They say to give the gift you want to receive. Sadly, not everyone adheres to that principle - as evidenced by the soap, candles and household decor items we've all received at some point.
While hiding these unwanted gifts under the stairs or re-gifting them are options, taking them back to the shop gets them off your hands for good. This option is even more appealing if you can get some cash back or exchange them for an item you've been coveting.
Retailers are usually only required to adhere to a 14-day "cooling off" period, so it pays to act quickly. Here are our tips for maximising the likelihood of a successful return.
Know what you can return. Certain things can't be returned. These include DVDs, CDs, computer software, perishable items, and items custom-made for you.
Keep labels and packaging intact. Avoid removing labels or tags from clothing, and try to avoid damaging boxes or cutting open plastic packaging used to house toys or other items. It's harder to convince a retailer to take back an item if you've done so. Bear the same in mind if you're giving clothing or other items that might need to be exchanged.
Keep your receipts. Keep paper receipts close at hand, and archive digital receipts in your email. If you're giving a gift from a store where that honours "gift receipts", include the receipt with the gift itself - making sure it's in a safe place such as with a card or taped to the packaging.
Tip: don't forget to read up on Consumer Contracts Regulations.
Read up on store return policies. Stores often include information about their returns policy on their FAQ or other customer information pages. Usually, this is can be found at the bottom of the homepage.
Tip: Can't find the page you need? Use Google to search within a given site using the format "site:retailerwebsite.com returns". For example, to search Marks & Spencer, google "site:marksandspencer.com returns".
Put in a claim. If a retailer has gone out of business or you've bought from a pop-up store or market vendor and can't find them, try putting in a claim via Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. To do so your purchase needs to have been made using a credit card.
Figure out shipping costs. Many retailers will offer free returns on their terms - this usually means using their recommended courier or taking a parcel to a nominated drop-off point.
If you need to return an item, and the retailer in question doesn't offer a pre-paid, pre-arranged courier service, then use DPD Pickup to compare prices - and easily arrange to drop off your parcel at over 2000 locations around the country at a time that suits you.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, so it might be worth putting together a pre-emptive Christmas wish list - or communicating very gently to Auntie Bessie that you have quite enough soap and flying duck figurines already.