CARY, N.C. (WNCN) — Now that Christmas is behind us, many of us are wondering what to do with the gift we got not quite right for one reason or another.
However, the process of returning gifts is not the same as it once was.
Shopper Johnny Morales was one of those who was returning a gift at Crossroads Shopping Center in Cary.
“I got this beanie,” he said. “I got like seven of them, so I’ll get another color I hope.”
He’s not alone.
The National Retail Federation estimates $218 billion dollars worth of online and other purchased items were returned last year.
The 2022 numbers are likely to be higher.
This year, return policies at many stores are different.
“Supply chain issues have affected return policies,” said Alyssa Parker of the Better Business Bureau of Eastern N.C. “Some stores don’t have return policies at all while some of extended it a little to up over 90 days or longer.”
Another big change is the proliferation of restocking or return fees.
CBS 17 consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia asked Morales if they hit him with a restocking fee for his beanie would he pay it.
“If it’s less than five dollars I will,” he said.
At least 40 percent of retail stores are now charging return fees. They typically range between $3 and $10 to send back purchases.
“It can take time and effort to put the item back in stock or back of the warehouse,” said Parker. “You have to determine if it’s worth spending a restocking fee you’re keeping the item.”
“It (return policies) definitely have changed over the past year or so,” said shopper Marie Gerrish.
“When I buy online in the store, there’s usually a restocking fee,” she said.
Retail analysts say less than half of returned items can be immediately resold — if at all.
Also, returning is not a right.
“Stores aren’t required by law to accept or give refunds,” said Parker.
If a store does accept returns in person, make sure you go armed with:
• the original or a gift receipt
• identification, to prove who you are,
• the original packing and tags.
Store policies vary greatly and some might allow you to return an item purchased online at their local brick-and-mortar location. Others will not allow that kind of exchange.
Even if a store accepts returns there can be exceptions. For example, things, like hats, or intimate apparel won’t be accepted due to heath regulations.