The sweater didn't fit right. The color was all wrong. You already have a singing bass on a plaque and a throw pillow with puppies in a basket — gifts received and much appreciated — but they are not quite right in your midcentury modern pad. If you need to return a gift, for whatever reason, follow these simple tips to make sure all your returns are happy.
TRY TO GET THE RECEIPT. Things will go more smoothly if you can get the gift receipt from the giver.
ACT IMMEDIATELY. Sure, the singing bass cost $98 before Christmas, but if it's marked down to $8.13, assume that's the amount you'll get in return.
RETURN THE ITEM IN ITS ORIGINAL PACKAGING. A sweater should look exactly the way you received it, points deducted for any signs you actually wore it.
MAKE THE CHOICE. You may get a choice between a greatly reduced value in cash or the full value in store credit. Take the credit.
TAKE THE RIGHT CARD. If it's a gift you bought (Chartreuse? What were you thinking?!), make sure you have the credit card you used for the purchase. You'll be getting a credit back to that card, not cash.
BE NICE. Really nice, thoughtful, kind and cordial. Store personnel are often given discretion on how they handle a return. Just imagine how they might choose to respond to a real jerk.
TIME YOUR TRIP. Figure out what time of day is the busiest in that store, and don't even think about showing up then. Frazzled employees are not always in the mood to deal generously. Go instead when they're fresh and friendly.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know the retailer's return policy and guidelines ahead of time. Take Amazon, for example: If you want to return a gift that you bought or received that was purchased through Amazon, the steps are very specific and quite user-friendly. Just make sure that you follow their step-by-step online instructions under the "Returns and Refunds" Help section of their website.
Whether you purchased the gift or you received this gift, you will need the 17-digit order number (or Order ID) found on the left side of the packing slip or gift receipt. If you don't have the packing slip, contact the online Returns Center. It will ask for information to help locate the order, such as the sender's name, email address and phone number, and information about the item you wish to return.
Rule of thumb: If you can't get cash, opt for store credit. If you can't get credit, try for an exchange. And if the clerk insists on obeying that 9-foot sign posted at the checkout that screams "Absolutely No Refunds, Exchanges or Credit ... EVER," don't panic. Remember there's always regifting.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.