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Discount Diva: Survival tips for returning gifts

You’d think people would have had enough of the stores by now.

Nope. ShopperTrak, a data insight company, predicts today will be the second-busiest shopping day of the entire year.

Stores will be crowded today with a combination of shoppers returning gifts they don’t like or that don’t fit, hitting deep-discounted Christmas sales to buy the presents Santa forgot to bring and spending the gift cards they got in their stockings.

If you’re making returns today:

• Bring your ID. Of the merchandise consumers return to stores this year, 3.5 percent of it will be fraudulent – making up a whopping $9.1 billion. That includes returning stolen or used merchandise, or wearing clothing before taking them back.

So while stores are trying to make returns more painless for honest customers, they’ve also got more reason than ever to be careful about the returns process.

Making you show your personal identification is one way to keep you honest. You’ll also be entered into a database that will flag frequent returns.

• Be nice. If you’re feeling beaten down by Christmas, just imagine how the person behind the counter feels.

• Remember, by law, stores are not required to accept returns in New York State.

• The return period begins the day your gift was purchased or shipped, not the day you received it.

• Read the policy’s fine print. Every store’s rules are different.

• Print a copy of the store’s return policy and bring it with you in case the retail employee handling your transaction doesn’t know the details or misinterprets them.

• Stores may have different rules for gift receipts, such as allowing only an exchange instead of a refund.

• Stores might also have different return rules for the holidays. By law, they must be posted and easily accessible.

• Don’t remove any tags and keep everything in its original packaging.

• Obviously, you’ll want to bring your receipt. If you don’t have it, you’ll be reimbursed the lowest amount the merchandise has ever been priced. And with the way prices drop at Christmas, you could lose a lot of value.

If you or the giver don’t have the receipt and the gift is from your spouse or someone close to you, see if you can borrow the credit card they bought it with so the store can look up the sale.

If you’re shopping today:

• Buy holiday items first. If you want to scoop up wrapping paper, Christmas cards or decorations at a discount and want the best selection, grab it today. The best stuff goes quickly.

• Stores know you will shop this week, so they’re not desperate yet. Know that prices will continue to drop as the weeks go on and consider holding back.

• There will be great sales online. But you’re more likely to find really good deals on “imperfect” things like opened electronics in person.

• According to the experts at, the best deals you’ll find today are on clothing, exercise gear, electronics, video games and Christmas decor.

• If you’re shopping with a gift card and don’t use the whole thing, wrap your receipt around the card and keep them together so you know how much money is left.

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