The season of e-returns

Two days after Christmas and all through the house ... can you return gifts with the click of a mouse?

After a record-setting flurry of Web shopping, a wave of online returns is expected by analysts.

Extraprise, an e-services firm in Boston, surveyed 50 of the busiest retail Web sites to gauge just how hard it will be to send back Internet orders that don't quite cut it.

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It found most e-return policies were loaded with fine print and caveats.

Click-and-mortar sites (e-tailers associated with traditional stores), however, did fare better in the survey than "dot-coms" - companies that only deal with customers over the Internet.

Dot-coms were three times as likely to charge a "restocking" fee, and twice as likely to charge a shipping fee to return damaged goods as click-and-mortars.

Should you find yourself in an e-return tangle:

*Use http://whois.userland.com to find the e-mail address of an e-tailer's head honcho. Then write an e-complaint.

*If the click-and-mortar site says you can't return goods to their actual store, try anyway (many have inconsistent policies).

*As you would with any purchase you think you might return, keep receipts and original packaging.

Compiled by Sara Steindorf

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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