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How To Return Gifts For a Full Refund

Updated on December 25, 2008

How To Return Gifts For A Full Refund


Gifts. They’re wonderful to receive…usually. But what do you do when a gift is:

1. Broken

2. The wrong size

3. Not the color you prefer

4. Ugly

5. Not something you want


Let’s face it, gift giving is a chancy thing. Most of the time we don’t really “know” the person’s every preference. As the receiver, we usually are pleased that someone has thought enough of us to give us a gift; but, we normally want something that we can use. (True, some gifts have sentimental value making them “keepers” regardless of whether they meet all of our preferences or not.)


So, how do you maximize your chances of getting a FULL refund when you return a gift? Here’s a list of some things that may help:

1. Don’t open the manufacturer’s package. This is especially true with regard to electronic devices, software, DVD’s, etc. Once the seal is broken you may not be permitted to return the thing or, at the very least, be charged a healthy “restocking fee” (generally 15-25%).

2. Save the original package! This means using a little self-control when opening the gift. Try not to damage the box/package if at all possible. Use scissors or a knife (adults only!) to open seals, tape, etc.

3. Check the gift to see if the giver included a “Gift Receipt”. This is a receipt printed by the store specifically for gift giving. It omits the purchase price but can be used like a regular receipt for exchanges, refunds & warranty claims.

4. Once you decide to return a gift to the store, find out the store’s return policy. Most important is the timing; how long do they give you to return it. Most give at least 30 days and some recently have extended it to 120 or even 180 days. (They’re not doing this out of the kindness of their heart. There are several reasons retailers prefer to delay returns; but that is a whole other discussion.) Check also what their Return Policy requires as to packaging.

5. Cash back or store credit? Often this is dictated by the store’s Return Policy. Generally Return Policies are more lenient with regard to store credit than to cash back. Often you’ll have no choice. If you’ve opened the package or don’t have a receipt the only choice they’ll give is store credit. Nowadays, store credit is often given in the form of a “gift card.” That’s fine…same as cash when used at one of their stores.

6. Don’t “use” the item. This means using it for a time and then deciding you don’t want it. Granted, some stores are a little lenient on this but to maximize your chance of getting a full refund is increased if the item hasn’t been used (or at least LOOKS like it hasn’t been used.) A friend of mine is a manager at a Home Depot store. He says that everyday people try to return tools that are obviously used. Some people buy a tool for a one-time job and then return it, expecting a full refund. The big box stores are pretty lenient but this is outright dishonest and fraudulent. It may be justified if you use a tool and it honestly turns out to be not what you expected. Just be honest and candid when you return it. The retailer wants to make you happy and they know mistakes happen and their customers buy things that aren’t what they expected.

7. If the item was purchased online, check with the website for their return policy and instructions. Often you must FIRST obtain an “RMA Number” (Return Merchandise Authorization). Call or “contact” the online store, give them a full description of the item and the reason you want to return it. They will provide you with an RMA number and an address for the return. NOTE: Most online stores insist that returns be sent to an address different than their ship-from address. So, be certain to get that address BEFORE you ship the item back.

8. Be respectful. Whether in person, on the telephone or via email, remember that you are dealing with a fellow human who is trying to do a good job and earn a living for his/her family. They deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy. Remember that THEY (personally) didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, in most cases, YOU are the one causing that problem and need a “favor.” Never berate or verbally abuse the one trying to help you. Even if they give you an answer you don’t want! Your best chance of success is to be gracious, courteous, kind and gentle.

9. If a refund is denied, ask what other resources are open to you. If you really believe your request is reasonable and legitimate, ask to speak to a supervisor or a manager. Get the contact information for the “main office” or “headquarters.” Write the main office a respectfully worded letter or email describing the situation and what you would like to resolve the matter. Never berate the people you spoke to earlier; it won’t help prove your case. (In fact, it will generally indicate that YOU are a problem and are difficult to please and may lower the chance of getting what you want.) Stay focused on the real issues and respectfully ask for a resolution. (I am working on another article which I likely will title “How To Resolve Problems.” If you want to be notified by Hubpages when it is published, click on “Join William Turpen’s Fan Club” in the box near the top right of this page.)


There are probably other things you can do to increase the chance of getting a full refund but if you follow the above common sense things the likelihood of success is pretty good. If you have any additional suggestions we’d love to hear them! Happy giving and happy returning!



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