Keep It or Take It Back?

Gift-wrapingEvery year, the same. My great-grandmother always gave me socks for Christmas! And whether I liked them or not, I kept them and wore them, at least occasionally. There was no thought of returning them or exchanging (to give something and receive something different for it) them for something else.

When our oldest son’s wife spent her first Christmas with our family about 15 years ago, she was aghast (shocked) when some family members talked about returning gifts they had received.

How times have changed (It’s very different now)! Many people return gifts for a refund (to get money back) or in exchange for a different item or the same item in a different size or color.

Today, when you buy something as a gift, it’s common for a clerk to ask if you want a gift receipt (a piece of paper that shows that you have paid for something) to make the item easier to return. A gift receipt is similar to a regular receipt but omits (leaves out) certain information, such as the price. It usually has a barcode (a series of lines that a computer can read) that is used to easily identify the transaction (a business action like buying or selling) when the item is returned.

The Internet has made shopping and returning easier than ever year-round (all year), not only at Christmas. An article in The Economist reports that almost 50% of what some stores sell online is returned. The Wall Street Journal says that 33% of all Internet sales are returned and that it’s worse during the holidays. This year they predict (say before it happens) that 33% will return at least one gift they receive for Christmas.

Who returns the most gifts? The Journal says that more women (36%) return gifts than men (31%). And, interestingly, about 45% of the people prefer to return a gift by shipping (to send by mail, truck, plane, etc.) rather than taking it back to a store.

How do you feel about returning gifts? Is it acceptable to you or in your culture?

~ Warren Ediger – English tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English web site.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons


This entry was posted in Life in the United States. Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Keep It or Take It Back?

  1. Dan says:

    Hello Warren,

    I would say that is acceptable to a certain extent. I have purchased several things online, but I am not an expert on it.
    And, I have never returned anything. I am not sure how many times you can return things.
    I guess they probably have a return policy, otherwise you have people buying and returning all the times.
    I bet there are people doing that.

    I have solved that problem at the root. it is simple! I make clear I do not want anything for the simple fact that nobody knows myself better that me.

    I said many times that I am for eliminating things instead of gathering.

    For instance, during the year I get a few bottles of wine from my neighbor 90 year old woman.
    Problem is I do not drink alcoholic, and there is no use to make her understand it’is normal not have wine.
    Why do I always have to explain to people why I do not drink alcohol? I mean, it’s normal! You drinker have to explain why do you drink!?

    Anyway, I re-gift those bottles as soon I get he chance of doing it.

    Ok, I think I am done for now. I need to think/digest the subject before adding more.

    Thank you Warren

  2. Tania says:

    Hi! A gift is a gift, we said years ago.
    We have and a proverb in this meaning: a horse received like a gift you can’t verify it in its mouth.
    But like you said: how times have changed!
    Instead of a gift we can give money to buy everyone what he/ she wants.
    And our supermarkets give us a receipt valid for three days when you can return the goods.

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and to your nice family, dear Warren!


  3. Dan says:

    Me again,

    I was thinking that she did explain to me why she like wine and it is rather funny.

    As a kid she used to stand in a barrel pushing/squeezing grapes with her feet and because of that wine got in her veins. Lol.


  4. emiliano says:

    Tania we have the same proverb here in Castellano, “a caballo regalado no le mires el diente”, it is just the same
    word by word, and I agree with the proverb absolutelly as can´t remember a chace I have returned a gift or I have
    receoved money instead, I think, it is my opinión of course, that it is so rude to receive money instead a gift at least
    the bunch would be given by your wife or husband to get a gift too expesive, but from a friend or another relative?, no
    it seems ruede at my eyes.

    In fact now I buy lot of things by the web, usually in Amazon, but I didn´t return anything as everything was o.k. as
    my orders, and if I mistake something it is just my fault not the seller.
    Everthing has going right buying this way and it is really easy and cheaper.

    Happy Christmas Warren and the best to the new year for you and all your family.

    Greetings Warren from Cuca and Emiliano.

  5. Betty says:

    Thank you Dear Warren

    I hope you have had a good Family Gathering time on Christmas Day.

    It is Boxing Day in LA so I think it is still a holiday for you in your country.

