The Fate of Your Holiday-Season Returns

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Written By Pinang Driod

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When my colleague Amanda Mull “ventured into the belly of the holiday-returns beast,” she learned that somewhere in the midst of a complex system of transporters, warehousers, and resellers, a guy named Michael has to sniff the sweatpants.

“Michael,” Amanda explains, “is one of dozens of material handlers—the official job title—at the Inmar Intelligence returns-processing center in Breinigsville, Pennsylvania … Material handlers are charged with determining a return’s ultimate fate—whether it goes back to the retailer to be sold anew, gets destroyed, or something in between.”

Today’s newsletter explores the possible fates of your holiday-reason returns. Their future doesn’t look too bright.

On Returns

This Is What Happens to All the Stuff You Don’t Want

By Amanda Mull

I ventured into the belly of the holiday-returns beast.

The Nasty Logistics of Returning Your Too-Small Pants

By Amanda Mull

What happens to the stuff you order online after you send it back?

‘We Are All Accumulating Mountains of Things’

By Alana Semuels

How online shopping and cheap prices are turning Americans into hoarders

Still Curious?

  • It’s too easy to buy stuff you don’t want: Online shopping is too fast for good decisions.
  • How online shopping makes suckers of us all: Standard prices and simple discounts are giving way to far more exotic strategies, Jerry Useem wrote in 2017.

Other Diversions

  • A big misconception about the world’s greatest infectious killer
  • Madonna dances with death.
  • Wood that is see-through like glass and stronger than plastic


If you’re hoping to buy a loved one something they won’t return, Kelly Conaboy has one tip: Don’t use a gift guide.

— Isabel


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