Black Friday refunds - how to get your money back on unwanted items: Sarah Coles

There ought to be a catchy name for the aftermath of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – something like Terrible Tuesday or the Saturday of Many Regrets.

So as the frenzy of consumerism dies down to a dull roar, and we’re left surveying the wreckage of our finances, it’s worth knowing what you can do to ease the pain.

It’s easy to get carried away with Black Friday: that’s exactly what the day has been designed for. All the hype tempts us into shops, or online, where we see unmissable bargains and snap them up – regardless of whether we actually need the item in question or not. John Lewis said their Black Friday rush was driven by a 31% surge in small electrical goods – with air fryers and earphones leading the charge. Clearly they’re both nice to have, but unless you’ve just put some headphones through a spin cycle, who can honestly say they really need either?

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If the aftermath of Black Friday leaves you with expensive and unwanted items, you have a few options. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with what you bought, you have the right to a refund, repair or replacement. However, if you just woke up with a head full of shopping regrets, your rights are a bit weaker.

Black Friday discounts can lead to some unwanted purchases (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)Black Friday discounts can lead to some unwanted purchases (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
Black Friday discounts can lead to some unwanted purchases (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)

If you bought in store, you don’t actually have the right to a refund or replacement. Retailers vary in their approaches, but fortunately most of them err on the side of generosity, and will accept returns if you’ve just changed your mind. If you have the receipt, they will refund you in full – even if the item has subsequently had a price cut.

You usually have around 30 days to take the item back, but at this time of year they appreciate that we buy early for Christmas, so they’ll extend the time limit. Anything you buy in John Lewis, for example, can be returned any time until 23 January.

However, by no means all stores will accept returns if you change your mind, so you could be in for a nasty surprise. You can try to return the item anyway. If you’re particularly polite, and looking for a credit note rather than a refund, they might make an exception for you, but you need to be prepared to run into a brick wall.

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If you tend to shop online, there’s better news, because if you’re quick, you have the right to return anything (unused) for any reason within 14 days of receiving it. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including personalised items or sealed media like computer software or DVDs, but in most cases you can send it back.

The bad news is that the retailer isn’t obliged to pay return postage. Some of them do, and some will allow you to return it to a store without charge. However, as the number of returns has mushroomed, plenty of online sellers have realised they’re costing a fortune, so have changed the rules to make it more difficult and expensive. You might have to pay for the return up-front, or they might arrange the return, and then recoup the cost from the refund. In either case, you should keep proof of postage, because if the parcel never arrives, you will need to be able to demonstrate that it made it into the postal system.

If your change of heart is because you’ve seen it cheaper elsewhere, you can go through the process of returning it and buying again. Unfortunately, it can take days for the money to make it back into your account, leaving you out of pocket in the interim. If it was a pricey purchase, you may not have the cash to cover the replacement until the deal is no longer available. In that case it’s worth checking whether they have any price matching arrangements. John Lewis used to provide the most famous of these, but dropped it in February last year. However, others remain. Currys, for example, will price match up to 14 days after you bought the item, and refund the difference. You can do it in any store, or online using the webchat function. It’s always worth checking to see whether this kind of service is on offer.

Even with all these options at your fingertips, you may not be able to get your money back, in which case you’re left with a couple of old-school options. You can repurpose it as a handy Christmas gift – crossing one more thing off the list at no extra cost.

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Alternatively, you could consider re-selling it. Unfortunately, even if it’s brand new and has the tags on, you’ll only get a small proportion of what you paid for it. However, something is better than nothing, so you may want to consider it. You can sell through online auction sites or social media. However, if you’re selling clothes, it’s well worth trying one of the many new resale apps – like Vinted or Depop. You can find an app that doesn’t charge the seller fees – and the buyer pays for the postage, so there’s nothing to eat into the price you get.

And if all else fails, you could always donate it to a charity shop. The charity will appreciate it, especially if you sign up for gift aid. Plus, if you’re a higher rate taxpayer, they should let you know what your donations raise, so you can claim the extra tax back through your tax return.

These last-resort options will still leave you out of pocket, so the most valuable thing you can take away from this Saturday of Many Regrets is that next Black Friday, if you can’t stick with a plan and keep a lid on your spending, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear entirely.

Bleak Friday for house sellers

Figures out this week from Zoopla reveal just how tough life is for people trying to sell their homes at the moment. Not only has the average house price fallen 0.2% in Yorkshire and The Humber in the past year, but in order to secure a sale, across the UK, homeowners are having to agree to an average discount of £18,000 – or 5.5%. These are the biggest discounts in five years.

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The root of the problem is a lack of buyers, because higher mortgage rates are pushing potential properties out of reach. At the same time, we’ve seen a rebound in the number of properties for sale – up a third in a year – so any potential buyers have plenty to choose from. It means sellers are having to pull out all the stops to shift their homes.

And the worst is far from over. In a market like this, an awful lot of sellers will decide now is not the time to be trying to sell, and take their house off the market. The Office for Budget Responsibility thinks transactions will keep dropping from here, and will be down an average of 6.9% in 2024. This will take a toll on house prices. The OBR expects them to fall 4.7% in 2024 – taking the peak-to-trough drop to 7.6%. Even then it doesn’t think we’ll bounce back in a hurry, and will take until the second half of 2027 to get back to their 2022 peak. It’s a bleak time indeed.

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