How to return and exchange gifts or unwanted purchases

Everyone is back Gift or impulse purchase now and then. Maybe not fit. It may not suit your taste. Maybe you ordered something on a whim (or signed a great deal) and now you have buyer’s remorse. Or maybe you just read a book that extols the virtues of simplicity and would like to change that lifestyle. Whether it’s well-intentioned gifts from your relatives or impulse orders from Amazon Prime, the good news is that you can return things with ease.

Whatever your reasoning for returning an item, you are not alone. The National Retail Federation estimates That said, about $309 billion worth of merchandise was returned in 2019, which is about 8 percent of total sales. Around the holiday season, it is estimated that two-thirds of gift givers return an item.

“Consumers are really used to being able to return their merchandise,” said Larissa Summers, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce at Optoro, a platform that helps retailers like Target and Staples offset the costs of returns. “I think a lot of consumers don’t realize how complex this is for retailers.”

You might think that returned merchandise is stored on the shelf it came from, but Summers said that only happens about half the time. Other times, returned merchandise is sold to other retailers—or worse, discarded. Optoro estimates that 5 billion pounds of returned items end up in landfills each year.

So if you want to return gifts or holiday purchases, do so in a smart and sustainable way. Being smart about returns gives you the best gift of all: a home and a less crowded planet.

Updated June 2021: Much of our advice on how to get back still stands; We have updated some of the deadlines and return policies for retailers.


First things first: You have more time than you think. While “30 days after the time of purchase” is the normal policy throughout the year, most retailers adjust the return date based on shopping holidays to accommodate returns. We have also seen regular return policies extended due to Covid-19.

Make sure your item is packaged with all tags, accessories, and original packaging if possible. Unless you are replacing a defective product, make sure your item is in good condition. Summers said that merchandise returned in its original packaging and in original condition is easy to resell. Without the original packaging, there is a higher chance of items being discarded.

Bring your receipt, too, especially if it’s a gift receipt. Overall, getting one makes it easier and more likely that you’ll get a cash or store credit for your return. Some stores will work with you to collect order information if you lose your receipt. At other retailers, you won’t be so lucky. Some stores require you to show ID, so be sure to bring it with you as well.

Summer encourages you to share why you are returning the product. Retailers take this type of feedback seriously, as it helps them reduce revenue for the following year.

Finally, learn about individual store policies. Some stores will adjust their policy for open or unopened products while others will only take in-store returns and exchanges. We’ve collected policies from some of the most popular retailers, but it’s a good idea to have a solid understanding of the policies for the item you’re trying to return before you head to the mall.

Amazon Return Policy

Amazon Returns and exchanges will be honored for items shipped back within 30 days of receiving the items. Fill out your item and log into your Amazon account to Never go back. You will need to enter the order ID from the packing slip. Print and paste the return label provided on your package. When you receive your item, you will receive a refund in the form of an Amazon Gift Card. (If you are the gift giver, you will get your money back).

If the item was purchased on but from a third-party seller, you (or the person who gave you the gift) will need to facilitate returns with the seller. If you do not want to bother with the problems of shipping your package, you may be able to turn to kohl or a UPS Local Store And your return shipping from Amazon is free.

Tech retailers: Apple, Best Buy, Walmart, Target

an Apple Returns will only be accepted on items purchased from an Apple Store or Apple website. Note that Apple’s return period is shorter than that of some other retailers – you have 14 calendar days from arrival until return. For gifts, refunds are issued in the form of an Apple Gift Card. Exchanges can only be made in the Apple Store.

Log in to your account, decide whether to buy back or gift, and Follow the instructions on the page. If you’re returning an iPhone or iPad, follow up with your wireless carrier to make sure wireless service is cancelled.

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