Retailers are sure working hard during this post Christmas season — but I’m guessing they are less than thrilled with what’s keeping them so busy. According to this story on CBS 11 today, the number of people returning gifts is up 40 percent from last year.

Apparently, they are returning for cash, due to financial struggles. I was at North Park last night, making an exchange that resulted in spending an additional $50. Personally, I can’t set foot in the mall without spending, so I can’t fathom leaving with extra money. But this isn’t about me. As I was explaining … the mall was packed. I was at NorthPark on Christmas Eve eve and there were fewer people then than there were last night. Perhaps this is the evidence of these returns for cash. I understand. Times are tough. But this seems so nonsensical and, overall, deeply damaging.

Think about it:
We go shop, shop, shop for each other, though we can’t afford it, then we ignore the (job loss, pay cut, or insert your financial problem here) on Christmas Day, giving gifts and pretending to just adore what we get, and then everyone involved spends the next week returning a large portion of said gifts. And does anyone think about the retailers and the salespeople? Many work on commission, so here they are working their rear ends off the whole holiday season, earning a commission, only to see their earnings disappear, return by return, as they continue to labor away. Yes, this is exactly how it works at many stores (specifically at Nordstrom, where I worked for a couple years during my school days…there I go again). And the retailers staff the stores, decorate for the season, and open extra hours, and for what?

They will suffer in the end. Ahh, and what about all that wasted wrapping paper? Seems like a very unhealthy cycle to me.

Here’s an idea — give Target, Wal-Mart or Starbucks gift cards next year. With a $20 Target gift card, one can choose a cozy pair of slippers, a tea set, a new remote control or a CD, say, and throw in a few rolls of toilet paper and a gallon of milk on the same tab. No customer service lines and no wrapping paper. And a Starbucks, well you just can’t go wrong with coffee and pastries.

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