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Some consumers enjoy their many happy returns

December 26, 1998|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Five-year-old Emily Smith of Hagerstown patiently held her electronic horse and wagon toy in the return line Saturday at Wal-Mart on Wesel Boulevard.

"It kept falling over on the carpet," she said. "And the wheels fell off."

"Santa brought her a piece of junk," said Emily's mother, Alice Smith, who added that the day-after-Christmas wait for service at Wal-Mart was nothing compared to Black Friday's wait, when Smith said she was 420th in line at 4:30 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving.

Store Manager Robert DeMartino said he expected between 10,000 and 12,000 shoppers Saturday. Most of those consumers would be buying, not returning.

"As you can tell from the lines, more stuff is going out than coming back," said DeMartino.

He attributed the short return lines to the after-Christmas weekend status.

"I think you're going to see a huge impact on returns during the coming week," said DeMartino.

For some shoppers, though, Saturday was the most convenient time to return gifts.

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Jackie Guessford of Greencastle, Pa., said she braved the weekend crowds to exchange four ill-fitting sweaters because she had to work Sunday.

Similarly, Lisa Franco of Frederick, Md., said she jockeyed for a parking spot at Prime Outlets so she could exchange one Liz Claiborne suit - "Red," she said, "is not my color." - for another outfit she wants to wear to work next week.

Popping into the Bon Ton at Valley Mall before returning to work Monday, 6-foot-5-inch Josh Hough of Waynesboro, Pa., waited in line to exchange a too-tight shirt and some underwear.

He said the efficient sales clerk made the wait a piece of cake.

"She's very fast," said Hough. "She's doing good work."

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