The end of Christmas season signals the start of return season, when Americans take their gifts back to shopping malls and online retailers in pursuit of different sizes, different colors or full-blown refunds.
The good news is that stores have loosened return policies in recent years. Many allow customers 30 days after Christmas to make a return.
However, some consumers are already finding their returns rejected. Typically, this happens for one of three reasons.
Short window for electronics
Many shoppers believe a 30 day return window is standard.
However, Apple and Best Buy are two major retailers that have just a two week window for most electronic and video game returns. Best Buy, however, has extended its normal window for the holidays, so that almost any purchase made in November or December can be returned until January 12, 2019.
If you received an unwanted electronics gift, try to get to the store as soon as possible, so you don't have to escalate your return attempt to a manager.
Click here for a Marketwatch.com report on 2019 return policies at major retailers.
Seasonal item? Good luck!
You should also get to the store as quickly as possible if you are trying to return a seasonal item, such as Christmas decor you never used (even if it is unopened), or a holiday sweater (which no one would possibly want now).
Last Christmas, Anna Isgro contacted us after she was denied a return on holiday reindeer slippers at a local Walmart store.
"They said they couldn't take it back because slippers are considered a seasonal item," she said.
Walmart told us its official policy does not exclude holiday times, but store managers have leeway in setting return rules, and some shoppers continue to report that individual stores this year are once again declining Christmas-themed merchandise returns.
Too many returns
Another way your return can be denied: You have made too many returns to one store.
Rob Trainor had a software return at Best Buy denied last Christmas because he had returned too many things in one year at the chain, even though the package was unopened.
"The first transaction got a warning. The next return was denied and the clerk couldn't do anything about it," Trainor told us.
He had been flagged as a serial returner by a data collection service called "The Retail Equation."
The group does not disclose clients, but USA Today has reported that they collect return data for as many as 75 major stores, including:
Best BuyHome DepotJC PenneyVictoria's Secret NikeBath and Body WorksSephora
If your return is rejected like Isgro's or Trainor's, you might say: "Doesn't that stink?"
We are happy to report that after our initial reporting, both Best Buy and Walmart accepted their returns.
But remember: Sooner is better, especially with some stores allowing just 15 days for electronics returns.
And try not to make too many returns to a single store so you don't get on their naughty list.
That way, you don't waste your money.
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