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Returning unwanted gifts

I hope everyone has had a great holiday. It’s a new start to a new year and time to return or exchange those unwanted gifts. It happens, you don’t always get what you want. But you don’t want to wait until it’s too late and leave money spent alone. Unless it was hand-knit from your grandma, it may be time to give up that ugly Christmas sweater or whatever it may be. It reminds me of a story I read my little one, called Dear Zoo.

Spoiler alert: For those that have never read it, it’s a story of a little kid looking for the perfect pet, and so he writes to the Zoo. The Zoo sends him several animals, each one doesn’t fit the bill, so he sends it back until he gets his perfect little gift… Hey, I can’t give away the whole story. It’s a great little flap book, you can pick up a copy here for your child/inner child or grab one from your local library. But aside from teaching kids about all the different animals, that day, it reminded me of something I needed to return.

When I think of it, a lot of my friends seem reluctant to return anything. I don’t know if they just forget or feel a sense of guilt or embarrassment about the whole thing and end up hanging on to them way too long. And at the end of the year, you have this pile of gifts collecting dust of things that were never used, or of things you bought and are still sitting in their wrappers and with price tags. As consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow puts it, “a lot of times people are less connected to the money coming back, particularly if they’ve paid with a credit card. It’s less tangible.”

But if you’re still grasping for reasons, here’s…

6 reasons to return or exchange

  1. It’s not in your shape, size or colour. When it comes to clothing (or pretty much anything), why hang on to something that’s not your fit or style. It’s always embarrassing to get a sweater two sizes too big. As long as it’s not some piece of home decor that they’re expecting to see in your home every time they visit, I think it’s perfectly okay to return stuff you don’t like. Note to my gifters: Please don’t get me any home decor gifts. Chances are I probably will not like what you like. And nothing says “where can I put this” like an oversized garden gnome.
  2. You already have it. Duplicates are pretty self-explanatory. Unless you plan to build up a collection of identical things, get rid of it and go buy yourself something nice.
  3. You’re second-guessing it. If you are second-guessing that shirt that you bought or were gifted, rather than it sit in with the rest of your clothes that still have tags on them, look at returning or exchanging it. If you feel guilty that the gifter is going to say anything, use any of the excuses I have listed in point #1 – it’s not in your shape, size or colour.
  4. You got a gift card you don’t use. Rather than leave perfectly good money collecting dust, see if you can return the card and if not, see if you can exchange it online. Just make sure whatever card you can exchange it for, you can quickly pop online to check the card’s balance, so you know you’re not getting screwed by someone who’s trying to sell you a gift card, they’ve already used – it happens. You could also use a service like cardswap.ca which will mail you a cheque or allow you to swap for other gift cards.
  5. You got gifted an extended warranty. Again, I’m not sure why people add these to their toy purchase, but somehow they get suckered in by adamant salespeople. Usually, there is an “I can’t believe I bought this extended warranty” forgiveness date if you change your mind. I’ve kept many toys but returned their extended warranties. Gifters won’t know the difference.
  6. Price matching. I find for a lot of items, especially electronics, January is usually the best month to buy. Why? They’re clearing out for new models that they usually stock in February. It’s one of the slowest retail months of the year, which also makes it one of the best price-wise. On most purchases, you have 14-30 days to refund or make an exchange – which often also includes price drops. This means if you bought your gift within the last month and the price is lower than what you bought it for, bring in your receipt and get a refund! When I bought my flat-screen TV and stereo system a few years back. I saved almost $1000 just by doing this. And if it drops $50 one week and you go in to get your refund and then you notice the next week it drops another $100 – go back in and get another refund. As long as you’re within your time limit. Some sites even allow you to set price alerts that they will email you when the price falls below a certain amount. I take full advantage of these on any big purchase.

Don’t have a receipt? No worries. It doesn’t hurt to try, the worst they could do is say “no”. If they don’t give you a refund or exchange, they’ll often give you store credit at the lowest sale price that the item was priced at. Better than nothing. Even most online purchases that have a brick and mortar outlet, accept returns at their stores. And always make sure the place you buy from is a reputable dealer that has a return policy. You don’t need to dig into the details, just know the date and do yourself a favour and get what you originally wanted.

How about you? Have you ever returned something you didn’t like? Do you have problems returning gifts?

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