Of all the famous holiday trends and traditions, the lines for returns the day after Christmas may be among the least nostalgic.
But once the presents have been unwrapped and the turkey has been eaten, holiday shoppers hit local retailers again for returns and exchanges in what seemed to be an atmosphere as cheery and bustling as the Christmas season itself.
Laura Mallula, the assistant general manager at Books-A-Million in Columbus said, “The day after Christmas is always a really busy day for us.”
Lex Jackson, who owns Reed’s of Columbus agreed.
“To be honest, (the day after Christmas) is a big Christmas cash day,” he said. “Somebody just gave cash, and it’s burning a hole in (the customer’s) pocket … Some people are looking at their watch on Christmas day going, ‘When can I spend this $75?'”
Sure enough, about half past noon on December 26, the quiet in Reed’s was dispelled by the low babble of voices as more and more people entered the store, carrying shopping bags or balancing gift boxes. Employees stayed busy, fetching correct sizes and running to the check-out counter. Despite the crowd, there was none of the stressful atmosphere that we tend to associate with last-minute holiday shopping in the days before December 25.
But of course, customers are not just looking for new things, they’re exchanging products they already have or clothes that are the wrong size.
Customers at Reed’s were there for exactly that reason.
“He loves them,” said Linda Sneed, referring to the clothes her family member, Kell, received for Christmas. “We did well, we just got the wrong size.”
Which seems to be a recurring theme this Christmas — whether they received shirts or air pumps for children’s play sets, people love their gifts but need different sizes.
“There’s always going to be Uncle Ned who bought you something that you’re going, ‘Really?'” Jackson said.
But he said most shoppers over the last few years are getting more careful about their shopping, making sure to get friends and family members gifts they like.
“I think it’s kind of been carry through because when the economy was down, you’re just shopping smarter because you’re saying, ‘I have this limited amount,'” Jackson said. “I think this Christmas, the economy was much better…I think people shop smarter when the economy’s a little tougher, and then when it gets better they’ve just kind of developed those habits.”
The general consensus among employees at the retail stores seemed to be that the easier you make it to return things, the happier people will be. Books-A-Million extends their return policy to 90 days during the holiday season, and most stores will try and make the exchange for you, though few will only give you gift cards rather than cash if you’re missing a receipt.
“(Friday) was about as smooth as we’ve had it in a long time,” Jackson said. “Most people just wanted to exchange.”
And despite the crowds, most people were pretty happy.
Martha Gillis, who returned a pair of Mountain Khakis to Reed’s, said the return process was “easy as could be.”
That’s what Jackson and other store managers want to hear.
“We just want you to walk away going, ‘I’m certainly coming back,'” Jackson said.