Is it still possible to return a Christmas present?

Christmas – it’s a time for giving, and a time for receiving. And although it can be wonderful to get presents from loved ones, it’s not uncommon to end up with at least one gift that we don’t actually want or need. Perhaps it’s a woolly jumper that just doesn’t fit. Or a gadget you’ve already got. And if this has happened to you, you might be wondering whether it’s still possible to return it.

So, where do I stand?

Many shops have their own returns policies, so things vary from retailer to retailer. You can usually find the details of these policies on receipts, in-store signs and on their website.

You’ll be pleased to hear that many have a ‘goodwill’ returns policy during the festive season and into January. Depending on where your unwanted gift is from, you might be able to exchange, refund, or get a voucher for items you don’t want. What’s more, some even extend the time limit for taking back unwanted gifts beyond the usual 28 to 30 days if they’ve been purchased in the run up to Christmas.

However, you should bear in mind that none of the above is an automatic legal right – it’s up to each retailer whether they offer it as a voluntary gesture or goodwill (unless what you want to return is faulty).

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I don’t have a receipt – what should I do?

If you don’t have a receipt or proof of purchase, then returning something isn’t always straightforward. If you haven’t been given a gift receipt with your unwanted present, then it’s worth asking them to see if they have one (if you can pluck up the courage to do so!) – or you could always try and take it back to the shop without one. The retailer may offer an exchange or a gift voucher (instead of cash), but they don’t legally have to offer you anything.

I want to make a return by post – do I have to pay?

That depends where the gift is from, so you’ll have the check their individual policy.

Lots of online retailers will let you return items free of charge. For example, it’s quick and easy to send gifts back to Amazon using pre-paid labels. Once they’ve processed your return, you’ll receive a refund in the form of a gift card, which you can spend as you like with Amazon.

If you’d prefer to have the cash, it’s a little trickier to do so. You’ll have to ask the person who made the purchase to send it back for you. The refund will then be made to their original payment method but you may have to negotiate a suitable redelivery to whoever purchased the gift. Contact a company like Hermes to help on this.

Are there any items I can’t return?

Perishable items like food, drink and flowers aren’t usually included in returns policies. Neither are personalised gifts that have been tailored to you. When it comes to DVDs, music and software, they probably won’t be accepted if you’ve opened the packaging and broken the seal (unless it’s faulty, of course). Some retailers won’t accept jewellery returns either – and opened beauty products, make-up and toiletries are another no-no.

You could always pop them on Ebay…

If you have a stack of unwanted Christmas presents that you can’t take back, it seems silly to let them go to waste. Rather than letting them gather dust under the bed, why not put them up for sale on Ebay? After all, they could be exactly what someone else is looking for. You might be surprised how much somebody else is willing to pay for them. And you’ll be able to treat yourself to something you do want with the money you make.

Get in touch with customer services

If you’re still unsure where you stand, then it’s time to give the retailer’s customer services team a call. They’re best placed to confirm whether it’s still possible to return your unwanted Christmas present. And if so, they can tell you exactly how to do it.