    It is the day after Boxing Day in Hong Kong. Do we have a special term for this day!

    Thank you for this article about what happens to Christmas gifts after Christmas.

    When I was growing up in Hong Kong, I only gave and received Christmas cards to classmates and teachers for Christmas. I also received a small bag of sweet and biscuits as a gift from our primary Catholic school on the last day of the school term. That’s the only Christmas present I received.

    My parents are not Christians. Christmas is not for religious reason for us. To me Christmas is a magic moment because the Hong Kong Government gives us a holiday. The UK Government also gives us a holiday. That’s why Christmas has become important for many people. People can make use of this holiday for many activities.

    Christmas is also one of the most important times for retail business to sell their goods to the public.

    Do I buy Christmas presents? Yes and No.

    I have stopped buying Christmas presents for my children since some years ago. I don’t like to do shopping and I don’t want to waste money on some unnecessary items just because they say it’s Christmas.

    I put some money into their bank account and tell them that. They know what their mother is like and they are happy with that. In fact I will feel very painful if I spend the same amount of money on buying something which is going to be wasted. The money in the bank will be more useful for them.

    Nevertheless, I have bought some toys for my little nieces and nephews because I think they deserve them.

    Christmas is also a chance for me to send a Christmas Hamper to one of my neighbours and one of my best friends in England for helping me all year round.

    I can’t give them money as it is rude for me to do so, so I always buy online to have the gifts deliver to them.

    They should not have to exchange the hamper because it contains wines, chocolates, biscuits, fruit jam etc which are things they can drink and eat during the holiday period.

    Hong Kong is a fast paced society. We don’t normally return things even if we don’t like what we bought afterwards. Just donate it and forget it.

    In the past only very expensive department store allow you to return faulty goods within a short period of time. Now many foreign based clothing stores (eg Marks and Spencer, H&M, Cotton On etc) offer return policy like what they do in their own countries. The goods don’t have to be faulty.

    Even when they allow people to return the goods, I think not many people bother to return them because most of the customers are young people who don’t tend to make a fuss.

    I have an old lady friend in England who loves shopping all the time. She goes to the shops to buy something on Monday. She goes to the shops to tell them she made a mistake on Tuesday, and they accept the goods and refund her the money.

    That’s how she spends lots of her time, and luckily not lots of her money.

    I love telling Christmas stories. Many thanks again Warren for giving me an opportunity to reflect on what I do for Christmas.

    Please enjoy the rest of the holiday period, and have a Very Happy and Healthy New Year 2014!

    Warmest Regards

    Betty 🙂
    P.S. I only like to receive Christmas gifts from my own children because it is a sign that they appreciate the hard work from their parents. I don’t like to receive gift from anyone else. I am like Dan who think “nobody knows myself better that me”.

  6. Parviz says:

    Hi Dan,
    Men are like wine, they take time to mature.

    Thank you,

  7. Dan says:

    Let us not forget that at ESLPOD we are gifted
    of three podcast and two blog post a week.

    And that goes on all year, not just at Christmas.

    I always keep that on the back of my mind.

    Thank you guys.

  8. lilian says:

    Buone Feste Natalizie Dan and  Feliz Navidad dear Emiliano .hope you both and my other friends here have a cool yule and happy holidays. Wish you all a thoroughly healthy life with peace of mind.
    Dear Betty:
    Merry Christmas with best wishes for you .Hope your father will be in good health this year and never get ill again.I have never seen my father Betty but I know how important is his presence .warm greetings

  9. Lassana says:

    Hi Everybody,

    Interesting topic ! Once my brother offered me a gift for the Mary Christmas day
    This gift was a pullover that I don’t like, certainly because of the style.
    It was a pullover for the people who live at the montain, it was very thick. It’s like a pullover stitched with a grandmother.
    I had worn it, I was ridiculous. My wife mocked me, she was right, I looked like a clown.

    The next day, I thought to sell it on the internet web site. But at the end, the pullover is yet in my cabinet !
    I think I’m going to give it free to a person, I can’t sell it now, it has at least 5 years !

    Here in France more and more people sell their gift, but this idea is yet a little taboo.

    Thanks Warren.

    See you soon.


