Americans Return Their Unloved Christmas Gifts By The Millions

UPS estimates it will return nearly 6 million gifts this week.

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Jan 05, 2017 at 2:06 PM ET

It’s an age-old holiday tradition: ripping the wrapping off a parcel from Aunt Tanya, conjuring a big smile… and then waiting a prudent amount of time and returning that colorful sweater for something you’ll actually wear.

Thursday is “National Returns Day,” the retail holiday created by UPS as a response to Cyber Monday, the day when Americans dive headfirst into the deals online and shop for their loved ones’ gifts.

The day, of course, is primarily a PR vehicle for the delivery service, which makes its money off shipping packages to and fro. And to that end, UPS notes that this year, an estimated 122 million people in the U.S. participated, up almost one million from last year. According to estimates from UPS, the number of packages returned to retailers today will hit 1.3 million, a new record in the six years that the company has been ‘celebrating’ the holiday. By Sunday, UPS expects to have returned 5.8 million packages over the course of the week. Last year, those figures were closer to one million and five million, respectively.

Sales of those packs of gum and tabloid magazines that brick-and-mortar stores stack up by the register, hoping you’ll add some extras to your order as you’re checking out, are declining along with in-person shopping. But the web is beefing up its own version of the impulse buy: Market research has found that impulse purchases constitute nearly 40 percent of all online sales. That stat partly explains why as much as one-third of web purchases are sent back, along with other obvious factors relevant to the fact you can’t touch or truly see the product before you buy it when shopping online.