Tempting as it is to tear in to your gifts with excitement, keep half an eye on the wrapping for a gift receipt.
A gift receipt is your guilt-free method for returning gifts. No-one has to know – and everyone walks away happy. The only major difference with a gift and a normal receipt is the former hasn’t got the price on it. You can usually return items online or in-store, though return costs may apply online. Depending on the retailer’s policy, you can get a refund or (more likely) a credit note.
Online gift receipts are possible too, though not with every shop. Annoyingly, you’ll need to request this at the checkout before you click to purchase, so keep an eye out when buying for your loved ones if you don’t want to be the one dealing with a rejected gift.
I often mention the Consumer Contract Regulations, but it’s worth repeating. If an item was bought online in the last 14 days, then the purchaser could get a full refund for you if they change their mind (or you don’t want the gift and it’s within the 14 days). The clock stops ticking when you tell the business you want to return the item – but the refund will go to the purchaser.
Of course, that means you have to come up with an excuse to give to the person who bought you the gift. I would just add here that there are lots of duplicate gifts given at this time of year, which is a popular reason for returning items!
If you want to return something that you don’t like or it just isn’t your thing then you are at the mercy of the shop’s returns policy.
You will need a gift receipt if you want to return the item discreetly. But failing that, the person who bought the gift can take it back for you. They may have to settle for a credit note for these returns if that’s the store’s policy. But remember – if the goods are damaged or not as advertised, the purchaser is entitled to a full refund.
If the receipt is missing, some shops will accept a bank or card statement proving you bought the item. A few retailers are reportedly being a bit funny about this, so I’d go online first and get proof of the returns policy so you’ve got some back-up if you are going in-store.
If you are asking someone to return a gift you bought, take them out with you and make a day of it – especially if the shop only gives store credit. You can shop together and take a bit of that sting of rejection off!
The other alternative is to regift or sell on the item. There are hundreds of vintage, specialist and second-hand online and app-based marketplaces where you can sell pretty much anything. Watch out for the buyer/seller agreements though and make sure you’ve checked the postage rules and followed the website’s requirements to the letter. Many an independent trader has come unstuck when a delivery dispute is raised by the buyer.
Remember even the most hideous jumper or nick-nack will have someone out there who loves it. So don’t bin anything that you can’t sell, share or regift.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.