  10. Satomi says:

    Hi, Warren and the ESL podcast’s team,

    thank you Warren, Dan, and Betty for telling me a happy atory and helpful information.
    I often think of presents whether a person who receives is glad or not, so I usually select some sweets, like chocolates and cookies.

    About a week ago, the christmas party was held by all of my university seminermates and my professor.
    We exchanged our presents, but nobody knew who got anybody’s presents, that is calling, deciding a thing by lots.
    I got a box of chocolate, GODIVA. I was glad though I usually don’t eat chocolates. lol
    My present was given by my professor! I counldn’t believe that happened and I was sorry to choose such a worthless thing.
    But everyone were glad to see it and said that my sense was good.
    Actually, it included a Santa’s hat with beard, a twinckly stick(we usually use in a concert hall), and some sweets in a big red stock.
    Other presents were good and bad. A boy who got a pair of maracas said it was not useful and he would throw it away soon.
    I don’t know he really threw it away, maybe I think so.

    Eventually, I think presents are things that make us happy, funny, and important(but, we sometime spend a waste of money).

    Happy new year for all in the world!!


  11. Dan says:


    Thank you! that is correct. Did you use Google translator? I recently tried to write tank you in Persian (with the help of google) to Parviz but I only got a bunch of question marks.

    If I am allowed, let me send you a virtual hug. You know, I am an expert in the field of cat hugging, for humans I am out of practice.

    You know what? lt me send it to everyone else here from Tania to Betty Emiliano…everyone. It just costs nothing.

    It is fun every once in a while caching on of them and hug. They are not always happy with that, but that the price they have to pay for my slaving after them.

    The best one to hug, the one who really likes it is the fattest one. When you pick it up it looks like a Panda cub.

    The other two, do not like it very much, and that requires more effort from my side ’cause they are kind of kicking. Ungrateful they are!

    Well, I am home till Thursday 2. I am going to spend these days reading and listening to the radio and whatever comes by to do.
    I have a couple of interesting books. One is by this Norwegian writer that our dear Oyvor told me about and the other is a Mystery I have heard of listening to NPR.

    Thank you!

  12. Dan says:

    The only one that does not get the hug is Myo.
    He has been naughty. I am going to catch him and squeeze till he tells his age.
    Squeeze squeeze hehehe!


  13. Julio says:

    When in doubt if the present is the right size or color (in case of clothes) to avoid all the hassle of having to return it why not give a gift card with the sum of money that we are willing to spend on a gift. It is an acceptable practice nowadays.

  14. lilian says:

    Hi Dan
    if you want to translate or write something in persian at first you should install persian font on your device.merry Christmas in persian is:(?????? ?????)you can copy past it for Parviz:) .I can translate whatever you want to. Just let me know. Bye

  15. lilian says:

    You were right .here I can’t I am suspicious of John 😉 because I don’t have this problem anywhere else.

  16. lilian says:

    Sorry I wrote john instead of Jeff because one of my friends messed me up by something that is related to this blog.she vibered me that she is so sad because her partner put the gift which she had bought for him into the bag which he hands out for poor people and since her partner went to Canada the next day he had not enough time to give the bag to charity institution so my friend found it out as a consequence of taking a look at it out of her curiosity. Now I was thinking that if my friend had been given him the gift receipt it wouldn’t have been happened. Thanks

  17. Myo ko ko says:

    Ok Dan
    Here I’ll give you a technical tip as a gift to you. ( Please don’t return it! 😉 )
    I think we cannot expect to see our native fonts on this website unless ours are in
    the same font family. I mean, for instance, English and Spanish are rooted
    from the same font family. So we can see Spanish fonts on this webpage.
    This website supports all fonts in the font family that English font is in.

    Want to know more about font families that a webpage uses?
    Google is awaiting for you! 😉

    Myo ko ko

  18. emiliano says:

    It is so funny just to read this blog, I have really a good while Reading once and again all the friend´s post, it seems to me the ESL Blog is more alive tan ever what
    really make me happy, you know? some how it is also my blog so watching such a lot of friends writing here it makes me very very happy.

