Need to return a Christmas gift? Here’s how to do it with style
So you really don’t like that floral nightie Nana sent you? The shoes you got for your fashion-conscious son are just ‘so last year’? Your daughter received two of the same Nintendo game?
Yes, it’s Christmas and we’ve all received – and given – presents that just aren’t quite right. In the back of our minds, we’re wishing it was a gift card instead. No matter the reason, there’s no need to feel embarrassed about returning them.
Better still, if you do it promptly, you’ll have a bit of extra cash to spend on the Boxing Day sales. And by Boxing Day sales, we don’t literally mean on Boxing Day. But more on that later. First, here’s some tips on how to return a gift with ease – and grace.
How long do I have to return a gift?
It depends on your retailer. While ‘no returns’ signs are illegal, retailers can set their own time frame for returns. Some are as little as a week, others allow up to a month. Many stores offer generous gift return timeframes.
But we recommend acting quickly so that you ensure you meet their time frame and you don’t lose the unwanted item down the back of the cupboard. (Just don’t do it the day after Christmas – the shops are filled with bargain hunters, and sales assistants who might normally help you are completely overwhelmed.)
If you haven’t checked with the retailer at time of purchase, or it’s something you were given, check their website for their policy. That way when you front up in the store asking for a refund you will a) know your rights and b) not be embarrassed to have missed the cut-off.
What if I can’t find (or wasn’t given) the receipt?
It’s not the end of the world. Having a receipt will, of course, make things easier, especially as you approach that returns counter. But don’t let it hold you back. Many stores will offer you an exchange or a store credit without a receipt.
And we find a sunny disposition helps, too - sales assistants are under a lot of stress at this time of year so be pleasant, patient and friendly. Manners go a long way.
Will I get back the full amount if I return a gift?
Again, that depends. If you have a receipt, it should be easy. If you don’t, it’s highly likely you’ll get less than you, or your gift giver, paid.
This is peak sales season, so the chances of your item not being discounted are slim. Don’t argue the toss, it’s not the sales assistant’s fault you don’t have a receipt – just take what you can get.
Do I have to accept a store credit?
If the item is faulty or doesn’t do what it was supposed to do, then you can ask for a refund. If you have simply changed your mind, or don’t like what someone has given you, then you have to accept the store’s policy. Again, look up what that is before you go into the store to save yourself any embarrassment.
What if my online order didn’t arrive in time?
Keep an eye on delivery times and follow up with the retailer. Ask for a tracking number and explain that you understand the difficulties with deliveries at this time of year but if a promised gift doesn’t arrive in time for Christmas, it’s lost its purpose.
It’s best to have checked their gift return policy at time of purchase, but if you haven’t done that, be pleasant but firm and ask to speak to a manager who can help resolve the issue. It is not your fault the parcel didn’t arrive in time, so the onus is on the retailer to help you.
Before you head back with your gift, remember:
- Refunds aren’t automatic
- You may be offered a store credit or exchange
- Time limits apply
- You don’t need the original packaging
- No refunds signs are illegal
And avoid potential embarrassment by:
- Reading the store policy before you ask if you can return something
- Labelling receipts and keeping them somewhere easily accessible in case of returns (nerdy but effective)
- Acting quickly (don’t put it in the wardrobe for later – you’ll discover it months later)
- Maintaining condition (you may have torn the packaging on opening but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep it clean and out of the way of the family pet, for instance)
- Being patient and positive (manners don’t cost a thing – and, in fact, may even get your money back)
Should I spend my gift return stash at the Boxing Day sales?
If you’ve had your eye on something for a while and it’s been given a big markdown in the annual sales, who are we to spoil the party? Spending your credit note with the store is a much better option than using a BNPL service.
While sales go year round these days, as retailers do everything in their power to keep you coming in, there are plenty of bargains to be had. The biggest savings are generally in electronics and clothing but keep an eye on your favourite stores/brands and sign up for alerts.
Getting a bargain, however, is supposed to be enjoyable so we would recommend waiting until after the Boxing Day madness, unless there is something you’re desperate to own and think won’t last more than a day.
Let everyone else run around like mad things while you loll by the pool or beach and head to the stores when it settles down a bit. The vast majority of those bargains aren’t going anywhere for a week or two.
Should I go in-store or buy online?
Boxing Day sales are all about clearing floor stock, so it really is worth going in if you enjoy shopping for bargains. Online shopping is obviously less stressful and there is much more range but you then have to wait for your item to arrive – and we all know about the delivery delays that almost stole Christmas. Either way, know your rights before you start bargain hunting!
Can I ask for a better price?
It might seem cheeky when something is already on sale, but it is always worth asking, especially if you have seen it cheaper elsewhere. Ask the retailer if they can price match and, if not, can they offer free delivery or another incentive to ensure you spend with them rather than a competitor. Just make sure the item you’re buying is not a knock off.
If you’ve decided to brave the Boxing Day sales, here’s some tips to make it less manic:
- Sign up to alerts from your favourite brands/stores
- Plan your day and your budget
- Stick to that budget (no matter how tempting it is to do otherwise)
- Eat before you go (once you’re in the swing, the hours whiz by)
- Wear comfy shoes (you can try those heels on, just don’t wear them shopping)
- Ask questions before you buy (Is it really worth it? Can I return it?)
- Ask for price matching (there’s no harm in seeking a better deal)
Above all, be kind, courteous and patient. We cannot reiterate enough how far good manners will take you – and they might just make that frazzled shop assistant’s day, too! Whether you’re returning an item or snapping up a bargain, it always pays to be kind.
And, remember, if the retailer is denying you the right to return an item, or have bought a dud product on Boxing Day sales, HMC is here to help. Just say the magic words ‘Help Me Handle It'.