How To Return Unwanted Gifts A Post Holiday Survival Guide

Are unwanted holiday gifts piling up around the house? Were the kids so disappointed in getting socks from Grandma again this year that they’ve been reduced to playing in the cardboard boxes they arrived in for a little excitement? No need to panic. We’re here to help!

We know returning gifts that were purchased online can be as frustrating as waiting in line at the DMV. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve put togehter some valuable tips and helpful information on how to get those less than desirable gifts exchanged online for what you really want this holiday season.

Always Keep the Packaging

Once an online order makes it to your front door, the excitement of tearing open the box usually means important receipts, packing slips and return labels get lost in the shuffle. You definitely want to keep these in a safe place, as many of them are required for a full refund. And although kitty is keeping cozy in the new bed she fashioned out of the shipping box, you’ll want to keep that, too. It’s usually just the right size you’ll need for sending those awkwardly shaped items back to the company.

Return Costs

Purchases at online stores like,,, and some purchases on qualify for free returns. However, many stores aren’t so generous, and you’ll be responsible for the costs associated with shipping your return package back. Using the return label (which either came in your original package or can be printed from the store’s website) can simplify the process, as the company will just deduct a flat fee from the amount of the refund to cover the shipping costs.

Also, be sure to check if you’ll need a RMA (which stands for “Return Merchandise Authorization.”) If it does, you’ll have to contact the store’s customer service department by email or phone to receive your RMA number. You may be asked to write this number on the outside of the box you’re returning. This number will help you and their return department verify and track your return.

Times a Wastin’

For nearly all returns, you’ll need to make sure to bring it back within a certain time frame. In most cases, returns will be accepted up to 30 days, although this varies by store. After the deadline, you may only be able to return for store credit or an exchange, if at all. Make sure to account for days in transit time, too, as the store may require for the item to arrive back to their warehouse within that given time frame.

Also keep in mind that some store’s return policies may vary during the holidays. Usually, the time frame has been extended, but don’t be surprised if seasonal merchandise (such as holiday decor) has to be returned at an earlier date. You may want to double check with the store’s customer service to verify the correct deadline for your return.

Return to a Store

For immediate refunds or exchanges, many stores offer convenient returns to their bricks and mortar locations. You may still need to bring the packing slip along with you, though. Stores which offer online returns to their local stores include ToysRUs , Target , Express , Walmart , Justice , and JCPenney , among others.

Some gifts can be returned or exchanged quickly and painlessly at local store locations.


Some stores will only allow you to return merchandise if it’s in new, unworn, or unopened condition. This is especially true for electronics (like DVDs or computer software), that once opened, you cannot return in any circumstance. You’ll need to make sure all the tags are attached, seals and shrink wrap are still in tact, and any additional manuals or accessories which came with the original packaging are included with the return. Others stores, like, offer a “satisfaction guaranteed” return policy, happily accepting returns on merchandise that you may have tried that you simply didn’t end up liking.

Gifts with Purchase and Special Promotions

If you received a gift or a free sample with the item you purchased, you may have to return it, too, in order to receive a refund. Sometimes, the value of the gift is deducted from the return price, or in some cases, you cannot return the product at all unless you bring back the gift, too. Otherwise, some retailers, such as, allow you to keep the gift or free sample even if you return the product.

The same can be said for purchases that you received special pricing on by meeting a purchase requirement. For example, if you bought 2 video games and got 1 free at ToysRUs, the “free” game would need to be returned, too, if you should decide to return the other 2.

Restocking Fees

Unfortunately, some stores will charge you a fee for returning a product., for example, has a restocking fee of 15% on all returns for refund. has a 25% restocking fee for special order products. In these cases, it may just make more sense to regift or resell the item rathing than losing out on some of what you paid it.

Marketplace Purchases

On websites like, , and , you’ll want to double check who you’re actually making the purchase from. These sites often offer products sold through a third party in their marketplace, which typically means they’re exempt from the standard return policy.

Of course, when in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact the store’s customer service. They’ll be able to clarify any lingering questions you may have about returning an item and (with a little sweet talking) may even be able to help you if your return falls outside of their return policy guidelines.

Look to these online stores for some of the most customer friendly return policies:

“Guaranteed. Period.” Land’s End return policy can’t be beat. If you’re not satisfied with any item, you’re able to return it at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price.

For in-store and purchases, no receipt is required to make a return if you have the credit card used to make the purchase on hand. If you made your purchase in store and paid with cash or check, no receipt is required if you provided a phone number at time of checkout.

Return any item, anytime, for any reason. If you have your receipt, you’ll get a full refund or even exchange. Without a receipt, you’ll receive a refund, exchange or merchandise credit.

You can exchange or return most merchandise for a full refund (minus the shipping charges) anytime after purchase. If you are returning a gift, you will receive a store merchandise credit. And if you’re exchanging an item, shipping for the new item will be free of charge.