Most shoppers assume they have a legal right to return things for a full refund. However, generally speaking, that assumption is largely untrue. If an item is defective, the uniform commercial code requires a merchant to take the item back. In addition to any express warranty that the store or manufacturer gives, the UCC, by law, imposes several implied warranties. One is the warranty of merchantability, which guarantees that goods must pass without objection in the trade. An electronic gizmo that doesn't work fits this category. There should be little or no trouble returning such an item for an exchange or refund. However, if you changed your mind, the person didn't like it or it didn't fit, the store has no legal obligation. Fortunately, many stores have their own liberal return policies. The policies are largely a result of good public relations, and not any legal requirement. Stores want a positive relationship with customers, hoping they will come back. . With that in mind, here are some guidelines: o Return policies are often posted in a customer service area. Some stores print the policy in a brochure. Take one. o Read the return policy. Is there a 30-day limit? What other conditions are there? Does the policy apply to all items or just some? There are usually conditions and these should be read before you buy. o Save receipts. Tuck all receipts away in a safe place. Get a gift receipt if available. o Save packaging material. It's easier to give some things by taking them out of the box. But, stores need the original packaging if you return the item so they can put it back on the shelf, or if defective, properly return it to the manufacturer under their terms of agreement with that company. Shopping online? These rules still apply. A number of web merchants take almost anything back for any reason or no reason. Some even give you the return label. . But, there are others. Remember, they take returned items not because the law requires it, but because they want good customer relations. If you're dealing with an online company for the first time, find and read the return policy. Some credit card companies go to bat for you in consumer disputes if you've made the purchase with their card. I'm not a big fan of running up credit card debt. But, if you know that your card offers this protection, here's a reason to use it. Debit cards generally do not offer such support. Thinking about gift certificates? By law in New Hampshire, stores may not sell gift certificates worth $100 or less if they have expiration dates. New Hampshire law also prohibits "dormancy fees, latency fees, or any other administrative fees or service charges" that reduce the total amount of the gift certificate. Once my wife and I saw a woman returning some badly wilted plants at the customer service counter. . One store guarantees plants for a year. Hey, I said, let's go dig our tomato plants out of the garden and return them. We bought them in the spring and now it was late fall, which in the scheme of things isn't that much time. After yielding tomatoes all summer, the plants took their end of season dive. My wife said the store just might give me my money back, thinking if anyone is nuts enough to pull such a stunt, they might want to get the individual out of the store quickly and peacefully. I doubt it. But, don't worry store managers. I'm not going to try. I bet the policy has enough exceptions and exclusions to cover the scenario. This makes my previous point: always read store return policies before you buy, either in person or online.