Ten Tips for Hassle-Free Tech Merchandise Returns

What If the Product Is Busted?

No retailer wants to sell you damaged goods. If you open the box and your product doesn't work, the store that sold it to you should take it back. That said, the retailer is not likely to give you a refund; rather, it will most likely require you to exchange the item for a functioning unit.

"Any type of damaged product can be exchanged for that same product," says Best Buy's Dudash. He recommends that customers check with the store before exercising the manufacturer's warranty: "Come back to the store first--it's more convenient."

When to Contact the Manufacturer

If you've used the item extensively or waited several months to take it back, however, returning the item to the retailer will not be an option. At that point, it's time to check your manufacturer's warranty.

Almost all new gadgets come with limited warranties, but their coverage varies widely. Sony, for example, guarantees its LCD color TVs for parts and labor for up to one year after purchase. The company's portable audio players, on the other hand, are guaranteed for parts and labor for only up to 90 days after purchase. Don't fret if you've misplaced your warranty card, though: Many manufacturers make product warranties available online for download in PDF form.

If Worst Comes to Worst, Sell It

Just can't get the retailer to take the product back? No worries! Selling open-box items is a big business on eBay. In fact, eBay sellers even publish guides on how to buy open-box products. If you've exhausted all of your options and you just want to get rid of your gadget, consider putting it up on a site such as Amazon.com, Craigslist, or eBay. Someone out there is ready to buy one of your three brand-new digital cameras.

If You Believe the Merchant Treated You Unfairly

Unfortunately, you will not always be happy with the return process. If you think a retailer acted irresponsibly--or criminally--you can turn to other folks for assistance. Report poor business practices online to the Better Business Bureau or the Federal Trade Commission. If that doesn't work, try contacting PC World's On Your Side department at onyourside@pcworld.com. Though we can't troubleshoot every problem that comes through our mailbox, we can try to help.

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