The Best & Worst Store Return Policies to Consider This Holiday Season

retail transactionMost of us try to do our best to pick out the perfect holiday gift for the people on our list. But sometimes, even the most thoughtfully selected gift isn't quite right, and that is when where you purchased the gift can make a big difference in terms of how easy it is to return it. Thankfully, we've got the lowdown on the five best and five worst store return policies.

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According to GOBankingRates.com, which studied and compiled 31 stores' return policies in their new report, nearly 70 percent of people say they've tried to return a gift, often without having a receipt. For their sake, hopefully they tried to make the return at a store that has customer-friendly policies like being able to make a return without a receipt or having free return shipping options.

If you were gifted with a happy gnome statue or a too-small holiday sweater from Grandma, hopefully it came from one of the retailers on GOBankingRates.com's top five.

1. Nordstrom: This high-end department store is famous for having a strong commitment to customer satisfaction. They don't actually have a return policy and instead opt to handle returns on a "case-by-case basis with the ultimate objective of satisfying the customer." This flexibility means that those who need to return something without the receipt or maybe even without the tags or original packing may be in luck. You should note, however, that the return policy for Nordstrom Rack is not quite as flexible, as it has a 90-day limit and requires original tags and a receipt.

2. L.L.Bean: Whether you are returning by mail or at a retail location, L.L.Bean is noteworthy for the fact that items can be returned or exchanged at any time, even years after purchase. Receipts make the return easier but aren't required. Those without receipts can expect to get store credit rather than a refund.

3. Bed Bath and Beyond: This home goods retailer makes the list for also having no time limit on returns, even offering refunds in the form of the original payment (rather than just getting store credit) for those who have a receipt. Without a receipt, purchases made in the last 365 days may be able to be looked up by store employees and reimbursed.

4. JCPenney: In general, JCPenney also allows for a full return at any time on most items, though there are exceptions for furniture, fine jewelry, special occasion dresses, and electronics. Returns are possible without a receipt, but will be for store credit only.

5. Costco: Full disclosure -- I once returned a bag of avocados to Costco (they were overly ripe) and they refunded my money without blinking an eye, so I've been a big fan of their return policy ever since. Costco has no time limit on returns, except for electronics, which has a 90-day window. Returns generally need to be made at a store location.

More from The Stir: 10 Holiday Shopping Secrets From a Mall Insider

When it comes to the worst places to try to make a return, they all have a few things in common like short time limits for returns, or, in some cases, not even making a refund possible as store credit is your only option. Here are the Scrooges of the holiday return policy list:

1. Forever 21: Good luck trying to get your money back if you grab the wrong size or item from this fast fashion mall staple. Their return policy only has a 21-day window, and returns, even with a receipt, are only given store credit instead of a full refund.

2. Kmart: No receipt? No return. Kmart allows 30 days to make a return, but if you don't have a receipt, you are out of luck.

3. Barnes and Noble: With the shortest return window of the companies surveyed at just 14 days and a policy of no returns without a receipt, Barnes and Noble makes returns tricky for customers who find the wrong book under the tree this year.

4. GameStop: According to GoBankingRates, GameStop makes no returns without a receipt and "reserves the right to refuse returns of opened items," which could make returning a defective game difficult.

5. Sears: Deemed "one of the worst," Sears doesn't allow returns without a receipt and has a narrow return window (a mere 30 days) for those with a receipt, and some returns will be dinged with a 15 percent restocking fee. Also noteworthy is that they will not accept the return of any holiday items after December 25, even unopened and with a receipt.

 

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