How retailers are handling holiday returns

Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 4:09 PM EST
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(WNDU) - After the gift giving season comes a spike in returns. While some store policies haven’t changed in years, other stores are tightening up the rules — meaning that return could cost you.

The National Retail Federation expects about 18 percent of merchandise sold during the holiday shopping season to be returned-- about $158 billion. It’s causing stores like LL Bean, Abercrombie, and J. Crew to adjust by charging fees for those shipping back their returns.

“Definitely try to return it to the store it’s going to make that process easier and you’re not going to have to pay that restocking fee or a return shipping fee,” advises Kyle James, the founder of

With Amazon purchases, you may have no choice but to mail them back, but they are known for making it easy — especially for those with a Prime membership. Still, it’s important to be aware of the return policy from third-party sellers on Amazon. They may want a restocking fee of up to 50% for returns, especially on electronics.

Another change impacting holiday returns this year is shorter return windows, so the sooner you can decide if you want a refund, the better.

“Get it out, open it up, make sure it’s something that you actually want. If not, return it as soon as you can,” says James.

Many stores allow holiday returns until the end of January, but some are getting stricter. For example, Best Buy limits returns to just 15 days.

“The next couple of weeks are pretty busy for people and that time can go quickly, after Jan. 15 you’re going to be stuck with it,” says James.

Best Buy also tracks returns without a receipt to combat return fraud.

“The store will ask for your photo ID and they’ll use that to kind of track your non-receipt returns, because they don’t want people abusing their policy,” says James.

Thankfully, even without a gift receipt, most retailers are willing to work with you.

“A lot of times if it’s still in original, new condition, they’ll take it back and they’ll give you a store credit,” Kyle James explains.

If you aren’t successful making a return, you still have a few options—you can try donating it, re-gifting it, or selling it online with the help of sites like eBay.

“You typically get practically what the retail price is on that item if you’re willing to wait a little bit, sometimes it might take a month or two to sell it. And you pay a little bit of a fee to eBay for selling it for you. But it’s a great way to sell stuff that you got stuck with,” says James.

Ultimately if you want your money back, you need to familiarize yourself with the store’s return policy. This can be especially helpful on more expensive purchases so you know how long you have before deciding if you want to bring it back.

You can find return policies printed on the back of most receipts or on most store’s websites. You can also find a list of many retailer’s return policies at