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BBB Tips for Hassle-Free Returns & Exchanges

holiday_shopping, gift_returns, BBB, Better_Business_Bureau

It happens every year: you get or give a gift that isn’t quite right.

A survey by the National Retail Federation showed more than one in three consumers, 38 percent, are expected to return at least some portion of their holiday gifts.

Not every retailer has the same return policy, and some businesses even implement separate policies around special sales and holidays. The Better Business Bureau encourages you to carefully read and understand all policies before buying.

The BBB has the following advice for hassle-free returns and exchanges:

  • Keep receipts: If you are giving the purchase as a gift, ask for a gift receipt and enclose it with the present. Keeping all holiday receipts in one folder or drawer will help you stay organized.
  • Read the return policy: Make sure you understand whether you or the recipient of your gift can get a refund, exchange or store credit from the retailer for unwanted merchandise. Wisconsin laws do not regulate return policies. It’s up to individual stores to set their own policy. By law, a store is not obligated to accept items for return, exchange or credit unless the product was defective or was misrepresented. 
  • Monitor the return clock: Many retailers may only allow returns within a certain time frame, and keep in mind it begins when the item was purchased, not when it was given.
  • Keep original packaging: Many retailers won’t accept returns unless the items are intact and in original packages. This includes parts and price tags.
  • Understand policies for sale merchandise: Return policies for sale or clearance merchandise may be different than merchandise sold at full price.
  • Ask about restocking fees: Some merchants charge a restocking fee for returns of electronics products or large-ticket items.
  • Ask about return shipping fees: Be sure to read return policies when buying online or from catalogs to find out if you have to pay a return shipping fee. Sometimes merchandise can be returned to a local store for free, instead of paying the cost to mail it back.

Call the Wisconsin BBB at 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 608-268-2221 (Madison), 920-734-4352 (Appleton) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin). Or, you can check out a company or get other consumer advice online at You could also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

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