Tips on Making Holiday Exchanges, Returns Safer and Easier

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
In 2019, Americans returned an estimated $309 billion worth of merchandise, or 8% of total sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Photo Credit: Kaboompics

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — ‘Tis the season for returning and exchanging holiday gifts – and there are a few steps you can take to make the process safer and easier.

Experts have said a return puts you in a “Goldilocks” situation; that is, it’s a matter of timing. If you rush to the store or post office immediately, you’ll face crowds that raise your risk of COVID. But Luke Frey, an associate director of communications for the
Better Business Bureau, warned that a crush of packages and coronavirus protocols still are slowing down the mail – so don’t wait until the last minute, either.

“If it ends up not getting back to that retailer in time or if it gets lost in the mail, you are out that product,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot that you can do. So, if you did purchase an item online and you do want to return it, you want to do that as soon as possible.”

He also advised people to check the retailers’ policies online. Many have become more lenient these days – especially for items such as clothing, because it’s difficult to try things on during the pandemic. Amazon, for example, accepts returns through Jan. 31 for items shipped after Oct. 1. Multiple websites, such as or, also have compiled lists with links to dozens of retailers’ return policies.

Frey said many retailers require people to show identification when they return items because it deters shoplifters and allows them to track unusual return patterns.

“Obviously, there are some people out there that try to either steal items or just chronically bring back items in order to get credit towards a certain retailer,” he said. “So, some retailers do require you to have an ID if you do return the product.”

Most people know to keep their receipts, but it also is extremely helpful to retain any packing slip or original packaging. However, if you don’t have them, don’t despair. Often, you can go online and reprint the packing slip. And some places, such as Kohl’s and the UPS Store, will accept Amazon returns even without the box.