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Here are tips on how to return Christmas gifts without the hassle

About 20% of merchandise sold during the holiday season is expected to be returned.

NEW YORK — It happens every year – you get a gift that just isn’t right and so you want to return it.

This year, due to higher labor and shipping costs, retailers are scaling back some of the generous return policies they had over the last few years.

“So many have limited their windows. So where there used to be 60 or 90-minute windows, we’re now seeing that drop back down,” Samantha Gordon, deals editor, Consumer Reports, said.

Less stores are offering free returns this season.

“We're definitely seeing an uptick in stores charging for returns. So basically, what that means is the customer pays the shipping costs to get the item back to the retailer if they're returning something through the mail," Gordon said.

If you need to return a gift, Consumer Reports has some tips to help you deal with the process:

First, if you get a gift that you think you want to return, don’t open the box.

“A lot of retailers will accept open box returns. You might not get full credit is the box has been opened, so your best bet is to not open anything. If you think it's something you might return, that's the best guarantee of getting the most refund possible," Gordon said.

Keep your receipts.

"If you have the gift receipt, that' going to be way better. It's going to increase your odds of them accepting the return versus if you don't have it."

Check the retailer’s return policy – stores often change how they handle returns during the holidays.

If you go to a store in person to return your gift, bring your ID.

Remember, many retailers run sales between Christmas and New Year’s. So, if you return a gift in person, you can avoid paying return fees and maybe find a good deal on something else.

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