When it comes to gift giving I don't usually recommend gifting phonesAnna Scantlin - Contributing Editor
With it being Thanksgiving in the U.S. and Christmas being right around the corner, 'tis the season as they say, generally thoughts and ideas arise of what exactly you should be getting your loved ones for the holidays. Jewelry, clothing, and toys are the obvious ones that people tend to get for relatives and friends, but another huge category that comes up for gift giving ideas are consumer electronics. Things like televisions, mp3 players, computers, tablets and of course smartphones. But when it comes to giving gifts, when asked about it I will usually give a fair warning to anybody who plans on giving a smartphone for the holidays. Or, if you're going to end up giving a smartphone as a gift anyway, at least try do so in the smartest way possible.
Now, a small disclaimer beforehand. I am not in any way, shape or form saying that you shouldn't buy somebody a phone for the holidays. By all means, they do make great gifts. But all too often a phone as a gift just doesn't work out in the end for a couple of different reasons, and I would like to go over them with you on this peaceful day before many people rush out to start buying gifts tomorrow (or perhaps this evening) as the doorbusting sales commence for what is commonly known as Black Friday.
There's the very first problem right off the bat - the return policy on smartphones are about half the time of normal return policies. You go out and buy a shirt, or a toy or some socks and you can probably assume that you're able to return those things within, oh, about a months' time, or 30 days. Of course, you're always going to want to read the return policy no matter what you're buying, but as a general blanket statement 30 days seems to be the magic number. However! This is usually not the case with smartphones. While not every manufacturer/carrier is the same, whether you're buying full price or contract you can expect to see that the return policy is only 14 days long. On some occassions you might get a lucky find of 30 days, but generally you're only going to get two weeks. Plenty of shoppers like to go out and purchase a smartphone early in the shopping season because you get the most deals, but a good deal doesn't really matter if you end up stuck with a smartphone that may or may not be the right fit for the receipient. This brings me to my next point.
I believe that people really need to do research on their own about a device - thorough research - before making the decision to purchase it and either A.) be stuck with it for the next several months in contract or B.) drop a couple of hundred dollars on a device that they might not want. I've never met anybody that truly enjoys going through a return or exchange process, customer and employee alike, and it's best to try and avoid the situation as best as you can whenever you can. Although the visions of a joyous holiday spent unwrapping a shiny new smartphone are nice to think about in theory, nobody is ever prepared for the possibility that this just might not be the phone for the person receiving the gift - even if it's the one they told you they wanted. Parents with kids are usually the pairs I saw most returning or exchanging phones after the holidays were over, even though they were "certain they would love the iPhone, because their best friend Samantha said it was just the best thing..." but while the iPhone might have worked for Samantha, it might not work for her best friend if her best friend never used an iPhone before.
This also goes for colors of devices. Many people like to keep the element of surprise during the holidays, but unless you're absolutely certain that the recipient is going to love that blue, green or white cell phone you may want to think twice about going ahead with the purchase. I know that many of you are thinking that if somebody gave you a cell phone as a holiday gift that you wouldn't dare be picky about colors because a gift is a gift, but the reality is that it does happen quite often and it's never fun.
Did I mention that most smartphone return and exchanges also require a restocking fee? It's best to be aware of those as well.
Don't get me wrong, there are also plenty of reasons why buying a phone as a gift is a good idea as well - like if you know your friend or relative is down on their luck, or if their cell phone has recently been broken, etc. But as a general statement, if you're not 1000% sure you're getting the right product, it's also just as special to take the recipeint to the store yourself, have a look around just to make sure that whatever phone they want is really the phone they want, and then make the purchase there. If a person has some time to consider their options and think about what it is they really want in a smartphone then they're less likely to return or exchange it. Besides, phone shopping can be a really fun learning experience! At least, it is to me. But like I said, this is just my recommendation to most people on the holidays.
If you're going to buy a smartphone as a gift, the best plan of action is to take the recipient to the store yourself and double check to make sure that they're getting the phone that they want.