Returning unwanted Christmas gifts without the guilt

4 min read
December 22, 2021

The big question we always get asked at this time of year is how do I return a gift I don’t like without hurting people’s feelings? 

If you can, of course honesty is the best policy, but that’s not always easy. So here’s our guide to returning gifts.

Check the wrapping

You may have put on a happy face when opening that gift that was just all wrong, but did you remember to take a moment to check for the all-important gift receipt?

A gift receipt is the holy grail of returning gifts and is your ticket to a guilt free new year. It’s pretty much the same as a normal receipt, but it doesn’t have the price on, so you can use it to send take the item back to the shop to get an exchange or refund. 

Unfold that jumper or leaf through that book – you might find one lurking around even though the wrapping has gone. But remember to check what terms and timeframes apply.

What goods can’t I return?

Unfortunately there are a few things you’re just going to have to live with: 

Perishable goods: from food to flowers, if it’s time in this world is limited, chances are you can’t return it. 

Package penetrated: refunds for goods that aren’t damaged are at the store’s discretion and most have rules around opened or damaged packaging. If something has been worn, that’s out too. And underwear is usually automatically excluded. 

Made for you and crafty gifts: if the gift has been personalised, from monograms to arty things made just for you, you’re stuck with it. 

What if they’re just plain wrong?

When you buy goods, there are actually quite a few laws and rules on your side when it comes to returning them. But as with everything in life, there are catches. In short, it depends on whether the goods were bought online or on the high street and whether the item is damaged or wrong, as opposed to you changing your mind or it being an unwanted gift. 

Damaged goods are easier for you because you can just ask the giver of the gift to return the item and get a refund. Then if you wanted to get the cash and  reorder the gift – or an alternative – yourself, you could do just that.

Returning broken or misrepresented goods

If the goods are faulty or aren’t as described you have 30 days from the date the goods were purchased to return the item – though this timescale may be extended over Christmas by the retailer

You’re entitled to a full refund if the goods are returned within those 30 days. Bear in mind the refund will go into the account of the person that purchased the gift, so if the goods were purchased online, the person who bought it will need to organise the refund. 

If you’re over the 30 day period then you still have up to six months to return the items if they break or aren’t working. The retailer is allowed to have one crack at a repair or replacing the item, but after that, the buyer can ask for a refund.

Even over the six months, all is not lost, though you’ll need to prove why you didn’t realise the item was damaged or that the problem isn’t just down to wear and tear. Be prepared to compromise though. You could be looking at a repair or a replacement – and if the product has been upgraded since, you aren’t entitled to the upgraded version.  

Online shopping

If you happen to have that gift already, or there’s another good reason why you can’t use it, then if it was bought online in the last 14 days, the buyer could get a full refund for you. Again, this period may be extended after Christmas.

If you buy online, the Consumer Contract Regulations (2013) give you 14 days to return an item if it’s not for you. You’ll have to tell the business within that 14-day period, sometimes filling out a form to do so. Check online or use Resolver’s returns calendar to see if this timescale has been extended. 

Check the website of the store and note down its returns policy. Resolver has a calendar covering the extended Christmas returns dates for retailers in 2021/2022 – some will extend this to shop-bought gifts as well as online orders.

Shopping in-store

But if you want to return something that you don’t like, if it doesn’t fit, or just isn’t your thing then the rules are often a bit different on the high street. 

Some stores do allow you to return items with standard or gift receipts but they are allowed to set the rules and timescales for taking back gifts you don’t want. They can also insist on you providing the receipt so don’t lose it. The jury is out on whether a photo of a receipt counts, so speak to the store before you go in to avoid an argument over the tills.

You may have to settle for a credit note for a return if that’s the store’s policy. But remember if the goods are damaged or not as advertised, you’re allowed a full refund. 

Regift or sell it on

Of course, you can take matters into your own hands and resell the item. There are hundreds of ‘vintage’, specialist or wide-ranging online or app-based marketplaces where you can sell on pretty much anything you can think of. Watch out for the buyer and  seller contract rules though – and make sure you’ve checked the postage terms too. Many budding retailers have come unstuck when a delivery dispute is raised by the buyer. 

If you’re having a problem with a return, Resolver can help! Get in touch at www.resolver.co.uk 

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