The Hassle of Receiving

Discussion
Dec 11, 2007

By Tom Ryan

According to an online American Pulse survey by BIGresearch, many Americans would rather give than receive. But, it’s not just because they’re all so generous. Many just want to avoid the hassles of getting the wrong gift and the return process.

Of the 4,069 respondents, 52.1 percent said they would rather receive a gift card or cash than gifts this holiday season. Of those, 29.6 percent preferred a gift card and 22.5 percent wanted cash.

The survey found that 45.4 percent received a gift of clothing that they didn’t like or wear last year, and 46.3 percent hate the hassle of returning gifts. Of the respondents, 22.7 percent would like to exchange gifts for things they would rather have; and 22.5 percent have “re-gifted” gifts received.

Concerning gift cards, 82.4 percent agreed they are a smart gift alternative for people they don’t know well. But 10.5 percent admit they had “re-gifted” gift cards received; 13.5 percent have received gift cards that they’ve never redeemed; and 16.1 percent have received gift cards that they’ve only partially redeemed.

Americans, according to the research, are clearly into the Christmas spirit. Of those surveyed. 70.9 percent say they like it when a store employee wishes them a “Merry Christmas,” while 92.6 percent said stores should be allowed to display a Christian Nativity scene during the holiday season. Only 2.9 percent agreed that Santa Claus should be portrayed as thinner and healthier to set a better example for kids.

Discussion Question: What can retailers do about the perceived hassle of “receiving” presents? Are there opportunities to create happy customers returning products? Do you see the popularity of gift cards beginning to wane? What other opportunities come to mind based on the American Pulse research findings?

American Pulse Survey: More Americans Would Rather Receive Gift Cards or Cash Than a Gift This Holiday Season – BIGresearch

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11 Comments on "The Hassle of Receiving"


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Ted Hurlbut
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Ted Hurlbut
14 years 5 months ago
Customers HATE returns because returns really are a HASSLE. By the time the holidays are over customers are retail-weary, and don’t look forward to long lines (why is it that the lines at the return desk after the holidays always seem longer than the lines were at checkout before the holidays?) and unhelpful associates repeating inflexible returns policies. But returns are an incredible opportunity to build customer loyalty long afterward. Customers value SIMPLE. They like HASSLE-FREE. For retailers, it’s not cost-free, but it’s very cost-effective in the long term. Keep lines short, get customer’s through the process quickly and easily, maintain the most liberal policies possible, make sure plenty of associates are available and make sure they connect with every single customer. Customer’s are in that line because they have a problem, so it’s a golden opportunity to SHINE. The independent retailers I spend much of my time working with understand that this is a critical opportunity to differentiate themselves from their much larger competition. They may struggle to compete on price, so few attempt… Read more »
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
14 years 5 months ago

Excellent comments, all. It might seem counterintuitive or counterproductive to become known as “a great place to return stuff,” but it is actually a great opportunity for competitive differentiation: more than half of all consumers take that into consideration when buying! And of course it builds into all the important stuff: customer service, upselling and cross-selling, loyalty. The most important factor from my perspective, of course, is THE ABILITY TO RETURN IN ANY CHANNEL, even if the item was bought in a different channel. This WILL lead to all of the above benefits.

As for gift cards, yes, they are huge and will continue to grow for the very reason some mentioned above: increasingly, what people want and are going to want more of is LESS. What a great opportunity for retailers: a large and growing share of the value of gift cards is never redeemed. That’s money that flows directly to the bottom line.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

I think that Satan several years ago gave up trying to destroy mankind directly, and invented gift cards; although they are (superficially) more “thoughtful” than simply handing someone a check, in reality they are something that: (in many states) expire, require the receiver to schlep to the store to pick something out, and (then) either dig into their own pocket or be left with a uselessly small residual…BAH HUMBUG!!

