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Top tips for returning technology goods

How to take back unwanted gifts and gadgets

Getting a retailer to accept electronics returns can quickly develop into a saga. Know your rights! Here are some tips to help you navigate the tricky world of returns, exchanges, and warranties.

Do you really want to take the item back?

Before you go to the shop, consider why you are returning an item. Could your dissatisfaction be a result of your setting up the gizmo improperly? Think about paying for some professional assistance before giving up on your brand-new home-entertainment system.

Many returns of home-entertainment systems and computers to the big consumer-electronics chains follow failed attempts to install or configure the devices.

Often, professional services such as Comet on Call can get the gadgets working correctly. Large stores such as PC World will often provide a home setup service. And nerds-on-call don't necessarily need to come out to your house to help. Check your local directory for more home help.

Act fast!

Okay, so geeks in cars can't help you dispose of three extra digital cameras. The key to a quick and easy return is simple: don't dawdle.

For electronics returns, stores generally give you less time - and make you jump through more hoops - than they do for other items. The good news is that most retailers have Christmas return policies that allow some wiggle room - but not much. So hurry.

Don't open anything

Stores typically have several requirements for handing over a full refund. The first, and most important, is that the box be sealed.

If the box is open, the retailer will need to test the gadget to ensure it's in full working order - which means that accepting your return will cost the company time and money. Unfortunately, that in turn means it will cost you money too.

If you have opened the box, be certain it's full before heading to the store. "Make sure you bring everything back in. If there are any accessories missing, a wire or anything, you'll probably need to go back home to get it," says Jeff Dudash of US retailer Best Buy. "I've had to do that before."

Some stores will deduct the cost of each missing item from your refund. For exchanges, some retailers will simply replace what you've brought (a manual for a manual, a cable for a cable, etc.), so you're on your own for whatever piece you've left behind.

NEXT PAGE: receipt, receipt, receipt. And online shopping > >

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