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New sweater doesn't fit? Simple ways to return unwanted gifts

Sunday - 12/25/2011, 8:04am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- That sweater doesn't fit? Or the toy broke the first time your child turned it on? Now that the presents are open, another annual ritual begins -- returning unwanted, un-needed or defective gifts.

The first thing you need to do is find out where the item you want to return was purchased. The gift giver may have helped by providing you with a gift receipt.

"We recommend that people return items sooner rather than later because there may be a limited period of time that you can make a return," says Karen Straughn, director of the mediation unit of the Consumer Affairs Division in Maryland.

That will give you a better chance to either exchange the gift or get store credit.

Straughn says you also have to be aware of is the store's return policy. That includes rules about returning items purchased online to brick and motor stores. You may be charged a restocking or reshipping fee.

Some stores will have signs posted, "No returns, No exchanges," which limits your options. But not if the product is defective, then an implied warranty kicks in.

"You can return it at any time if the item is defective."

Straughn also recommends you return any manufacturer warranty cards that come with electronics as soon as possible.

Many stores will be accommodating. But if they're not, you can file a complaint. In Maryland you can call (410) 528-8662 or check online. In Virginia, the online complaint can be filed here. And in D.C., file a complaint here. The rules are different in each jurisdiction.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)