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By Jim Donovan:  Returns are bound to happen, especially around the holidays.  To make the process as pain-free as possible, the January 2013 issue of ShopSmart magazine, the quick and easy guide from Consumer Reports, has identified five gotchas that shoppers need to be aware of.  In addition the report also names four free apps that can organize paper and digital receipts, making returns quicker and easier.

First, the gotchas:

Not all stores take back online purchases. Ann Taylor won’t take back swimwear, extended calf-boots, or “wedding and events” clothing in-store; and Sports Authority won’t take any online purchases back in its stores. Some items at OldNavy.com (and sister sites Gap.com and BananaRepupublic.com) are “Return by Mail Only,” so read online return policies.

Some gift cards aren’t returnable. Apple, Kenneth Cole, and other stores ban gift card returns. Nordstrom, known for its open-ended return policy won’t take back gift cards. Bloomingdales will, but there’s a catch – money is refunded to the purchaser’s credit card.

No gift-receipt could mean no return. Williams-Sonoma won’t take a gift back without a receipt unless it’s defective. Bloomingdale’s only gives credit for the lowest selling price in the past three-months for receipt-less gift returns.

Shoppers may be stuck with outlet items. The Land of Nod, Crate & Barrel, and others won’t accept items bought at their outlets.

Beware of restocking fees. Amazon, for example, takes 20 percent for unopened media items and nonmedia items 30 days or more after delivery. Sears charges a 15 percent restocking fee for electronics without their packaging or accessories.

There are apps that can help shoppers get organized in so many ways – including returns. ShopSmart highlights four free apps that can speed up and simplify the process (and all work on Android and Apple devices):

Lemon provides an @lemon.com address for users who don’t want to share their personal e-mail for digital receipts. Digital receipts, along with pictures of paper ones, can be stored in the app and easily accessed for returns.

ReturnGuru allows users to snap photos of their receipts and sends them a reminder before the return deadline comes.

Neat works with the NeatCloud service (30-day free trial, then $6 a month or a discounted $60 a year) to turn a user’s phone into a digital filing system. Use it to scan receipts and eliminate the paper-receipt jungle.

Slice gathers online receipts when users grant the app access to the e-mail they use for purchases. It also links return policies and provides customer-service numbers for participating retailers.

For more great information from Consumer Reports visit:


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