Gephardt Busts Inflation: How to avoid retailer return fees

Dec 22, 2022, 10:23 AM | Updated: 10:26 am

SALT LAKE CITY — About one in five items bought during the holidays will be returned to the store. That adds up to $158 billion worth of returned goods, according to the National Retail Federation.

Returning unwanted gifts is a holiday tradition and we’re used to doing that for free. Now, some experts warn we should expect to pay return fees.

We can blame inflation. We can blame higher shipping costs. And we can blame ourselves.

The National Retail Federation says we returned about $100 billion worth of stuff bought online in 2020. Last year, that number more than doubled to $218 billion. The good news? Consumer World’s Edgar Dworsky told KSL that return fees are still not common.

“I didn’t see any new or higher fees being added, particularly to return goods that you bought from their dot-com,” he said.

Still, return fees do exist.

Wayfair, for one, tacks on a $4.99 fee for its mail-in returns. REI will deduct $5.99 from your refund for the return. JCPenney’s says it will charge $8 to make a return. And while Kohl’s won’t slap you with a return fee, the cost to ship your return to them will now be on you.

So, how can you avoid paying a return fee? Don’t ship your return. Take it to their brick-and-mortar store instead.

“It’s just going to be quicker,” Dworsky said. “You don’t have to package it up. There won’t be any fees.”

He said in most cases, you can wait until January to bring in your return and still get a full refund or exchange. And many of the same old rules still apply.

“Don’t throw away some of the packaging. Don’t break the factory seal. Bring it back in an unused condition.”

There are alternatives when a brick-and-mortar store isn’t an option. For instance, Kohl’s will take your Amazon returns. Or companies like Happy Returns, Boomerang, and Zig Zag can pick up your unwanted gift and consolidate returns from a number of consumers before taking it to a retailer.

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Gephardt Busts Inflation: How to avoid retailer return fees