Holiday gift returns start early
Holiday sales are up this year, but so are holiday gift returns. What's fueling the reversal?
For many Americans, gift returns are as much a part of the holidays as Black Friday, Christmas lights and eggnog -- but they usually don't come along until after Dec. 25. So what's happening this year?
Turns out not all of the people out in the stores and malls are coming home with more things (and less cash) than they had when they went in; many are bringing back the items -- TVs, toys and other gifts -- they purchased earlier in the shopping season.
In fact, a lot of people who rushed to get the best deals at much-hyped Thanksgiving weekend sales are experiencing a "holiday hangover," according to The Associated Press. Post continues below.Return rates increased when the recession hit and have stayed high. For every dollar stores take in this holiday season, they are expected to give back 9.9 cents on returns, the AP says. Last year's returns averaged 9.8 cents on the dollar. In better times, stores give back about 7 cents in returns.
Though retailers are understandably reluctant to talk about the number of returns this season, AP said companies such as GENCO ATC, Liquidation.com and its parent company, Liquidity Sales -- which sell returned merchandise from retailers -- are expecting this holiday season to be especially good for their bottom line. Liquidation.com said return rates are 12% to 15%, which is higher than last year and twice as high as pre-recession years. GENCO ATC also said stores are seeing a spike in returns.
Overall holiday sales are up
Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation has raised its 2011 holiday forecast to $469.1 billion, a 3.8% sales increase from 2010.
"After strong sales reports in October and November, along with a successful Black Friday weekend, retailers are cautiously optimistic that this season will turn out better than initially expected," said Matthew Shay, NRF president. The retail group's initial forecast, on Oct. 6, anticipated sales growth of only 2.8%, which still represented an increase over the 2.6% annual average for the past decade.
Also sounding like good news for retailers were the results of another NRF survey indicating that, as of the second week of December, the average American shopper had completed only 46.5% of his or her shopping, down from 49.5% at the same time in 2010. Nearly 37 million people (16.5%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 7.6% say they have completely finished shopping.
But those sales figures are only good news if shoppers -- and gift recipients -- keep the merchandise.
Reasons for returns
When gifts are returned after the holidays, the reasons can usually be attributed to shopper error: The sweater didn't fit your sister; your nephew already had that Xbox game; the cookbook you bought for your girlfriend … what were you thinking?
But why return purchases before the big gift-giving days? Lack of money -- or buyer's remorse -- is one often-cited reason.
"When the bills come in and the money isn't there, you have to return," Jennifer Kersten, 33, of Miami, told AP. Kersten said she spent $300 on books, movies and clothes on Black Friday, then returned half of it last week.
Competition is also contributing to retailers' problems as savvy shoppers realize the "great deal" they got on Black Friday wasn't necessarily the lowest possible price for that HDTV after all.
Check return policies before you buy
Returns cost stores money, and some charge a restocking fee to help offset those costs. To limit the number of returns, many stores impose strict time limits, and the clock often begins ticking on the date of purchase.
Which stores offer the best return policies? That depends on where you bought it, what you are returning and when it was purchased. Policies vary by type of product, with electronics often having much shorter windows for returns than items such as clothing and toys. In addition, many stores extend their deadlines during the holidays, understanding that a lot of items are purchased as gifts.
Have you already returned any of your holiday purchases this year? If so, what prompted the return?
More on MSN Money:
MORE ON MSN MONEY
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
This has been the worst year for my husband and I. Usually, Chrsitmas is very good, not expensive, but good. This year, there is no money. I have told all my family that I am sorry and that I love them very much, but it isn't happening. I simply explained that I cannot take on anymore debt and that what counts is that we are all here and together and that I hope they understand. They do!! My husband and I are OTR drivers now, but it will take time to catch up. We bought a GPS for the truck and a few new items of clothing & that was our gift to each other. Things we needed.
People have totally gone crazy spending money they do not have, taking on so much more debt. It isn't fair to the people you owe money to. The best gift you can give is to make sure your family is feed, clothed and has roof over their head. They may not understand it now, but take them to a homeless shelter and see people who really have nothing. My new life is is I don't have the cash to buy it, I don't get it.
MelissaN, keep your receipt like a smart person and you'll have no problems returning things at Target.
I've worked for Target for over 4.5 years, so here's the deal - our return policy states NO returns without a receipt or receipt lookup, just like EVERY other retailer out there. We COULD stick to our printed policy and not do ANY returns without receipts. But, lucky for you, we make acceptions. Each guest can return up to $70 of merchandise per year without a receipt or receipt lookup (the 2 no-receipt returns per year rule hasn't been in effect since at least last Christmas). No-receipt returns do mean you'll get the lowest selling price of the last 90 days, but that's because there's no record of what you paid for it. It's to keep people from buying an item on sale, and then returning it later and getting the full price back. And yes, people WILL abuse the system if we allow them to. You also get store credit without a receipt, not cash, but that's what every retailer does.
