How to Handle Holiday Returns Without Hassle
Wal-Mart's (WMT) return policy is 90 days for most items, but the clock doesn't start ticking on goods bought after Nov. 1 until Dec. 26. After that, you have 15 days to return products such as computers, cameras and GPS devices and 30 days for a second-tier category that includes garden supplies, hardware and other goods. Macy's (M) has no return deadline for most goods, but customers have exactly three days to take back a piece of furniture.
This year, some retailers have put time back on the clock and made it worth a consumer's time to give return policies another look. Best Buy (BBY) extended its regular policy 60 days for some members of its Reward Zone program, while Toys R Us now offers its 45-day electronics return policy even if the package has been opened -- which not the case a year ago. The biggest change came from Amazon (AMZN) , which did away with its 30 category-specific return policies and implemented a flat Jan. 31 return deadline for most items shipped between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
Both TJX's (TJX) T.J. Maxx and Marshall's stores realize how far back the holiday calendar has crept and, until Jan. 8, will accept returns on items bought between Oct. 21 and Dec. 9. Asos gives customers until Jan. 31 to bring back all clothing bought after Oct. 1, while Pottery Barn (WSM) has the same deadline for returning items bought from Oct. 15 through Dec. 24. Nordstrom (JWN) , REI, Kohl's(KSS) , Sears' Land's End, L.L. Bean and Gap's (GPS) Athleta are among the few retailers with no return deadline.
Watch those fees
This is usually the time of year when most U.S. consumers learn about the restocking fee, which is basically what a retailer charges you for opening something you didn't want.