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Know Your Return Policies

At this time of year, the topic of holiday shopping is an obvious centre point of many a conversation. Where to get the best deals, what the hottest gifts are and how much to spend are all part of regular daily discussions. Last week, we blogged about “Black Friday” and how many retailers are already offering major discounts in order to bring more customers into their stores.

It’s important for consumers to not only search out great deals but also become aware of the return policies for their expenditures. Last Friday, Ellen Roseman of The Toronto Star wrote about how many shoppers aren’t aware of how to go about returning the many items they are buying at this time of year.

“Don’t assume you can get your money back on something bought as a gift,” warns Roseman. There are many stores, she points out, that only offer exchanges or in-store credits to customers who wish to return purchases. Other retailers will provide refunds but not before they deduct a restocking fee of between 10 and 20 per cent.

In addition, some stores have specific time windows that you must return your merchandise within. Roseman points out Canadian Tire as an example of a retailer that gives refunds only with 90 days of the purchase. Customers must be sure to keep their receipts and original packaging as well.

Some items, however, have a return policy of only 30 days. Electronic products such as stereos, TVs, cameras and phones fall into this category. Other items may only be returned if they have not been open. For example, ink cartridges, DVDs, CDs, memory cards, mattresses and portable beds all must be returned still sealed in their original packaging.

Roseman also cautions shoppers about items that have no return policy at all. If you have but any products that were sold as clearance or final sale items, be sure you’ve bought what you want because the store won’t take them back! As well, any item that needs to be modified cannot be returned. Think tailored clothing.

She notes that items like magazines and gift cards also can’t be returned. The bottom line is that, as a customer, you should always inquire about a store’s return policy before making the purchase. This will help avoid disappointment if you are unhappy with an item you’ve purchased later on.

Some stores aren’t all that upfront with their return policies so this makes asking about them all the more important. Says Roseman: “I think stores should post signs prominently if they don’t give refunds. Putting information on a sales receipt is too late in the process.”

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