What Ever Happened to Free Holiday Gift Wrapping?

By Lifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

How much time will you spend wrapping holiday gifts? Americans typically devote around three hours to boxing, wrapping, taping, and tagging, according to previous Consumer Reports' polls. You can eliminate some or all that time by getting the gift wrapping done for you, but most brick-and-mortar and online retailers now charge for the service.

“Wrapping has become a profit center during the holidays,” says retail expert Jack Abelson of Jack Abelson & Associates in Leawood, Kan. “It was a time-honored perk that used to be done for free, and was part of a combination of services we called value. But like so many other things, merchants have gotten away from it and are nickel-and-diming customers.”

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To get a handle on the latest trends, Consumer Reports reached out to brick-and-mortar stores—including Kohl's, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, and Williams-Sonoma—and their online counterparts. (We selected the physical stores to call at random; so policies listed here might differ from the location where you shop.)

We also got in touch with retailers' media contacts, engaged customer-service reps, and participated in live chats to gather details.

The results: Most department and specialty stores offer gift wrapping for the holidays, but the service can be pricey. Charges ranged from $2 to $16, depending on the bells and whistles and package size.

Discounters such as Target and Walmart offer gift wrapping on select online purchases, also for a fee.

A few free gift wrappers are still out there, including Von Maur, a family-owned department-store chain known for outstanding customer service. This Midwest retailer offers year-round complimentary wrapping (and shipping).

Below you'll find  a rundown of the basics. Retailers are listed in alphabetical order.

—Tod Marks

Our Holiday Gift Ideas page can help you find great deals on great presents for everyone on your list. Also, get the inside dope on outlet malls.

More holiday gift ideas and tips

Visit our Holiday Gift Guide throughout the season to find the best deals, time-saving advice, and much more.

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