No one wants to seem ungrateful, but not every Christmas gift hits the mark. It might be a garish jumper, or a book you’ve already read, but usually, at least one present ends up being returned.
In fact, more than four million people took back unwanted presents last Christmas, according to research by comparison site GoCompare. And it’s estimated that around £143 million-worth of gifts will be returned to the shops this year.
In other cases, gifts turn out to be faulty or fail to arrive in time.
Last year more than four million people returned their Christmas presents, file photo
While some retailers are better than others at accepting returns, it’s vital to know your rights. Here is Money Mail’s definitive guide to returning those not-so perfect presents…
Can I secretly exchange a gift?
Secretly returning or exchanging unwanted gifts can be tricky, as most shops will have to see proof of purchase.
But, while retailers have the right to refuse to help you without a receipt, many will offer an exchange or a voucher for the item’s current value.
You could bite the bullet and ask your loved one for the receipt, but even this isn’t a foolproof solution. Under the Consumer Rights Act, retailers are not obliged to offer shoppers a refund or exchange for unwanted items that are not faulty or damaged. Most major stores will accept returns if the item is in a resaleable condition, but individual returns policies vary.
Any refunds will go back on to the debit or credit card used to purchase the item — so you may want to ask for a credit note instead, if you’re not planning to inform the gift-buyer. If an item is faulty, shops are obliged to refund customers, but you will still need to show proof of purchase.
The rules are different with online purchases as, under consumer law, you have a 14-day cooling-off period. This means you have two weeks to notify the seller that you want to return an item for any reason, then another 14 days to send it back.
However, you would need to inform whoever gave you the present in order to be able to provide proof that the item was bought online.
If the gift came from Amazon and you have an account yourself, you may be able to get the money put on a gift card without anyone knowing — but only if the order had been marked as a gift. You can do this by ticking the ‘this is a gift’ box at purchase. If you are not sure, contact Amazon on 0800 279 7234 for more information.
Anyone can return an Amazon gift if they have the order number, but the money will go back to the card that paid for it, so it won’t be a secret.
How long do I have to return an item?
For non-faulty items, most stores have their own policy. For example, Argos has a 30-day money-back guarantee that allows customers to return goods if they change their mind.
Ikea, on the other hand, gives you 365 days to return unwanted goods for a refund or exchange, as long as they are in a resaleable condition.
Around Christmas time, many shops extend the window in which you can bring back unwanted presents if you have a receipt.
Shoppers with faulty goods and a receipt have 30 days to return the product for a refund
At Sainsbury’s, for example, items bought between November 1 this year and January 3, 2019 can be returned until January 31, 2019. You need a receipt to get a full refund.
Currys PC World accepts returns up to January 14, 2019 for items bought between October 31 and December 24, 2018. TK Maxx doesn’t offer refunds, just an exchange or gift card. But gifts bought from October 13 can be returned until January 20.
Argos customers can return any purchases made from October 11 to December 25 for a full refund or exchange until January 25, 2019.
For faulty goods where you have the receipt, you have 30 days to get a full refund, regardless of the store policy. If items develop a fault within six months, under the Consumer Rights Act you can return them for repair or replacement.
After six months, you can still take an item back, but the burden is on you to prove there was a fault at the time you bought it.
Anything I can’t take back?
Each shop will have its own list of non-returnable items. Generally, if it is perishable (such as flowers) or personalised (say, a football shirt with your name on the back), it would be refused.
The same applies if the item can’t be reused for hygiene reasons, such as jewellery, swimwear or a sealed item with the seal broken.
M&S has a list of items that cannot be returned. These include bras, duvets and pillows
Marks & Spencer has a long list of excluded items, including beauty products, bras, duvets, earrings, flowers, food, fruit baskets, gift cards, mattress protectors, pillows, plants, swimwear, toiletries, wine and electrical goods.
Selfridges refuses returns of many of these items, as well as event tickets, opened CDs, DVDs, computer games and headphones, and newspapers, periodicals and magazines.
Can I return it on Boxing Day?
While most shops on the High Street will be open for business on Boxing Day, not all will accept returns on this day. JD Sports’s official line, for instance, is that it does not refund or exchange goods between December 26 and 28.
A spokesman says this ‘allows for a greater shopping experience’ during the busiest days of the year by reducing queue waiting times.
But if you do turn up on Boxing Day to return unwanted goods, JD Sports says staff will act with discretion and process refunds if possible.
