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Understand gift return policies before hitting the stores

By now all the gifts are unwrapped and many recipients are drawing up gift lists of their own — gifts they’d like to return for exchange, refund or ...

By now all the gifts are unwrapped and many recipients are drawing up gift lists of their own — gifts they’d like to return for exchange, refund or an in-store credit.

Is returning a gift impolite? It depends who you ask. One thing is certain: You are not alone if you do. According to a Gallup survey commissioned for World Vision in October, 46 percent of us intend to return at least one gift this year, for any one of a number of reasons.

Merchants in Connecticut are not obliged to accept returned merchandise, but generally speaking, most of them do because it keeps loyal customers happy and because it can earn new customers.

If a store does accept returns, it must prominently display the related terms and conditions at the cash register or at the entrance of the store. Return policies may vary considerably from one store to the next, including the time frame for returning merchandise. That window of opportunity can range from two weeks to a full year. Some sellers will give you a refund if you have a receipt — others will give you an in-store credit.

Some items may not be accepted for return, such as DVDs, CDs and software with packaging that has been opened; special orders or handmade crafts; items which were sold at clearance prices; and items that can be dangerous for health reasons if resold, such as certain types of apparel.

Return policies have become more customer-friendly in recent years. If the gift is from a national retailer and purchased online, some may allow you to save money by accepting returns at a physical store location rather than paying to ship it back to the online seller. Some Internet merchants will charge shipping for returns but not exchanges.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau offers tips to make the return process as free-of-trouble as possible:

Check the seller’s policy: Retailers are required by law to post terms, conditions and exclusions for returns prominently in their stores and on their websites. This information includes a time frame for returns, information regarding whether the store will issue a credit or a refund, and what items — such as merchandise marked for clearance or certain apparel — are not be eligible for return.

Don’t lose money on hard shell cases: This applies most to electronic items packed in hard shell plastic cases and similarly packaged merchandise. Remember that if you open the packaging, the item can no longer be sold as new, and you will have to pay re-stocking fees, which can range from a few dollars to as much as half of the item’s value. A typical re-stocking fee is 15 percent of the item’s price.

Keep it all together: It’s a shame to lose money because you forgot to repack a manual or accessory.

Another option is to re-gift a present you don’t want, even if it means saving it for next year. Even though weird or unsightly gifts may not hit the spot with you, who’s to say someone else wouldn’t just love them?

You can find additional hints and tips, and research a business or charity or select a BBB-Accredited Business at bbb.org/Connecticut/.

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