Returning Those Unwanted Gifts

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Who doesn't love getting presents? There before you sits a beautifully wrapped box that contains something special just for you. For that one moment, as you open it, you recapture that feeling of bursting anticipation you haven't felt since you were a child.

Until you see your gift. It's awful. It's something that you would never have wanted in a million years. Or, somehow worse, it's something that you already have. An exact and completely unexciting duplicate.

And with that, the thrill is gone.

Holiday gift returns are never as fun as buying or getting presents, but here are some tips to make the return process a little easier:

Yes, the lines may be almost as long as — or longer than — the ones during the preholiday shopping season. But a speedy return can ensure you get your refund before the New Year's sales go into effect.

— More retailers are charging restocking fees for large or big-ticket items such as televisions, digital cameras or computers. That's if they accept the return at all. Before you trek to the store, you might call to ask about its return policy.

— If you're returning an item you bought, remember to bring your receipt and the credit card with which you originally purchased the item. Keep the item in its original packaging, and don't break any of the seals. If you're returning clothing, make sure all the tags are still affixed.

— Retailers are frazzled and overworked during the holiday season. Being patient and kind can get you a lot further with your return. This is especially true for items that are damaged, discontinued or otherwise returnable only at the employee's discretion.

— Wait until you've received all your gifts before sorting out which stores you must visit to make returns. More and more retailers are monitoring returns, even putting restrictions on customers who make too many. Such a move prevents scammers from perpetrating return fraud, in which they steal items and then return them to make money.