Last minute shoppers do not have to despair. Several Internet sites are still offering shipping – sometimes at no additional charge – for gifts purchased as late as 4 p.m. Dec. 23.

Luxury stores, such as Brookstone, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and, all offer shipping as late as Dec. 23, said Brad Wilson, a professional shopper and founder of

“Some of the bigger, higher-end stores know that it’s just good customer service,” said Wilson, who has developed a reputation for finding the best deals on the Web. “It’s just another way they can still use a few extra days to get more sales.

“Red Envelope has built a reputation on getting gifts to people at the last minute,” he said. “But there are about 15 really high-end retailers who are offering this deal. Even FTD, if you order flowers on Christmas Eve, they are promising same day delivery before noon.”

As Web retailers vie for sales with brick and mortar stores, Wilson said the extra day to purchase items will help their bottom lines.

“They realized they didn’t have to close down on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22 – they could use that extra day,” he said. “It will make a big difference.”

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Some stores even offer free upgrades for next day shipping, he said. Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus offer coupon codes so the overnight costs are not passed on to the customer.

“Retailers know that people don’t like paying that extra charge,” Wilson said. “So, many still offer free upgrades to overnight. It’s a great way to make more sales.”

He said that even on Christmas Eve, the Web offers ideas: will send gift certificates straight to in-boxes. Netflix, the online video rental site, is also an excellent last-minute site.

“But beyond that, people should check out and Red Envelope,” Wilson said. “Their prices are always very good, and the shipping deals this late should not be missed.”

Retail Federation offers advice on happy returns

While the last few shopping days are hectic, more customers are asking for a gift receipt when they purchase those last-minute holiday gifts, according to National Retail Federation.

The third annual returns survey, conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, found that 49 percent of holiday gift givers enclose either a gift receipt or an original receipt with a gift most or some of the time, compared to 47.6 percent in 2004.

“Requesting a gift receipt has become second nature for many shoppers, alleviating post-holiday frustration for both consumers and retailers,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Gift receipts guarantee that the consumer is credited the full amount for the item and allow retailers to confirm that the merchandise was purchased in their store.”

When it comes to return policies, it appears that retailers and consumers are on the same page. According to the survey, 88.6 percent of consumers find stores’ return policies fair.

Here are a few tips for stress-free returns after the holidays:

  • Know the retailer’s return policy before you buy. Most retailers have return policies prominently displayed.
  • Keep all receipts. Receipts are still the key to hassle-free returns. Many retailers will allow consumers to exchange merchandise without a receipt. However, without a receipt, a retailer may only provide merchandise credit for the lowest markdown-price at which the item was sold in the past 30 days.
  • Provide all original packaging and all parts (including all tags) when giving a gift. Some retailers won’t accept returns unless the item is in its original package.
  • Ask for a gift receipt to make gift returns easier. Ask the retailer if they issue gift receipts. These receipts contain all the necessary information to prove the items were purchased, minus the price.
  • Know the process. Who pays for shipping the return, you or the merchant? Some merchants will pick up the delivery charges for exchanges, but not for returns.
  • Know where to make returns. Does the retailer have a physical store, and can returns or exchanges be made there? Make sure you have the correct address if you need to mail returns back to the company.

Deadline nears for retailers to claim part of lawsuit

The deadline is nearing for retailers to file claims in a class action lawsuit against Visa and Mastercard.

Retailers who accepted Visa and Mastercard credit cards and debit card payments from October 25, 1992 to June 23, 2003 are eligible to file claims for part of a $3.05 billion settlement in the class action suit.

The suit was filed on behalf of merchants who claim they were forced to accept Visa and Mastercard debit cards, as well as credit cards, at higher processing fees. The attorneys also argued that the companies were attempting to monopolize the debit card industry.

The case was settled without a trial in April, 2003. Merchants are members of the class action suit, if you or your business or organization in the United States accepted Visa and/or MasterCard debit and credit cards for payment at any time during the period October 25, 1992 through June 21, 2003.

Retailers should have already received a claims form. For those who have not received one, but believe they are part of the class action suit, should go to for information on how to receive the forms and how to apply for a pro rata share in the settlement.

Amy Gillentine covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.