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CNN Today

How Can You Exchange Gifts Bought Online?

Aired December 26, 2000 - 4:13 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And a new study we've been reading today on holiday shopping finds that overall seasonal spending on the Web more than doubled from 1999. The Goldman Sachs report finds that online shoppers spent $8.7 billion between the first week of November and December 17th. That's a 108 percent increase over the same period last year. So you can tell there's a lot of online shopping going on.

That jump in sales may mean e-tailers also will see more returns this year. Just minutes ago we heard some of the tips on those online returns. We're now going to pick the brain of Amy Blankenship. She's with the Direct Marketing Association, of the shop-at-home information center. What is it you do exactly? What does DMA do?

AMY BLANKENSHIP, DIRECT MARKETING ASSOCIATION: Well, the DMA is a trade association for about 5,000 companies, including thousands of catalog and Internet retailers.

WATERS: I imagine it's a pretty complicated business with this addition of more and more online purchasing. I have a dumb question to begin with: What if I received a gift I don't want? How do I even know it was bought online?

BLANKENSHIP: Well, the first thing you need to do is find out where it was purchased. Now, sometimes that's going to be easy. If the person gave it to you in the original box or had a company ship it directly to you. Otherwise, you may have to use a little diplomacy to find out exactly where that gift came from before you can head out to return it.

(CROSSTALK)

WATERS: I guess. I don't want to call up my great aunt and say where did you get that dumb thing? So, I'd have to do a little investigation first?

BLANKENSHIP: Absolutely.

WATERS: And then what do I do?

BLANKENSHIP: Well, the next thing you want to do is make sure that you act quickly. If you just want to return something, you may want to wait a couple of days before you stand in line at stores or call up a catalog company or Web site. But if you want to exchange something, it's important to do that very quickly because you want to make sure that something is in stock, particularly if that's a seasonal item such as a sweater or maybe holiday decorations.

WATERS: So, if I have something I bought online that I want to exchange I can't necessarily go, say at Toys "R" Us. Got something I bought online from Toys "R" Us. Can I go to a Toys "R" Us store, so I want to exchange this for that over there?

BLANKENSHIP: Well, that varies according to the company. Many retailers, particularly catalog companies that have retail stores, they're very flexible and they let you return it in just about any way. J.C. Penney, for example, you can take it to one of their stores whether it was bought from a catalog or a Web site. Barnes & Noble, this year, barnesandnoble.com allows you to take items back to a retail store and get credit. But many catalog companies are very famous for their 100 percent satisfaction guaranteed policies. So, something someone purchased from llbean.com or landsend.com, the company is going to make it very easy for you to return that because they've been in the business for many years of selling things to people by mail.

WATERS: But isn't it a complicating factor that there's a lack of uniform standards for this kind of thing? Is this an evolving business that will lead to uniform standards?

BLANKENSHIP: It is definitely evolving. I mentioned that Barnes & Noble this year accepts returns in the stores from their Web site. They didn't do that last year. So, you do see changes from year to year with many companies and with more and more companies selling in more than one channel. You know, most catalogers are now online and many retail stores have Web site, it will become much easier in the years to come.

WATERS: I guess the answer here is obvious, but to what do you attribute this high percentage rate of return to online buying as opposed to gifts we get out of the department store, for instance?

BLANKENSHIP: Well, maybe some of us didn't make the right gift selection for the people on our list. We like to think that we got the perfect gift, but sometimes we can't. But, you know, catalog shoppers have enjoyed the convenience of shopping, you know, from home for many years; Internet shoppers are now learning, you know, to enjoy that same convenience and variety. But if you haven't been shopping from catalog and you're not accustomed to doing that, there are some tips that you need to keep in mind to make sure that you're going to, you know, buy products that you're going to be happy with in the end.

WATERS: We kind of like to touch and feel and smell things, too, don't we when we shop?

BLANKENSHIP: That is true.

WATERS: There's a psychology here that needs, also, some evolution, I would imagine.

BLANKENSHIP: Well, during the holiday season, people really do enjoy the convenience of shopping online or shopping from catalogs. You know, it's the season when we all have so much to do. But it's nice when you can save a few extra hours by making those purchases from your home or office.

WATERS: Well, happy holiday, Amy Blankenship. Thanks so much, and good luck with DMA.

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