It happens every year — you’re gifted something that doesn’t work out. Whether the item doesn’t fit, you already own it (or something similar) or it’s simply not your taste, the last thing you or the gift giver wants is for a gift to be kept only to be never used or pushed to the back of a closet. Here’s the thing, though: It’s awkward to return a gift. Personally, my sentimental heart quickly attaches to any gift I’m given, leaving me with great remorse when I’m gifted with something that I foresee myself returning. Here’s a quick playbook on how to navigate holiday returns and what to do if you find yourself in this position this season.
Is It Rude to Return a Gift?
A gift is (traditionally) given as a token of love or appreciation for the recipient. While I can’t speak for everyone (and this can get tricky during the holidays), personally the only thing I care about when giving a gift is that the recipient likes and (hopefully) gets some sort of use or enjoyment from said gift. If I found out that a gift didn’t fit or that it was a duplicate of something the recipient already owns or worse, can’t use, the last thing I would want is for the gift to collect dust. At the end of the day, gift giving shouldn’t be about the physical product itself and instead reflect the sentiment of the season. I know this is, of course, subjective, but I would guess that majority of people would want a gift or its value to be put to use.
The 411 Returning Unwanted Gifts This Season
Returning unwanted gifts can quickly become a sticky situation depending on the item and associated return policy. For this reason, I try to always include a gift receipt when I’m given the opportunity to do so. We all have different tastes, styles and, if you’ve been anything like myself over the past year and half, done a lot of online shopping, which results in a high probability of being gifted something you already own.
Try to keep in mind (as both gift giver and receiver) that returning a gift doesn’t always mean you hated it. Sometimes, things just don’t work out!
Here are a tips on returning unwanted gifts:
Know Retailers’ Holiday Return Policies
Whether you are giving or receiving, familiarizing yourself with a retailers return policy can make a world of difference when it comes to returning unwanted gifts. Retailers are savvy and not only know that products will be returned en masse after the holidays but anticipate it. Popular retailers tend to extend traditional return policies during and immediately following the holidays. By brushing up on retailers’ return policies when shopping, you can guarantee easy returns for gift recipients (and yourself). Here are a few popular retailers and their holiday return policies.
Amazon Holiday Return Policy
Amazon makes it easy for recipients to return gifts this season and beyond. Amazon gift recipients are eligible to return items purchased from Oct. 11 to Dec. 25 until Jan. 31, 2023, with the exception of select items. Items will need to be in original condition in order to be returned, and items that are returned for store (Amazon) credit will need to be returned before an Amazon gift card is issued. Recipients will need to create an Amazon account to start a return if they do not have an account already. Read more about Amazon’s holiday return policy.
Bed Bath & Beyond Holiday Return Policy
Bed Bath & Beyond has truly simplified the return process. Gift recipients are eligible for a full refund with the original receipt within 90 days of purchase. For items that have a gift receipt, the recipient will receive store credit for the full value. If you find yourself without a receipt or gift receipt, no worries. Bed Bath & Beyond will search transaction logs as long as the item was purchased within the last 365 days. Read more about Bed Bath & Beyond’s return policy and exceptions, click here.
Best Buy Holiday Return Policy
For the 2022 holiday shopping season, Best Buy is offering an extended return period. Most items purchased between Oct. 24 and Dec. 31 can be returned until Jan. 14, 2023. There are some exceptions, including phones, cellular tablets and other products. Learn more.
Kohl’s Holiday Return Policy
Kohl’s doesn’t have extended holiday returns, but its regular return policy is generous. It accepts most returns through 180 days of purchase. That’s actually more leeway than most stores’ “extended” holiday returns policies give you!
Target Holiday Return Policy
My love for Target is truly unconditional and, as it turns out, their love for the customer is, too. Target has a notoriously awesome return policy, accepting most unused items for full refund or store credit within 90 days of purchase. Target has a special holiday return policy gifts purchased from Oct. 1 to Dec. 25.
- Electronics (except for Apple) and entertainment items, gifts purchased between Oct. 6 and Dec. 25 can be returned through Jan. 24.
- Apple products purchased between Oct. 6 and Dec. 25 can be returned through Jan. 9.
- Mobile phones purchased in-store or via pickup between Oct. 6 and Dec. 25 can be returned through Jan. 8.
Walmart Holiday Return Policy
Walmart has an extended holiday return policy. Most items purchased between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 31, 2023. However, items bought from marketplace sellers online may have different return policies.
Know How You’ll Receive a Return
Depending on the item and retailer, your return value could differ. This goes back to understanding a retailer’s return policy before you start a return or buy gifts from a retailer. Depending on the item, you may receive store credit, a gift card for the value of the item or, worst case, not be able to return the item at all.
In order to avoid an awkward conversation (an item’s value is returned to the original purchaser) or a headache (an item cannot be returned) once again, refresh your knowledge of the retailer’s return policy and how it will affect your gift. It’s good to note that, for major retailers like Amazon (which offers gift cards as a method of refund), you will usually have the option of store credit or even exchange value.
What Happens If You Can’t Return a Gift?
While it may be a worst-case scenario, being unable to return a gift is a possibility, and thus, you should be prepared for that outcome. Depending on the gift, you may be unable to return an item. Typically (and for most standard gifts), this won’t be a problem — but for electronics, high-end gifts and custom gifts, you’re more likely to run into an issue. So, what do you do if you can’t return a gift?
Ask for store credit. If you’re unsuccessful at a refund, explore store credit options. Retailers are much more likely to offer store credit or exchange for equal value in cases of return exceptions. This is also a likely scenario if you find yourself without a gift receipt. Target, for example, may give you a refund in the form of an in-store-only merchandise card if you don’t have a gift receipt.
Regifting. Some may find it tacky, while others will find it resourceful. Either way, someone is likely to enjoy the gift that did not end up working out for you. Just be careful who you regift to!
Donate. I am a huge advocate for donating to local charities, especially during the holidays. With mega sales year round, fast fashion and trends, items that are still valuable and can be put to use are often tossed away or put in storage. Donating is not only a great way to declutter but is also eco-friendly and gives back to your community. Regardless of what item you were given, I can guarantee that someone less fortunate will gladly put the gift to good use! And, if you feel weird about returning a gift for its monetary value, this is a great route to take. When choosing where to donate, I suggest doing a little research (a quick Google search) depending on the item to see where it would most likely be put to good use as well as avoiding “charities” that resell items for profit. For example, if you were gifted a nice work blouse but find yourself in cozy sweats working from home, try to look up groups that assist those trying to find a job and need casual business attire. Same method applies to children’s toys, clothing and housewares.
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