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Shoppers return with returns post-Christmas

| Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007

Ugly ties. Ill-fitting sweaters. Toys with missing parts.

They all went back Wednesday.

Shoppers in the Fay-West area hit the stores the day after Christmas to return unwanted gifts and search for bargains.

"As of yet, it's not too terribly heavy for returns," Adam Berry, executive leader of the Target store in South Union, said at about 9 a.m. He expected the returns to pick up later in the day.

To accommodate the expected influx of customers, the store opened an hour early and closed an hour late. Target increased staff to handle the extra business because more and more people are redeeming gift cards.

"I do expect heavier sales than normal for the remainder of this week," Berry said.

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers were expected to spend $26.3 billion in gift cards this season, up 42 percent from $18.5 billion in 2005.

ShopperTrak RCT Corp. reported the week after Christmas accounts for about 16 percent of holiday sales.

At the Peebles store in Countryside Plaza in Mt. Pleasant, Manager Jaydene Nelson said exchanges started midmorning.

Many department stores, including Target and Peebles, opened earlier and closed later to meet the demands of the crowds.

"We've been pretty busy today, but it's about average (the number of returns)," Nelson said. Peebles is having a storewide clearance with 50 percent off some items and 75 percent off all Christmas items.

Retailers agree the most-returned gifts are clothing items, mainly because of the wrong size being purchased.

Store officials offered some tips to make returns as stress-free as possible.

The first thing to remember is to have the receipt or gift receipt.

"Otherwise, there could be a snag," Berry said.

Customers who bring in receipts are normally given the return or exchange with no questions asked.

When it comes to clothing, the second tip to remember is make sure all the tags on the clothes stay on the clothes.

Nelson said clothes returned without the tags are more difficult for employees to process.

The third tip is to be patient when making a return, especially when customers invariably find others ahead of them in line with multiple items to return.

"Just be patient and wait your turn," Nelson said.

One shopper who appeared to take the gift return in stride was Jason Gilleland of Hopwood. He had to return two toys because his infant son received three of the same toy on Christmas.

"This is the first time I ever had to return something like this," Gilleland said.

Gilleland said both gift givers provided him with gift receipts along with the toys, and he added that after he returned the gifts, he planned to look around for discounted Christmas items.

"I'll look around at some deals," Gilleland said.

Christmas correspondent confounded

Editor's note: Daily Courier reporter Mark Hofmann braved the post-Christmas rush to return gifts and forage for bargains, and he found something unexpected -- the Christmas spirit.

While I'm sure the recipient of the gifts listed in "The Twelve Days of Christmas" thought they were unique and extravagant, I'm equally sure a few of them had to be exchanged on the 13th day.

"Yeah, these eight maids aren't a-milking. I'd like to exchange them for a Nintendo Wii... What• Um no, I don't have a receipt."

Okay, so my exchange wasn't that complicated. It was the first season of "Arrested Development" on DVD, which I bought for my brother, who informed me the three-disc set was missing the first disc.

So I had to exchange it. And since I had a feeling I would be out and about Wednesday taIking to Fay-West shoppers about, well, returning gifts, I thought why not exchange it then•

But it was the dreaded day after Christmas.

I never had to return a gift on the day after Christmas, but I heard horror stories around the campfire with such titles as "Revenge of the Customer Service Counter Sales Associate."

With a shiver I recalled, "And then the line of angry customers grew longer, and after the sales associate reached into the bag, her dead eyes caught mine searing from the sweat on my forehead and she said ... 'You don't have a receipt, do you?!'"

I screamed in terror, emotionally scarred.

But getting older means facing your fears. So I went to the department store to return the faulty gift.

While walking through the parking lot, I checked and double-checked the bag with the DVDs inside to make sure 1) I had the receipt. 2) I had grabbed the right DVD box set and not "Trail of the Incredible Hulk." 3) I had the right receipt. 4) I was bringing the DVD set in a bag from the store which I was entering, so as not to arouse suspicion. And 5) I had the right receipt.

Upon entering the store, I became more lost and confused than normal. I was looking for a long line of angry people with piles of torn-open presents without receipts, and found nothing of the sort.

What I found was a lonely customer service associate, looking at me and my shopping bag with a smile on her face.

I handed her the DVD set and the receipt and made sure the store's logo on the bag was in plain view for the security cameras, all the while imagining the excuses she would relay to prevent me from exchanging the gift.

Fortunately, she allowed me to walk back to the electronics department and pick out the same DVD set, and in a few seconds I was on my way out the door.

Elated the experience had been as stress-free as possible, I decided to open the DVD set right there in the parking lot to assure myself that life is sometimes just this easy.

But what before my wandering eyes did appear• The third disc missing from the DVD set.

I was frustrated and a bit scared as I walked back into the store. The jig is up, I thought -- even though there was no jig in the first place.

Again, I was surprised by the nice smile and helpful solution: She said to take the third disc from the other DVD set I exchanged and place it in the DVD set I was now bringing back.

So, Christmas -- well, the day after -- was saved.

It's just a good thing I didn't buy my brother 10 lords a-leaping. There are limits to customer service.

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