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The Art of Return: Giving Gifts that are Easy to Exchange

Not to be ungrateful, but sometimes you simply give a gift that someone may want to exchange

The rules change somewhat, but there will always be someone out there wanting to exchange a gift. Regardless of the thought you may put into a purchase, it could be just the wrong color, a duplicate, or a truly horrible choice. Don't take it personally; just make it easy for the giftee to find something they really like. You'll probably never know - so don't ask and there will be no hurt feelings.


When shopping for gifts or for yourself, make it a habit to keep the receipts. This is especially true when you're shipping items or if you think there's a chance the person on the other end may want to exchange an item.

They can be "anonymous," sort of. When you purchase a gift, ask for a copy that is coded without the actual price. This gives your gift a store identity and the receiver doesn't have to know how much you spent unless they return it. It also validates a set price for a refund. In other words, if an item is marked down after the holidays, without proof of purchase, you'll get the marked down price refunded rather than the original price.

Timing is everything
When you do make a purchase, always ask about the return policy. They vary widely and in many cases, items can't be returned at all. Some of the major electronics stores allow for only 14 days, while some of the discount chains give you 90 days to make that exchange. This is a critical point if you're shipping gifts.

Condition of the items is also factored into the return. Many retailers are starting to impose a restocking fee and even more are refusing to accept opened items without a substantial markdown. Think of the times you've seen items in stores that have been previously opened and taped. Makes you sort through until you find one with that "new" look, doesn't it?

Note, too, that items such as pillows and pillowcases may be non-returnable. Any item related to personal hygiene is probably a no-go.

Wear out that Credit Card
You may feel the urge to pay cash or write a check, but credit card purchases are simply easier to track. Many of the major stores keep those details in their database, regardless of where the item is returned. This is often easier than including receipts with the gift.

Gifting with a Gift Card
These are very popular, especially when you're short on time and ideas. You can get them from chains for use anywhere as well as from some credit card companies and, perhaps most welcomed, from Amazon.

Be sure to know what the limitations for use are. Many, if not used within a certain time period - typically six months or one year - will implement fee deductions. You may find a purchase fee as well in some instances.

Passing Those Gifts Along
While I'm not a person fan of re-gifting, I have done so in one extreme situation. I couldn't get part of an on-line order shipped to me in time and had to fill in with an unopened gift I had received a few months previously. It was hard to let it go and I plan to replace it as soon as possible.

However, even Emily Post seems to grant this practice an acceptable one. So, I will bow to the experts. Just be very sure you don't get caught! I suppose if it's a duplicate, no one will ever be the wiser.

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