Trainer shop Size will not accept any returns between December 26 and 29 and Footpatrol will not be offering exchanges or refunds until December 29.
John Lewis stores are not open on Boxing Day, but will process returns from December 27.
Boots, Debenhams, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Carphone Warehouse and Currys are all open on Boxing Day and accepting returns.
B&Q accepts returns, but stores are only open from 10am to 4pm. Tesco, H Samuel and Ernest Jones say they will accept returns in the stores that are open, but not all of them are.
Online delivery didn’t show up
When ordering items online, your contract is with the retailer, rather than the delivery company.
If the seller said your goods would arrive in time for Christmas and they turn up late, it is in breach of contract and you can demand a refund under the Consumer Rights Act. In some cases, you may be able to claim compensation if you have taken time off work for a parcel that never arrived.
If items arrived damaged and the retailer can’t prove they arrived safely or were left in an appropriate place, then they must give you a refund.
If you want to send something back, you usually have to pay the return cost unless the retailer says otherwise. You should get back the postage you originally paid. If the item is faulty, the postage cost should be covered under the Consumer Rights Act.
Either way, keep your proof of postage in case the retailer claims the package never arrived.
Can I exchange a voucher?
Sites such as Groupon and Wowcher offer vouchers that can be redeemed for goods from local retailers or experiences including spa days and cooking lessons.
Groupon has extended its usual 14-day refund policy for Christmas. Most vouchers bought between November 13 and December 21 can be returned up to and including January 14, unless stated in the terms and conditions.
Vouchers for baby products, bedding and jewellery are likely to be excluded from the returns policy.
Groupon says refunds are done directly via customer accounts, but it wants to look at changing this policy to make the process ‘easier and less awkward’ if the recipient wants a refund. It can take five to seven days for cash to reach a customer’s bank account.
Wowcher, a similar company, has the same returns policy all year round. Customers can cancel an order up to 14 days after receiving the items for a full refund.
There are exceptions, though, such as with flights and personalised items.
Returns will be accepted after 14 days but, instead of cash, you will be offered credit to use on the Wowcher website. You will get credit for 100 pc of what you paid if you redeem a voucher after 14 days but before 30 days. After 30 days, you will get a 50 pc credit note.
With Virgin Experience Days, you should be able to exchange your voucher for a different event.
For refunds, you must return your paper voucher within 14 days or contact the customer service department if you have an e-voucher.
What to do with that gift card?
Physical and electronic gift cards and printable coupons can be sold on the website Zeek.me
If you know that you won’t spend a gift card, you can sell it through specialist websites, but are unlikely to get cash for the full value.
Physical and electronic gift cards and printable coupons can be sold on the website Zeek.me if they are worth between £10 and £500 and valid for at least a month. The card must be redeemable online or in stores with at least five branches.
Zeek accepts cards for more than 200 brands including Debenhams, Next, WHSmith and National Trust and claims most sell within hours.
The selling price depends on what gift card you have and whether you want cash or credit to buy other gift cards on the website.
When we checked the Zeek site, we found a £50 Debenhams gift card would get you £47 credit or £40 paid into your PayPal or bank account. Zeek will offer £20 credit for a £20 Sainsbury’s card or voucher, or £15 cash. You can sell a £30 Next gift card for £28 credit or £23.80 will be paid by bank transfer.
The resell price varies by brand and is based on the discount buyers will need to receive to find the gift card appealing.
Cardyard.co.uk is another option, but gift cards and vouchers must have at least three months’ validity and it pays less than Zeek. For example, you get just £39.50 for a £50 Debenhams card or £41.48 credit.
Do charity shops accept pressies?
Charity shops are likely to be closed on Boxing Day, though some may be open Sunday hours. Not all items will be accepted, such as earrings, for hygiene reasons.
British Heart Foundation’s 750 shops are open from December 27. If you can’t drop off items yourself, you can arrange a free collection.
BHF will accept good-quality clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, CDs, DVDs, books and children’s toys. Electrical items can be donated to one of its 180 furniture and electrical stores. To find your nearest shop and arrange a free collection, go to bhf.org.uk/shop.
Cancer Research UK accepts clothing, CDs, homeware, books, mobile phones and DVDs. Electricals can also be donated, but check with your local store first. Cancer Research UK does not accept white goods (such as fridges and washing machines), broken or damaged toys, or fancy dress costumes that are not packaged new or don’t come with the required fire safety label.
