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The Rite of Returns; A Holiday Tradition That Could Cost You a Bundle.

NEW YORK, Dec. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- The "Season of Giving" always seems to be followed by the "Season of Giving Back." In fact, according to the American Express Retail Index, 11 percent of consumers reported that they returned gifts they received last holiday season.

Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, there are some gifts that just don't "fit." So, as you head out to your favorite stores in search of that special gift, you may want to take a few precautions to ensure that the item can be exchanged or returned. Below are a few tips from American Express to help the season run a little smoother:

Check the length of time you have to return a purchase.

The amount of time you have to return an item varies from store to store and even from item to item. Computer and related equipment purchases, for example, often carry a shorter return period than clothing or appliances. Some retailers may change their return policies for the holidays, so make note of any post-holiday restrictions.

Look out for "no return" return policies.

Some stores do not allow refunds on returned items -- however your credit card may offer some protection against no-return policies. For example, American Express Gold and Platinum(R) and Optima(R) Platinum Cards provide Return Protection, which gives refunds to cardmembers for the full purchase price up to $300 per item, up to $1,000 per year, within 90 days from the date of purchase if the store won't accept returns.*

Examine Internet retailers' return policies carefully.

Many retailers have Internet sites, however the return policy may be different for items purchased on-line. Also, some Internet stores are not set up to do exchanges, so you may have to return the item for a refund, then repurchase the item of your choice. Also, make sure you keep a print-out of your order so you have documentation if you need to make a return.

Be aware of shipping & handling charges for delivery and returns.

If ordering by mail or via the Internet, make sure you are aware of shipping and handling costs, especially on larger items. Find out if you will have to pay for shipping for returned items, or if you can return the item to a nearby retail outlet. Also, some companies may require additional fees to insure costly products delivered by mail.

Avoid "restocking" or "open box" fees.

Some retailers may charge a fee (up to 15 percent) for items not returned in the original box or those missing package inserts like warranty cards, instruction manuals, accessories, etc. For example, printers that have had the toner or inkjet cartridges installed may also be subject to a restocking fee. Audio CDs and cassettes returned without their original clear wrap intact may also be subject to restocking fees.

In addition, some stores will charge an "open box" fee for non-defective computer equipment returned in an open box. When computer equipment is returned in an open box the store is often forced to resell undamaged merchandise at a significant discount.

Keep receipts.

Items without a receipt may be refunded at the current selling price, which may be less than the price before the holiday. Your credit card may also give you a guarantee for the lowest price. For example, American Express Gold and Platinum Cards offer Best Value Guarantee, which provides a refund of the price difference up to $250 per item, up to $1,000 per year, if the cardmember sees the same item in a published, dated advertisement within 60 days of the purchase date.**

Protect your purchases.

Credit cards often provide other benefits that can extend the manufacturer's warranty or protect purchases against accidental damage or theft. To find out if you already have these protections, call your credit card company before going shopping. To find out if your American Express Card offers these protections, call the number on the back of your card, or call 800-THE-CARD (843-2273) to apply.

For a free brochure on "Protecting Your Purchases," consumers can send requests to American Express, P.O. Box 4635, Trenton, NJ 08650-9874.

* Purchases must be made in the U.S. and charged in full on the

participating Card in good standing. Refunds are limited to $300 per item

and $1,000 annually per account. The item must be in "like new" condition

and working in order to be eligible. An item is eligible if the store

from which it was originally purchased will not accept a return. Items

purchased from stores with established return/satisfaction guarantee

programs that provide coverage for that claim will not be covered under

Return Protection. Other limitations apply. See terms and conditions, or

call for full details.

** A copy of the dated advertisement, the American Express charge receipt

and the store receipt must accompany each claim.

Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company, Administrative Office, Green Bay, WI. Coverage is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions of Policies AX0951 and AX0953.
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:PR Newswire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 21, 1998
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