Holiday returns? Better know the rules

It's time to hit the after-Christmas sales and return those gifts you really don't want.

Most stores try to make it easy for you to get a refund. Many have special holiday policies that give you extra time to bring things back.

But a few big-name retailers, such as best Buy, Sears and Toys "R" Us have tightened up the rules a bit this year, according to a survey by

"We're finding that more and more stores are dividing up their return policies, so certain types of goods have different rules," said Consumer World founder Edgar Dworsky. "And if any type of merchandise is going to have a stricter policy, it's going to tend to be electronics and appliances. We see relatively short return periods for these things as compared to other items, such as clothing."

If you plan to bring something back, make sure you have a receipt. Some stores won't give you a refund without one. They're trying to cut down on return fraud which now costs the nation's retailers nearly $9 billion a year, costs that are passed along to all of us in the form of higher prices.

"Having a receipt is also in your own interest because if you don't have a receipt, you may only get back the lowest price that item has sold for in the past three months," Dworsky said.

Most stores now require picture ID if you want to return something without a receipt. Again, this is to fight return fraud.

To get full credit for that merchandise you want to return -- unless it's defective -- it needs to be in new or like-new condition, in the original packaging, with all paperwork and accessories.

Consumer World found that most online retailers - but not all - will allow you to return items to their brick-and-mortar stores. For example, you cannot do that at Sports Authority.

Remember, allowing returns is a customer service and not required by law, unless the merchandise is defective. Some stores have a no-return policy. Others will only provide a store credit.

Consumer World has compiled a detailed list of return policies at more than a dozen major retailers.

More Info: Receive an awful gift? Return policies now tighter