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Holiday helper: How to return the stuff you don’t want

Well, it looks like Aunt Sue bought you yet another ugly sweater for Christmas. Hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Some of us tuck unwanted things away in a closet, and some return them. If that’s you, check the fine print. Many retailers are doing away with free shipping on returns. I did some digging to help during this busy season.

You’ll have to figure out what to tell Aunt Sue on your own if she asks about the sweater.

Free return phase-out

OK, this blew me away: 81% of merchants now charge fees for at least some returns. From big-name brands right down to the little guys, mailing back those unwanted items might cost ya this year.

Most companies deduct return shipping fees directly from your refund — specifically when you send it back in the mail. Here are some of the retailers who now pass shipping costs down to customers:

  • Macy’s: $9.99 return shipping fee
  • Abercrombie & Fitch: $7 fee for mail-in returns
  • J.Crew: $7.50 fee for mail-in returns
  • H&M: $5.99 return shipping fee
  • Dillard’s: $9.95 mail-in return cost 
  • JCPenney: $8 fee for mail-in returns
  • Urban Outfitters: A $5 restocking fee is deducted from most mailed returns
  • T.J.Maxx: $11.99 return shipping and handling fee

Want to save money? You can probably skip the fee if you return in-store. Check with the retailer before you bother driving to the mall, though. It’s also worth checking if they waive fees for members of a free or paid loyalty program, like H&M and Macy’s do.

Got something to return from Amazon? 

You can return most new, unopened items sold and fulfilled by Amazon within 30 days of delivery. It also offers free returns on most items delivered to an address within the U.S. Woohoo! Just make sure “free returns” is listed next to the price in the item description.

Returning something you ordered from Amazon via mail is easy. Returning a gift is a little different. Here’s how:

  • Go to the Returns Center. If prompted, sign in to your Amazon account. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t have one.
  • Enter the order number for the item you want to return, then Search.
  • Select the items you want to return and the reason from the dropdown menu. If a third party sold your item, they may wish to review returns before authorizing. If so, you’ll see the words “Submit return request.”
  • Select your preferred return method.
  • Follow the instructions on the screen.

If you’re light on empty boxes or can’t print a label, bring your item(s) to an Amazon Locker, Whole Foods, Kohl’s or Amazon Fresh grocery store. Just be sure to initiate the return in your Amazon account before heading over.

You can also take items to a UPS store, but there’s a catch. If an Amazon-specific drop-off point is closer to your address, they’ll charge you a $1 fee.

You’ve got mail

Need to return something via U.S. Mail but don’t have a label? USPS to the rescue.

Head to the closest post office and grab a free box. Skip those long lines and head home to print a new label. Once you’re done, wrap your item and drop it off in the self-serve box. Done!

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