Target also has a 90-day return window. That is a LONG time to return items. Most stores have a 30-day or maybe 60-day return period. Hell, I've shopped in stores with 14- and 7-day return periods. Ninety days is really, extremely generous.
Simply put: Target's return policies are actually pretty accomodating. Expecting us to take back everything you supposedly bought from us without any proof you DID buy it from us (and at the price you say you paid), however, is pretty naive. People would be abusing the system left and right if we did that, and Target would be out of business.
Don't blame the stores for making you think you NEED something. That's their job. That's called "marketing". And every company YOU work for does the same thing.
Its YOUR choice to decide whether you NEED that item. People are returning things because they bought too much stuff and are now looking at the receipts and anticipating what their credit card statements are going to look like next month. It's the same reason the economy is in the state that its in. People overbought. Homes, cars, electronics, every thing their kids wanted, etc ON CREDIT. That's the truth.
BUT I'm here to help! Here's a simple calculation you can use this season and in your life going forward. It's my Christmas gift to you. I call it "1-2 =3" and it works like this:
1: The amount you earn
2: Your necessary expenses (food, shelter, utilities, phone, cable, whatever your kids NEED, etc)
3: What you have left to do what you want (save or spend)
Notice how there isn't a 4 (Credit/Loans to help pay for 2) .
Leave it at 3 and you'll be fine. If you are light in the "3" area, adjust 2. Economics 101.
I feel that what you are doing by refusing to shop this season is wonderful. If more would refuse to "set in debt" this season a strong message would be sent to the major retailers etc. I can go on and on about knowing the difference between "Want" and "Need". Here is an experiment that I have had people try out. You might be surprised how the results turn out.
When you feel that you really need to make a purchase:
1. Go to the store where you want to make the purchase.
2. Go to the isle where the item is and "Pick it up and hold on to it". Do NOT put it in the basket because you do NOT want to become disassociated with the item.
3. Walk around the store holding the item. During the time you are walking around holding this item, think about the two terms "Want" and "Need".
4. Attempt to justify the real "Need" for the item while you are holding this item.
5. Continue to do this for about 30 minutes.
Now here is where the interesting thing happens. Chances are you are going to put that item back on the shelf where you found it or even set it down somewhere in the store. It is very important that you DO NOT put the item in the basket or cart during this experiment.
Believe me you are going to be surprised how the "impulse buy" wears off and you realize that you do not really need the item.
The economy is still too iffy to go out and splurge, IMO.
Maybe the economy isn't near as good as the government would have us believe.
I thought I would save time etc. shopping on-line , having it delivered to my door. Only to find out , a lot of shippers are doing what is called , UPS mail Innovations. ( ? ) What was weird was , I'd get some packages delivered to my home and some went to post office ( I have a p.o. box) so even the post office won't deliver to my home. I would Have to go and pick-up the package at the post office. Plus , I'd get hit with postage due .This was after , I paid Toys Rus for shipping. Then because it was supposed to come to my home and had physical address and No P.O. Box # on the package....I got hit with another charge .
I have spent more time making phone calls and trying to correct problems...it was a total waste of My time .KEEP READING IT GETS WORSE. ;(
Not one person I spoke with could tell me what was going on .
I will say , Toys Rus finally credited me back some of the extra shipping charges , but no -one there knew what I was talking about when I tried to explain it to them. I had to pay $5.35 postage due on a $3.59 item that I had already paid shipping on and then $14.04 on another Item , I paid $10.49 shipping on. There were more of the same , also...
Even stranger is the fact , if I ordered 2 items from same place. One would come to my door UPS and the other item went to the post office ( same day ).Postage due. After I had paid shipping charges.
This has happened 3 or 4 times now .
I am definitely thru with doing on-line orders........If , It didn't cost so much to return . I would send everything back and give cash for gifts .
Something else to watch out for is...When the store has on-line ordering and says , you can Return to store . Read the Fine print. They don't All give cash back. Most give Store credit. ;(
Also , if it says , Free shipping : Read the fine print . Free shipping has a long list of items excluded ..
So much for trying to make my life easier...It has been a living nightmare .
I can Understand Why the stores are going under...No -one can get it Right.
Copyright © 2013 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Joe Cantrell says he faces charges after trying to take advantage of the retailer's policy.