Business Bureau offers advice for returning gifts



COVINGTON — While you might like that black Coach purse your mom bought you for Christmas and even those new boots from your sister, you might not be crazy about the sweater from your aunt and uncle.

Even though the popular shopping day on the day after Christmas doesn't have a special name like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it's a popular time for returns and even more shopping for yourself since you have all of your gift-giving out of the way.

"The day after Christmas is a really big day for us," said Covington Kmart Manager Don Buckner. "It's not as big as Christmas Eve or any of the other (popular shopping) days, but it's a really busy day."

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers in Georgia that companies are allowed to establish their own policies regarding refunds, exchanges and store credits, and they need to be familiar with those rules before they try to bring something back to the store.

At some companies, no such policies exist, as no business is required by law to allow a customer the right to return or exchange merchandise no matter when it was purchased. The only exceptions to this rule are items that are misrepresented or defective. The laws in all states require a store to make good in such cases, according to the BBB.

Current regulations do not require a store to post policies or put the information on the receipt. Therefore, it is the customer's responsibility to find out each store's policies regarding refunds, exchanges or store credits. Policies for refunds and exchanges are usually available to provide better customer service and not because a store is required to do so by law, according to the BBB.

"If you have to return something, try to get a gift receipt or the original receipt," Buckner said. "It will expedite the refund and makes it so much easier. If you don't have a receipt, it really slows things down."

Officials at the BBB offer the following tips to make holiday shopping a little less stressful:

1. Save the receipt. Even if the store does not have a return policy, this information may be needed for warranty repair or to verify payment.

2. Find out each store's policy regarding refunds, exchanges or store credits. Do not assume you have the right to return items just because it is not posted or no one has said otherwise.

3. If refunds or exchanges are allowed, find out the following:

a. Is there a specific time period in which items may be returned?

b. Must the item(s) be in the original packaging?

c. Will there be a restocking fee if you change your mind?

d. Can you return the item to another location of the store?

e. Will the store give money back or will you be required to make an exchange or receive a store credit?

If you have children, you also might be faced with the concern of recalled toys this holiday season.

The toy industry spends an estimated $300 million a year on safety testing and inspection of toys, and approximately 3 billion toys are sold in America each year. According to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, less than 20 percent of recalled toys make it back to the manufacturer for proper disposal or repair.

The BBB suggests the following tips for consumers:

• Find out which toys have been recalled.

The CPSC keeps a list of recalled toys on its website, www.cpsc.gov. The Toy Industry Association also provides extensive information on toy safety and recalled toys on its website, www.toyinfo.org.

• Find out what to do if you have purchased a recalled toy.

The CPSC negotiates the specific resolution over a recalled toy with the toy manufacturer, usually resulting in a refund or an exchange for a different toy. Check with the CPSC website for the specific resolutions for the recalled toy you've purchased. If you purchased the toy from a retailer, try returning the item to them first; major toy outlets often have their own return policy for recalled toys.

Toy recall hotlines include the Consumer Products Safety Commission at 800-638-2772; the Toy Industry Association at 888-888-4TOYS; Mattel at 800-916-4498; Fisher-Price at 800-991-2444; and Toys "R" Us at 800-869-7787.