Holiday returns: what to know before you go

Holiday returns: what to know before you go

Dear Consumer:

So, you know you’re going to get a bunch of Christmas presents you don’t like. It’s a shame that your friends and family still think you like things you may have favored 15-20 years ago. Obviously they have no imagination and continue to buy you repeat bad sweaters (the ones you wear to ugly sweater parties) or horrible neckties (the ones you’d like to strangle the gift giver with). Plus, your kids may get one of the numerous things that were on the recently world’s most popular Chicagonow blog post list of things NOT to buy for them. Whatever the case may be, you’re going to be headed to your local retailer (or not so local?) to make that return.

I know from having worked in retail, those clerks hate you. I hated you. It’s not just because you are making a return that this pure hatred comes out, it’s because of the way you behave towards the clerks when you do. We know your hubby screwed up. We know you wanted jewelry instead of pots and pans. Sorry your boyfriend bought you a candle instead of something romantic (this happened to me when I was 14, I have yet to recover) or accidentally bought you his ex’s favorite fragrance, forgetting what you like, you just have to be nicer when you return these things.

First, please make sure you have the right store. If it doesn’t have a gift receipt and you’re not sure where it came from, find a way to figure it out. Stores are a little more particular these days about where things come from. Some department stores put labels on the price tag or boxes so you can’t randomly return just anything. Why wait in line forever just to find out you’re in the wrong place?

It’s also nice if you haven’t completely torn apart a box that contained something with 50 pieces. You’ll never be able to piece it back together like the puzzle it was packaged like. So, if you don’t like the looks of it on the outside, chances are you won’t on the inside either. If it’s a sweater? Please don’t pull off the tags, spray it with the ex-girlfriends fragrance and then decide you don’t like the color on you.  Or wear it for Christmas and then return it stained with cranberry sauce that you swear was there before.

Make sure you call ahead for the store’s return policy. There are some local businesses/small boutiques that only allow store credit. These stores can have an entire week’s profit wiped out in a day if they do full refunds. It’s a very touchy subject when compared to a department store that will take back anything – they can absorb it much better than a small business. If you do try to return something at a place that only offers store credit, think of it as an adventure. Now you have the opportunity to buy what you like, what you want!

Time is a critical thing in a few ways. I don’t believe that the entire “not happy with their gift returning world” has to do it on December 26th. Seriously folks, can’t it wait a few days? Or better yet a few nights? It’s typically slower in the evenings for stores that have later hours. This is huge for retailers. They hate returns anyway so after a long season of working exhaustive hours to sell the things that will be coming back, maybe spread it out a bit folks.

On the flip side of that coin, don’t wait six months and then return a North Face ski jacket in July. Some stores have weirdly liberal return policies which begs the question as to how they stay in business. Don’t take advantage of that store as so many people do. I worked for a luxury retailer for many years. We took back ANYTHING. Like a rental program!! At least if something is returned in season it has a chance of being resold.

Be nice to the clerk handling your return. He saw you coming with your bag and he prepared himself for you. He is hoping it will be a straight forward transaction; nothing complicated. He is as unhappy doing it as you are returning it so make nice conversation. Be thankful. And if you forgot to find out the return policy and you are told no refund – do not freak out. Be polite and ask for a manager. There is always a way to make a customer happy if the manager is willing to bend, just a little. The nicer you are, the better your chances are that you won’t be shown the door. WIth your item still in hand.

So, happy gift giving and receiving season. I hope that you all like what you receive. And if you don’t, you may want to consider returning the person you got it from.




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