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Purchasing or receiving an unwanted gift can be one of the most frustrating – and uncomfortable – things that can go wrong over the holidays. For this reason, most people prefer the reassurance when they purchase an item that they can return it if it isn’t what they were looking for. Unfortunately, when you are in line at checkout, caution can be thrown over the way-side. So when you’re purchasing gifts, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always make sure you are clear on store policies. Do they offer full refunds? Cancellations? If you look around the store and don’t see this information anyway, ask an employee before you make your purchase.
  • Ask for receipts. If you don’t have a receipt, there is a strong likelihood that you will only be able to return your product for store credit, or not at all. Also, keep in mind that many retailers will give you a gift receipt without the price printed on it if you ask for it, so don’t pass on a receipt because you don’t want the cost to ruin your surprise.
  • Remember to remove the price tag before wrapping. You can cut off or black out the price on the tag and still be able to return it.

And when you’re receiving gifts, consider these tips:

  • Hold onto the receipt. Check each present for a gift receipt. Try on all clothing and test out any electronics. Do not throw away receipts until you are certain you will be keeping the item.
  • Keep the original tags. Even though the price may be gone, clothing and other items often come with manufacturer tags that describe the item and have a bar code. It will be easier to return an item if the original tag is intact.
  • Know store return policies. You can save yourself an unsuccessful trip the retailer by making sure you understand their return policies. Check the retailer’s website and even the back of the receipt to find the return policy. It’s important to know whether you will be given store credit or a cash refund for the gift. It is also important to note that many electronics sellers will not be able to offer a return if the shrink-wrap plastic is removed. Check the store’s return policy before fully opening these types of gifts.

Contrary to what many people think, there is not usually a “cooling-off” period in a contract when you can cancel it unless the contract specifies otherwise. This includes phone contracts, club memberships, and other long-term contracts.

If you have proven to a retailer that you paid for an item and are entitled to a refund, you can report to our Consumer Hotline at 617-973-8787 or toll-free in MA at 888-283-3757, as well as to the Attorney General’s Office online here, and the Better Business Bureau here. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.

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