Holiday return policies have just reached a new audacious level.
A woman at a Costco
in California got the ultimate refund this week when she tried to return a Christmas tree weeks after the holiday season, “because it is dead,” a witness said on Facebook
— and it worked. The customer at the wholesale store in a Los Angeles suburb said they were shocked to see somebody hauling a dead tree into the store and asking for her money back. After negotiating with the sales person, she reportedly successfully got a refund. Fresh-cut trees were being sold at Costco for around $35 this season.
While a real (formerly) live Christmas tree may be an abnormal return item, if you are hoping to return that ugly sweater your mother-in-law got you for Christmas this year, you are not alone: Nearly one-fourth of Americans plan to return a gift they received this holiday season, according to a study from personal finance site WalletHub.
Apps and credit card protection services are making it easier to do so — which is good news, because returning is a big priority for consumers. Some 45% say they would not be satisfied with store credit in exchange for a returned item and nearly half of consumers say they would never shop at a store again if it refused to accept their return.
Here are some easy ways to get your money’s worth when returning holiday gifts, even if they were purchased months ago.
Remember your rights when returning items
The average store requires goods to be returned within 30 days, which is bad news if the person who purchased the gift for you shops in far in advance. However, 48% of credit cards have a return protection program, including Barclaycard Arrival Plus
and Citi Diamond
Most of those provide a 90-day return period and up to $300 in coverage per item, according to Wallethub. Despite this, 88% of people have never taken advantage of credit card return protection. Always check, preferably before you choose a card.
Turn your gift cards into cash
Many of us get stuck with gift cards we don’t use, taking up space in our wallets and reminding us of cash we are throwing away. It’s an easy problem to fix, with a number of companies offering cash for gift cards, most of them taking a small commission on your profit.
Raise, for example, is a marketplace for gift cards and hosts more than 3,800 brands and has saved consumers a projected $140 million since its launch in 2013, the company claims. It collects a 12% sales commission and $1 or a 1% listing fee and deposits the profit directly into user bank accounts. Similarly, Cardpool also lists cards for users who can be paid out by check or Amazon gift card. It takes a slightly smaller commission, offering users up to 92% of the profit.
Don’t forget about the warranty
Even if you do not want to return your gift for cash, look into extended warranties under credit cards. Original warranties on eligible items purchased with a Citi or USAA credit card get automatically extended by up to two years, WalletHub said. And most consumer credit cards that offer purchase protection will refund, repair or replace items that are damaged or stolen within 90 days of purchase. All cards from Chase and Citi provide that benefit for 120 days.
You don’t always have to go to the post office
Most Americans dread mailing packages, but returning a product doesn’t always mean going to the post office. Apps like Shyp make returning easier, with a feature on its iPhone app that lets users return items they purchased online more easily with a flat $5 fee by letting them select a store within the app and print out return labels. Stamps.com also allows people weigh packages and print postage at home, making it so you don’t have to go to the Post Office again.