Not everyone wants, or needs, a Santa Claus necktie, a prenatal yoga video or an all-in-one TV/VCR/stereo/pencil sharpener.
Or, in Warner Lewis' case, a shirt so bad that he not only couldn't bear to wear it, but he also couldn't figure out how to get rid of it.
"It was like, 'Oh, my god!' " said Lewis, who works in Lawrence at Peoples Bank. "It was in a box that was generic, with a name like 'American Sport.' You couldn't find anything indicating where it came from, so I just threw it on my shelf and forgot about it.
"I was stuck - big-time stuck."
Acknowledging Lewis' conundrum and keeping the holiday spirit in mind - it's better to give than to receive, but it's even worse to get stuck with a gift you don't want - the National Retail Federation offers some tips for holiday gift-givers, and recipients, when it comes to making stress-free returns:
¢ Know the retailer's return policy before you buy. Most retailers have return policies prominently displayed, especially at this time of year. Gift-givers should read and remember them. If policies are not clearly displayed, ask a sales associate.
¢ Save and file all receipts. Receipts are still the key to hassle-free returns. Some retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt, but without a receipt, a retailer may provide only merchandise credit for the lowest markdown price at which the item was sold in the past 30 days.
¢ Provide all original packaging and all parts (including tags) when giving a gift. Some retailers won't accept returns unless the item is in its original package. If you plan to take back a gift when it is unwrapped, resist the urge to open it or play with it - no one wants to buy someone else's merchandise.
¢ Ask for a gift receipt. This makes gift returns easier. Ask the retailer if such a receipt is possible, containing all the necessary information to prove the items were purchased, minus the price.
¢ Make your online returns easy. Returns are a part of shopping, no matter where you choose to shop. Be sure to know the process: Who pays the shipping costs for the returned item, you or the merchant? Some merchants will pick up the delivery charges for exchanges, but not for returns. Also, determine where to make a return. Does the retailer have a physical store, and can returns or exchanges be made there? Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company. Some merchants have off-site service centers that handle returns that may be in a different location from where the merchandise is sent.
¢ Don't delay. Consumers should plan to make returns as soon as possible after the holidays to take advantage of extended hours and extra help, and to get the best selection of merchandise for an alternate gift.
¢ Remember, the week after Christmas is one of the busiest weeks of the retail year. With people's frustration high and tolerance low, be patient when returning merchandise.
Lewis - who ended up "regifting" the shirt that had caused so much consternation - does have one tip for returning gifts with the least hassle, provided you know the right retailer and possess the savvy, and patience, to get the job done.
"It's painful, but look for the longest line (for returns), stand in it, and by the time you get up to the front they'll do whatever you want," he said. "I do it all the time, and they're like, 'Do you want cash? A new Cadillac?' It takes a few extra minutes, and they're harried, but once you get there they'll do anything."