Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

 Click for the Spanish Translation

Holiday Gift-Giving and Return Tips

Stores entice shoppers throughout the year by establishing a sale for lots of different reasons and seasons. As you rush from store to store, it?s important to keep a few tips in mind in order to get the most out of your money.

Refund Tips

Stores in Pennsylvania must clearly post their return policy and follow that policy, but there is no law that says a store must accept returns, offer cash back or store credit, or even take exchanges. (The only exception is if the product was misrepresented or defective at the time of sale.)

Discount stores often have stricter policies to keep costs down, so you may be limited to exchanges, store credit, or a refund equal to a sale price if the item has been marked down.

Be especially careful to check return policies when buying electronics. Those returns are often limited to 14 days.

If you are unsure about a store?s policy, ask before you buy and always hang onto your receipt and orgiginal packaging. You?ll probably need it if you are hoping to get a cash refund.

Rebate Tips


Note the rebate's expiration date. Make sure that you'll be able to do everything the rebate requires in time to comply with any deadline.

Also consider whether any special mailing instructions or the cost of sending the required documents outweigh the value of the offer.


Hang on to the receipt. Many manufacturers require you to send them the original sales receipt.


Hang on to any packaging until you?re certain you have all the required proofs-of-purchase in hand. This could include UPC symbols, a special logo, or even a box top.

Make sure you read all the directions on the rebate form and enclose all of the required documentation when mailing in your rebate request.

Make and keep copies of all your documents before you mail them in. Be sure to print the mailing address clearly and correctly.

Put a note on your calendar for around the time the offer said your check should be in the mail. When it arrives, make sure you cash or deposit it before any expiration period on the check lapses.

If the rebate doesn't arrive follow up with the company or Attorney General?s office.

Gift Certificates

There is no law in Pennsylvania that requires gift certificates to have an expiration date. Therefore, it is your duty as the consumer to ask the seller about an expiration date and decide whether the amount of time is acceptable.

If you discover your certificate has expired contact the business. Often a business will still honor the certificate.

Under Pennsylvania law, unused gift certificates are turned over to the Pennsylvania Department of the Treasury as unclaimed property. The business must turn the gift certificate over two years after expiration date. If there is no expiration date, then it must be turned over five years from the date of issuance. You may claim certificates from the Department of the Treasury by calling 1-800-222-2046.

For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General?s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or log on to our website at www.attorneygeneral.gov.