but you may want to begin thinking about the gifts you will receive and then return.

It happens every year: you get a gift from a friend or family member that you just don’t need or want. It’s important to remember the following tips for gift returning.

  1. Keep receipts. If you are looking to return something, having a receipt makes everything easier. Some stores won’t even consider letting you return something without  a receipt, so make sure you are utilizing gift receipts this holiday season. If you are giving gifts, make sure to request a gift receipt when you are checking out at the store and include it with the gift. If you are receiving a gift, you may feel uncomfortable asking for a gift receipt. Because gift receipts can be so helpful, though, you might want to drop a few hints to your gift-giver, like, “Oh I have a sweater just like this that I just bought.” Or, “I’m allergic to this kind of fabric!” Just be careful: you don’t want to have them get offended or offer to take the gift back themselves.
  2. Keep proofs of purchase and clothing tag intact. When a proof of purchase is damage or when the tags on clothing are removed, you may seriously reduce your chances of returning an item. In the case of clothing, retailers have become more wary of people buying clothes, wearing them and then returning them, so they may not want to give you a return on an item without tags.
  3. Be prepared. It’s important to know what a store’s policy is on returns before you go into the store. Most larger stores print return policies on their receipts, and most have their policies accessible on their websites. If you don’t like the policy or feel like you might qualify for an exception to the policy, it can be worth it to make your argument to a sales clerk or manager.
  4. Don’t become a serial returner. If you return too many items, many stores have policies that can block you from making more returns. This is to prevent people from committing fraud against the store, so be careful if you are returning a lot of items to a particular store or chain.
  5. Beware of restocking fees. Many items, especially computer software and hardware and musical instruments have restocking fees. If you return the item, a store may hit with you with up to 25% of the cost of the item so that it can be restocked.
  6. Never give in. Though policies may be written down, it is often possible to have sales clerks or managers issue an exception to a policy, either to be nice or because they are not fully aware of the store’s policies. If you think you have a legitimate claim to return an item, offering your side of the story never hurt any one. Many stores want to keep their customers happy and may become flexible if you are polite and present your argument effectively. If you are unable to return an item, it may be possible to get store credit as a compromise.

Long lines as people try to return gifts