If all else fails flog it online… and 6pm on Friday is the perfect time to do it
What are you doing between 6pm and 7pm on Friday? At eBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, it will be the busiest time of year for buying and selling goods.
So, if you want to make a little money by selling your unwanted gifts, this could be your window.
Between Boxing Day 2017 and January 19, more than 44 million items found new homes. This year, eBay expects sales to peak between 6pm and 7pm on Friday, December 28.
This year, eBay expects sales to peak between 6pm and 7pm on Friday, December 28
And with 24 million active buyers and sellers using eBay in the UK every month, there is a good chance you will be able to get rid of your unloved presents.
The most popular items last year were home appliances, video game consoles, smartphones and shoes.
You’ll earn more if you keep them in their original packaging and with any labels on.
It’s easy to set up an eBay account. Register online at ebay.co.uk with your name, email address and a password. You’ll receive a confirmation email.
Upload up to 12 pictures of what you want to sell free. You must include an honest and detailed description.
Next, you need to decide on a starting price. You can choose a fixed price, which is what 80 pc of users do, or go for the auction option, which gives buyers up to ten days to bid.
Search similar items to see what they sold for, or list your item at 99p to encourage a bidding war.
Make sure you work out your postage costs so you’re not left out of pocket. Alternatively, you can offer free postage to attract buyers and cover the cost in the selling price.
You can list 20 items a month without paying upfront fees. After this, each item costs 35p.
There is also a final transaction fee of 10 pc of the selling price, including postage. So if you sold a set of candles for £8.50 and postage was £3.50, you would be left with a profit of £7.30.
Sellers must offer PayPal, the secure payment platform, as an option for buyers. If someone chooses to pay this way, you will be charged an extra 3.4 pc plus 20p per sale.
Another option is to sell your unwanted gifts on sites such as Facebook (facebook.com) and Shpock (shpock.com).
There are no fees and buyers typically pay in cash when they pick up the item, so you keep 100 pc of the price — and won’t have to worry about packaging up parcels to post.
On Facebook, start by looking for groups in your area — there may be several, with varying numbers of members.
For example, Birmingham Buy and Sell has 48,000 users.
You must be approved by the person in charge of the group.
You can also post adverts on Facebook Marketplace, which is easier. Upload photographs, a description, the price, category and your location, then wait to hear from interested buyers.
Shpock describes itself as ‘the local way to sell and buy’. It has a website and smartphone app. There are a number of categories, such as homeware, fashion, sports and electronics.
Register by inputting your name, email address and a password. You must then enter your mobile phone number to receive a verification code in order to activate the account.
Upload a photo and a description of the item, plus your address.
Buyers can contact you directly and there is the opportunity to negotiate prices.
Once both parties have agreed, the deal between you is legally binding. Shpock advises users to meet in person and pay in cash or use PayPal.
Websites such as Zapper (zapper.co.uk), Ziffit (ziffit. com), Music Magpie (music magpie.co.uk) and WeBuyBooks (webuybooks.co.uk) offer an easy way to get rid of gifts by the boxload.
You can get an instant quote for books, CDs and games simply by typing in the barcodes online or scanning them using your mobile phone.
You will then be supplied with a freepost label to attach to your box of goods. You may be required to drop the box at a nearby collection point.
Do not expect to make millions this way. When Money Mail checked, Nigella Lawson’s 2017 cookbook At My Table (RRP £26) was worth only £2.50 on Music Magpie and £1.85 on WeBuyBooks.
Certain books may not be accepted, particularly if they are very popular titles.
If you are worried about upsetting family members by reselling gifts, keep them and rent them out.
People will often pay by the day for items such as cameras, musical instruments, baby gear and electric tools.
Some of the most popular items searched for on the rental site Fat Llama include a Vonyx AP1200PA battery-powered speaker, worth £240, which rents for £30 a day, and a Mavic 2 Pro camera drone, which goes for £40 a day.
Leaf-blowers and cordless drills rent for around £5 or £6 a day.
But you could list anything — and for whatever price you like.
Money Mail spotted an eight-person bell tent on the website for £48 a day, a double buggy for £15 a day and a bass guitar for £50 a day.
When you lend an item, Fat Llama will charge 15 pc in commission.
All items on Fat Llama are protected by its Lender’s Guarantee, which covers you up to £25,000 if goods are not returned or are damaged.