Consumer Alert

Gift receipts make returns much simpler

By Mitch Lipka
Globe Correspondent / January 16, 2011

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Q. I had an unpleasant experience trying to return a birthday gift bought for my son by a classmate. It didn’t come with a gift receipt, but the toy was unopened and contained the words “Toys ‘R’ Us Exclusive.’’ I figured it would be easy to exchange the unwanted toy because it clearly came from Toys ‘R’ Us.

The store manager said that he couldn’t make the exchange without a gift receipt. He said only corporate could approve such an exchange. When I called customer service, I was told they could not approve an exchange.

It’s nice that Toys ‘R’ Us extended the return period for items bought online, but the company makes it extremely difficult to exchange an unopened “Toys ‘R’ Us Exclusive’’ item without gift receipt.

Norman Birnbach

A. The biggest problem consumers tend to have with returns is understanding store policy. Certainly, that gets complicated when the people at the store are confused. And that gets muddier still when the person trying to make a return is a gift recipient, not the purchaser.

With birthday and Christmas presents, this sort of thing happens all the time. So, companies including Toys ‘R’ Us have had to come up with policies to deal with this and, ultimately, help protect against theft by requiring some evidence the item was actually purchased from their stores.

The gift receipt is the main tool for allowing returns of presents, but not everyone asks for one or gives them to gift recipients. That leaves the consumer to deal with store policy. At Toys ‘R’ Us, spokeswoman Katie Reczek explained: “In general, our policy is returns are allowed within 90 days with a receipt. There can be exceptions from the store manager.’’

One exception, she said, would be a gift purchased off a child’s “wish list,’’ which is similar to a gift registry. Since exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis, however, you have to assume that you’re not going to have any luck if you go into the store without a receipt.

Reczek said the company is looking at how the customer service folks handled your situation. A gift card was sent to you as a goodwill gesture.

So, gift givers, make it easier on your recipients if they need to make a return. Give a gift receipt.

Mitch Lipka is the Consumer Ally for AOL’s and lives in Worcester. He can be reached at

How to return gifts

How to return gifts

Return policies seem to grow more complicated by the year.