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Gift returns may be easier this year
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Is that yellow polka-dotted tie Aunt Norma got you too flashy for your taste? Or was mom too conservative in her estimate of your real sweater size?

Just take it back. You know you want to.

And local retailers have extra hands on deck today because they, too, know you might want to return or exchange some less than thrilling gifts.

According to a survey by Consumer Reports, even before any gifts shed their wrapping this holiday season, nearly one in five Americans said they expected to return at least one gift they receive.

And according to the National Retail Federation, more than 52 percent of retailers said their holiday return policies will be more lenient than their policies for the rest of the year, up from 35 percent who said so in 2007. Accommodating customers without receipts and extending the amount of time for returns were cited as ways retailers aim to provide good customer service during this economic slump.

Sherry Estep, the men's clothing supervisor at J.C. Penney Co. on Pearl Nix Parkway, said it's usually pretty crowded in the store on the day after Christmas.

"We are expecting a lot of people because we open early and stay open a little bit later than usual (today)," Estep said.

The J.C. Penney store at Lakeshore Mall will open today at 5:30 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. Estep said she has hired extra staff to accommodate the influx of gift recipients who want to spend their gift cards, return items or exchange them for another.

Estep said gift recipients who have receipts and want to make returns or exchanges stand the best chance of getting in and out of the store fastest.

With a receipt, any J.C. Penney items can be returned or exchanged within 90 days of purchase. Without a receipt, J.C. Penney can give customers a gift card for the item or exchange it, Estep said.

Kimberly Johnson, operations manager of the Best Buy on Dawsonville Highway, will have 18 extra employees on hand today and about 10 more cash registers running than usual to keep the returns and exchanges lines moving swiftly.

"It's going to be like Black Friday coming into the store for returns," Johnson said. "We don't know when (the big turnout) will happen. The line is going to vary. We're just ready for it."

Johnson said even without a receipt, gift recipients can exchange or return items by waiting in the returns line and giving the cashier the name of the person who gave them the gift.

"That's what's going to take the longest is going through the computer to find the person match they're looking for," she said. "If you have a receipt, bring it."

She said as customers enter the store, an employee will be stationed at the door to mark incoming items with pink stickers. Customers with small items and receipts likely can avoid the long return line and make the exchange or return at the cash registers up front. Larger items or items without an accompanying receipt require the services of the return center, she said.

Also, a 5 to 10 percent restocking fee may apply for some items returned to Best Buy. Johnson said if an item remains completely unopened, there is typically no restocking fee with the exception of digital cameras and global positioning systems.

Best Buy has a special return and exchange policy for the holidays. Gift purchases made between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24 of this year qualify for an extended return policy. Some items, such as digital cameras and computer monitors, must be returned by Jan. 8. Items such as MP3 players, video game hardware and flat screen televisions must be returned by Jan. 24.

Return policies vary by store. Often, you can check a retailer's Web site to determine the return policies.