Ultimate guide to getting rid of your unwanted gifts

No one likes to appear ungrateful, but we’ve all received the odd gift we don’t like or can’t use. 

Be it a jumper that’s too small or a book you’ll never read, not every present is a hit.

One in ten people returned at least one unwanted Christmas gift last year, according to analytics firm GlobalData — with dresses, sleepwear, CDs and small kitchen appliances among the most commonly rejected items.

But what are your rights when it comes to taking back presents? Do you always need a receipt and how quickly must you act?

Here, AMELIA MURRAY talks you through exactly how to deal with an unwanted gift.


Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, High Street shops are obliged to accept returns only if the goods are damaged or faulty. 

This means that you are not guaranteed a refund if you just don’t like something — even if you have a receipt or another proof of purchase, such as a credit card statement.

The good news is that most major retailers do offer a refund, vouchers or exchange if you return the goods in a resalable condition.

Figures from the analytics firm GlobalData revealed that one in ten people returned at least one unwanted Christmas gift last year

A chart listing the rules that high street stores abide by reveals which shops offer money back, exchange or vouchers

A chart listing the rules that high street stores abide by reveals which shops offer money back, exchange or vouchers

If you want the money back, most stores require a receipt. If you don’t have one, many will offer an exchange or gift voucher for the current sale price.

This means that if the item has been reduced in the sale, you may well get less than what your loved one originally paid.

Usually, you have around 28 days from when you purchase the item to take it back.

However, all stores have their own individual policy so you must check. For example, JD Sports says customers must notify it within 14 days if they wish to return something.

Ikea on the other hand allows customers 365 days to return goods, as long as they have not been used.

Many shops extend their returns policy over the festive period — which is useful if your gift was purchased during the Black Friday sales in late November.

Argos is giving customers until January 25, 2020, to return items that were bought on or after October 16.

Sainsbury’s will accept returns until January 31, 2020, for goods bought between November 1, 2019, and January 2, 2020.

Journalist Amelia Murray says while most stores require a receipt, many will offer an exchange or gift voucher for the current sale price

Journalist Amelia Murray says while most stores require a receipt, many will offer an exchange or gift voucher for the current sale price

M&S usually gives its customers 35 days to make returns. But if you bought something between October 10 and December 7, you will have until January 11.

Any Debenhams purchases made from October 24 can be returned until January 31.

John Lewis will accept returns for items bought between October 21 and December 24 until January 28.

Waterstones customers have until January 31 to return gifts bought between November 1 and December 24.

TK Maxx shoppers have the usual 28 days if they want a refund. If you are happy to accept an exchange or giftcard, you have until January 21 to return gifts bought as long ago as October 11.


The rules are different for gifts bought online. Under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013, customers have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period to return items.

This applies from the day the goods are received. Items that have been bought from individual sellers are not covered by this.

The seller will need to be told within this time frame that the goods will be sent back and the return instructions must be followed.

Under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013, customers have a 14-day 'cooling off' period to return gifts

Under the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013, customers have a 14-day ‘cooling off’ period to return gifts

But many online retailers have their own policies and may also have widened the returns window over the Christmas period.

Some companies may offer free returns such as Superdrug and Asos. With other retailers, you may need to cover the postage costs.

Items dispatched by Amazon between November 1 and December 31 may be sent back up until midnight on January 31. This also applies to third-party sellers on the website and goods marked Prime.

Asos will refund orders made between November 1 and December 24 if they are returned by January 31. After this date, you will receive a refund in the form of a gift voucher if you send back items between 29 and 45 days of their delivery.


Some stores may accept returns without a receipt — but this is not guaranteed. They are also unlikely to give you a cash refund without proof of purchase. However, you may be offered credit or an exchange.

Marks & Spencer customers can return items without a receipt and receive a credit note that is valid for 12 months.

Whatever the reason for returning gifts, if it was bought using a debit or credit card the money will go into the account of whoever bought the item. Be mindful of this if you are trying to return an unwanted present without the buyer knowing.

Amazon customers may be able to get away with it. The online retailer says recipients can return items without the buyer being notified if it is marked as a gift at the time it’s purchased. You will need the order number on the packing slip and the refund will be processed as an Amazon giftcard.

Alternatively, if you are given a gift receipt alongside your present you could take it back and exchange it for something else or vouchers. Gift receipts must be requested at the point of purchase.


Some stores may not process refunds for unwanted goods right away — unless the items are faulty.

JD Sports said it is unable to process any refunds or exchanges until after December 28.


Perishable goods — such as flowers or food, and personalised items, jewellery and underwear — are all likely to be exempt from rules regarding returning unwanted presents.

