How to return and exchange your unwanted gifts or purchases

Everyone returns a gift or impulse buy every now and then. Maybe it doesn’t fit. Maybe it doesn’t suit your taste. Maybe you ordered something on a whim (or landed a good deal) and now you have buyer’s remorse. Or maybe you’ve just read a book extolling the virtues of minimalism and want to give this lifestyle a boost. Whether it’s well-meaning giveaways from parents or your impulse Amazon Prime orders, the good news is, you can easily turn things around.

Whatever your logic is for returning an item, you are not alone. the National Retail Federation estimates that around $ 309 billion in merchandise was returned in 2019, accounting for around 8% of total sales. Around the holiday season, it is estimated that two-thirds of gifts return an item.

“Consumers are really used to being able to return their merchandise,” said Larisa Summers, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Optoro, a platform that helps retailers like Target and Staples recover the costs of returned merchandise. . “I think a lot of consumers are unaware of the complexity of the situation for retailers.”

You might think the returned goods are restocked on the shelf they came from, but Summers said this only happens about half the time. Other times the returned merchandise is sold to other retailers or worse, thrown away. Optoro estimates that 5 billion pounds of returned items end up in landfills each year.

So if you are returning gifts or Christmas shopping, do so in a smart and sustainable way. Being smart about returns gives the best gift of all: a less cluttered home and planet.

Updated June 2021: Much of our advice on how to return is still valid; we have updated some retailer return times and policies.

The basics

First of all: you have more time than you think. Although “30 days from date of purchase” is the normal policy throughout the year, most retailers adjust their return date during the shopping holiday to account for returns. We have also seen regular return policies extended due to Covid-19.

Make sure to package your item with all of the original tags, accessories, and packaging if possible. Unless you are exchanging a defective product, make sure your item is in good condition. Goods returned in their original packaging and in their original condition are much easier to resell, Summers said. Without the original packaging, the items are more likely to be thrown away.

Also bring your receipt, especially if it is a gift receipt. Generally, having one makes it easier and more likely that you will get cash or store credit for your return. Some stores will work with you to collect order information if you have lost your receipt. At other retailers, you won’t be lucky. Some stores require you to show them ID, so be sure to bring that as well.

Summers encourages you to explain why you are returning a product. Retailers take this type of feedback seriously, as it potentially helps them reduce returns for the following year.

Finally, know the policies of each store. Some stores will adjust their policy for open or unopened products while others will only accept in-store returns and exchanges. We’ve rounded up the policies of some of the more popular retailers, but it’s a good idea to fully understand the policies specific to the item you’re trying to return before you go to the mall.

Amazon Return Policy

Amazon will honor returns and exchanges for items returned within 30 days of receipt of the items. Pack your item and sign in to your Amazon account to start a return. You will need to enter the Order ID from the delivery slip. Print and paste the return label provided on your package. When your item is received, you will receive a refund in the form of an Amazon Gift Card. (If you are the giver of the gift, you will be refunded.)

If you have a Whole Foods (also owned by Amazon) in your vicinity, it’s even easier. Just start your return in your Amazon account as usual, but select your local Whole Foods as the drop-off point. Amazon will email you a QR code. Bring your item (no need to bring the original box or packaging) and QR code to Whole Foods, and drop it off at customer service or the pickup / return kiosk. That’s all, they’ll take it, pack it up, and send it back to you.

Technology retailers: Apple, Best Buy, Walmart, Target

Apple will only accept returns on items purchased from an Apple Store or from the Apple website. Note that Apple’s return window is shorter than that of some other retailers – you have 14 calendar days from arrival to return. For gifts, refunds are made in the form of an Apple Gift Card. Exchanges can only be done in the Apple Store.

Log into your account, choose whether you are returning a purchase or a gift, and follow the instructions on the page. If you are returning an iPhone or iPad, contact your wireless carrier to make sure the wireless service has been canceled.

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