Who wants to give — let alone receive — a bad Christmas gift?
You can usually tell when you’ve missed the mark. The tight smile. The fake glee. The overly gushy “thank you” that really means “I hope this sucker came with a gift receipt.”
One in three people will return a gift this holiday season, according to B-Stock Solutions, a company that liquidates excess inventory, overstock and customer returns from major retailers and manufacturers.
In the first three months of 2016, the company had 61 percent more items than usual to sell, a glut of post-Christmas returns, writes comparison shopping website DealNews.
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“You want to delight your friends and family, not burden them with more stuff to either get rid of or return.” Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing for DealNews, told the Staten Island Advance.
Every year about $260 billion worth of stuff bought from retailers gets returned — 25 percent of which is returned after Christmas, according to industry estimates cited by the New York Post.
One of the “don’t” gifts Time magazine warned against in its last-minute shopping gift guide: expensive, flashy things.
“It may feel like a faux pas to pick a holiday gift from the clearance section, but research suggests it’s the item — not the price tag — that matters most,” noted Time, citing the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Research proves there’s no clear correlation between the price of the gift and the recipient’s satisfaction, Time reports.
Another gift that science steers us away from: gifts given on someone’s behalf, like making a donation in their name to a worthy cause.
Science says those gifts don’t always make the recipient feel good.
A 2015 study published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decisions journal found that while close friends or family members might appreciate a socially responsible gift, casual acquaintances sometimes feel slighted by them.
That’s because the gift focuses “on the symbolic meaning of the gift,” instead of the recipient, researchers found.
B-Stock expects about $70 billion in merchandise to be returned to retailers this holiday season. The company examined last season’s returns and came up with the five most frequently returned items — things you might want to avoid in your last-minute shopping this week.
Graphic T-Shirts for kids
Just leave that “Blink if You Think I’m Awesome” T-shirt right there on the rack. It looks so nice there.
After last holiday season, T-shirts with “corny quips” were returned more often than not, B-Stock found.
“While the shirt might look cute on a hanger, the likelihood that the kid you’re buying it for will actually wear it is slim to none,” notes DealNews. “Plus, they’re going to grow out of it quickly anyways.”
Maybe the hottest toy isn’t really the one your kids want after all. “It usually seems like a good idea to hop on toy franchise trends (we’re looking at you, Hatchimals), because we expect popular toys to be a bigger hit with our kids,” writes DealNews.
“However, unless your kids are specifically asking for the latest trend, you’re better off getting them an old standby like a LEGO set.”
Fancy coffee machines. Quesadilla makers. Stainless steel egg poachers.
Clutter. Clutter. Clutter?
B-Stock saw a lot of stuff like that returned last season.
“Chances are, a gift like this will either be returned, or will gather dust in a kitchen pantry for eternity,” warns DealNews.
Avoid giving hardware, and common household goods, because chances are the recipient already has it, DealNews advises.
Plus, there’s also something kind of, well, cold about a hammer.
“Hardware often shows up on the most returned list, likely because there’s little reason to have variations on the same thing and you run the risk of your giftee already having the basics,” Sakraida told the Advance.
“Beyond that, hardware becomes highly specific, which is difficult to shop for if you aren’t aware of their particular needs.”
Not to throw a monkey wrench into that advice, but Time cited a study from last year in Current Directions in Psychological Science that found people prefer gifts they can use for months and years to come — like clothing.
Remember the hoverboards that caught on fire? Before you fork over a lot of money for a trendy, techy recreation item, make sure you know your friend or family member wants one, and that it’s safe, advises DealNews.
If the only thing cool about a gift is that it’s cute or clever, avoid it, Sakraida told the Advance.
And if you really want to make sure the recipient won’t return your gift, just flat-out ask them what they want.
“While you might want to surprise someone, it doesn’t hurt to be upfront and ask them what they’d like this year,” Sakraida said.
Once again, there’s science to support that advice. Studies have shown people tend to appreciate getting things they specifically asked for more than unsolicited presents, reports Time.
Apparently, even at Christmas, surprises can be overrated.