Newsletter: Some tips for removing the headaches from holiday returns

December 23, 2019 0 By JohnValbyNation

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, with a look today not at holiday shopping but at the avalanche of returned goods that inevitably follows all the gift giving.

A recent report from Oracle Retail, a division of software giant Oracle, found that 77% of consumers said they plan to return at least some of the goodies they receive this holiday season. Twenty percent said they’ll be likely to return more than half their gifts.

Younger people are the most fickle, Oracle observed, with Generation Z being the most likely demographic to say thanks but no thanks to a present.

“Retailers need to seize the moment when shoppers return gifts,” said Jeff Warren, vice president of retail solutions management for Oracle Retail.

That doesn’t just mean being sufficiently staffed to handle the deluge (although, speaking on behalf of all consumers, that would be nice, thanks).

Warren said all these returns — and the implicit interactions that accompany them — represent a “significant opportunity for retailers to build better customer profiles and generate new opportunities for engagement.”

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It remains to be seen if retailers will rise to that challenge. For many consumers, the returns process is just a final stress point of a stressful few weeks or months.

To make it easier to stomach, here are some helpful tips:

  • Bring a receipt. Duh. This may not be a dealbreaker for all merchants, but it will definitely make things go faster and smoother.
  • Be prompt. If you want to exchange something for a different size or color, you’ll have better luck if you don’t procrastinate. Otherwise, your options may be limited.
  • Don’t remove tags until you decide something’s a keeper. Many stores will balk at returns of tagless clothing.
  • When returning stuff purchased online, make sure you understand the merchant’s return policies and procedures. Some, like Amazon, make it relatively easy. Others seem to make the process as difficult as possible.
  • Be nice. This is a tough time as well for salespeople. A little patience and decency can go a long way in greasing the return wheels.

      Now then, here are a couple of recent stories from our pages worth highlighting:

      Utility profits: The California Public Utilities Commission ruled that profit margins will remain the same at the state’s major utilities, denying the companies the higher shareholder returns they had sought. Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric had argued that higher profits were necessary to keep attracting sufficient capital to fund their operations.

      Happy landings: Building a rocket is tough enough. Building a parachute attached to a spacecraft is where you really earn your engineering degree. The Rube Goldberg-esque sequence involves explosives, precise timing and battles against pressure and high winds. If it’s done right, astronauts touch down safely. If not, the crew can be killed on impact.


      General Motors is recalling more than 900,000 vehicles worldwide in two separate campaigns to address brake issues and fire risks. More than 550,000 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Cadillac CT6 and GMC Sierra 1500 vehicles are being recalled due to a potential software glitch that could disable vehicle brake systems.

      Chicken soup may be a cure-all, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the recall of chicken soup produced by Canada’s Canyon Creek Soup. The soups contain allergens that aren’t on the label, including wheat and soy.

      Spare change

      ‘Tis the season for returns, so here are some songs with “return” in the title (not including the obvious one by Elvis). Kansas has a classic with “Point of Know Return.” The Cure’s offering is simply titled “Return.” The Bangles serve up “a song about the U.S. postal system.” Then there’s this one from the Romanian-German group Enigma (remember them?), which was important to my wife for about a week in the 1990s.

      Let me know what you think of the newsletter. My email is, or you can find me on Twitter @Davidlaz. Also, tell all your social media pals to join the party.

      Until next time, see you in the Business section.