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.

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 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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