Buyer beware: Store return policies tighten as return fraud rises

Posted December 26, 2013 4:38 pm | Filed under Featured, Local News

returned-giftIf re gifting that less-than-favorite pair of Christmas socks — or the 60-inch HDTV your wife didn’t exactly approve of — isn’t an option this year, expect little grace from retailers at the return counter.

The National Retail Federation predicts that one in ten Christmas gifts — or roughly $58.5 billion — will be returned to the store. That figure is slightly down from 2012, but return fraud — forging receipts, returning stolen items, for example., is expected to rise this year to around $500 million.

WRHI’s Smart Shopper, Tom Sullivan, says knowing the store’s return policy and having a gift (or traditional) receipt is key.

“If you don’t have a receipt, you’re probably going to be stuck with store credit,” Sullivan said.

That’s now commonplace among retailers, who will likely ask for your driver’s license number to help spot fraudulent returns. But this year, traditional lengths on return policies are likely to be shorter.

But returns of big-ticket items like televisions and appliances are facing tighter restrictions.

“You might be hit with a restocking fee — ten to fifteen percent — or they might not even take the item back,” Sullivan said. “The best thing you can do is check your return policy.”

However, if an unwanted gift was bought online, it will be a little more difficult.

“You can’t just walk into a store,” he said. “If you have a gift receipt that’s better than no receipt. If you don’t have a receipt and the gift was bought online, you’re probably out of luck.”

And gift card swap sites have emerged online in recent years that allow you, for a fee, to exchange a gift card balance for a check or another retailer’s credit.

“Before you do submit a gift card, I recommend you read some reviews of that online retailer to see if they have good business practices,” Sullivan said.