7 On Your Side: Seven rules for happy holiday returns

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Once the presents are opened and the tables cleared, it will be time to decide if you want to keep your gifts, re-gift them or send them back to where they came from.

But before you ship or show up at the store, 7 On Your Side has seven rules for happy returns.

It starts with organizing your receipts. You'll cut down on your wait time for a credit or cash back if you provide either a paper proof or purchase or email receipt.

"There's nothing worse than waiting in a long line in the madness after the holidays and trying to find a receipt," consumer expert Andrea Woroch said.

Rule 2 will also spare you a hassle. Bring an ID, as many stores require a valid driver's license for returns.

And always review the store return policy first. It's printed on the back of your receipt, and pay particular attention to any dates.

"You don't want to feel rushed or even deal with the chaos after Christmas, but if you wait too long, you might miss the deadline to get your full money back," Woroch said.

For no. 4, don't get stuck paying a restocking fee.

"Make sure you keep the original packaging, and don't open up any boxes of items you don't plan to keep," Woroch said. "Or you may not be able to return them, or you're going to be paying 15 percent of the purchase price."

Also, if you're shipping something back, make sure you negotiate free shipping.

"I found that if you call customer service oryou open up a live chat, ask them for a one-time courtesy to waive that return shipping fee," Woroch said. "Especially if you're really dissatisfied with the product or if something is broken, there is no reason you should ever pay for the return shipping."

And don't forget if an online retailer has a store near you, you can usually take it back for no fee at all.

"Bring it to the brick-and-mortar store, and get your store credit there," she said.

For no. 6, know what's in your wallet. Check credit card protections. If you're missing receipts, many cards offer extended return protection or will pay to ship items back for you.

Lastly, if you don't have a gift receipt or you miss the return window, not all is lost. You can always exchange gifts for cash through eBay or Craigslist, or even through Facebook buy/sell groups.

"eBay is putting up pop-up kiosks where you can bring holiday items that don't want and you can't return, or maybe it's even items you have at your home that you've now replaced with your new holiday gifts," Woroch said. "And they have these pop-up kiosks where you can sell your items and get money back."

And for a bonus tip, you can also sell or swap unwanted gift cards. You can get cash back if you shop around first for the best deal, as gift cards site vary widely on how much they'll give you depending on demand.
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