Americans Give $13 Billion In Unwanted Gifts Annually

Polite people who are presented with a gift they don’t want say things like “It’s the thought that counts,” but a new survey has counted the dollar value of these clunker presents. Americans give $13 billion in unwanted gifts each year, according to a study by, Retailers should be concerned, since misfit toys and ugly sweaters can lead to a large number of expensive returns.

More than half (56%) of Americans receive at least one unwanted gift during the holidays, and 22% of them exchange those gifts for something else. Product categories of the least-liked gifts include:

  • Clothing and accessories (34%);
  • Household items (18%);
  • Cosmetics and fragrances (14%);
  • Food and drink (9%);
  • Technology (9%);
  • Music (8%); and
  • Literature (7%).

Millennials are more likely than other generations to have received a gift that they didn’t want, at 68%, with an average of $124.30 spent on their unwanted presents. Gen X has a smaller problem, with 58% receiving unwanted gifts valued at $82.40 on average, followed by Baby Boomers at 41% and $39.20.


Retailers also should keep in mind that some shoppers specifically avoid buying gifts for certain people. By far the most commonly avoided recipient was the giver’s boss, at 30%, but other tough-to-please giftees include:

  • Mother-in-law (12%);
  • Mother (10%);
  • Partner (9%)
  • A friend (9%).

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