Stores amend policies to make returns easier

LOS ANGELES The point is to keep customers coming back, so this year a lot of retailers dropped strict return policies to milk this holiday shopping frenzy.

Consumer confidence is already up over last year. Holiday sales are expected to top $451 billion, which is a 3-percent increase from 2009.

To keep the ball rolling, you'll likely see more lenient return policies in place. Many retailers are foregoing return deadlines altogether.

Also, if you take an opened item back to stores like Best Buy, they won't charge you the usual 15-percent restocking fee.

Couple that with discounts stores are already boasting, it makes for great deals.

Many stores have discounts as deep as 50 percent to 75 percent off merchandise in some cases.

However, experts say that while you're bound to find great deals right now, it's important to keep an eye on your budget and not go crazy buying what you don't really need.

"If you overspent, you don't want to overspend again because now you're going back and returning and you want to go with a list to say if I am going to replace it, I am not going to replace it with an item that's more money," advised Rich Ross, a financial planner.

While you watch your dollar, retailers will be watching you to see what you return and how often you return. These behaviors will be tracked by a number of stores on the lookout for scammers.

Every year, retailers see people try and bring back used items, or use fake receipts. Some even try and return stolen merchandise.

Retailers say they'll be relying on technology to watch out for fakes including the use of in-store surveillance and customer databases to monitor who's bringing back what, and how often.

However, the main point is not to hassle honest customers and stores hope easier return policies will keep them coming back through 2011.

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