If you haven’t already finished your holiday shopping, you’ve got just a few hours left, but many consumers are already anticipating their after-Christmas holiday returns.

Merry Christmas, but let’s not have too many happy returns. Gift returns, that is. That’s what retailers are hoping for this holiday season. And to discourage customers from returning too many gifts, many stores have changed their return polices, making it more difficult for you to get your money back. But there are some things you can do to ensure an easy return.

Let’s start with the basics. Always keep your original or gift receipt with the item. Make sure you hang onto the original packaging and accesories that came with the item and return it in a timely fashion, typically within 30 days.

But some retailers, particularly those that do most of their business on the internet, make returns more complicated.

www.amazon.com, which not only sells books, music and DVDS, but acts as distributor for hundreds of other stores, has a list of items it will not accept including televisions over 27 inches and any CD, DVD, VHS tape, software or video game that has been opened.

While many retailers require electronics to be returned within 14 days, Best Buy goes a step farther and charges a 15 percent restocking fee. If you argue long with with a manager, you might get that waived or reduced.

While Toys R Us gives you 90 days to return an item, merchandise purchased through amazon.com cannot be returned to the store directly. You have to send it back to amazon.com.

Fortunately, a few retailers are pretty reasonable.

If you buy something from www.crateandbarrel.com you can return it to any store. If you want to return furniture, you’ll need to contact their customer service department within 7 days.

Target gives you 90 days to return an item and will take stuff from their website. If you can’t find your receipt, you’ll still get a merchandise credit, though they’ll only do this for a limited number of items.

Williams-Sonoma and FAO Schwartz will take items back unconditionally, which is refreshing and give you a merchandise credit if you don’t have your receipt.

Circuit City doesn’t even care if you lose your receipt. Just make sure to give them your phone number when you buy the item and their computer system will track your receipt automatically. Being aware of the ins and outs of returns is sure to lessen your after-Christmas woes and give you some extra cash to spend on the post-holiday sales.

Copyright © 2002, WGN-TV

December 24, 2002