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Many Happy Returns

These 9 tips can help make holiday gift exchanges easier

4.    Avoid the Morning After — On Dec. 26, lines will be long, tempers short and return policies tight. The best day for returning gifts and shopping for replacements will be two days later. By then, the lines will be short and store staff will be in a much better mood. On the other hand, if you absolutely love waiting hours in line and dealing with the most irritable and impatient customer service agents, be sure to head to the stores a few hours after the doors open. I guarantee you'll get your fill of stressed out store clerks and snarky sales people.

5.    "Sell" the Return — Believe it or not, some people try to get bogus refunds for used toys and tired clothing during the harried post-holidays. Retailers are on the lookout for such scams-in-reverse. Whether your return is accepted or not is often a store clerk's snap judgment. You can increase your chances if you "sell" the return. (This is where that previously saved store box or bag comes in really handy.) Make sure the gift-to-be-returned looks nice and new. This will greatly increase your chances of getting a positive response to your refund request.

6.    Loyalty Counts — Merchants are more likely to give you a refund if they know that you are a one of their regular customers and their positive response could be rewarded with future business. When you get to the head of the return line, make sure to stress that you are a regular customer and will continue to be if they treat you well. Say something like, "We shop here all the time and know how well you treat your customers, compared to the other guys." Be sure not to approach it from the negative by mentioning the possibility that they'll lose your business if you don't get your way. They can figure that out on their own. Don't forget to smile. If you're the one pleasant person among a dozen less-than-civil customers, you'll likely get the best treatment.

Next: One advantage of buying with a credit card. >>

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