The wrapping paper is tossed aside and the bows torn asunder.
Holiday gifts meant to express good tidings and well wishes may today be exchanged, returned or otherwise swapped out because they were a bit off the mark, a bit too big, or simply confusing in the message they were meant to convey to the recipient.
However, the day after Christmas is also a time for shoppers looking for a deal to be out and about in the stores around Fort Dodge. Either way, retail stores and businesses aim to ensure the consumer-friendly environment created before the big buying season began will continue until well into the New Year.
-Messenger photo by Dawn Bliss
Molly Gilbert, left, and Megan Gilbert, both of Webster City, look through the Iowa State University shirts available at Decker Sports, 3012 Fifth Ave. S. Megan Gilbert expects she will receive a few pieces of University of Iowa gear from her U of I loyal family. Still, she said she doesn’t plan to return any such items — regardless of after-Christmas consumer-friendly return policies.
"Great sales are still going on even though Christmas is over," said Nate Johnson, manager of Decker Sports, 3012 Fifth Ave. S. "People can still get a good bargain when they come in."
A full-service athletics store, Decker Sports sees mostly the return of clothes due to the wrong size or a preference for a different style of T-shirt or shorts. Since the store offers such a variety of sports team-themed gear, once in a while an item will be exchanged due to a misfire in determining fan loyalty.
"It has happened," Johnson said, "and when it does it is usually an Iowa-Iowa State mix-up."
Such an error is likely to be found among presents given to Megan Gilbert, of Webster City. She will be attending Iowa State University in Ames this spring, but the other members of her family give their allegiance to the institution's main rival - University of Iowa in Iowa City.
"My entire family is Iowa so it's kind of awkward," Gilbert said. "If I receive an Iowa shirt, though, I'd keep it just to keep the peace."
If she chose not to keep the gift, Johnson said, her best bet in returning the item would be to hold on to the receipt, whether it's the original sales receipt or a gift receipt offered when the item was bought. Without this proof of purchase, Decker Sports can only offer an exchange or store credit rather than a cash return.
Kohl's, 2941 Fifth Ave. S., has a "no questions asked, hassle-free" policy, but proper paperwork still helps.
"Biggest tip when it comes to returns is to save the receipt," said Ian Lumpp, area supervisor. "You don't need it here, but it sure makes things easier."
He said he expects fairly equal lines at the store today between those seeking returns and shoppers seeking a bargain, despite the fits-all gift cards offered to alleviate guesswork when it comes to holiday presents.
"We had a huge increase in gift cards purchased compared to last year," Lumpp said, "but we also saw a great deal of merchandise going out the door so we expect the number of returns to be steady."
To handle the number of people looking for discounts and specials, as well as those looking to return items, the store will have expanded hours today and will be open from 5 a.m. until midnight. According to advertised polices, other local department stores and retail centers offer similar hours and options for returns.
JC Penney at the Crossroads Mall allows customers with a receipt to exchange most items at any time or they can receive a refund of the purchase price. Customers with a gift receipt can exchange items or receive a gift card for the amount listed on the receipt, but without a receipt the customer must show a photo ID to exchange items or get a refund in the form or a gift card.
Bath & Body Works, also in the mall, offers a full refund to customers with a receipt. Customers with a gift receipt can exchange items or receive store credit for the purchase price on the gift receipt. Customers without a receipt can receive store credit based on the current price of the item.
Sears, another anchor store at the mall, will refund items brought in to them in original packaging with a receipt with no questions asked; however, the store offers a limited exchange option for opened products and a restocking fee may be charged on electronics and other items.
Target, 2910 First Ave. S., posts a return policy where a receipt is ideal, but if it's not possible an unopened item will get the customer the best response. The store attempts to scan the receipt or packing slip, but if that important piece of paper is not available customer service staff will offer to look the sale up on their system. Without the receipt, the item can still be returned or exchanged with a valid form of identification.
One place where people typically don't make returns though is jewelry stores.
"I don't even remember any returns being made last year," said Marilyn Simonson, owner of Wicker Jewelry on Central Avenue. "It happens very rarely. Usually, people come in and ask to have something resized or possibly a stone replaced, but they don't really ask for returns."
Still, Simonson said she will see a number of shoppers file through her door today to spend money they were given during Christmas and holiday celebrations. Many others come in to take advantage of the sales offered through the end of the year. She continues to offer the season's bargain prices in case someone does want to return a ring, earrings, or other pretty piece.
"If you got a gift and wanted to exchange or return it, if it's not still at the lower sale price it wouldn't be fair to the customer," Simonson said. "They would have to compensate by exchanging for something of less value or covering the difference themselves out of pocket. Neither choice is in keeping with the spirit of a gift."
The lack of returns at a jewelry store seems to stem from the thought and consideration that goes into the variety of items purchased as gifts. They are an investment, Simonson said, and typically have a great deal of meaning behind them. Items she sold for Christmas include diamond earrings, engagement rings, and add-a-pearl or add-a-link bracelets. Another item that was popular is the Seiko melody clock, which has a mechanized face that opens and spins in time to the song played as the chime. All of these things tend to be keepers.
In the end, those returning gifts that for whatever reason failed to hit the mark need to keep two tips in mind, according to retail officials. If a gift was received without a receipt, the recipient should act quickly to return it.
Many retailers and stores only allow returns with a specified time period, especially without the proof of sale. Also, do not open the manufacturers' or retailers' packaging otherwise the product might only be exchanged for an identical item or a restocking fee may apply. This especially applies to music and video items such as CDs and DVDs.