7 tips for hassle-free holiday returns

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The National Retail Federation estimates $260 billion worth of merchandise will be returned to stores after the holidays. But before you head to the mall, check out 7 tips for happier returns from 7 On Your Side's Nina Pineda.

1. Don't open the packaging
The first rule of happy returns; if you didn't like that crock pot ya got, don't open the box.

Consumer expert Andrea Woroch warns you'll get socked with a restocking fee for opening products you don't want.

"You'll have a better chance of avoiding those restocking fees if everything is in its original packaging," Woroch said.

2. Review return policies
Figure out if you get store credit or a refund, and pay close attention to how many days you have to return the item.

"Before you come back to the store, read the return policy on the back of the receipt or online. That will give you a better idea of how long you have to make the return because you don't want to miss that window," Woroch said.

3. Organize your receipts
By organizing your receipts, you'll be better equipped to handle the crazy busy stores after Christmas.

"What I do is actually tape the receipts to the tags of the items returns so I know they're easy to grab out," Woroch said.

4. Seek options that offer value
When exchanging gifts, Woroch said look for ways to "super-size" the exchange and get more for your money.

"By looking for items on sale or clearance, and then looking for coupons to use on top of it," Woroch said.

5. Return online purchases to brick-and-mortar locations
For purchases made online, Woroch said try to return them in the store.

"It's better to return it if they have a physical location near you, plus you avoid those shipping fees," Woroch said.

6. Sell or swap unwanted gift cards
Each year, millions of gift cards go unspent. So sell or swap them online for cash.

"There's so many sites. eBay is a great one, they even offer eBay valet service where they do all the work of posting the pictures for you," Woroch said.

7. Consider donating it your gift

"You should give (your item) to charity or make a donation. It's a great tax deduction, plus you're doing something good," Woroch said.

Bonus tip: Check your credit card purchases for return protection. Many cards automatically extend the time you have to make a return. Or, if you have a faulty product, just make sure you call customer service to file claims right away with the manufacturer.

Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Send us your questions, issues, and story ideas to by filling out the form above, by emailing 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com, or contact Nina on her Facebook page or tweet her at Twitter @7OnYourSideNY! You can also call the 7 On Your Side Hotline at 917-260-7697.
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