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Know Your Store’s Return Policies: My Big Mistake

For as long as I can remember my mom has prefaced the gifts she presents with the sentiment “if you don’t like this then let me know. I would rather return it then waste the money.”  I heard this every time I opened a present for the last 30+ years of my life. I heard it so many times that I didn’t think it was an unusual statement to make. In fact it was an extended family member that first told me it seemed odd.

Having grown up with this idea it didn’t seem like a particularly strange one. It seemed sensible to return an unwanted gift in exchange for something that you might like better. The rule didn’t apply to all gifts or all people who presented me with gifts. I was not allowed to tell everyone I disliked their gifts; just my mother.

Of course, it goes without saying that this scenario puts me in an awkward position. My mom wants to know the truth, but sometimes when I know she searched long and hard for the perfect present I don’t want to crush her spirit by telling her I don’t like it.

In the past I probably told her the truth about 80% of the time. The other 20% I feigned excitement and then moved the item to the back of my closet. These days I am much more honest. I no longer hold on to things I don’t like, which means those unwanted items would go directly from the gift bag to the donation center. Since my mom asks for my honesty I now tell her the truth. To be honest I also don’t want to waste her hard earned money.

Outside of my own household I have never heard anyone echo the same sentiment. When we receive gifts from other family members we smile, thank them and then quietly donate everything we can’t use or didn’t like.

Every year my husband receives clothing that he has no intentions of wearing. There isn’t anything he likes about it. The colors are not right, the material is too thin and the style is not at all similar to anything else he wears. Every year we pile these up and send them off for donation fully knowing that next year we will receive another bag filled with similar clothing.

For some reason this time around I decided to research the store’s return policy.  I always assumed we could not return the clothing without gift slips or receipts, but it turns out I was horribly wrong!

Honestly I have absolutely no idea why I never looked into the store policy before. It seems like so many stores make you jump through hoops to return things and I just assumed I would be tough-out-of-luck without a receipt. For the record I do feel like a complete and utter idiot for not researching the return policy sooner.

It seems this particular store will accept our unwanted merchandise without any documentation. They will simply refund the lowest sale price offered in the last 30 days. I don’t care about the price, because some store credit is certainly better than nothing.

I was elated to know the store policy, but ridiculously upset with myself for not looking into this before. The bag of items I returned was valued at just under $50. If you assume $50 every year for the past five years you are easily looking at $250 worth of store merchandise we could have used to purchase other things.

This was one of those ugh moments for me. I was happy to know that I can now exchange the items we don’t want for things we do need, but ever so frustrated that I didn’t research the policy sooner.

Of course, it’s not the worst thing in the world. While we didn’t receive store credit, I am happy to know that someone out there was able to purchase brand new clothing at our local donation center. But I must admit that I will not make the same mistake again. The next time we receive a bag of unwanted clothing I plan to return it to the store.