Gift Return Season: How to Beat the Crowds

Beat the crowds this gift return season with the following four helpful tips.
Beat the crowds this gift return season with the following four helpful tips.

If you’re like many people around the world, you probably received a gift this holiday season that you’re not too thrilled about. In fact, nearly $63 million worth of holiday merchandise was returned last year.

Because so many people head to the mall and shopping centers after Christmas, you need to come prepared when returning unwanted holiday gifts. Here are four ways to beat the crowds and get in and out of packed quarters this gift return season.

Be Prepared

In order to make this gift return transaction as quick and painless as possible, it’s best to leave the house prepared. Make sure you have said gift (or gifts) in its original packaging, have your ID with you (some stores require identification) and have a gift receipt on hand.

If you did not receive a gift receipt, you may want to ask the gift giver where they purchased the item and call the store to ask about their return policy. If you received a gift from an online retailer, call the retailer to get return information.

Return and exchange policies are getting stricter, due to return fraud, so do your homework to avoid making an unnecessary and unsuccessful trip to a crowded store.

Have a Plan

It’s a good idea to have a plan: map out an efficient route if you’ll be visiting several stores; if traveling with a group, split up to return several gifts in short amount of time; and wear comfortable clothing and shoes, chances are you will be walking and standing for a while.

Get There Early or Late

It’s always best to show up to a store right before the doors open or late in the evening to avoid crowds. Look up store hours and plan on being there about five minutes before the doors open to be one of the first in the line.

If you aren’t willing to sacrifice valuable sleep, visit the store late in the evening, probably around or after dinner time, since most people are dining out or heading to late-night events.

Wait Until After the New Year

This one may not work out, depending on when the gift was purchased, but if the store’s return policy allows 15 to 30 days, wait to return your unwanted gift until after the new year—when there will be fewer shoppers in the return line.

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