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Returning a Purchase: How to Make a Return In Person and Online

Remember how scary the sales clerk was the first time you had to bring something back to the store? As seasoned returners, it can be hard to remember that terrifying experience. Now it’s our teenager’s turn to learn this adult skill, because they weren’t born knowing how to make a return. At a minimum, we can narrate these processes in front of them so that they understand the steps.

In-Store Returns:

Find your receipt. You will likely need the receipt or invoice to return the item for a full refund. Some stores will refund without a receipt, but others may only give a replacement or store credit.

Collect the item. Bring the item to the store, along with all original packing materials and accessories.

Identify why you want to return the item. Before heading back to the store, you should know why you want to return the item; e.g., you bought the wrong item, you don’t need it anymore, or it doesn’t work.

Research return policies online. If the store has a website, you can read the return policy in greater detail so you know what to expect.

Tell the clerk you want to return the item. Go to the returns department if there is one, or to a cashier. Smile and explain that you want to return an item and why. Remember to be friendly. You are more likely to get what you want that way. Plus, it’s just good manners. Explain whether you want a replacement or a refund.

Don’t delay. Some stores allow returns, but only for a certain amount of time. For example, many stores only allow returns within 14 days of the purchase. You’re going to get better results the sooner you try to return the item.

Returning Online Purchases:

Check the website. As a rule, it’s best to know the return policy before you make an online purchase, just in case. Go to the online site where you purchased your merchandise. Find and read the return policy. Most online stores will only accept returns of unused and unopened items. If it is clothing, you must keep the tags on the clothing in order to return the purchase.

Follow website directions. Most online stores have step-by-step instructions for processing a return. Follow the steps and select the reason for the return.

Print a return shipping label. Follow the website instructions to print a label. Affix the label to the package, seal it with shipping tape, and drop it off with the designated carrier (U.S. mail, UPS, or FedEx).

Call customer service. If you are unsure of any aspect of returning an item, call or email customer service for the website that you purchased the item from. Or contact the seller directly by email to arrange a return or refund if you have purchased an item from a third-party seller such as eBay or Amazon.

Jane Parent

Jane Parent, former editor at Your Teen, is the parent of three.

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