Buying holiday gifts online is a huge timesaver for many of us and makes it easier to buy our friends and family exactly what they want.
But buying online carries the risk that your recipient won’t be able to return an unwanted item within the normal returns window. Should we continue to buy Christmas gifts online?
So, what is Amazon’s holiday return policy? In prior years, Amazon has extended its return policy for the holiday season, allowing certain products shipped between October 1 and December 31 to be returned through January 31 of the following year.
According to Amazon, it will confirm this September whether the prior policy will be in effect for the upcoming 2022-2023 holiday season.
It appears likely that the holiday return policy will remain the same, though shoppers will have to check to make sure the terms of the policy is the same as in recent years.
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What Is Amazon’s Regular Return Policy?
It varies depending on what you purchase, though for the majority of items Amazon has a 30-day return window. A few exceptions are listed below.
Before purchasing any item on Amazon, it’s a good idea to check out the return policy, as policies vary depending on the type of product and the seller of the product (not all products are sold by Amazon or Amazon Warehouse directly).
Some Amazon sellers may not allow returns, may have a different return window, and may charge a restocking fee if items are returned outside of the return window.
Why Have a Holiday Return Policy?
If you are the type of person who likes to get your holiday shopping done early, or if you are visiting family for Thanksgiving and like to give your wrapped gifts at that time, you have undoubtedly run into those too-short 30 day return policies.
If you are ahead of the game and buy your gifts in November, the return window may have passed already before you have even given your holiday gift.
Amazon has realized the problem here, and in the past several years has offered an extended Holiday Return Policy.
What is the Amazon Holiday Return Policy?
For many items offered on Amazon (not all–see below), Amazon has allowed returns through January 31 of the following year IF the product was shipped in October, November, or December of the prior year.
This allows your recipients to open your gift during the holiday season, decide whether they like it, and still have roughly a 30-day window to return.
For items shipped at the very beginning of the eligibility period–October 1, 2022–this would result in a 123 day return period.
Keep in mind that return eligibility doesn’t change–all that changes is that you have a longer window in which to return your eligible item. Items not eligible for return are listed below.
Does the Amazon Holiday Return Policy Apply to Everything on Amazon?
No–the return policies will remain the same, though you will have a longer window to return certain items that are typically subject to the 30-day window.
In prior years, the Amazon Christmas return policy has applied to the following products, shipped between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31:
- General Merchandise
- Non-digital Alexa purchases (excludes pharmacy)
- Clothing and Accessories
- Major Appliances
- Devices (Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, Amazon Fire TV devices, and Echo devices) (in original condition)
- Amazon Warehouse purchases
- Computers and Electronics (damaged, defective, or unopened)
- Damaged items
Will There Be an Amazon Holiday Return Policy This Year?
According to Amazon customer service, the company will confirm in late September whether the holiday return policy will apply this year.
However, it appears very likely that there will be some type of holiday return policy (and it seems likely that it will remain the same as in prior years, meaning it will apply to items shipped in October).
Last year, the company announced the return policy in mid-September.
The October-December window for eligible purchases has been in effect for the prior two years. Before that, the holiday policy applied to purchases made November-December.
Clearly, in prior years Amazon has wanted to make life easier for those organized folks who like to knock out their holiday shopping before Halloween, or who are shopping for an early Hanukkah.
Why Not Offer a Holiday Return Policy?
There are some drawbacks to offering an extended window for returns after the holidays.
Sellers on Amazon have complained that extending the return window means people can still return all their Halloween costumes and decorations and Thanksgiving decor–way after the seasons for those holidays have ended.
This leaves sellers with all sorts of seasonal inventory they can’t sell in midwinter.
In addition, for smaller sellers, an extended window can create difficulties with restocking and accounting that might not be felt by larger sellers.
For the most part, though, sellers understand that buyers might be wanting to lock in their holiday purchases this year–especially as we have all gotten used to shortages, delays, and cancellations throughout the pandemic years.
Do Other Companies Offer Holiday Return Policies?
Yes–many companies are discovering that consumers can holiday shop with more confidence if they know the product has a chance of being returned in the new year.
