REFUNDS AND EXCHANGE POLICIES
WATCH THE CLOCK
HOLD ON TO RECEIPTS
BE AWARE OF FEES
AVOID 'RETURN RAGE" with ADDITIONAL TIPS FROM ANGIE'S LIST
Once the big gift exchanges are over this year, you'll probably end up standing in a long line waiting to return a gift or two, says Angie Hicks, founder of consumer ratings service Angie's List and consumer advocate. Returning gifts may seem like an aggravating but necessary evil of the holiday season. But before you hit the stores, it's best to get organized and take steps to make the experience run more smoothly.
Here are Angie's Five Tips to prevent "Return Rage."
1. Don't open it if you might return it: Always keep the item in its current packaging. If the item is in sellable condition, it'll be much easier to return.
2. Check the return policy: Do your homework first to avoid any unnecessary frustration. Check the receipts if you have them, or go online and check the retailer's return and exchange policy.
3. Check the warranty: If the item is defective, the store may advise you to return it directly to the manufacturer instead of the store.
4. Hang on to the receipt: These days, most stores automatically provide a gift receipt. If you get a gift without a gift receipt, ask the retailers to help you. Most have the ability to look up transactions within the last month, if not 90 days. Some retailers may offer a store credit.
5. Don't be a procrastinator: The key to a quick and easy return is to act fast. Store return policies may vary from two weeks to 90 days.
Mail-In Rebates: Now Available in Paper or Plastic
Once the excitement of the holidays wears off, people turn to the promised rewards of mail-in rebates. However, the Better Business Bureau advises that it's more important than ever to read the fine print when filing for a rebate because retailers and manufacturers are changing the way they issue rebates.
According to CreditCards.com, retailers and manufacturers are increasingly opting to provide rebates in the form of pre-loaded cards as opposed to paper checks. Unlike checks, which can be deposited in a bank and used to pay bills, consumers must spend the rebate. These cards can often only be used where credit cards are accepted. In most cases, the cards can be used at any merchant—much like a debit card—but some retailers are also handing out rebate cards that can only be used at their stores. The cards may also have expiration dates and added fees that could whittle down their value.
"Rebates are a great way to get a deal, but they can also be a great source of frustration for consumers," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "By acting quickly to redeem the rebate and reading the mail-in instructions carefully, consumers can significantly reduce any disappointment associated with redeeming rebates."
In the previous 12 months, 70 percent of consumers have taken advantage of manufacturer rebates on products, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports. The national telephone survey also found that, of those who applied for a rebate, 21 percent of people were unsuccessful. Typically, consumers didn't receive anything or were turned down because of a technicality.
The BBB offers the following advice to holiday shoppers on how to make the process of redeeming rebates as painless as possible:
For more advice on being a savvy consumer this holiday season, visit www.bbb.org
Here's more advice from the Better Business Bureau to help protect yourself whenever you shop.
Online Shopping Tips
Pay with a credit card - It's best to use a credit card, because under federal law the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.
Keep documentation of your order. After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail – BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.
Check your credit card statements often – Don't wait for paper statements; BBB recommends consumers check their credit card statements for suspicious activity by either calling credit card companies or by checking statements online regularly.
Know your rights - Federal law requires that orders made by mail, phone or online be shipped by the date promised or, if no delivery time was stated, within 30 days. If the goods aren't shipped on time, the shopper can cancel and demand a refund. There is no general three-day cancellation right, but consumers do have the right to reject merchandise if it's defective or was misrepresented. Otherwise, it's the company's policies that determine if the shopper can cancel the purchase and receive a refund or credit.
Using layaway to shop:
When buying items on layaway, the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to get everything in writing and offers the following checklist of questions to ask: