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Fewer admit to returning gifts this year, survey finds

Posted at 10:26 AM, Dec 26, 2014

It happens almost every Christmas; you open a gift that immediately has you thinking about standing in the return line at the store. It's not necessarily that you're ungrateful, it's just that you already own it, don't need it or just flat-out don't like it.

But maybe Santa was on point this year.

A recent survey by the online savings firm RetailMeNot found that 32 percent of people say they typically return or exchange at least one holiday gift. The same survey a year ago found that 45 percent admitted to taking presents back to the store.

However, as anyone who has done it know, returning gifts can be an annoying hassle.

"Know the store policy," said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor at RetailMeNot. "It's safe to assume that if you're returning in-store within 15 days — or 30 days in many cases — and you have a receipt, that you will receive the full purchase price back."

But what if you are stuck without a receipt?

"You will most likely be given a store credit or gift card," Bodge cautioned, adding that some stores will do this even if you have a gift receipt. "Depending on the store, you might only receive the current price of the item you are returning Post-Christmas, that could be the clearance price." That explains only getting a small store credit when returning an item that cost more before the holiday.

Bodge said last year, stores like Best Buy, Sears and Toys R Us changed their return policies around Christmas, making it more difficult to make returns. It's no surprise that stores don't want to encourage gift returns, the process can be just as irritating for retailers as it is for shoppers — and more expensive.

At least $3.8 billion will be lost by retailers this holiday season because of fraudulent returns, according to the National Retail Federation's 2014 Return Fraud Survey. "Overall, retailers polled estimate 5.5 percent of holiday returns are fraudulent, similar to last year’s 5.8 percent," the NRF report indicated.

If you plan on making returns this year, Bodge recommended making it easy on the store. "Keep all tags on and save all boxes — essentially, the easier it will be for the store to put the item back on the shelf, the better."

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.