Many retailers relax their return policies during January


Like clockwork, every January I get all the complaints from people trying to return merchandise they received as holiday gifts.

Return policies at stores have gotten tougher and tougher over the years as they play Scrooge to unhappy people trying to swap their stuff. But the good news is the one time of year that retailers generally give you less of a hassle on returns is right now.

During this month, most retailers are pretty consistent in allowing returns on items through January 31, so long as they were purchased in either November or December, according to a survey done by That includes stores which in many cases don’t offer hassle-free returns at all during normal times. But during January, they tend to waive their normally customer unfriendly stance.

Electronics can be a real trouble spot when it comes to returns. When you buy electronics, you have to know the written policy on returns, refunds and exchanges from the retailer (or online retailer) before you buy. Most retailers will charge some form of restocking fee.

There are some exceptions, of course. Costco Wholesale allows you to return any electronics item, without conditions, for 90 days after the purchase throughout the year. By comparison, doesn’t allow any returns on TVs (27″ or larger) under any circumstances. What about Amazon? The online retail giant has a 15% restocking fee on computers, along with a 50% restocking fee on any of a number of other electronics categories.

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