‘Tis better to return than to receive

Nearly a third
of all Americans expect they’ll stand in long lines on the day after
Christmas to return those polka-dot ties and just-slightly-too-small

But the good news is that few Americans say they often feel cheated by
Santa Claus, not getting that great gift they were secretly hoping for,
according to a Scripps Howard/Ohio University survey of 1,005 adults.

“Yes, the day after Christmas is a pretty big day, usually in the top
five for largest numbers of shoppers,” said Scott Krugman at the
National Retail Federation. “We’ve found the they are shopping for two
reasons, both to return something and to buy something at all of the
clearance sales.”

The day after Christmas was once celebrated in
England as St. Stephen’s Day, the time when wealthy nobles would pass
out cash and durable goods to the lower classes. (The exchanging of
gifts on Christmas Day was reserved for equals.)

Americans look
on Dec. 26 as a time to make consumer amends and fix the incorrect
purchases that other made for them. But some folks are more likely than
others to be standing in the return lines this week.

the crowds is definitely a young person’s game. Thirty-seven percent of
people ages 25-44 say they usually return at least one gift each year,
compared to only 22 percent of folks 65 or older.

People living
in suburbs are much more likely to return gifts than folks living in
rural areas. Married people are also much more likely to return items
than singles, as are well-educated people over folks who never finished

More than 40 percent of people in households earning
$80,000 a year or more expect to return a gift, double the return rate
among people in households earning $10,000 or less.

The poll
found men and women are equally likely to return gifts, with 30 percent
of each gender saying they’ll stand in lines after Christmas.
Republicans, Democrats and independents are equally likely to expect to
return gifts.

The survey also asked: “Generally, are you happy
with the gifts you get at Christmas, or does it often happen that you
secretly were hoping for something else?” Only 9 percent said they
usually have secret gift longings.

The survey was conducted by
telephone Oct. 9-23 at the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio
University. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4
percentage points.

(Contact Thomas Hargrove at HargroveT(at)shns.com)