Why some stores won’t let you return holiday items—even with a receipt

Some people are finally returning the Christmas gifts they don't want—and they're running into trouble.

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Getty Images | Joe Raedle

A woman says she was denied the ability to return a holiday gift when the Walmart near her said it is no longer taking back holiday items, despite a 90-day return policy on most items.

So what gives?

Had receipts, but returns denied

Midwestern U.S. resident Anna Isgro always saves receipts. So when it came time to return some unwanted holiday gifts, she grabbed a receipt and headed for her local Walmart.

“I had a pair of reindeer slippers for my brother-in-law,” she said. “And from my sister I got a Tuscan lotion box set, and they were seasonal items.”

Since she didn’t want either of them, she figured with the receipt she would have no problem getting cash back or a store credit.

But she was stunned when she got to the return line.

“They said they can’t take it back because they are seasonal items, and they have a store policy that it’s up to the manager if they want to take the return or not,” she said.

Isgro says even though it was within 90 days, she learned holiday items were exempted from the 90-day window at that store.

“The lady said to put this back on the shelf, they would have to mark it down to 90 cents, and they wouldn’t get their money back. So she wouldn’t take my return,” she said.

Tries a different Walmart

Isgro says she was taught long ago to never accept no for an answer the first time around. So the next time she was out, she stopped by a different area Walmart. She says the second store happily accepted her holiday returns.

So what is the store policy? Walmart’s website does not address holiday-themed returns.

Store managers would not comment, but a Walmart corporate spokeswoman told us stores should accept seasonal item returns, though only at the lowest clearance price.

The website Consumerist, an arm of Consumer Reports, however, has reported several times in recent years that Walmart return policies often vary by store.

It cites cases where seasonal items, holiday decor,and even book returns have been denied by overzealous store managers.

What you can do if denied

To protect yourself, Consumer Reports suggests calling Walmart’s customer hotline if you are ever denied a return within the normal return window.

Or do what Isgro did and try another store, which worked.

“They did not say anywhere in the store that seasonal items cannot be returned,” she said.

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