The thoughts that creep up moments after opening an unwanted gift might go something like this:

How do I get rid of it?

Darn, no gift receipt.

What time do stores open Wednesday?

Is there anyone I can regift this to?

Sometimes a gift doesn’t fit in more ways than one. However, instead of settling for a duplicate gift or the ugly sweater you’ll never wear, you can return, exchange or sell your unwanted holiday gifts. 

The annual return-a-thon kicks off early Wednesday as retailers start after-Christmas sales aiming to unload more merchandise.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual December survey, 50 percent of consumers plan to take advantage of after-Christmas sales in stores and 45 percent plan to do the same online.

The survey showed 17 percent plan to hit stores to return or exchange unwanted gifts, and 27 percent will go to use gift cards they received.

To avoid the after-Christmas sales crowds, Sara Skirboll, the shopping and trends expert for RetailMeNot, advises waiting until Jan. 1 to start returns.

Return tips

Follow these tips and skip the post-holiday-gift-return headache:

Know the policies, deadlines: Read policies at store websites, on store signs or on the back of receipts.

Avoid the crowds: Early mornings and late evenings can be less chaotic times to make a return, but immediately after Christmas, you should expect long lines. It might be best to wait a few days.

Receipts: Having an original or gift receipt usually makes the return process go more smoothly and improves your chances of getting a full refund. At Target, a gift receipt will get you a merchandise return card, which unlike a regular gift card only can be used in-store.

No receipt: Returns without a receipt usually result in a merchandise credit for the lowest recent sale price or possibly no refund or exchange at all, depending on the store’s policy.

Exchange it: Like the gift but want it in another color or size? Look for the item or ask for assistance, and if it’s not in stock, ask a store associate if it’s available online or at another store location.

Mystery gift: Not sure where a gift came from? If it has a barcode, try scanning it with a smartphone app such as ShopSavvy, which is available for Apple and Android, or even try typing the barcode numbers on Google.

Bring your ID: Even if you have a receipt, some stores require a government-issued ID.

Extra fees: If you are returning any electronics or an item that has been opened, be prepared to pay a restocking fee of up to 15 percent.

Talk to a manager: If you have a problem returning a gift, contact the store manager or the retailer’s customer service department.

Be nice: Some returns are granted on a case-by-case basis, so patience and kindness may go a long way.

Sell or donate it: If you can’t return or exchange gifts, consider selling them on eBay or similar apps and websites. Or donate them.

The annual return-a-thon kicks off Dec. 26.

The annual return-a-thon kicks off Dec. 26. (Photo: KELLY TYKO/TCPALM)

Tips for using gift cards

For the 12th year in a row, gift cards were one of the most requested gifts. If you received one, here are some tips to get the most out of it:

The fine print: Read the card’s terms and conditions. Pay close attention to whether the card is redeemable only at a certain store or location.

Fees: Some state laws bar service fees and expiration dates on store gift cards, but the rules on cards branded with the name of a credit card company are more strict. These cards cannot expire for at least five years and cannot have a service fee deducted unless it has not been used in 12 months.

Bonus cards: It’s holiday gift card promotion season, a time where select restaurants and stores give bonuses with gift card purchases. If you received a bonus gift card, sometimes called bonus bucks, most of these will expire.

Protect your card: Some gift cards can be registered as credit cards on websites listed on the card, which can protect them against theft or loss. Also take photos of the front and back of the card or write down card details as some companies will replace lost or stolen cards if you can provide specifics. Save receipts with card information too.

Unwanted gift cards: If you get an unwanted card, you can sell it for cash or buy discount gift cards at sites like Raise.com.

USA Today Article

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