No Receipt, No Problem – How to return a holiday gift without a receipt


Christmas is an exciting time but it also has some hidden perils. It’s happened to all of us…. Someone hands you a beautifully wrapped box with a big colorful bow that you can hardly wait to open. Finally, you get to rip the paper off, heart racing with anticipation…and then it happens. You get an anti-gift. You know what I mean, that hideous (INSERT GIFT HERE) from your (INSERT RELATIVE HERE). For example, that hideous Christmas sweater with a giant reindeer on it from your great aunt.

Yes, yes, it is the thought that counts. However, does that mean you have to be stuck with a truly atrocious gift you’ll never use or wear? Unfortunately, returning that anti-gift can be tricky. A lot of stores are tightening up their return policies, so having a receipt is pretty important. However, maybe you don’t want to hurt your relative’s feelings by asking for the receipt or maybe you did ask but he or she didn’t have the receipt.

So…now what? Here are some tips to help you return that gift without the receipt.

Do a little reconnaissance.
Before you head out to fight traffic and stand in line at a crowded, stuffy store, do a little research. Check the store’s website to find out what their return policy is. Find out if you can return something without a receipt and what reasons for returning an item are considered acceptable. You may also be able to find some forums where customers are talking about how the store handles returns or what the best approach is.

When picking a reason for your return, I suggest trying to come up with something legitimate like “it doesn’t fit”, “it doesn’t work”, or “I already have this item”. “Spite” or “Ugliness” probably isn’t a viable reason.

Profile your customer service rep.

When you finally get your turn at the returns desk, figure out what will appeal to your customer service representative. Some people are more of a people pleaser and will do just about anything to help out a customer. Others are real sticklers for the rules so you may have to tell a fib or play dumb (like you didn’t understand the return policy) in order to get him or her to take the product back.

Know when to retreat.

Sometimes it is easier to persuade the store to give you a gift card or store credit for an unwanted item rather than a refund. If it looks like you’re losing the battle, tell the customer service representative you really love the store and would be happy to exchange this item for something else from their shelves. Hopefully you can find something you like or you can hang on to the gift card and re-gift it to someone else.

Go up the chain of command.
If you’re getting nowhere, consider asking for a manager. Sometimes a customer service representative just doesn’t have the authority to bend (or break) the rules. On the other hand, the manager can decide to make an exception. Very politely ask the customer service rep if you can speak to his or her supervisor.

Spread the word.
If you feel like the store is being unreasonable or impolite in regards to your request to return an item, consider posting on one of their social media platforms (ex. Twitter or Facebook). Social media channels are typically monitored by the corporate office. When a complaint is posted, many businesses are quick to respond because anyone can see that complaint and it could lead to negative publicity or even more people complaining. The corporate office may be willing to make an exception for you that you couldn’t get at the local level.

Returning a gift without a receipt can be quite the challenge. Use the tips in this article to help you accomplish your mission. If all else fails, consider re-gifting the gift or donating it.

Kelli Bhattacharjee is the owner of Freebie Finding Mom, where she blogs about the best daily freebies, coupons, online bargains and savvy money saving advice. The advice Kelli provides comes from world experience and a financial background. She is passionate about helping consumers save big money and have fun along the way.


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