Don't Wait to Return Your Unwanted Holiday Gifts

Photo:  Felix Mizioznikov (Shutterstock)
Photo: Felix Mizioznikov (Shutterstock)

During the last two holiday seasons, many national retailers extended the window of time customers had to return or exchange their unwanted gifts. This move, some experts suggest, was a way to encourage spending during an economic downturn—especially at a time when COVID-19 restrictions and illnesses likely changed people’s shopping (and returning) habits.

But now, in the third holiday season of the pandemic, retailers aren’t feeling as generous. In fact, are not only are some cutting their post-holiday period for returns and exchanges short, others are now charging shipping or restocking fees. Here’s what to know.

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Return unwanted holiday gifts sooner rather than later

While some retailers continue to have generous return policies, others have gone back to their pre-COVID timelines. This means that the deadlines for returning gifts purchased in October, November, and December 2022 begin as early as January 8, 2023 (we’re looking at you, Apple), though most tend be at the end of the month.

Unsure of a store’s holiday return policy? The information should be printed on your receipt (or emailed to you). And for ease of reference, here are two lists of return deadlines for a handful of major retailers.

Return items in person, if possible

As convenient as it is to ship unwanted gifts back to the retailer for a refund or store credit, you may want to rethink doing that this year.

While some retailers do still offer free shipping for returns, others charge a fee to ship the item back to them, which is typically deducted from your refund or store credit. Also, if you paid to have the item shipped to you in the first place, you probably won’t get that money back.

To avoid having to pay for your return, bring the item back to the store in person, if possible.

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