The day after Christmas found Jerry McMillen and his niece, Krystal Harris, exchanging gifts in the parking lot of a Target store in west Wichita.
They’re from such a large extended family that gifts sometimes slip through the cracks at the family Christmas celebrations. But they weren’t worried about the missed gift connections, because they figured they’d cross paths at some store during the after-Christmas sales.
It happens every year.
Perhaps because Christmas weekend was spread over four days this year, the post-holiday traffic at local stores Friday appeared lighter than normal. Business was brisk compared to an ordinary Friday but hardly overwhelming – although some shoppers weren’t taking chances and showed up in the early morning.
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Some shoppers noted that a lot of stores had started deep discounting their Christmas swag before the holiday.
But that didn’t keep McMillen and his sister-in-law, Georgetta Brungardt, from making their traditional post-holiday rounds – Brundgardt with her daughter, Harris, and McMillen with his wife, Bobbi.
McMillen and Brungardt said they’ve been running into each other at post-Christmas sales every year for the past 50 years, ever since McMillen married Bobbi, who is Brungardt’s sister.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years,” Brungardt said.
“It doesn’t seem like I’m 74 either, but I am,” McMillen replied, laughing.
This year, their chance meeting came at the Target store, where Brungardt and Harris were shopping for discounted decorations for next year’s holiday season at the same time Bobbi McMillen had sent her husband in to buy up rolls of half-price Christmas-printed paper towels.
“Hey, we’ve got your gift in the car,” Harris said when she and her mother spotted McMillen.
“We’ve got yours, too,” he responded.
So while Brungardt pushed the loaded shopping cart toward the checkout line, Harris and McMillen went out to the parking lot to swap presents.
“I help my mom wrap about 200 presents a year,” Harris said, explaining how gifts get lost in the process.
Brungardt said that’s an exaggeration. But not by much.
“I overbuy. I’m really bad about that,” she said.
McMillen said he has a hard time keeping track of it all because every year he attends a big celebration with his family in Newton the week before Christmas and then with his wife’s family on Christmas Eve.
Not far away at Target, Charity Staggs and her mother, Tamara Dotson, were sorting through half-off Christmas decorations.
They didn’t get off the mark quite as fast as they might have because Staggs had to work Friday morning at her job in a pharmacy. Despite the late start, “after all the crazy people are gone,” there were still bargains to be had, she said.
Post-Christmas last year, she spent about $100 on decorations and figures worth about $300. It was important to her because it was the first Christmas for her son, Allen, who turns 1 in January.
Allen took his first day-after-Christmas shopping spree in stride, sitting in the cart chewing on a blue and orange plastic globe.
“He found an ornament he likes,” his mother said.
Among other shoppers, there was a certain level of disappointment that not as many items seemed to be marked down as in the past.
Vincent Serna dropped by Best Buy to pick up some HDMI and VGA cables – one to hook his laptop up to his TV and the other to improve the picture from his Xbox game system.
Did he find a bargain on the cables?
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “It was full price.”
Chris Benson was out at the big-box stores with his 9-year-old son, Jace. They also paid full price for their purchases: car stereo speakers for dad’s truck from Best Buy and a new PlayStation game console from Wal-Mart for Jace.
“Mine broke,” said Jace, who speculated it was a result of leaving it on all the time. He said he couldn’t wait to get back to playing “Minecraft.”
For a few shoppers, the day-after-Christmas sale was a business opportunity.
Zach Brubaker, the family minister at Glenn Park Christian Church in southwest Wichita, hit several stores with his wife, Abby. He was buying up bunches of discounted ornaments and lights that he plans to make into Christmas wreaths to sell next year.
He said he hit on the idea when he made himself a Wichita State Shocker-themed wreath and had several offers to buy it. He was surprised to find out that Christmas wreaths were going in the $200 to $300 range before the big day, which got him thinking about the future.
“I can probably make them for $25 and sell them for a $10 to $15 profit,” he said. He estimated he bought about $300 worth of wreath-making supplies for about $125 at the post-Christmas sale.
Abby Brubaker, a nurse at Wesley Medical Center, said she’s supportive of her husband’s enterprise but doesn’t plan on doing any wreath-making herself.
“It’s not my thing; I’m not crafty,” she said. But, she added, “I’m excited for him.”
Reach Dion Lefler at 316-268-6527 or email@example.com.
Tips for many happy returns
A recent National Retail Federation survey estimates that merchants will lose about $3.8 billion nationwide as a result of fraud related to returned items. In response, many retailers have tightened refund policies.
The following are some tips to make the process go more smoothly:
▪ Condition counts – Make sure returns have all their parts and original packaging and are free of visible signs of wear. Expect store personnel to inspect items, especially electronics.
▪ Know your deadlines – Some retailers have shortened their return periods to fight “wardrobing”: shoppers buying an expensive item to use once or twice and return for a refund.
▪ Bring ID – They’ll probably ask for it.
▪ Stores can be easier – Many chains will process returns through their local stores, even if the item was originally purchased online and shipped to the home. This lets you return an item without having to pay reverse shipping and wait for a refund.
▪ No receipt? Probably not as much of a problem as it once was. Retailers now track most purchases electronically, so your ID is probably proof-of-purchase enough.
Source: Associated Press