What Should I Know About Making Returns After Christmas?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are several things a person must know if they plan on making returns after Christmas. First off, it’s important to recognize that some of the biggest retail days of the year occur directly after Christmas. This is because many products undergo significant discounting. If you’re not a fan of crowds, or have had enough of them while you did your own shopping, you might want to wait until a weekday, several days after Christmas before heading out to return any items you received.

The most important factor toward smoothly making returns after Christmas is to have the item receipt.
The most important factor toward smoothly making returns after Christmas is to have the item receipt.

The most important factor toward smoothly making returns after Christmas is to have your receipt for whatever items were given to you. Considerate gift givers will include a receipt in case you get a duplicate gift, the wrong size, or et cetera. If you do receive a duplicate gift, take back the one that has a receipt if only one of them does. You can ask some gift givers for a receipt, but this should be phrased as politely as possible, and may not always be possible. Try explanatory sentences like: “Aunt Mary, I just love the sweater you picked out for me, but it’s a trifle large. I need to exchange it for a smaller size. Would you happen to have the receipt?”

Some gifts like lingerie or other undergarments may not be returned.
Some gifts like lingerie or other undergarments may not be returned.

The receipt is vitally important for almost every store, because unless you have proof of the cost of the item, or do exchange it for exactly the same item, your return will only be worth the current price, which may be heavily discounted. When you’re making returns after Christmas you’ll note that some stores will not offer you anything but store credit if you don’t have a receipt, and they tend not to take your word for it if you know the item cost more than it does currently. In lieu of a receipt, and although this may not save you from getting back the full worth of a gift when you are making returns at Christmas, be sure to keep any tags on or scanning labels on the package or item. If you must ship something to return it, call the company first to determine the best method for shipping it.

You may note that some items are paid for by credit card, or even debit ATM/credit cards. This may mean in some stores that you cannot have the amount credited back to your own card. Some retail outlets also may not give you cash back if the item was a credit card purchase. You may only qualify for store credit, or may have to fill out forms to request a cash return, which can take several days to process. Retailers may additionally place a ten-day hold on giving cash back for items paid for by check.

If you are making returns after Christmas of any electronics equipment or purchases, you may be charged a restocking fee. Many of the major electronic companies now charge these, which can limit value of the return. Usually this fee is waived if the item is defective and you are exchanging it. Other stores are known for their generous return policies: Costco&inc; is excellent, and Nordstrom&inc; led the way in making returns as painless as possible for the customer.

Lastly, certain items, like underwear, may be difficult to return. Some stores have policies that forbid returning lingerie. Others are more generous and will take back such purchases provided they’re clearly not used. Don’t think you can get away with using an item and then taking it back; most stores expect that if you’re making returns after Christmas you’ve never used/worn the item Also keep things like video games, CDs, and electronic equipment unopened and in original packaging to show that the items have never been used.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I'm a big fan of regifting, too. Sometimes I'll get a present like a book or movie that is clearly something I won't read or watch voluntarily. Instead of returning it to the store, I'll figure out who might actually appreciate that item and save it for their next birthday. I've been put in awkward situations where the gift giver asks me point blank how I liked the book he gave me, and I hate to hurt his feelings. It makes me feel better to know that gift found a better home elsewhere.


I used to make several trips to stores after Christmas to return gifts, but now I try to find other things to do with those items first. If it's clothing, I'll either donate it to a local charity or find someone it might fit and regift it. The chances of finding a similar item in my size right after Christmas are slim to none, anyway.

If I do decide to return a gift to the store, I'll wait a few weeks until the crowds die down. Maybe I'll find something else to do with it in the meantime, or I might actually change my mind and keep it for sentimental reasons. I'd hate to be caught standing in the return lane by the person who gave me the gift in the first place.

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