    Gracias, muchas / muchísimas gracias Lilian por tu felicitación JUST THE SAME FOR YOU .,..FELIZ NAVIDAD and a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR, I hope Good GIVES you
    HIS BLESSING AND ALL THE HELP AND THE STREGNTH TO BE A GOOD DOCTOR, in your dear country. I think it has to be really beautiful, along the years I have
    seen some Iran´s movies and despite it is another world for me I do think it has to be beautiful, full of history along thousand of years. Persian´s culture has been one
    of the greatest along ancient history, why not now?.
    I like ver much your name, it is so in you sound language Lilian?, it is written the same than in Spanish but I supose in Persian it is quite different.
    Yes, I have translate Spanish to Persian with Google + in my own blog desembuches gatufo, and have some fans from your country too, that´s incredible
    to me.
    In fact I have made translations of desumbuches gatufo to near twenty or thirty language some times, just to say Thank you in as much languages as I can.
    Of course translations have to be really bad as can´t control them, only English and Spanish, a Little French and Italian, but very Little.


    Thank you Dan, you are the ESL Blog´s soul now, that´s great and I am very happy. Sure the cats do not like to be huge, Gatufo doesn´t like it despite I
    huge him frequently, the poor Gatufo stay quiete and after I finish my huge he goes out from me very fast and protest with some miauussss….nice dear
    cat, I really love HIM.

    Cuca let me huge her as much as I want, so now and them kiss her and huge her when we like to, it is nice to have my dear Cuca so close to me.


    Myo ko ko, please tell Dan you age, new year new information…….??

    Dan why don´t ask other friends here about their age?, of course there are girls or females and it is rude to ask for, but I am really courious about
    Tania, Betty, Lucy, ……and so forh, some time with so odd names I don´t know if there is a male or woman, please may every one of you tell us
    if you are a boy or a girl?.

    To me it is really confusing and I am afraid of going in dangerous sites telling he or she, yes that´s true.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERY ONE OF YOU DEAR FRIENDS, thank you, you are keeping the ESL Blog goin on with all your posts, that´s good, very very


  19. Dan says:


    I guess I’ll have to squeeze you harder, and tickled you all over.

    Yes! that is a good treatment.

  20. emiliano says:

    Thank you / merci beacoup / danke shön / molto gracie / spasivo / sagolun / tack / Zai gian / Obligado / mamnun / mul?umesc /xièxie /shukriya / diakuim /kop khun kha /salamat po /hvala /dank je wel /Barak Allahu fiik /chokrane /blagodaria /hvala /arigatô / dhanyavad/ spas/ gratias agimus /

    mochchakkeram Lilian

    faafetai lava …….and so on……

    Gracias to all in all language


  21. parviz says:

    Hi Dan
    if you know that, you should also know that there are something considered as taboo, for example, to hug a woman in public. some may not take it well.
    Any way, we use several expressions to thank a benefactor. The one we use commonly is Motashakeram (I thank you).
    But if lilian loves it I don’t object.
    Thank you

  22. mahdi says:

    happy your new year my friends.
    in my opinion when somebody gave us a gift,that’s not important how much does it cost we never should take it back
    or even give it to another person or change it.
    we should keep the gift and be care from that.
    the gift is important because we have been in mind of a person and we have been important for him or her.

  23. emiliano says:

    Yes, to me that´s the point mahdi, one gift from a person means we have been in mind of that person and that´s what is really
    important about the gift.
    Even being so difficult as I am, I always woutd try to keep the gift at sight when this person comes home and it is sure he or she
    will be grateful when see the gift present.

    Well I have found a site where there was how to write thank you in several languages……but….it seems is not appropriate to
    show it here my friends, so look for it in the web, it is really easy, as Cuca likes to say thank you in every language she could
    I have sent it to her by mail…….ja,ja, yes despite she is close to my sit, but she likes to have the advice by her own.

    Come on, it is going on…..and Motashakeram Myo ko ko.

  24. lilian says:

    Hi Emiliano
    the only language I know except for English and mine is french in intermediate level.but I love to learn another language like Spanish, Italy …you know my mom lived in Argentina when she was young so she can speak Spanish .she has been to Spain too and she helped me a little to learn Spanish.but I am very busy. Have to work most of the time but I decided to learn more so I can be in touch with you more.thanks for your warm and friendly answers .it cause me feel very happy.
    about your question I want let you know that I am 32years old and as you know I am female and very proud of having a friend like you.
    with the best wishes.