In prior years, companies such as Target,
What Is the Amazon Gift Return Policy?
Keep in mind that if you purchase someone a gift off of their Amazon gift list, the return period is 90-days from the date of delivery. However, if you are the owner of the list, the return window is most likely the typical 30 days.
Baby registry lists enjoy a 1-year return policy, and wedding registry list items are allowed a 180-day period (unless purchased by the registry owner).
Items not on a gift list but marked as a gift when purchased are eligible for a gift return, though gifts are typically also subject to the 30-day return window.
What Items Cannot be Returned to Amazon?
First of all, Amazon will not accept returns if they were fulfilled by third-party sellers, so make sure you know where your products are coming from if you think you might need to make a return.
The seller will determine the return policy for these items.
The only exception is items that are damaged or defective, which may be eligible for return.
Otherwise, here are some items that are NOT returnable according to the Amazon website:
- Groceries (may be refunded or replaced)
- Photos (may be refunded or replaced)
- Pharmacy items
- Prepaid phone or game cards
- Gift cards (unless required by law)
- Accessed online subscriptions
- Downloadable software products
- Certain personal or healthcare-related products
- Certain custom jewelry orders
- Products with missing or damaged serial numbers or UPC numbers
- Live insects or plants
- Open Software
- Hazardous materials
What About Amazon Renewed Products?
Amazon renewed products are still backed by the Amazon Renewed Guarantee, and typically can be returned within 90 days with free return shipping.
Can I Do a Label-Free, Box-Free Amazon Return?
You used to have to mail everything back to Amazon with a printed label and original packaging (or scrounge up some type of shipping box), though life is getting easier for customers who live near Amazon’s new label-free, box-free return sites.
At certain locations, including Amazon stores and certain Kohl’s, Whole Foods, or UPS locations, you can bring your item unboxed and have them box and ship for you.
You can sign up for this service when you start a return, and you will receive a QR code to show at the return site. Then just bring your product (undamaged, in original condition) and that’s it!
Other Tips for Returning Products to Amazon
You can also choose replacement or exchange instead of return when you initiate a return. If an item is damaged or defective, Amazon will send you a replacement.
You can also exchange for a different color or size in clothing purchases.
Anything costing more than $35 should be returned using a trackable return method. Amazon recommends you take a photo of the item for your records before returning it in case of loss during return shipping.
Many companies have caught on that consumers are buying holiday gifts earlier than ever, and that giving their recipients the option to return an item is important to buyers.
In former years, Amazon’s holiday return policy has been one of the broadest on the market–offering a return window of over 100 days in many cases.
Make sure you check out Amazon’s returns page in the fall to confirm that the Christmas return policy is in effect for this holiday season.
Amazon Holiday Return Policy FAQ
Can you return Amazon items after 30 days?
If your return window has passed, contact customer support and see if they might take the return anyway. If you absolutely cannot return the item, you may be able to resell it on Amazon.
Can I return an Amazon item if I’ve opened it?
If the product is eligible for a return, you should be able to return it in open condition, provided it is in the same condition it was in when shipped.
Keep in mind that computers, electronics, and devices will need to be unopened to be returned unless they are damaged or defective. Certain software products will not be eligible for return if opened.
How do I return something to Amazon?
You can start a return on the Your Orders page on Amazon. The item must be postmarked for return within the return window.
How do I return Alexa purchases?
You can return Alexa voice shopping purchases in the Returns Center on Amazon. Shipping charges are automatically refunded within 7 days of receiving a product refund.
Is it free to return items to Amazon?
It depends. Many items are eligible for free returns, though not all. Look for the “free returns” tag next to the item price to see if the item has free returns.
If not, Amazon will deduct the cost of return shipping from your refund, or you will have to pay for shipping.
Many items fulfilled by Amazon will be eligible for free return at the label-free, box-free return sites at Amazon stores, Kohl’s locations, Wholefoods, and UPS locations. Make sure you double check your site to ensure it takes Amazon returns.
You can get a QR code from the Returns Center online, then just bring the product–no box or label needed.
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