6 Tips For How to Return (Almost) Anything

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Just about anything ugly or ill-fitting can be returned if the giver was nice enough to include a gift receipt, but what if they assumed you’d just loooove their present and didn’t include one (and you don’t have the heart to tell them otherwise)? This makes it harder, but not impossible. Try these tactics.

Don’t bother asking for cash. Without a receipt, you’re likely to be offered the chance to exchange the item or get store credit. If it’s a store you never shop at, Kendal Perez of HassleFreeSavings.com suggests taking the credit on a gift card, then selling it on a third-party gift card marketplace. You’ll have to sell it at a discount, but you can get cash out of the deal.

Do some researchConsumerWorld.org just published its annual return policy survey. Take a look to make sure you don’t miss the return window (some stores have tightened them up this year). Make sure your item is eligible, too; some stores won’t take back items ordered online.

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See if they can look it up. Macy’s puts a unique UPC code on items so they can be traced without the receipt. Other stores like Target can look up purchases made in the past 90 days, but you might need the credit card information of the card used during the original transaction. (You might be able to get away with peeking in your mom’s wallet, but probably not a friend or co-worker’s.)

Go when it’s slow. Instead of trying to make a return during the December 26 rush, pick a day and time that’s less likely to be busy. You’ll have more luck pleading your case to a customer-service rep on, say, a Tuesday afternoon than a Saturday morning. And if you have to escalate to a manager, he or she is less likely to be harried and hurried if you’re there at a slow time.

Don’t put it off. That said, dragging your feet for too long lowers your chances of a successful return. “Super-duper important,” says Julia Scott, blogger at BargainBabe.com. “Reps get worn down by all the holiday sob stories.” Plus, if you want an exchange, there’s a higher likelihood the item will be out of stock in the color or size you need. Markdowns may reduce the amount you can get back without a receipt.

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Be nice. You knew that already, right? Shoppers and store employees alike swear that being nice isn’t just, well, nice, it’s a smart tactical approach to help you get what you want.