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5 Tips to Keep Gift Returns Simple, Legal

By Andrew Lu on December 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Perhaps the only busier time of year than the holiday shopping season is the post-holiday gift-returning season. Small business retailers must be prepared.

First, there may be feelings of rejection when customers try to return their purchases. But it's probably not about you or the quality of your goods. Instead, it's usually a combination of the holiday shopping frenzy and deep discounts that lead many shoppers to buy stuff they don't need, don't want, and don't have room for.

Here are five tips to avoid chaos during the post-holiday gift return period:

  1. Post your return policy in place where everyone will see it. To avoid any confusion as to what your return policy is, post it somewhere conspicuous and post it in large type. For example, many businesses post their policies right at the checkout counter so someone purchasing the merchandise will not be in for a surprise when they try to return a product later.
  2. Make your return policy readable. It doesn't matter how big or how conspicuous your return policy is, you still must make it readable. A dense paragraph of legalese is of no use. Instead, try using bullet points to spell out your policy in simple, easy-to-understand language.
  3. Have a separate line to handle returns. Returns typically take more time than a purchase. So instead of bogging down your paying customers with a long line, you may want to have a separate line dedicated to returns.
  4. Be generous with your return policy. If you are overly stingy with your return policy, you may keep the sale but lose a customer for life. However, if you are a little bit more generous and extend the return policy, you may lose the sale but gain a lifelong customer.
  5. Have customers prepare for their returns while waiting in line. If the line for returns is long, ask customers to pull out whatever items and documentation they'll need to speed up the process. Having credit cards, IDs and receipts ready will increase the flow and (hopefully) control customers' tempers.

Bottom line: Holiday gift returns will happen, so don't take it personally. Enforce your return policy fairly, and just consider the returns as just a part of doing business.

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