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  • Writer's pictureLisa Lee Freeman

5 hacks for happy holiday gift returns

Did you get gifts that you wish you didn't this Christmas? Sure you did! This year, make a resolution to declutter those unwanted gift cards and ugly sweaters. Here is a game plan:

  1. Return ASAP! You probably have less time than you think. So check the websites of retailers for deadlines. They’re all over the map. At, for example, some gifts must be returned by Jan. 10 and others by Jan. 25th. Then there’s a 90-day window for other stuff. And if you purchased from one of the site’s marketplace sellers, who knows?! You’ll have to check the seller’s individual return policy. I recently bought myself a gift from a Walmart third-party seller and discovered that if I returned it I’d have to do it yesterday plus pay a 15% restocking fee. Ouch!

  2. Grab those receipts. If you didn’t get a gift receipt from the gift giver, don’t be shy. Ask for one! Just tell your sister-in-law that you need a different color or a different size. She’ll want you to be happy with your gift, right? If that makes you squirm, you can attempt to return the item without a receipt. Many retailers now accept returns without one. But here’s the catch: You might not get the cash and instead get a gift card or some other form of store credit. Also, you might not get the amount the gift giver paid. The policy may state that you get the lowest price the item sold for during the past month or two.

  3. When in doubt, don’t take it out! Avoid ripping open the packaging if you think you might not want to keep the gift—or you might get stuck with it. Sears and Walmart, for example, won’t take back music, software, and video games with opened packaging. But don’t lose hope if you couldn’t resist tearing apart every present under the tree. You might be surprised at what you can return after using it. Many retailers, for example, take back used makeup, including Sephora, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Ulta.

  4. Sell your gift cards. You can't return gift cards, but you can sell them. There are many gift-card exchanges online, such as,,, and You won’t get full value, but it’s better than wasting a loved one’s money. As for those unwanted electronics and clothing, you can sell that stuff too! Apps like Poshmark and ThredUp make it super easy to unload clothing, and sites like eBay, Gazelle, and NextWorth are great for selling electronics.

  5. Ask politely. If you’ve missed return deadlines, there’s one last thing you can try: BEG the store manager. Sometimes, you can get them to make an exception for you and take things back after deadlines. Or they might be willing to let you trade in those gaudy diamond earrings (poor girl!) for something more tasteful.

For more tips on returns, check out my segment on Inside Edition!

#returns #holidays #gifts #presents #InsideEdition

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