Are you a serial returner? By that, I mean, do you routinely return items, especially holiday gifts? If so, be forewarned. Some retailers have resorted to using a computer database to track customer returns and catch fraudulent or excessive returns.
Return fraud, which by the way includes bringing back used merchandise for a full refund, will cost retailers $3.5 billion this holiday season, according to a recent report by the National Retail Federation. For the year, the retail industry says it stands to lose $9.6 billion from fraudulent returns.
So how can you prevent from having a return rejected? Here's how:
¢ Before you buy, check the store's written return policy.
¢ Don't assume that a store's Internet operation has the same return policy as its brick-and-mortar operation. Before you buy, remember to ask who pays the shipping costs for an exchange or return.
¢ Ask for a gift receipt. Only about 49 percent of people giving gifts during the holidays include a gift receipt, according to the federation.
¢ Keep all your receipts. Many retailers still allow you to exchange merchandise without a receipt. However, without a receipt, the retailer only may provide a store credit for the lowest price the item has sold for in recent weeks. And if you don't need your receipt, destroy it to keep someone from fraudulently using it.
¢ Keep all the original packaging, including all tags, rebate material and instruction manual. Some retailers won't accept returns unless the item is in its original package. In addition, many stores now impose a restocking fee if an item has been opened.
Although return policies have toughened, 89 percent of consumers still find stores' policies fair, according to the federation. So it seems if armed with the right information, you can have a happy return.