‘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
    sweaters.

    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.

    Fighting
    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
    college.

    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)