Shopping season shifts to returns

Retail: Stores see influx of customers, gift cards

LISA PEMBERTON; Staff writerDecember 27, 2011 

Shoppers flocked to South Sound stores Monday to snap up post-holiday bargains, spend Christmas cash and return gifts that were well-intended but didn’t quite hit the mark.

Nic Picard, 18, of Yelm said he didn’t mind waiting about 20 minutes in line to return two large Nerf guns that he bought for his younger cousins.

“I kind of took a gamble on it,” Picard said with a shrug. “I’ll probably give them the money (instead).”

Many stores brought in extra

employees to help handle the post-Christmas rush to return Santa sweaters that were too snug, suede slippers that were too mauve and other holiday gifts gone awry. One out of every 7 adults returned a gift within the first two weeks of Christmas last year, according to a poll by Consumer Reports.

And nearly 62 percent of Americans said they enclose gift receipts some or most of the time to allow loved ones an easier and guilt-free avenue to return items and get something they want and will enjoy, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

Both organizations urged consumers to pay close attention this year to retailers’ return policies, especially when it comes to electronic items, which have stricter return guidelines than other products.

They also warned of long return lines the week after Christmas, and delivery or repacking fees for online returns.

Alysha Miller, 17, of Olympia said she didn’t feel bad about exchanging a set of purple sheets that her mom gave her for red ones.

“When I opened them up, I said, ‘This isn’t the color I wanted,’” Miller said, smiling.

Her philosophy: In this economy, it’s important for someone to have a gift that he or she will enjoy or use. Miller said she also knows what it’s like to give a gift that didn’t work out; she returned a pair of wrong-size jeans that she bought for her mom.

Miller exchanged her sheets at Target in Lacey before returning her mom’s jeans at Fred Meyer.

“I’ll probably buy another pair online,” she said.

Natalie Byrne, 51, of Lacey returned a stand mixer that was given to her by a relative who heard her mention she wanted one last Christmas.

The relative didn’t know Byrne had bought a heavy-duty mixer shortly after that conversation.

“It’s very nice, but we don’t need two,” she said.

Meantime, Bobbi Standish, 33, of Lacey took her sons shopping with money their grandparents sent as Christmas gifts.

“We’re working our way to the video games,” she said.

But first, Standish sorted through a store’s holiday clearance aisles and picked up some gift wrap, Christmas lights and other items that were marked down 75 percent from the original price.

“I’ll just get ready for next year, and the years to come,” she said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433


 • Find out a retailer’s return policy. If the policy isn’t clearly displayed, ask a sales associate or manager about it. Most retailers also post to their websites. Big-box merchants usually allow consumers to return most items (excluding electronics) up to 90 days after day of purchase; some retailers extend return deadlines during the holidays.

 • Save receipts. Without a receipt, many stores will only provide store credit amounting to the lowest markdown price that the item was sold at during the holiday season.

 • Keep original packaging and tags. Some retailers won’t accept returns unless they are in original packaging. In most cases, electronics products such as computer software, CDs and DVDs can’t be returned if they’ve been opened.

 • Bring identification. Some companies require a government-issued ID even with a receipt to track serial returners.

 • Find out options. If you’re returning an item that was purchased online, you might be able to return it to a walk-in store for full credit and save shipping and repacking fees.

Sources: The National Retail Federation and Consumer Reports.

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