Gift returns: Which retailers make the grade?


About $219.1 billion worth of merchandise is expected to be returned this year according to the National Retail Federation. Of that, $47.1 billion worth of stuff will come back to stores during the holiday season. With seasonal sales expected to be the worst in decades, 11% of retailers say they are going to loosen their return policies, more than triple the number from a year earlier. Making it easier to bring back unwanted goods could make companies more vulnerable to fraudulent returns, but that's a risk the companies are willing to take given their declining sales.

"Even though many chains intend to be less restrictive in enforcing return policies to the letter, don't expect them to start posting signs to trumpet any change in policy," writes Tod Marks, a blogger for Consumer Reports. "Retailers aren't about to relinquish their right to review on a case-by-case-basis any return that clashes with the store's written policy."

Not all return policies are created equal. Some companies are far more flexible than others which important to for shoppers to remember. Rules about specific types of merchandise are available on the Web site of most retailers. A valid receipt is needed for a full refund.