7 Tips for Returning Wonky Gifts

‘Tis the season to give and to receive but sometimes, that great gift find wasn’t so great after all.

Rather than letting all these presents sit around and clutter your house, just return them! Yes, seriously, return them. I got experts to offer pro-tips on returning gifts and help you navigate the mall and potentially awkward conversations with the gifter.

Related Content: Better Luck Next Year. Gift-Giving Tips That Avoid Heartbreak

Read up on return policies

There’s nothing worse than fighting for parking, dragging returns through the crowds and waiting in line only to find out the store has a return policy that doesn’t accept the unwanted gift. Always read the receipt and see what the company’s return policy is, or if they have temporarily changed it for the holidays. Some companies take anything back, others give 14 days. It’s also important to mark when these deadlines are because some managers aren’t too lenient when it comes to returning gifts past the deadline.

What to bring

Rule No. 1: Have the receipt handy. Nobody wants to get to the front of the line only to panic that the crumpled clump of holiday shopping receipts has every purchase except the one you need.

If you bought the gift you’re returning, don’t forget to bring the credit card you used. Some stores will credit the card instead of simply giving store credit.

Bring the item in its original packaging with tags attached. Andrea Woroch, a consumer-savings expert, warned, “Some retailers charge shoppers a restocking fee on certain items at up to 15 percent of the original purchase price typical with electronic purchases or big-ticket items like TVs and furniture. Amazon Marketplace sellers may also charge a restocking fee of 20 to 50 percent, depending on the condition of the item.” Additionally, many clothing stores require the tags be attached to make sure it hasn’t been worn.

If there’s no receipt, stores will usually let customers do an even exchange or offer store credit. Some stores have a loophole that allows people to create a registry with that item on it and return it for store credit.

When to go

For sanity’s sake, try not to go on a weekend right after the holidays. It will still be a zoo. Try going during a lunch break or right after work for a smoother experience or call the store and ask when there’s less traffic.

If it’s a gift card

They couldn’t find anything at their favorite store that you would like but hoped if you went yourself you could find something. But they were right the first time: There’s nothing here for you. If this happens, don’t let the gift card sit in your wallet.

“Sell it instead at your local grocery store at one of the Coinstar exchange kiosks to get instant cash which you can use more wisely toward paying down holiday debt,” Woroch recommended.

Then, go ahead and buy the gift you wish your friend gave.

Apps for selling what you can’t return

Absolutely no chance you can return what you don’t want lying around your house? There’s an app for that. There are old-reliables like eBay or Craigslist. Newer apps, such as OfferUp, FleaPop and AptDeco, target specific audiences and some, like Wallet by 5miles, donates sales from unwanted items to charity.

Time is money

Don’t wait too long to return, as the price of items will go down over time. Even if the store has an open return policy, if an item goes on sale and the receipt is lost, shoppers can only return it for the item’s current selling price.

Write thank you note anyways

Feeling guilty that your mother-in-law might ask about the cow shaped milk pitcher she got you? Not feeling guilty about the new non-stick pan you exchanged it for? That’s OK.

Kylen Moran, a personal stylist and popular fashion and beauty blogger for KylenEveryWear.com, advised, “My first concern would be about the way the gift-giver might feel. In the past I have written a note to the person thanking them for the gift and gently explaining why it wasn’t the right fit for me. I do this after returning the gift and choosing something else, which allows me to tell the giver what I chose and thank them again.”