Ten Tips for Hassle-Free Tech Merchandise Returns

[Editor's note: We've updated this story, which originally appeared in January 2008, to reflect current returns and other policies.]

Illustration: Hal Mayforth
An HDTV is not a sweater--a fact that retailers will make very clear if you try to return your new flat screen. If the digital cameras (or other tech gifts) you got from your mom, your cousin, or your best friend this holiday season must head back to the store, you need to be prepared before you get there.

Consistently, retailers maintain separate return policies for electronics. "We're talking [about] some higher-end items that retailers want to move quickly," says Better Business Bureau spokesperson Steve Cox. "They don't want to be caught with old stock."

Additionally, says Cox, retailers are legally allowed to set any return policies they want, as long as those policies are posted.

Following is our best advice to help you avoid headaches and high blood pressure at the customer-service counter.

Do You Really Want to Take the Item Back?

Before you go to the store, 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.

Jeff Dudash, a Best Buy spokesperson, notes that many returns of home-entertainment systems and computers to the giant consumer-electronics chain follow failed attempts to install or configure the devices. Often, professional services such as Circuit City's Firedog or Best Buy's Geek Squad can get the gadgets working correctly. And nerds-on-call don't necessarily need to come out to your house to help. Geek Squad, for example, has online videos that show how to set up your shiny new toys.

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