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These Are The Most Returned Christmas Presents Every Year

Remember: It's not always the thought that counts.

They say it's the thought that counts—that every gift, no matter how desirable or undesirable, is a good gift. Okay, then, why is there a veritable cottage industry of returning gifts? Some retail industry analysts estimate that nearly $90 billion worth of gifts are returned each holiday season. Even UPS has gone so far to unofficially deem January 3rd a "holiday," National Returns Day, where, according to a 2017 CNBC report, nearly 1.5 million return packages get shipped back.

The simple truth is this: sometimes it's not the thought that counts. Sometimes a gift is just a dud. And while it's no fun being on the receiving end ("Oh, it's so nice! I love it!"), it's arguably worse to be on the giving end. So, to ensure you don't find yourself wrapping up a batch of totally meh presents, we've rounded up the most returned presents of the holiday season. If you're considering buying any of them, for anyone, stop, and maybe just get a gift card instead—then, your thought can really count.


things women don't understand about men

Purchasing clothing for other people is tricky. According to a poll conducted by MarketTools, a market research company, clothing and shoes make up a whopping 62 percent of holiday gift returns. There are so many places to go wrong: Color, size, and style preferences are different for everyone. Everyone has their own individual taste and personal style, so maybe leave that sweater on the rack and opt for something else. Chances are, it's going to be returned. 

Specifically: Men's Dress Shirts

linen shirts
Olga Makina / Shutterstock

According to figures from GiftNow, the e-commerce platform, the single most exchanged gift for men in 2016 was dress shirts. This most likely boils down to people buying the wrong sizes (it can be difficult to visually gauge if someone wears a 15-32 or a 15 1/2-33 shirt, for instance). 


words that reveal your age

Yes, everyone loves shoes, but it's not exactly the perfect gift idea. Because every brand and style fits slightly differently (and that doesn't factor regional differences, like UK sizing options), shoes generally need to be tried on. So even if you know their size, the pair of shoes might not fit comfortably, which means they'll probably end up returning them.


makeup for older women beauty products

If you're going to venture into the beauty department for your makeup loving friends' gifts, make sure you stick to eyeshadows, blushes, and brushes. It's always risky buying foundations, primers, concealers, and powders for others because you can't exactly pinpoint their shades unless they're in the store with you. According to StyleCaster, Sephora's most returned products are foundations and primers.

Athletic Apparel

a couple running outdoors in the fall

Just because someone likes working out doesn't mean they'll enjoy unwrapping athletic clothes on Christmas morning. Vice president of global direct-to-consumer retail concepts for Nike, Cathy Sparks, told Newsweek, "People exchange unwanted clothing items for ones that better suit their routine or style. The same can be true for footwear." According to Sparks, athletic hats, socks, and other accessories are far less likely to get returned than athletic clothing. 

Kitchen Appliances

Red toaster

Kitchen appliance are gifted all too often, leading them to be one of the most returned holiday gifts, according to the MarketTools poll. Chances are, your friends already have a microwave and a toaster and a coffee maker, and certainly only need one of each. Also, they're probably quite familiar with the one they have. In other words: unless someone explicitly asks for a kitchen appliance, they're not looking for an upgrade—and your well-intended purchase is getting returned.


schott zwiesel martini glasses

As Newsweek reported, when shopping for all of those cocktail-loving people in your life, your best bet is to go with alcohol, not glasses. Your friends will appreciate a bottle of straight-from-the-Highlands 12-year more than they would yet another set of martini glasses.

Video Games

video games worst gifts

Sure, buying video games for fans of video games seems like a no-brainer. But the fact of the matter is, if a gamer wants something, they probably already own it; new video games sell like hotcakes, then quickly taper off. For instance, God of War sold 3.1 million units within the first three days of its launch. After the first month, only an additional 1.9 million units sold. In other words, the bulk of gamers interested in the game—one of the year's best and most anticipated—bought it right when it was released. You're better off buying a gift card to a video game store or an online gaming service like PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live.

Home Decor

Bedroom Nightstands celebrity home design tricks

Would you want someone else decorating your home? Probably not—so it's best to leave that bedding and those shelves at the store. People tend to be pickiest with the things they use to decorate their homes because, well, they have to see them all the time. They naturally want a say in the matter. If you still want to opt for something functional, go with a soft throw blanket your friend can use or place wherever they please.


According to the MarketTools report, 22 percent of men's gifts are exchanged, while only 19 percent of women's gifts are exchanged. A chief men's gift: tools. When it comes to a new drill set or multi-purpose screwdriver, this is another case where, unless explicitly requested, it's best to steer clear. 


Stack of dvds boring holiday gifts

If you're still purchasing DVDs and giving them out as holiday gifts, your presents are outdated and will probably be returned. Between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and all of the other streaming services out there, face it: people don't watch DVDs anymore. An Amazon gift card—or something to stream movies on, like a Roku Streaming Stick ($30)—will be much more appreciated.


Bulk candy boring holiday gifts

You might be under the impression that sweets are a fool-proof gift, but that couldn't be further from the truth. According to the MarketTools report, candy, chocolate, and gum—and pretty much any other edible gift—have ranked among the most returned presents in previous years. Whether this has something to do with people trying to resist temptation in the name of good health, or the fact that people already consume plenty of sweets during the holiday season, we're not sure. But we are sure you should stay far away from the candy aisle while doing your holiday shopping.

Pricey Electronics

a smartphone charging with a portable cell phone charger - cell phone repair

According to MarketTools' research, consumer electronics—cell phones, video game consoles, computers—are among the most returned holiday gifts. It just comes down to people being picky with such big-ticket purchases. Unless you know exactly which iPhone or gaming system or iteration of MacBook your loved one wants, don't splurge on an expensive electronic. 


perfume worst gifts

Scents are hyper-personal, and there are countless to choose from. When it comes to fragrances, people generally have a tried-and-true go-to, so don't be surprised if your friend decides to return the bottle of perfume you picked out for them. 


candles and decorative towels

Similarly, people don't usually want someone else deciding what their home is going to smell like. Not to mention, gifting candles is by no means unique. A better option is a scent diffuser, so your recipient can pick out which scents they want to buy for it.

Toddler Clothing

children's onesies
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Per MarketTools, toddler clothing is among the most returned gift every year. This is probably due to sizing issues. People either end up buying the wrong size clothes, or the baby outgrows the onesie before even getting a chance to wear it. If you're on the market for baby gifts, think about getting something fun, like a playmat or some books.

Expensive Jewelry

Leather Jewelry Pouch Gifts Under $100

Jewelry in general is probably a safe bet, but be sure to take note of your loved one's style before you shell out a bunch of money on something they're never going to wear. Ask yourself if the item is too flashy for your partner's taste before you buy. Something classic and understated—basically anything in sterling silver—is usually a safe bet.

Art Pieces

Painting on Wall Dorm Room

Everyone has different opinions on art, meaning it's probably best to steer clear of buying big art pieces for your friends' homes. Your friend doesn't want to have to choose between hanging a painting they dislike or returning it and hurting your feelings. Just stay away.

Graphic T-Shirts

graphic t-shirts worst gifts

Graphic t-shirts, especially the ones decked out with tacky sayings, are definitely a bad idea. According to DealNews, "After the holiday season ended in 2016, shirts with corny little quips like, 'Blink if You Think I'm Awesome,' were returned more often than not." If you feel inclined to gift a shirt, buy one without a funny saying; we all have different senses of humor and you don't know what your recipient will think is humorous—and what they'll think is tacky. And for more ways to make the most of this stressful shopping season, steal these 21 Genius Tricks for Making Holiday Shopping Less Miserable.

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