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With an unknown number of retailers teetering on the edge of going out of business, a gift card would be an unwise investment.
Returning holiday gifts can a hassle, but consumers have more clout than ever.
But many retailers are loosening their return policies this year because of the tough economy.
Ways retailers can ease their policies include giving customers more time to return items or being more forgiving if they don't have the receipt.
"Even if you don't have the receipt, they're saying you can bring it back," Jackson said.
Some stores now consumers give 90 days or more to return an item.
"Ninety days -- (it) used to be seven days, so that tells you what the difference is," Jackson said.
But not all retailers are following the trend. In the same survey, the National Retail Federation found that 17 percent of stores will tighten their return policies this year.
Swoozie's is one chain with a lenient return policy. Manager Christi Middleton it's a matter of service and survival.
"If you make them happy, they come back, and that's what you want, especially in today's times," she said.
Wherever shoppers buy, they should know the rules before making a purchase.
If consumers need to return something, Jackson said they should keep one thing in mind.
"Everywhere you go, you can walk in and know, 'They need me,'" she said.