November 24, 2012 7:48:37 PM
MISSISSIPPI STATE - Not all stores have consumer-friendly return policies, so be a savvy shopper this holiday season and read the fine print when purchasing gifts.
Mississippi State University Extension Service family life management specialist Bobbie Shaffett said even the most thoughtful shoppers occasionally give gifts that need to be returned, so understanding store policies is important.
"Stores are not required to take back gifts and give refunds or exchanges," Shaffett said. "It is a privilege offered voluntarily by some of our favorite retailers, but it is not required. Some larger retailers have different terms depending on whether you purchased an item online or in a store, so read the return policies carefully."
If a store offers a gift receipt, enclose it with the present.
"The holidays are about thoughtfulness," Shaffett said. "No one wants to hurt someone else's feelings by having to request a receipt. It may be a duplicate of something he or she already owns or it may be the wrong size or color. People return gifts for a variety of reasons, so it's nice to make it easy on them."
Some shoppers find it hard to keep track of receipts during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
"One idea is to keep all holiday receipts in zippered freezer bag with the year written on it," Shaffett said. "Even stores that offer refunds have tightened their policies and may not do so without a receipt. Some stores also have a limited time period for holiday returns, so check the return policy for a time frame from the date of purchase that the store allows returns. Keep in mind that on-sale and clearance items may have different return policies."
If you want to avoid dealing with receipts, think of creative homemade gifts or consider giving gift cards or gift certificates to those hard-to-buy-for people on your list.
"A gift card to a favorite restaurant and a certificate for free babysitting is a thoughtful gift to anyone with young children," said Tawnya Crockett, an Extension family resource management area agent in Forrest County. "Coupons for car washing, a homemade dessert, homemade cookie-of-the-month club or help with a household project allow you to give a more personal gift and provide a service to your friends or family members."
Crockett said the recipients' ages can help guide gift-buying decisions.
"Great gift ideas for teenagers are movie and fast food restaurant gift cards," she said. "For grandparents, a scrapbook is a thoughtful gift. For a family, give an entertainment basket with a DVD, popcorn, sodas and candy."