The Art of the Return


Happy Black Friday everyone! On a day like today, people are buying more than ever—which often leads to spur of the moment purchases that, by the time you get home, make you realize you didn't want or need them in the first place. And of course, Black Friday means the start of the holiday season, meaning you may receive some unwanted gifts. Here are the stats on holiday returns: 

When it comes to returns, RetailMeNot found that

-33% of people return unwanted gifts

-30% re-gift the items

-24% donate unwanted gifts

-Clothing and fragrances are the most commonly returned items due to sizing issues and personal preferences.

-The most returned gifts are clothing, electronics, jewelry and fragrances are the most commonly returned items due to sizing issues and personal preferences.


More than 20% of returns happen during the holiday season—about $60 billion in merchandise (source: WSJ/ Optoro logistics provider). The U.S. Postal Service handled 3.2 million returns in the two weeks that followed last Christmas and said there will be even more this year. (WSJ) UPS expects to handle four million returns the first full week of January, up 15% from two years ago as online sales continue to grow. (WSJ) BUT it costs the retailer: Best Buy estimates that returns, replacements and damaged goods represent about 10% of revenue and for the year cost the electronics retailer $400 million.


With all these returns taking place, here are some tips and tricks on how to make an easy, stress-free return: 


1) Make sure you check the return policy: Some stores have revised their return policies to accommodate the rush of holiday returns. Those policies can run anytime between Black Friday to the end of January or end as soon as January 1st. This is CRUCIAL and could potentially cost you hundreds of dollars in presents you do not want.



Nordstrom, Zappos, Athleta and Bed Bath & Beyond are all particularly great with returns, they will take items without a receipt and find a way to get them refunded or exchanged. These retailers also give customers the option to print a shipping label from home and mail in their returns FREE of charge.


2) Digitally document your gift receipts: If you are fortunate enough to have gift receipts included in your presents, make sure you take a picture of them OR scan them into your computer. Holidays can get crazy and receipts can get lost in the madness and most stores require you to have a receipt when returning items IF you want a full refund. If you don’t have your receipt you may only get store credit based on the return policy.


3) Hit the stores during the earlier part of the day: Fun fact: stores tend to have the most traffic between the hours of 11am and 2pm when most people have days off. To beat the rush, try and do your returns right when the store opens. You will be able to zip in and out of the store in no time. Also, store employees tend to be more attentive and willing to help when you catch them at an early time. To ensure you get the best service try and go before the store’s rush hour.


4) Don’t be afraid to negotiate: The United States is one of the only countries where the consumer doesn’t negotiate at the point of sale in stores. If you don’t have your receipt and you are past the deadline of when you can return your gift, don’t be afraid to negotiate other terms so that you may get something you actually like. In some cases if you are nice (read: do not come in there with an entitled attitude expecting a refund, etc.,) you may be able to get a gift card for the store or something that has the same value.


5) Beware of restocking fees: In some cases, stores require you to pay a 20-30% restocking fee to return an item. That can be a bummer. But in some cases, if you are willing to get something at the store for the same value of the gift you are trying to return, you won’t have to pay the restocking fee. If you ask nicely and don’t make any assumptions, more than likely you won’t have to pay this fee.