It might seem too early to think about returns when we're still in the midst of our Christmas shopping, but it's not. Some stores will be much more helpful than others when it's time to return that sweater that doesn't fit or the stereo system that's not compatible with the new iPod.
Consumer World has reviewed retailers' return policies so we don't have to, and they've uncovered some surprises.
Overall, it will be more difficult to make returns than it was last year. The National Retail Federation reports that 17 percent of stores are enforcing stricter policies this year, compared to 11 percent of stores that will make it easier for customers. I've already experienced the pain of a brutal return policy. I bought my husband a new stereo system, but he saw it when it came in the mail. Since this ruined the surprise, I had to return the stereo and get him a new present. In addition to paying for shipping, I also had to pay a 10 percent restocking fee, even though I hadn't even opened the box. (You might wonder whether being surprised on Christmas is worth paying for all these extra fees. Why not just keep the stereo? My husband could still unwrap the gift and start using it on Christmas. Well, from my husband's perspective, no surprise means no excitement. I might as well be giving him a lump of coal.)
[See tips on "Playing the Returns Game."]
Here's what you need to know about retailers' return policies, based on Consumer World's research:
For more information and tips, check out Consumer World's holiday returns information page.