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Many Happy Returns

Shoppers hit the stores to return gifts. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)

Get a nasty looking sweater for Christmas? Ugly tie? Two of the same thing? Welcome to the day after Christmas — the biggest return day of the year. Some people will just put the gift on a shelf and plan to re-gift it to someone else for a birthday or other gift giving date in the future.

If you think the shopping frenzy was bad just wait till you get in the return line. It goes much slower. Debates over cash back or store credit will enhance your frustration to the point of your wondering if all this hassle is worth it. In most cases, unless you are talking big bucks, it’s probably not worth the time and trouble.

If you are contemplating doing one or more returns, here are some stats from last year as a guide.

Return Facts from 2011

Since the return facts are not in yet for this year we’ll turn to last year’s info to help us out.

  • In 2011, shoppers returned about 10% of their gifts. The highest rate of returns since the 2007 recession.
  • In 2011 there was a 4% increase in returns over the previous year amounting to about $46 billion.
  • Not everyone is a returner. Sixty-five percent of people surveyed said they did not return anything.
  • Returns are not without a cost to retailers. Clothing returns hit the company for about 12% and consumer electronics returns can reduce the bottom line as much as 50% of gross income.
  • As many as 60% of retailers are victims of customers buying expensive clothing or electronics, using them for a brief time then returning them for full value. Sort of a free rental for that black tie Christmas party or big screen for a college bowl game.
  • Retailers were on the hook for $3.5 billion in return fraud from the 2011 shopping season. The silver lining would be that it’s less than the $3.7 billion they lost the previous year.

Some Final Thoughts

According to the facts listed above about 35% of gift recipients are hard to please and will find themselves in the return lines sometime today. The rest of us will happily be very thankful for the thoughtful expressions from our loved ones.

A quick word of advice. The store employees have procedures they must follow in order for the store to recoup some of their losses. Give them a break. Make sure you have your receipt or be prepared to take a store credit. They are under no legal obligation to accept any returns of merchandise. It’s called customer service so appreciate it for what it is. Let’s keep that Christmas spirit in tact and be civil to those that are just following their specific policies and procedures. Better yet, think about waiting a few days and let the initial rush subside before attacking the lines.

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