Dear Readers: Hopefully, you’ll love all the gifts you receive this time of year, but odds are that you’ll get one you will need to return. According to the Federal Trade Commission (, what steps should you take?

Ideally, the giver included a gift receipt, which verifies purchase of the item without revealing the price, but if they didn’t, it’s okay.

Read the store’s return policies on its website. Usually around this time of year, the policies are relaxed a little bit.

Always take your valid ID with you. Try not to open items until you’re sure you will keep them. For electronic and big-ticket items, there may be a restocking fee of up to 15 percent. Digital items (e-books, downloadable games, digital music, etc.)? Return policies can vary by seller.

Some online retailers may provide a free shipping label to return a gift item. Ask.

Finally, if you’re not happy, speak to store management — they should be able to help.

Dear Heloise: Does turning my cellphone off allow it to charge faster?

Emily T. in Kentucky

Emily T. in Kentucky: Yes, most phones will charge faster if the phone is powered off. When the phone is on, it’s using power, so the battery is receiving less of the charge.

Dear Readers: Ahh, tradition. We love it this time of year. Who has a Christmas pickle? This is an ornament (doesn’t have to be a pickle) hidden deep in the tree, and the first child to find it gets an extra gift from Santa or is surely guaranteed good luck for the upcoming year.

This is a fun tradition; why not give it a whirl?

Dear Heloise: My wife of more than 60 years died; the pain is great. Many friends mean well when they talk to me, but I wish they'd refrain from some things. I don't feel the need for advice; I just need acknowledgment of my loss.

Please don't say, "Keep focusing on the good times." You might say, "I cherish the good times I had with her."

Please don't say, "Don't worry, she's with you." You might say, "I'm sure you wish she were here, don't you?"

Please don't say, "It's all right to cry." I know it is. You might say, "It hurts, doesn't it?"

Please don't say, "I know how you feel." You don't, unless you've been there yourself. But please pray for me, and for all those who experience massive loss.

J. Keith C., Omaha

J. Keith C.: Thank you for your email; you’ve helped many. I’m sorry for your loss.

Dear Readers: Want to take a break tomorrow and get away from it all? Consider visiting the following places: Mistletoe, Ken.; Holly, Colo.; Jolly, Ga.; St. Nicholas, Fla.; Santa Claus, Ind.; Garland, Tex.; Partridge, Ken.; North Pole, Idaho; and Eggnog, Utah. Or, if you’re over the holidays, how about Humbug, Ariz.?

Dear Readers: Need a quick way to wrap? Use a paper bag and twine. Cut the bag to fit, wrap in the twine and tuck in a small flower, berries or greenery. A rustic, rough-hewed look.

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to

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