Millions of Americans are contemplating returning a gift.
The National Retail Federation reported that returns nearly doubled during the pandemic.
Around $218 billion in online purchases were sent back and the return rate is estimated to stay in that elevated range.
Now, retailers are responding.
“We’re seeing this year that return policies have gotten a little bit less generous than we’ve seen in years past,” said Samantha Gordon, a Deals Editor with Consumer Reports.
Policies like shortening the return window, charging restocking fees or telling shoppers they’ll have to pay for shipping.
Retailers like Anthropologie and L.L.Bean are charging roughly $6 to mail in most returns.
One tip to avoid most fees: don’t mail it, return the item in-store.
“If you bought online and you’re returning in-store, have as much information as you possibly can,” said Gordon. “When you’re returning that item, you’ll have the best bet of having an easier time dealing with customer service.”
But on the upside, the process of returning items purchased online has gotten easier.
For gifts purchased on Amazon, initiating an online return triggers lots of options like at-home UPS pick up, dropping the item in many cases totally unboxed at a UPS store or returning in-store at Kohl’s or Whole Foods.
For Walmart, start the return on their website and you can schedule a pickup, take it to a physical Walmart store or drop it off at a FedEx store.
The most important thing to remember is to be mindful of the return deadlines.
“When you’re thinking about returning something, it’s really important to keep your timeline in mind,” said Gordon. “Try to get it done within January, if possible.
A matter of a week or 10 days could be the difference between exchanging for something you really want or being stuck with something you don’t want.