Why Some People Don’t Bother Returning Stuff They Don’t Want

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“When you order something it’s exciting, but with returning, there is no anticipation of anything good happening.”

This quote comes from consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, author of Gen BuY, in a Boston Globe story about why some consumers put off returning unwanted gifts and purchases—or never return them at all. Continuing that line of thought, Yarrow explains:

“A lot of times people are less connected to the money coming back,” she said, particularly if they’ve paid with a credit card. “It’s less tangible. It’s like settling up a balance sheet.”

What’s especially noteworthy here is the bit about using plastic: We know that the intangible act of swiping a credit card enables consumers to spend thoughtlessly and foolishly, and for largely the same reason—the intangibility factor, in which it doesn’t seem like any real money is changing hands—there are people who can’t be bothered to return items that won’t be used, let alone enjoyed. Spending with a gift card arguably feels even less real, because no bill ever arrives in the mail, which is why these cards foster the most foolish spending of all.

Hence, some reasons why it’s often smarter to just go with cash—as the perfect gift, and perhaps as your primary mode of spending and, if need be, returning.