M&S has an extensive list of goods it will not accept back, as per its 35-day goodwill policy. 

This includes beauty products, duvets and pillows, earrings, flowers and food, giftcards, swimwear and bra accessories. But you can return them within 30 days if they are faulty and not fit for purpose.

John Lewis customers cannot return gifts received more than 35 days previously. CDs or vinyl records that have been opened will not be refunded, nor will personalised gifts, pierced earrings, lingerie, bedding, beauty products and personal care products, such as electric razors. Gift cards cannot be returned either.

Argos will not accept pierced jewellery, underwear and other items marked as non-refundable in the catalogue, unless they are faulty. DVDs, music or software products must be unused and in their original sealed packaging.


Gifts that develop a fault within 30 days must be refunded under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If they break after 30 days, customers can still return them to the retailer within six months.

However, the seller must be given the opportunity to offer a repair or replacement before a refund is requested.

Products that break after six months can still be returned, but the burden of proof is on the customer to show the item was defective when it was bought.

Evidence could include an independent report, opinion or online reviews that suggest a wider issue. The retailer may offer a repair or replacement.

If a refund is on the cards, the shop could make a deduction based on six months’ use.


The top items listed on eBay after Christmas each year include unwanted gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, games consoles and video games.

Mobiles and smartphones are most popular, and go for an average selling price of £163.

Watches are the second most listed item, being snapped up for an average £131. Apple MacBook laptops are also common, with an average sale price of £483. Individual sellers get 1,000 free listings a month. 

Once the item is sold, a 10 per cent fee applies. PayPal, the payment system connected to your eBay account, quietly changed its pricing in August so now most people will pay more.

If a jacket is sold for £10, PayPal takes 2.9 per cent plus 30p — a total of 59p. The eBay fee (10 per cent of sale price) would be £1 so the total net would be £8.41.

Selling on Facebook is free — either on local selling groups or Facebook Marketplace. Upload a photo onto the groups with a description and a suggested price. The idea is that local buyers will arrange to pick up the items and pay you cash in hand, saving you postage fees.

However, there is little protection if things go wrong and the volunteers who run the groups are unlikely to get involved.

Unwanted clothes and accessories could also be listed on Vinted, which does not charge sellers, or Depop which charges 10 per cent of the sale price (including postage) plus PayPal fees. 

Websites including Music Magpie, Zapper, Webuybooks and Ziffit will buy books, games, DVDs and CDs. Simply type in the barcode to be given a price.

Not all websites will accept every item you want to sell — and they may offer different prices.

For example, Zapper offers £2.99 for Ottolenghi: The Cookbook. Whereas Ziffit pays £4.17. Music Magpie did not accept the book at all, and Webuybooks offered £4.03 for our copy.

There is usually a minimum total to reach. For example, Music Magpie’s is £5. The sites will then send you a free postage label, although you will need to provide your own box to hold your items.

These websites are best for getting rid of clutter because they do not pay out huge sums.

The cash offered depends on supply and demand. If the sites already have multiple copies of the items it will not accept any more — or they may pay a lower fee.


Another option is to donate surplus gifts to charity shops.

Cancer Research UK says it always sees an increase in donations after Christmas, the bulk being presents people do not want such as bath, body and beauty sets and hats and scarves.

All of its shops open normal hours from today December 27.

While Cancer Research cannot accept white goods, such as washing machines and fridges, or broken toys, it says it would be grateful for both adult and children’s clothing as well as accessories, quality homeware such as cushions and crockery, linens, electricals and books, CDs and DVDs.

British Heart Foundation’s 740 shops are all open as normal today.

The charity says it welcomes everything from good quality clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery to DVDs, books and children’s toys.

Electrical items can be dropped off at one of the charity’s 180 furniture and electrical stores. Donations can be dropped at the shops or collected for free.

BHF cannot sell items that are broken or in poor condition, or items that pose a health and safety risk — such as upholstery that doesn’t have a fire safety label.

Consumer rights expert Martyn James, from complaints website, Resolver, said: ‘The biggest mistake we make when it comes to unwanted gifts is prevarication. Don’t delay returning an item, because the clock is ticking.

‘Some retailers have extended their Christmas returns timescales — but not all of them. So check the website and return the items as soon as possible.

‘Too many of us hide unwanted gifts at the back of the wardrobe, rather than just admitting the present isn’t our thing and getting some cash back.

‘Even if you’ve missed the window for returning goods, why not set unwanted presents free by giving them to a charity shop? It is the season of giving, after all.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk