Common Law - The FindLaw Consumer Protection Law Blog

3 Ways Online Gift Returns Can Present a Problem

Buying presents over the Internet seems so convenient -- until you have to deal with online gift returns.

There are always challenges when it comes to returning unwanted holiday gifts, but when those gifts are bought online it can make things more complicated. How do you return a gift to the store if it wasn't bought in a physical store?

If you've bought items online to give as gift, it's good to know the rules about online gift returns. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Find out where you can return your gifts. Many online retailers have stores as well, especially big departments stores and national clothing chains. In some cases you can return unwanted items to brick-and-mortar stores, but that may mean you only get store credit rather than getting your money back. To return items to online-only retailers, you may have to pay for shipping out of your own pocket. As the gift giver it's a nice gesture to offer to organize the return if the gift is the wrong size or color.

  • There may be a restocking fee. Returning a gift to an online retailer may not be free, even if you don't have to pay for shipping. Some companies charge a restocking fee which is a percentage of the original price. For example, Amazon charges a 20 percent fee to take back unopened media items or items that aren't returned for more than 30 days. It's not just online retailers either. Bigger stores may also charge a restocking fee if you try to return items that have already been unwrapped.

  • Get a gift receipt. As a gift giver you don't want to necessarily give away how much the gift cost, but if the receiver wants to return it then she'll need a receipt. Many larger retailers will create a gift receipt for you that doesn't include a final price. But if that's not possible, be sure to keep the receipt around. That way if it has to be returned you'll have it ready.

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