Holiday shopping craze continues day after Christmas

The day after Christmas is seeing shoppers facing a due mission: Load up on newly discounted items and return unwanted or misfit gifts. 

But the rise of e-commerce has made the art of the return increasingly tricky. The other end of our national holiday shopping craze sees customers once again gracing the landscape of area malls and stores.

“More opportunities to save, and be creative. And perhaps take back something that you don’t like so much and get something that you really do like,” said Yolanda Booker, as she shopped with her son at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

Returning used to be as easy as going back to the purchase place, bags in tow. But the advent of e-commerce has changed the game. On Wednesday, online giant Amazon announced customers used it’s “Prime” service to ship more than a billion items for free this holiday season.

“It’s a big number. I am surprised it’s gotten that big that fast, over one season,” said Larry Magid, a technology analyst and the CEO of the non-profit ConnectSafely.

He says convenience fuels e-commerce’s rise in popularity, and will likely propel it to dominance in the next decade. This, despite the obvious wrinkle in the carpet – if a brick and mortar purchase doesn’t work, bring it back.

“I just walked in, we had a pair of jeans to return and we returned it pretty quickly,” said Melanie Norall, as she walked with her family in Palo Alto.

But with e-commerce, according to Magid, returning an item could prove so costly and time consuming, many people may opt to just keep the gift and cut their losses.

“I don’t have the time to change it. There’s no point. You got it. Just give it as a gift to someone,” said shopper Jade Pluska. Added Magid, “The good news is they’ve extended the return times to the end of January. The bad news is you still have to box it up and in many cases, pay the return shipping. And that’s the disincentive. If you buy a $20 item and have to pay $5 to ship it back, that’s a problem.”

Amazon and other online outlets will usually allow free shipping for clothing returns or defective items. But experts say the costs associated with returning an item will likely have a marginal impact on a shopper’s preference.