NEW YORK -- Not into Aunt Tina's tiny top she gave you for the holidays? Or the ugly Christmas sweater given by your mother-in-law?
Don't worry, you can take unwanted gifts back, just don't delay. 7 On Your Side has some guidelines so you have "happy", hassle-free returns.
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Don't Delay Returns
"You don't have a long window, so prioritize returns and get receipts to your friends and family without delay," says consumer expert Janice Lieberman. Timing is key and retailers agree.
"If they want a refund and come three months later it get trickier," says Jim Saliyik. At his family's shop, John Pierre Jewelers in Dumont, he says timing is also important for selection.
"You should come sooner than later if you want something made for you. Something you do like or a refund is always an option," says the second generation jeweler.
Independent retailers usually don't require a receipt because they know their clientele and their product. But many large stores won't allow a return or refund without a receipt. Hang on to yours. Janice makes sure hers never gets lost.
Staple Receipts to Shopping Bag
" This is my must have hack!" says Lieberman. "Take the receipt at the point of sale, ask to borrow a stapler and staple it to the bag and when you go to return it you have it, it's not lost and it goes with merchandise that's in this bag."
Remember if you don't have the receipt they are going to give you the lowest price it ever sold, so you're really out of luck if you can't find your receipt. Also try to make it easier for your friends and family to give the gift or a gift receipt.
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Include Gift Receipts
"I would tape this to the box, the inside, so the person opening it has the gift receipt, it doesn't go on the floor with all the wrapping," says Lieberman. "Then they don't have to go back to you which is embarrassing. They have to go back to you, ask you for the receipt which is something you may or may not have."
Make it easier to hang on to your records by opting for email receipts sent right to your inbox from the store.
Opt for Email Receipts
You may want to create a separate email just for shopping receipts so you don't clog your inbox with a bunch of junkmail.
Research Return Policy
Make sure you check return policies carefully for return deadlines. "Some are very generous, go into the second week of January but some no," said Lieberman. "Some you need to be there between 14 days of purchase. It really varies from store to store and that's completely legal but they need to let you know so go online."
Beware of Restocking Fees
Next make sure you don't unbox your electronics. It may look prettier with that bow but once it's out of the box, you'll face a restocking fee to return it.
Don't Wear Items You May Return
At her boutiques See -Saw in Tenafly and Fort Lee, Gina Curko has a long and lenient return policy but says many large stores are sticklers and will give your clothes the "sniff" test first.
"Most retailers will say we will take it back in the condition we sold it to you in, without a smell, without a cooking smell," said Curko. "All of those things retailers take into play so you want to make sure you don't wear it."
Be Nice When Returning
Another top tip: be nice, not naughty with that unwanted gift.
"Try to attract more bees with honey than vinegar," said Lieberman. "They've had a long day, they've been on their feet. If you're nice to them maybe they'll be nice to you...it really pays off!"
Three more tips:
Skip the Trip: Free Shipping
Before you shlep to the mall check the return policy online. Many stores allow you to ship returns back free of charge.
Bring Your ID
You'll need a picture ID if you're returning items, even if you're just getting store credit. Don't fight this rule, sales clerks are instructed not to take returns if you don't present a valid ID like a driver's license.
One man's trash is another's treasure. Put those gifts away that aren't your style and give them to someone else. Re-gifting will save you money and the hassle of a return.
See more stories, photos and videos on the holidays.
11 tips for 'happy returns' of unwanted gifts
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