Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

by : 
Kim Perkins
December 1, 2012

Question: Do you have a different return policy for holiday returns, such as giving customers a longer time to return items, than you do the rest of the year? We had some issues last year, and I remember at least one disgruntled customer who wanted to return merchandise for a refund in late January that she had purchased in November How do you handle this?

Answer: Yes, we do extend the time period for merchandise returns during the holidays. Beginning November 1, we extend the time from our normal 30-day window to January 25, giving them a full 30 days from Christmas Day to return or exchange items. Merchandise must still be in salable condition to be accepted for return or exchange, and refunds are given in the same form of currency used for the purchase. For example, if the item was purchased with a credit card, we issue a credit to the same card. During the holidays we also staple a copy of our return policy to customers’ receipts to let them know the policy and to avoid the need to explain it verbally.

Keep in mind customers want the return process to be effortless. By having a written and posted return policy and employees trained to make the transaction hassle-free, customers will be more likely to purchase gifts at your store. They will trust that they or their gift recipient will be able to exchange or return the item easily.

Do you or your staff groan when a return comes to the counter? That’s a clue it’s time to examine your return procedure to make it faster and easier for all concerned.

Kim Perkins is co-owner of Elysian Fields Books & Gifts for Conscious Living (, an award-winning store in Sarasota, Fla. Send your retail questions to