"It's more blessed to give than to receive" - especially if it's technology gifts. One person's perfect gift is another's regift or return opportunity. With stores everywhere tightening up their return policies, make sure you follow these rules for a stress-free return.
If you received a CD, DVD, or software you don't know much about, see if you can sample the contents first. Amazon.com posts sample tracks of many music CDs. Try a few, and you might discover a new favorite artist or performance - or at least you know you definitely don't like the album.
If it's an unfamiliar movie DVD, check the movie's official website (if it's still online) for trailers. Sites such as IMDB also feature trailers for many films, old and new. Use a web search such as trailer " moviename " to find trailers. YouTube is (at least for the moment) also a rich source for movie samples. For software, check the vendor's website to see if a trial version's available for download, or if you can check out the documentation to see what the program does (or doesn't do). Game demos also pop up on YouTube.
Most hardware vendors post product documentation online, so if you're wondering if the digital camera, laptop, or video card you got has the features you want - or if it's time to haul it back and get what you really want. Most vendors use the ubiquitous Adobe Reader PDF format.
If you decide that you really don't want to keep the gift, follow the store's rules for returns.
Most stores permit returns of technology items at full price if - and only if - the item has all packaging. Obviously, that's easiest if you didn't tear open the package. But if you did, make sure you gather up every twist tie, advertising flyer, driver CD, and so on. Don't give the store a chance to ding you for a restocking fee by forgetting to repack the item correctly.
Make sure that you know the time period for returns. Technology items often have smaller return windows than other types of items, sometimes as little as 15 days from purchase (or 15 days after Christmas).
Get a gift receipt from the purchaser (if possible) to avoid arguments over product value , especially if the product went on sale after it was first purchased.
Make sure you return the item to the right store. Some vendors use different model numbers for the same product to indicate which store it was purchased from. Check for box markings to determine the store if the giver isn't sure where to tell you to make the return.
Don't try to get cute by sending in for a rebate and then returning the item. It's dishonest, prevents the next customer from getting a rebate, and might violate the rules of the rebate. If the store's paying attention, it may reduce your refund by the rebate amount, or might not let you return the item.
If you're already an expert on returning tech gifts, chances are you've been through this process too many times already. Use resources such as the Amazon.com wish list to help would-be gift givers get it right the first time.
Whether you got exactly what you wanted or not, make sure you let your loved ones know you appreciate them. There are still ten days of Christmas, and Happy New Year too, so there's still time to tell them you care.
And, I want to thank you for reading and commenting on this blog this past year. I've learned a lot from you, my readers, and I hope that this blog, and the other Maximum PC blogs, will continue to be useful to you in the future.