Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day and all the other sale notices that inundated your inbox over the holidays, there was no shortage of opportunities to buy the perfect gift.
But, as it turns out, “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder: Every year Americans spend some $9.5 billion on unwanted gifts, according to recent data from finder.com.
Based on those kinds of numbers, it’s not surprising then that today is National Returns Day, the day UPS expects to ship a record 1.3 million packages back to retailers. Yep, all those ill-fitting sweaters, non-working gadgets and other unwanted seasonal purchases are headed back from whence they came.
First coined by UPS in 2013, National Returns Day is driven largely by the boom in e-commerce holiday gift shopping, which was predicted to increase between 7% and 10% over the past year, reported the National Retail Federation.
But the first week in January is also a huge time for returns at brick and mortar stores as well. In total, 10% of all toys, clothes and other merchandise bought in both actual stores and online during the holiday season end up at the return counter, according to the National Retail Federation 2015 Return Survey.
Thankfully, print-from-home return labels, free return shipping and lenient post-holiday shopping policies have made sending back unloved holiday loot (or schlepping it back to the store) less of a hassle than it has to be.
Still, before you drop off that cardboard box or head to the mall with receipts in hand, here are a few things to keep in mind that can help your National Returns Day go a little more smoothly.
No receipt—no problem. Some retailers, like Wal-Mart and Kohl’s, generally allow shoppers to return items sans a receipt and maybe even get cash back. But if the company won’t allow you to unload your unwanted merchandise for actual dollars, and you’re not hot on an even exchange, see if you can get a store gift card, which you could then sell online at a gift card site like Gift Card Granny or Cardpool.
Don’t want to ship? Return it to a store. If the return policy for the item you no longer want is about to expire, or the retailer doesn’t offer free return shipping, check to see if the online retailer you purchased it from allows you to return items to the store. Macy’s, Old Navy and Gap, for example, generally allow consumers to return items bought online to an actual counter.
Resist the lure of buying more stuff. Seventy percent of online shoppers made an additional purchase when they returned an item to a store, and 45% bought something new when processing their return on an e-commerce website, according to a 2016 UPS survey. So if you’re trying to adhere to a post-holiday budget, avoid browsing the store or site too long so you don’t end up purchasing things that exceed the cash you’re getting for your return.