Return policies

Most stores post their return policies on their websites, but here are few of the most popular:Walmart: 90 days on most items. Holiday policy for purchases made from Nov. 1 on; 15 days (PCs, cameras, GPS, more); 30 days (garden, compressors, more). Day count starts today.Target: 90 days most items, except 30 days for computers (netbooks, eReaders, tablets), cameras, game consoles, GPS, more. Day count starts today for items purchased after Nov. 1. May deny refund for opened items.Toys ‘R’ Us: 90 days most items; 45 days for computers, cameras, video game consoles, audio/video players, more.Best Buy: Jan. 24 for most purchases made on Nov. 4 or after.Kohls: No deadline. Their policy is “Return any item, anytime, for any reason.”Source: Consumer World

When the last of the wrapping paper has been cleared away, some people will examine their holiday haul and wonder why someone thought they needed an ear hair trimmer or a hose to remove dryer lint.

It may be the thought that counts, but sometimes a gift is just plain useless.

As stores clear away the Christmas decorations to make room for Valentine’s Day, folks will line up to return those unwanted Christmas gifts.

“I hate to say it, but my mother usually misses the mark,” said Kelly Spencer of Mount Pleasant, whose mother lives in another state. “We just have different taste in clothing styles, and I usually wind up returning whatever she gets me.”

More than 10 percent of holiday sales are returned, according to the National Retail Federation’s 1012 Return Fraud Survey.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

In the past several years, many stores have tightened their return policies with an eye toward combatting fraud, which accounts for more than a third of all holiday returns, according to the NRF survey. Return fraud ranges from using a fake receipt to returning stolen merchandise to “wardrobing,” or buying an item, using it for a specific event and then returning it.

Seven percent of stores are tightening their return policies this year, while 83 percent are keeping them the same, according to the NRF. Consumer World, an online consumer resource guide, found a few high-profile stores added new, tighter restrictions for certain merchandise.

Electronic items may be subject to stricter rules. Computers, digital cameras and opened goods may be have limited return rights, restocking fees, shorter return periods or no refunds at all.

“If shoppers follow the rules, they should have many happy returns,” said Edgar Dworsky, founder of Consumer World. “But, since the rules vary so much store to store, you really have to read the fine print.”

Experts say people who want to return items can increase their chances of success if they follow a few tips:

Get the receipt, if possible. Some stores can now look it up, but if you weren’t the buyer and you don’t have a receipt or if you have a “gift receipt,” expect to get store credit instead of a cash refund. Alternately, without a receipt, some stores will refund the lowest amount the item has sold for recently.

Return it in new condition. That means, the box has not been opened and all parts and instruction manuals are there.

Don’t wait too long. If the store has a 30-day return policy and your item was purchased on Black Friday, you’re already pushing the limit. Many stores have 30-, 60- or 90-day return windows.

“I hate returning gifts or giving gifts that someone else has to return,” said Lisa Robinson of Charleston. “So sometimes I fall back on gift cards, which I hate to do, but then they can get what they want and we don’t have to worry about returns.”

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.