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Washington Voices

Retailers Get Few Returns, Brace For Big Weekend

Sat., Dec. 28, 1996

Santa really must have checked his list twice this year.

Very few shoppers returned Christmas gifts at the Valley’s area stores this week, said store managers.

They said they expect bustling crowds to pack the stores this weekend, returning too-small, too-tacky and it’s-not-me items.

“When the holiday falls in the middle of the week, you don’t have high returns because people have to go to work the day after Christmas,” said Target store manager Bob Hingtgen.

The same was true at Fred Meyer, where a trickle of customers stood in a swiftly moving line. Some returned jeans, cracked cutting boards and toys. Others said they were hoping to exchange their loot for something else.

Sherwood Forest resident Jean Griffin went to the superstore to exchange a dark blue pot set.

“I got two sets - exactly the same from my mom and husband,” she said.

In less than two minutes, she was on her way to look for a replacement.

At University City Mall’s J.C. Penney, sales associates said many shopper used gift certificates - one of this season’s most popular items.

“People bought way more than they’re returning,” said Lisa Flyckt.

And when people return items, the experience can be pretty funny, she said. A grandmother bought her 12-year-old daughter size 4 underwear - big enough for a 3-or 4-year-old to fit into.

“Grandmas must have bought gifts twelve years ago ‘cause the kids are saying the gifts are so outdated,” said Flyckt.

At Target, to ease the day-after hassle, clerks issued merchandise vouchers to customers instead of doing on-the-spot, even exchanges.

“The selection today isn’t what it was two weeks ago,” said Hingtgen, of his store’s inventory. With a voucher, customers can come back within 90 days to shop for items they’d like.

But most weren’t waiting.

In fact, checkstands and cash registers were abuzz with people pushing carts full of ornaments, wrapping paper, cards - and next year’s Christmas gifts.

As the usual day-after-Christmas routine goes, all holiday items were 50 percent off marked prices at Fred Meyer and Target.

“If it’s Christmasy, it’s going out the door,” said Patrick Muzi, a Fred Meyer assistant manager. “The lines have been non-stop.”

The same was true at Target where a throng of bated-breath shoppers waited behind locked doors at 7 a.m. Hingtgen said early morning gogetters bolted to the trim-a-tree section.

There, carts bumped into each other as moms, dads and even little ones climbed up shelves to reach Christmas cards on the tippy top. Shoppers tried to be polite when one grabbed an item the other desperately wanted. It was bargain heaven.

Lynn Kennedy and her two daughters, Lisa and Carey, searched through Target’s Christmas village leftovers.

“This is how we got our village started,” said Lynn Kennedy. Every year, the three head out to add to their “It’s a Wonderful Life” collection at half price.

Back at Target, Hingtgen had words of encouragement for his staff during what he thinks will be a busy weekend.

“We’re really good about taking these folks’ money before Christmas,” he said. “We can at least be good at giving some of it back. The holiday season doesn’t end on the 24th.”

, DataTimes

Tags: business

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