Returned items don’t necessarily go back on the shelf

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The gifts people receive during the holidays aren’t always the ones they want. In the past few weeks, millions of Americans have returned items they received, and you may be surprised where many of them end up.

The holidays are long gone, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year for Shorewood Liquidators owner Michael Ringelsten because his warehouse outside Chicago is where many items go when they’re returned to sellers such as Amazon, Home Depot, and Sears.

“Consumers assume when they return it, it’s put back onto the shelf, which isn’t the case,” Ringelsten explained.

At Shorewood Liquidators, the returned items are tested, then auctioned off at about half the price.

In total, Americans returned $260 billion worth of merchandise last year.

Tobin Moore, CEO of, which helps stores process returns, says restocking items can be expensive for retailers.

“So often retailers just liquidate them for pennies on the dollar, or in some cases throw them away in a landfill because it’s more cost-effective,” he said.

The merchandise that survives ends up online at discount retailers, pawn shops, and flea markets.

Ringelston said his business has jumped 1,000 percent in the past four years, which he attributes to the growth of online shopping and the returns that follow.

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