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 5 months ago
Why don’t retailers promote gift cards that can be sent to “a recovering American soldier” in a hospital somewhere, or to the truly needy? I’ve been asking people for some years now to just donate to charities in my name as my “present,” since I have way too much “stuff” as it is. In fact, I talk to many aging boomers like myself, who have cleaned out their parents’ homes after they passed, and vowed to acquire less and give more. If retailers made it easy to donate gift cards to the needy by taking care of the whole process, you’d just submit your credit card, and get a note back saying “a gift card for $50 has been donated in your name to a recovering American soldier,” and then followed up, WOW! You’d get the notice of the donation to give as your “gift” to someone, without the hassle of finding the charity address, etc., and know you’d done some good. And it would be great for the retailer that could give shoppers a… Read more »
Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
14 years 5 months ago

I think gift cards are going to continue to play a major role in giving, and they do go a long way towards reducing bad gift ideas. Even my kids like gift cards, because they like shopping and picking out their own gifts. Hard to compete with that.

On the “post-gifting” side, there are business models emerging that will help consumers manage gift cards better – Leverage (http://leveragecard.com) is one example. Card swapping, balance tracking, even potentially an “uber-gift card” that lets you load in card values at home from across multiple retailers, and then only carry one card–which is good at all those retailers–to redeem.

Unredeemed gift cards represent a business opportunity–and I would love to see some numbers on how often people end up spending more than what the gift card covers during a shopping trip, by the way–so there are going to be plenty of innovative models that go after the space, which will in turn increase the value inherent in giving a gift card instead of a gift.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
14 years 5 months ago

Two words come to mind. CUSTOMER SERVICE! By associates asking probing questions, they can uncover hidden needs and wants and suggest the appropriate products. This type of training should occur on the first day of work and be frequently followed up on. Having vendors come in and teach associates about new products is also an invaluable resource. Asking open ended questions to customers is the best way to find that perfect gift for the person who has everything (or wants nothing)! Happy selling!

Max Goldberg
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

If retailers want to make holiday shopping and returns easier for consumers, all they have to do is follow the examples of Nordstrom and Costco. Both of these retailers have easy return policies and great customer service. Too often a consumer with a return is made to feel unliked and unwanted…an intrusion on the business of selling things. Nothing beats good customer service to generate future sales.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 5 months ago

At this time of year, many retailers issue everyone bar code scannable gift receipts to make returns easier. It’s too bad that so many retailers don’t encourage folks to use their gift registries, since those systems definitely reduce returns. It’s especially odd that so many systems are called “wedding registry” instead of “gift registry” since the programming is almost identical. How about writing to Santa online, telling him what you want? It could be made child-friendly.

About gift cards: some retailers won’t issue gift card refunds. So if you receive a Pier 1 gift card, and you can’t find anything you like to use up the card, your only alternatives are (1) to give it to someone else or (2) to sell it online, at eBay or another site. There’s a significant minority that don’t want to receive gift cards. They want to be surprised with something thoughtful, that’s based on what would delight them as individuals.

Andrew Gaffney
Guest
Andrew Gaffney
14 years 5 months ago

As this survey highlights, returns management is still a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Instead of viewing a return as an annoyance, smart retailers should use these instances as a chance to learn more about the customer and their preferences.

While they are returning their green sweater their sister-in-law bought for them, ask them to take some time to fill out a gift registry or a customer profile where they can add correct sizes, favorite colors. This information will not only help avoid them having to come back the returns desk the following year, but will also provide retailers with valuable insights into a customers future areas of interest.

Dan Desmarais
Guest
Dan Desmarais
14 years 5 months ago

I had a great experience at Old Navy last week that others could learn from. The cashier provided me with a separate Gift Receipt for each and every item I purchased, and was able to do so after I completed the transaction.

The gifts have all been wrapped, complete with their own gift receipt attached in case the recipient wants to make a change.

Gift cards are unfortunately the easy way out and not, in my opinion, what Christmas is all about.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 4 months ago

Gift cards appeal to many consumers because they are convenient, and easy to use. I like Warren’s idea of retailers making it easy for consumers to donate cards to the needy. There are marketing opportunities here.

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