Keep return policies in mind when shopping for holiday gifts

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Look around San Francisco's Union Square and you'll see plenty of shoppers. Brick and mortar stores might not do the business they used to do, but this time of year they do okay.

Now, with time running out, many of you might soon be joining the crowds to buy those last-minute gifts. You should, of course, shop quality and price -- but what about checking on the return policies too?

Edward Dworsky is the founder of Consumer World. For 16 years he has surveyed return policies during the holiday shopping season.

"I think we are seeing the major stores are saying there is too much risk in having these unlimited return policies," he tells 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney. "Plus think about it. If you buy a winter coat in February and take it back in July, what are they going to do with it?"

He says store policies are tightening up, and becoming more specific, so it is important for shoppers to know what they are getting into.

"Retailers are slicing and dicing their return policies so they have one rule for a certain category of goods and another rule for another category," he says. "Macy's and Amazon's have 24 or more exceptions to their regular return policy."

It can get complicated. But if you want to feel better about the policies just talk to a shopper like Zarina. She didn't tell us her last name, but she did make us feel better about shopping in the United States.

"I used to live in England and there you can hardly return anything, once you bought it," she says. "So here it is a dream."

One final thought: more than a third of all gift recipients say they expect to return items after the holidays.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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