Consumer Reports: Best and worst retail store return policies

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Store policies vary widely, so returning those unwanted holiday gifts might not be so easy. (WPVI)

This holiday season, it's almost guaranteed that you'll either get or give a gift that will end up in the to-be-returned pile.

But store policies vary widely, so returning stuff might not be so easy.

Consumer Reports checked out a number of major retailer's' return policies and have their picks for the five best and the five worst.

Since choosing the perfect gift isn't always possible, shopping at a store with a flexible return policy is a smart idea.

Consumer Reports looked at the return policies of 18 major retailers.

"The most flexible don't require a receipt or impose a time limit on when you can make a return," said Donna Rosato from Consumer Reports.

Nordstrom and LL Bean allow returns of all their merchandise with no time limit and no receipt required. LL Bean will even accept well-used items if you're not satisfied and give you a store credit or exchange.

Bed Bath and Beyond, Costco and JC Penney also have no time limit on returns and no receipt required. But not all merchandise qualifies. Check out the exceptions online.

"Some stores have really restrictive return policies. You may only have 30 days or less to return the item and they likely insist on a receipt," said Rosato.

Among the most restrictive return policies? They're at Kmart, Sears, Forever 21, GameStop and Barnes and Noble.

Keep in mind Barnes and Noble won't take back anything that has been opened.

Kmart also will refuse to take back opened movies, video games and music.

But do remember, many of the retailers with restrictive policies relax them for gift returns during the holidays, so be sure to ask or check before you buy.

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