Santa’s sack returns to the store

Published 8:32 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Outside T.J. Maxx at Harbour View East shopping center Wednesday, Rodney Fowlkes, 45, shared his story of a Christmas gift exchange. A pea coat given him by his brother, Chris Patterson, 55, pictured right, was a little snug in the midsection.

Arieon Wright has a pretty logical reason why her son, 7-year-old Donyae Wright, doesn’t need two bicycle helmets.

“He only has one head,” the 32-year-old said.

So the mother and son joined throngs of others Wednesday who, despite miserable weather, visited retailers in Suffolk to return or exchange Christmas gifts that didn’t quite hit that sweet spot.

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“One was from me and the other was from Nan,” explained Arieon Wright about the minor helmet mishap as she and Donyae emerged from the driving rain into the Harbour View East Walmart.

Kelly Stone, 43, also at the North Suffolk location, counted herself and her family lucky this year for gift returns, thanks going mainly to her significant other.

“I generally have to return at least one gift from my husband,” Stone said. But “this year he did pretty well” and there were no gift returns.

She was still returning something, though — a “tacky” Christmas vest that she bought her son Cameron, 17, for a Nansemond River High School musical performance. “He didn’t end up using it,” she said.

An observer would have seen folks racing from the parking through the rain to all stores at Harbour View East to return gifts Wednesday.

At T.J. Maxx, Rodney Fowlkes, 45, exchanged a pea coat for a larger size.

“I like the coat,” Fowlkes shared. “I planned to wear it out on the weekend but it’s just a little snug in the middle section.

“When I go shopping for myself, I will usually try the merchandise out. In this case, my brother bought it and he just kind of took a guess at my size.”

Amanda Powell, manager of North Main Street Walmart, said about noon Wednesday that Christmas gift returns were “much lower than normal. I think that it has much to do with the rain.”

But she expected returns to step up in coming days, saying, “Many people leave it to a few days after Christmas, hoping to avoid the day-after rush. Usually Saturday is when we get a large amount of traffic.”

While most returned and exchanged Christmas gifts generally fall into the apparel and appliances categories, “anything and everything” ends up at the returns counter, Powell said.

“It starts to slow down by Jan. 10 or 11,” she added. “Obviously it’s every year (and) it’s to be expected. We try to make it as easy on our customers to return things; we try to get people through as quickly as possible.”