As You Shop Black Friday, Keep Return Policies in Mind

Before making purchases this holiday season, consider retailer return policies to save time and money.
Amanda Barroso
By Amanda Barroso 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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When you think of Black Friday, the first thing that comes to mind is probably gift buying. But many of those gifts will also need to be returned.

With people starting their holiday shopping earlier and earlier, keeping track of receipts for months with be especially important in case you need to return an item. Some 46% of shoppers say they plan to start buying or browsing before November, according to a 2022 survey by the National Retail Federation. Concerns about inflation, combined with early Black Friday sales from retailers, are contributing factors for shoppers.

Knowing and understanding the return policies for retailers before making purchases can save you both time and money.

Lay the groundwork for smooth returns

Here are some ways to help prepare for Black Friday shopping:

  • Take advantage of stores that have holiday-specific policies, such as extended return windows.

  • Know what kinds of items are commonly excluded from return policies before purchasing. Some big-ticket items — such as TVs, electronics and cell phones — tend to have shortened return windows, and gift cards are usually ineligible altogether.

  • Keep your receipts, and include gift receipts for friends and family members. Having a receipt in hand increases the likelihood of a smooth return process.

  • Consider which stores offer free shipping and returns to save money.

  • Keep the original packaging.

Take advantage of nontraditional return options

While returning your items in the store — with a receipt — is the fastest way to get a refund, it’s not always possible. For example, not all retailers have a brick-and-mortar presence, and some people live far from shopping centers. In these cases, shoppers may be able to take advantage of new return models from retailers.

Retail partnerships with companies like Happy Returns or the UPS Store 360 Returns program allow shoppers to initiate returns at other designated locations — often with the option to return unboxed items and receive quicker refunds.

“Retailers know that returns can be a pain point and some of these other options, in addition to a store-based return, are out there to kind of release some of that [pain] or release some of that friction,” says Katherine Cullen, senior director of industry and consumer insights at the National Retail Federation. When ordering online, check out the return policy to see if these partnerships will be accessible to you if you need to make a return.

Check out retailers' holiday-specific return guidelines

Many retailers offer holiday-specific return policies. “Retailers notice the time when consumers are buying items in advance, and many of them may adjust some of their return policies to allow for the holiday season and longer returns,” Cullen says.

Here is a list of some retailers that have already outlined their holiday return policies, but be on the lookout for more stores to join in as Black Friday approaches.

No matter where you shop, check out the return policy and holiday guidelines before buying.

Amazon holiday return policy

Most items bought from Oct. 11 to Dec. 25 can be returned until Jan. 31, 2023. However, note that third-party sellers on Amazon might have a different return policy. To see if you’re buying directly from Amazon, check for “ships from” and “sold by” Amazon.com in the description.

Best Buy holiday return policy

Items purchased between Oct. 24 and Dec. 31 can be returned through Jan. 14, 2023. The holiday return policy has exceptions, including items bought through third-party sellers (like cell phones) and holiday decor items (artificial trees, for example).

Kohl’s holiday return policy

While Kohl’s hasn't released a specific 2022 holiday return policy, the retailer has a generous year-round return policy (up to 180 days after purchase on most items). Customers have 30 days to return premium electronics from brands like Breville, Nespresso and Nikon and 60 days to return beauty items purchased at Sephora at Kohl's or Wellness Market. Both types of returns require a valid receipt.

Macy’s holiday return policy

Macy’s holiday return policy notes that items bought on or after Oct. 3 will be accepted through Jan. 31, 2023. An important caveat: Items purchased in store must be returned in store. Online purchases can be returned by mail or in store, but shipping and delivery fees aren't refundable. Also check out return conditions — for example, throwing away original packaging or removing tags could disqualify a return.

Target holiday return policy

The general return policy is within 90 days for unopened merchandise in new condition. The extended holiday return policy applies to electronics and entertainment items bought from Oct. 6 to Dec. 25. These items have a 30-day window for returns, starting on Dec. 26 and running through Jan. 24, 2023. Apple products (excluding iPhones) have a 15-day return window (Dec. 26-Jan. 9). Mobile phones have a 14-day refund window (Dec. 26-Jan. 8). Check out the policy for more details about these exclusions.

Walmart holiday return policy

Walmart has a 90-day return window for most items, and its holiday policy allows returns until Jan. 31, 2023, for items purchased between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31. Pay attention to the exceptions (things like wireless phones and certain luxury goods) to be sure your purchases qualify for a refund.

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