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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.

Steps for 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.

Return Labels

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.

How to Return Clothes Online

Returning clothes online has become a common occurrence with online shoppers. Since you can’t try the clothing on before you buy online, it is very possible that it does not fit the way you thought it would. Most online clothing stores are understanding of this possibility and have lenient return policies. If you’re unsure that you will like a piece of clothing you are thinking of buying online, it is a good idea to read over the return policy before making the purchase. Oftentimes online return policies for clothing will include some exclusions such as a limited time frame for returns, or no returns on clearance items.

If you have already purchased clothing online and are looking to return, it is best to check the website for the return policy and reach out to customer support to learn the steps to returning your clothing. If you purchased clothes online from a store that also has physical locations, you will likely be instructed to drop off the items there. If it only has an online presence, you will likely have to ship the items back in order to get your refund.

Can You Return Clothes You Already Wore?

Whether or not you can return clothes you already wore depends on the store’s policy. Most retailers require that items be returned in their original condition, with tags attached, unworn, and with receipt.

However, some stores allow for returns of lightly worn items as long as they are in like-new condition. For example, if you simply tried on the clothing and did not like it, you should still be able to return it even though you tried it on once. Make sure that it is not noticeable that the clothing has been worn and that it is free of any stains or rips. If you’re unsure about a store’s return policy or the condition of an item, contact customer service for clarification.

Some retailers are much more lenient than others, so your experience returning worn clothing will vary on a case by case basis.  You should read a store’s return policy or contact customer support if you have any specific questions about returning worn clothing.

Can You Return Items That Were on Sale?

Generally, stores will allow you to return items that were on sale. However, this might vary based on the store and the sale. Sometimes liquidation sales or end of season sales will emphasize that all sales are final and that they do not accept returns. It is best to ask whether the store accepts returns when purchasing the item on sale. If you don’t remember whether or not the store allowed returns on their sale, you can always reach out to their customer support and ask!

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

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