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8 ways to reduce return hassles

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6. Play nice
It may seem like simple advice, but if you're returning an item during the post-holiday rush, you'll probably stand out in the crowd simply by being pleasant. "You are more likely to get somebody to bend the rules (on your behalf) if you create compassion than if you create anger," says Feinberg.

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If long lines give you a short temper, consider waiting before you return the item. "I would not be the first one in line after the first of the year," says Gross. "My advice is to be patient. Give it a week." You will likely still be in the allowable time frame for returns, but both you and the clerk won't have to deal with the stress of the crowds.  

7. Get to the boss without bypassing the clerk
"When employees refuse (to accept return items), it is probably because we're asking them to do something they are not authorized to do," says Gross. For example, the store's return policy may state that you can return merchandise within 30 days, but you try to return it on day 31. "Asking somebody to say 'yes' when they can't is a waste of your time and it irritates the employee."

When you want someone to make an exception for you, go higher up in the company. "It's a lot easier (for a boss) to tell an employee to say 'no' under these circumstances than it is for them to look a customer in the eye and say 'no.' The boss has latitude."

The key is getting to a person of authority without upsetting the clerk.

"You're not going to get to that person if you're rude," says Gross. "So don't say 'I want to talk to your boss.' Instead, ask the clerk, 'Who can you and I talk to?' or say, 'I hate to ask you to do this. It may be a decision you're not comfortable making, so who can you and I talk to who might be comfortable saying 'yes' to what I need?'"

8. Know your next step
"Roll into position for the next shot," says Gross, meaning: Always plan your next action. When you buy the product, ask if you will be able to return it. If the retailer tells you 'yes, but there's a restocking fee,' ask if it can be waived. If they say 'yes,' ask them to state that in writing. And if you dispute a purchase to no avail, know whether you will be willing to complain to the retailer's corporate offices.

"The store manager is not the end all, be all," says Banks. "Document your displeasure, and take your complaint as far as you have to."

Then again, you may decide the matter is not worth pursuing. And that's OK, too, says Feinberg. "You'll just have to enjoy that ugly tie."'s corrections policy -- Posted: Dec. 27, 2006
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