Most and least returned gifts of 2016

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Face it, gift giving is hard. Sure, there might be a few people on your list who are easy to shop for, but for the most part you’re rolling the dice when deciding what to buy. 

Add in the time and effort it takes to shop, wrap and deliver your gifts, and it’s no wonder that many people find themselves stressed during the month of December!

Unfortunately, chances are that your carefully chosen gifts are going right back to the store. Shoppers return nearly $70 billion of purchases during the holiday season. 

Yes, you read that right. Seventy billion-with-a-b dollars! However, with a bit of planning, you can avoid buying some of the most commonly returned gifts.

Read more: 15 red flags that will get you audited by the IRS

Avoid these gifts


According to a study conducted by Kohl’s, clothing/shoes are by far the most returned gift category, and makes up a full ‘62% of all returns.’

This makes sense as fit differs from brand to brand, plus it’s near to impossible to truly know another person’s clothing style.

Steer clear of this category if you you’re hoping that your gift will be received joyfully.


Most of us enjoy creating home spaces that reflect our individual aesthetic. But when well meaning friends and family decide that our home needs multiple sparkly pillows or moose-theme artwork, it becomes a problem.

Avoid decor gifts, especially quirky ones that Newsweek points out are ‘most likely to go awry.’



Candles are such a quintessentially uninspired gift, that Saturday Night Live recently produced a hilarious video titled The Christmas Candle, featuring fur-clad actresses who sing about how ‘It’s the gift of having a gift to give away.’ 

When you take into consideration that candle burning has been linked to multiple health issues, it’s best to keep a hundred-yard distance from this cliché gift.

Give these gifts instead

So what gifts are least likely to be returned? That’s a hard one as The Daily Mail has reported that as much as ‘42% of women return their husband’s holiday gifts.’ However, these ideas should please most recipients!


Whether you’re giving home baked goods or a restaurant gift certificate, everybody loves food. National chains sell gift cards which work well for far-flung family, and it can be nice to support local establishments for your in-town friends. Wine, gourmet goodies and other fancy treats fit in with most everyone’s style. Just make sure to be aware of any dietary restrictions.

(Editor’s note: Clark does have a special warning about restaurant gift cards this season. Read more here.)

Experiential gifts

We’re all fighting against the monster called clutter, which makes experiential gifts perfect for friends with limited space or those who already own everything they could ever possibly want or need. Great examples include:

  • Movie or theater tickets
  • Museum or zoo memberships
  • Tickets to a concert, lecture or sporting event
  • A gift certificate for pampering
  • iTunes gift card

Gift cards

Gifts cards get a bad rap as a lazy or thoughtless gift, but with a bit of extra effort they can be a truly welcome gift that’s sure to be redeemed. Instead of a general gift card such as Target or Amazon, choose a place that shows you’ve given thought to your recipient’s interests. Examples include:

  • Independent bookstore
  • Favorite restaurant
  • Video gaming store
  • A local toy store
  • Coffee shop


One fun way to elevate gifted cash is to fold it into fun shapes, like these stars. I folded $100 into stars for my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah a few years ago, which was much more of a hit than any check would have been. 

YouTube is full of tutorials on how to fold money, which can be a very fun activity. Just make sure to stop by the bank for crisp new bills.

Hey, at least you know this is one gift that’s 100% unlikely to be returned!



You’d think that the cycle of gift giving would be complete on December 26, but that’s far from the truth. Studies have shown that ‘17% of recipients planned to donate an unwanted present, 13% planned to regift one and 10% would simply throw the bad gift away.’ However, with a bit of forethought you can avoid burdening your loved ones with the most commonly returned gifts!

Read more: AT&T agrees to $88 million refund for victims of mobile cramming

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