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Holiday Returns

The holidays are here and as you both give and receive gifts it’s likely you will find some cases in which items are the wrong size or style or color, are damaged, or otherwise just not right. This means one thing—returns. Unfortunately, there is no set law about return policies in Massachusetts. Each retailer has its own policy. On the plus side, defective merchandise must be accepted for return, regardless of store policy, and you must be given the option of a repair, replacement, or refund.

As you prep unwanted merchandise for return, you will not be alone. According to RetailWire, about 10% of purchases made at physical locations go back to the store, and about 30% of online buys are returned. Before swiping your card or clicking buy now, there are steps you can take to prepare for the inevitable return, refund, or exchange.

Understand the merchant’s return policy before completing your transaction. In Massachusetts, retailers make their own return policy but by law it must be clearly displayed in the store, and on their website so that you have a chance to read it before completing your transaction. Merchants may include time limits or packing requirements for returns, refunds, or exchanges be aware of those when you buy.

Save your receipts and packaging materials. Many merchants offer receipts via e-mail to help you avoid searching for crumpled paper receipts that can easily be misplaced. Some stores may require original receipts or packaging for a full refund. Return policies may include a “restocking fee” for missing or broken packaging. Returning items in good condition and with original tags may improve your chances of a full-refund.

Avoid frequent returns. Too many trips to the customer service return desk can get you blacklisted. Many retailers use systems to monitor consumer return behavior. These automated systems provide the merchant with recommendations to accept or reject customer returns based on past behavior. If you end up on a serial returner list, you may request a copy of the file from the business rejecting your return. This will allow you to review your file and request corrections if appropriate.

An informed consumer is empowered when making purchases and decisions. Know your rights before visiting your favorite local small business, department store, or online retailer this gift giving season. For more information on shopping in the Commonwealth visit our #MAConsumer Guide to Shopping Rights.

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