Curious What Happens With All Those Holiday Gifts You Return?

Illustrated by Marina Esmeraldo.
Though businesses were pleasantly surprised by this past weekend’s revenue spike, they also have reason to curb their enthusiasm. In just three days' time, retailers will face an influx of holiday gift returns, which in 2013, amounted to $60 billion in lost sales, according to the National Retail Federation. That means virtually one in three gift recipients will return at least one item. Kinda makes cash seem like a great idea.
What exactly happens once you ask for a refund or store credit? Well, as Racked discovered, that’s where retailers are losing out: the NRF and The Retail Equation report a staggering total of $270 billion worth of lost sales from returns in 2013. In some cases, though, this is also where stores give your unwanted goods a new purpose.
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In Target’s case, unsold merchandise is rerouted in a variety of ways. Items can be recycled, donated, or liquidated to third parties, like Goodwill, which will purchase the bull's-eye's surplus products, as Racked explains. At Sephora, you can get a full refund for an opened product: great news for the customer, but an instant loss for the beauty chain. Stores with famously lenient return policies, like Nordstrom, simply accept that the financial loss is just a part of gaining customer trust and loyalty.
Some stores handle not-quite-right returned items the same way we would at home: shoving them in boxes and hoping they just go away. Not incredibly practical when that box is more like a whole warehouse — or worse, a landfill. Click over for the full report on the afterlife of holiday presents. And, think about it when you're poo-pooing the thought of getting a gift card, instead. (Racked)
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