Spending Smart: Get a better return on unwanted giftsHowever well-intended, some gifts this holiday season probably missed the mark. Now you're stuck with presents you don't want and will never use. Fortunately, there are many ways — some old, some new — to get value from unwanted gifts. Here are a few.
By: Gregory Karp, Chicago Tribune
However well-intended, some gifts this holiday season probably missed the mark. Now you're stuck with presents you don't want and will never use.
Fortunately, there are many ways — some old, some new — to get value from unwanted gifts. Here are a few.
RETURNS: About one-third of shoppers say they returned a gift last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Returns are becoming easier for a few reasons. First, more people are opting for a gift receipt — a store receipt that omits the price. Six of 10 shoppers say they provide a gift receipt most or some of the time when giving a gift, the retail group says.
While most store return policies remained the same in 2010, a few extended their return periods, according to an analysis by ConsumerWorld.org. Some stores, howver, added restocking fees or limited the return of open items, said Edgar Dworsky, the founder and editor of ConsumerWorld.org. And some stores "slice and dice" their return policies, creating complicated rules for different categories of items — electronics versus clothing, for example — Dworsky said. Online policies may also differ from store rules.
When returning a gift to a store, don't fight the crowds immediately after Christmas. Go back a few days later. Improve your chances of getting full credit by providing a sales slip or gift receipt and returning the item in new condition, unopened and with all packaging material, Dworsky said. Returns without a receipt might mean you get only a merchandise credit for the lowest price the item has sold for recently, or possibly no refund or exchange at all.
REGIFTING: Ultimately, you'll have to decide for yourself whether you're comfortable giving a gift that was previously given to you. Proper etiquette? The Emily Post Institute says gifts should be recycled only rarely, and only when circumstances meet three criteria: You're certain the gift is something the recipient would really like to receive, the gift is brand new and comes with its original box and instructions, and the gift isn't one that the original giver took great care to select or make. Removing the previous note or card is a must, and rewrapping is advised. Make sure the gift is not very old, like from a company that went out of business years ago.
RESELLING: If you can't return an unwanted gift, try selling it on eBay or Craigslist. Unopened items typically fetch higher prices.
GIFT CARD SWAP: Gift cards are popular holiday presents, but you could end up with a drawer full of unwanted cards. Try selling or trading unwanted cards at such websites as PlasticJungle.com, CardPool.com, GiftCardRescue.com, CardWoo.com and Swapagift.com. Of course, you won't get full value for your card — maybe 80 percent. Consider regifting unwanted gift cards to someone who would appreciate it more.
MEDIA SWAP: For books, CDs, DVDs and video games, try Swap.com. The site decides how much your item is worth and what you can swap it for. You pay for shipping and a small transaction fee, usually less than $1. BarterQuest.com is another swap site for goods, services and real estate.
DAILY DEAL SWAP: If you received a gift certificate or prepaid voucher from a daily deal site, you can sell it on Lifesta.com. The online marketplace trades in daily deal coupons from such sites as Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and about 70 others. You must sign up for a free Amazon Payments seller account. When you make a sale, Lifesta.com charges 99 cents, plus 8 percent of the sale price.
DONATE IT: You can continue the giving spirit of the holidays by donating your unwanted gift to a charitable cause. Linda Mills, of Renton, Wash., said her church is hosting a "regift" Sunday service. Church members are asked to bring unwanted gifts to be donated to needy families. "It will be a hoot to see a gigantic Christmas tree with tons of gifts underneath it that will go to people who truly will appreciate them," she said. "The idea is that needs don't end at Christmas time."
MANY HAPPY RETURNS:
Here is a sampling of popular stores with extended holiday return policies. More details and other store policies can usually be found on store Web sites:
—Amazon.com: Jan. 31 return deadline for most items shipped Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. Restocking fee is 15 percent on open computers and up to 50 percent on opened DVDs, software and worn books.
—Best Buy: Jan. 31 deadline for most purchases Nov. 1 to Dec. 24. Computers are only 14 days from purchase for in-store buyers, from receipt date for online buyers. Effective Dec. 18, Best Buy removed restocking fees for all products except special orders.
—Buy.com: Jan. 31 deadline for goods shipped Nov. 15 to Dec. 31. No returns on TVs 27 inches and larger.
—Costco: No deadline date, but there is a 90-day return policy on TVs, computers, cameras, portable music players, cell phones and other electronics.
—Kohl's: No deadline with proof of purchase.
—Macy's stores: No deadline with proof of purchase, but jewelry is 30 days. Restocking fee of 10 percent applies to furniture and mattresses.
—Sears: Deadline for returns is 120 days for most items bought Nov. 14 to Dec. 11. Otherwise, 90 days on most items, and 60 days for electronics and beds. A 15 percent restocking fee is charged on electronics for missing items, built-in appliances and special orders.
—Target: Deadline is 90 days from purchase. Restocking fee of 15 percent on portable electronics, digital cameras and camcorders. Specially marked clearance items only qualify for current sale price.
—Toys R Us: Deadline of 90 days on most items; 45 days for unopened electronics, video games, DVDs and more; no returns if opened.
—Wal-Mart stores: Return deadline of 90 days for most items. But for items with limited return periods purchased from Nov. 15 to Dec. 25, days start counting on Dec. 26 — 15 days for PCs and cell phones, 30 days for cameras and 45 days for PC components and accessories.