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By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s the day after Christmas, a day to head back to the stores to return those gifts that aren’t quite right.

A Fed Ex survey last year said that more than one-third of Americans expected to make returns after the holidays.

To make it a smooth transaction, you should have a receipt and know the store’s return policy, says Villanova University marketing professor Eric Karson.

“With hard goods, you have to read the fine print,” he advises.  “If it’s totally unopened and it’s assured that it’s unused, I don’t think there’s going to be a problem because the retailers cannot afford to upset their customers and potential customers.”

But Karson says you could face a restocking fee for electronics whose packages have been opened.  And clothing with the tags removed might not be returnable at all.

If you’re returning an online purchase, you may have to call and get a “return authorization.”   And Karson says all consumers should know that most retailers are now keeping a database of serial returners, to head off abuse.

“The stores aren’t going to publicize this.  Now more than ever, we see how sensitive people are to any sort of tracking their personal information.  But the online retailers especially, they’re going to require the receipts.”

If you don’t have a receipt, most stores will require you to show ID, to deter return fraud.     And Karson says retailers may steer customers toward store credit, to keep the cash flow in-house.

To get better service, Karson suggests, you also may want to wait a few days until frazzled store clerks aren’t quite so busy.

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