Slippers again? What to do with Christmas gifts you don’t want

The painful fixed smile that was required yesterday when you were handed an unwanted gift can finally be relaxed. But it is now time to work out exactly what to do with that present you did not want – or does not fit you.

Your first priority should be to sit down and put pen to paper to thank family and friends for their generous offering. It does not matter what you really think of a well-intentioned gift – just be grateful.

Next, formulate a plan of action. First, you need to be aware that stores do not have to accept returns if there is nothing wrong with them. This means you should go to the shop armed with bags of charm and a polite manner. If you start making demands, you are likely to walk out empty handed.

Unwanted gifts: Stores do not have to accept returns if there is nothing wrong with them

Exchange it… but be ready with the receipt

You need to be flexible. If you get the offer of an exchange or a credit note rather than a refund, accept it with open arms. A shop is only going to be sympathetic if any item being returned is still in its original packaging. You should also provide a receipt or a bank statement as proof of purchase if possible.

You might need to contact the person who purchased the present to ask if they can provide this paperwork. Again, think before doing this as you do not want to hurt their feelings.

Adam French, a shopping rights expert for consumer group Which?, says: ‘Consumers are unaware that returning unwanted items is not an automatic right – even with a sales receipt.’ He adds: ‘So before heading off to the shop, it is a good idea to check online the company’s returns policy. These vary between retailers.’

You may be eligible for a full refund

Companies such as Marks & Spencer will provide a generous full refund for purchases made from December 5, provided they are returned within 35 days – and you have a receipt and all the original packaging.

This reduces to 14 days if the item was bought in a sale. For M&S Christmas presents purchased between October 4 and December 4, you have until January 9 to return them.

Sports Direct offers a credit note or product exchange if items are returned within 28 days. A refund will only be made if there is something faulty with the item.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are entitled to a refund if something is not fit for the purpose it was bought

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are entitled to a refund if something is not fit for the purpose it was bought

Rules for online purchases are different. French says: ‘Where gifts have been bought over the internet, customers have a minimum 14 days from when they received the item to notify the retailer they would like to return it – then a further 14 days to send the item back.’

Although these rules – set under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 – are more generous than those applying to store returns, the original buyer has to return the item and then receives any refund.

But if you purchased the goods online the retailer should be happy for you to take it back to one of its high street stores. The strongest case for getting money back is if a gift arrives damaged or faulty.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are entitled to a refund if something is not fit for the purpose it was bought; is not of satisfactory quality; or fails to match up to its description. 

This includes goods turning up broken and not working – though they need to be returned within 30 days.

Under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, any faulty goods purchased with a credit card make the card company equally liable with the shop. This is only for faulty gifts costing at least £100.

The law allows you to turn to the credit card provider for a full refund if the shop is ignoring your demands or has gone bust – so consider asking the buyer if they purchased with a card.

Compensation if gift is lost in the post 

With so many of us not getting together over Christmas this year, more gifts may have been sent by post.

If items are damaged or never arrive you should be able to claim compensation from the courier.

For example, Royal Mail compensates if goods get lost, delayed or damaged. Compensation starts with a £5.10 book of six first class stamps if a delivery is three days late (four days over the Christmas period).

There is up to £20 for damaged or lost goods on standard deliveries. To make a claim, visit a post office and ask for a ‘P58’ form.

The claim must be lodged within 80 days of the parcel being sent. Other couriers are not always so generous, but check their websites for details.

Royal Mail compensates if goods get lost, delayed or damaged

Royal Mail compensates if goods get lost, delayed or damaged

Why not give it away to a friend? 

If there is nothing wrong with a gift, but you would rather not explain to the generous donor you do not want it, there are solutions.

James Andrews, personal finance expert at consumer website, says: ‘Perhaps it was a TV chef cookbook or an all-in-one toiletry set that disappointed you as soon as you unwrapped it. Instead of consigning the offending item to a cupboard to collect dust, consider giving the gift to someone who will appreciate it.’

You might know of a more deserving friend or relative – but be thoughtful about how the person who gave you the gift might feel if they found out. They might be offended, but they might be delighted that it has gone to a home where it will be appreciated.

There’s always Ebay… or a charity shop 

A charity shop is the ideal place to take an unwanted present. Not only might the new owner bag a bargain, but the purchase price will help a good cause. Charity shops are far happier with something new rather than a second-hand piece handed over in a bin bag.

Alternatively, you might want to make some money by selling the gift on a marketplace such as eBay. The secret of success is to be open and honest about the item. If the gift is unopened, this can be used as a selling point as it is in pristine condition. Ensure plenty of photos are included in the sale.

Private sellers can list up to 1,000 items for free on the eBay website each month – so nothing is lost if it fails to sell. You typically pay 12.8 per cent of the final sale price – including the cost of postage – plus 30p as commission to eBay for using the auction service. Including a ‘buy it now’ price before an auction ends can cost an extra 50p. 

Send them back – but check deadlines 

– Returns policies vary between stores. Check out the terms and conditions, which can be found online. You typically have 28 days from making a purchase to return it.

– Online purchases follow different rules from a high street shop. You have 14 days from the time of purchase to notify the retailer and then 14 days to send it back.

– If goods are faulty or broken you have a right to a no-quibble full refund whether it is bought in a shop or online. Returns must be made within 30 days.

– Items lost in the post are the responsibility of the courier – with rules varying between delivery firms. For Royal Mail you have 80 days from the postage date in the UK to claim for lost or damaged items.