  25. parviz says:

    Hi everybody
    I am on a business trip for a few day. So I read your posts through my smartphone
    which is a gift frm a friend. I remrmber I dreamed a cellphone, and two days
    later it received to me out of nowhere. I don’t mean to go off on tangent explaining the mechanism
    But, that was a gift I really expected to receive.
    lf I wanted a gift from you, especially, that would be your ability to think
    rightly, as well as your experience of what made you so happy.
    Rest asured I would never take that gift back.
    You see, one of the hallmarks of human being is the ability to learn. and you are fast learner.
    Business duty,
    sorry, I have to go.
    happy new year to all of you in advace.
    stay excellent

  26. lilian says:

    Hi Dan
    thanks for your post. It worth a lot to me. Please don’t take Parvize comment serious .at first I thought I think different because my father was american ,I say was because he passed away when I was 2 so since my mom is iranian we came back to Iran.but when I think more I see even in Iran just some
    Of people who are very religious think like that.we are all friends here and your kindness just make me feel happy even if it is just a posting.again thanks and wish you to reach everything you aspire for.

  27. emiliano says:

    He Lilian, Parviz, thank you so much for your words, if you like to write in Spanish Lilian or just to received some mail in this
    laguages it would be a pleasure to me just to write and received some mails from you or which ever other student of this
    my language Spanish.

    Jeff, let me write my mail here so it would be easy for these friends to be in touch with Emiliano.

    Be sure I´ll reply you and give some lessons if you like to received them.
    My best Lilian and Parviz…..and a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR, that I am sure you´ll have, new information is coming from
    your country, we will hope it will be for good to you first and the rest of we all, peace it is the best gift of all.


  28. Parviz says:

    Hi every body,
    New year is on the verge of starting, I guess I should express my gratitude to ESL pod cast group for always being here
    working and providing noble English for us, with a quality and quantity we would never find elsewhere.
    I had a resolution at the beginning of 2013 to listen to 3-4 old ESL podcast episodes every day.
    And I am very happy to say that I was able to keep my promise by today.
    Now look back, I remember where I was at the ending of 2012, and How I could make a breakthrough in English after listening to few ESL podcast.

    I will never take this opportunity for granted. You have given me (I should say us) a gift that live with us for lifetime.
    And continually effecting and improving our lives to the better.
    I can say that because I can see how my life has changed since I started listening your ESL episodes.
    And how firstly I and then my life have changed.
    Not only love my career as a teacher, but also get a great respect from my students, and everybody who uses my knowledge of English, in any way.
    And I know it is all because of your sacrifices, day in and day out, to make the earth a better place to live.
    Long time ago Wallace D Wattles said “give every man more in use value than you take from him in cash value.”
    And I am here to say that my English has more use in my life than I can ever pay for it.
    Sincerely yours,
    Parviz and Students

  29. Parviz says:

    I hope we will see a new Dan.

  30. Øyvor says:

    In one of our last lesons about disputes regarding boarder lines, I found this on Wikipedia;
    The official Queens historian replied that it belonged In Queens, of course. While it was once on the border, the boulder has been in Queens for 77 years, since the boundaries were redrawn.”

    Taking a Solomon-like approach, he said only half-joking, it should be cut in half and the other half should be a monument in Brooklyn.

    What does “redrawn” mean..and that like a fight..dispute.. and last.. ” a Solomon-like”..whatdoes that mean?

    Thanks in advance=)

  31. Øyvor says:

    In Norway yu can return gifts, tha tis, the store can refuse, but you should to it with a smile, they say..the clerk can refuse to take it back..

    In my opinion ..if you have got a gift, and don`t want it, you don`t deserve it..sorry..but when I see how people spend their money now,
    and knowing that there are so many paople suffering, I actually feel angry.. We have a place where you can deliever items you don`t need, to
    let other folks buy them, after Christmas it seems just like people hurry to give presents they`ve got for Christmas away as soon as possible..
    then we do have too many items..

    Happy New Year to all of you=)

  32. Øyvor says:

    Do you know what I wish for the new year?? New glasses, LOL…and better eye sight!!

Comments are closed.