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Jaime Flores and his wife, Jenna, return a stereo system, paper shredder and other items Friday at the Kadena Air Base Exchange. It was a surprisingly light day for gift returns, an AAFES store supervisor said.
Jaime Flores and his wife, Jenna, return a stereo system, paper shredder and other items Friday at the Kadena Air Base Exchange. It was a surprisingly light day for gift returns, an AAFES store supervisor said. (David Allen / S&S)
Jaime Flores and his wife, Jenna, return a stereo system, paper shredder and other items Friday at the Kadena Air Base Exchange. It was a surprisingly light day for gift returns, an AAFES store supervisor said.
Jaime Flores and his wife, Jenna, return a stereo system, paper shredder and other items Friday at the Kadena Air Base Exchange. It was a surprisingly light day for gift returns, an AAFES store supervisor said. (David Allen / S&S)
Hallmark Cards representaive Laarni Ruiz removes Christmas cards from the shelves of the AAFES store on Kadena Air Base Friday, making room for the next seasonal card selection.
Hallmark Cards representaive Laarni Ruiz removes Christmas cards from the shelves of the AAFES store on Kadena Air Base Friday, making room for the next seasonal card selection. (David Allen / S&S)
Fletcher Beaman and his wife, Tess, exchange sneakers they bought for each other that were just a squidge too small.
Fletcher Beaman and his wife, Tess, exchange sneakers they bought for each other that were just a squidge too small. (David Allen / S&S)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Actually, it wasn’t all that bad Friday morning at the base’s Army and Air Force Exchange.

The lines at the return and exchange counters were short at 9 a.m., making Ninia Bourbina, supervisor for customer service, wonder whether customers were still catching up on their Zs, or perhaps Santa was better this year at figuring out what folks wanted for Christmas.

“Today’s been surprisingly slow so far,” Bourbina said. “Last year we had a huge crowd making returns and exchanges. That’s why we have a full staff working today with two extra registers for returns up in the front of the store. Maybe everybody was just happy with their gifts.”

Well, not everybody. At a nearby register, Senior Airman Jaime Flores, 22, stood patiently with his wife, Jenna, 22, their cart crammed with $1,700 worth of stereo gear, a paper shredder, and other assorted items.

“It just didn’t work,” Flores said of the Bose sound system his wife gave him. “After I spent all that time putting it together, it wouldn’t power on.”

The paper shredder was a gag gift from his wife, he said. He had bought her an identical one as a gift.

“It’s an inside joke,” he chuckled.

On their way to the customer service section, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Fletcher Beaman, 26, and his wife, Tess, 30, were weighed down with four boxes of shoes — two new pairs to exchange for pairs they bought for each other that didn’t fit.

“I don’t know why we didn’t get the sizes right,” Beaman said.

“We usually find ourselves returning items just after Christmas,” his wife said. “Stuff that didn’t work or is missing something.”

The National Retail Federation reported earlier this month that return traffic at major stores has been down the last couple of years, perhaps because more people give gift cards as presents instead of purchasing items.

“While retailers view returns as a cost of doing business, most gift recipients don’t return a thing,” the federation found in its annual Return Fraud Survey, released in November. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they did not return any gifts last year.

While customers hunted for post-holiday bargains, in the card aisle Hallmark Cards representative Laarni Ruiz, 25, was performing another after-Christmas chore: pulling all of the Christmas cards out of the display.

Soon, the Santas and snowmen and Christmas trees will be replaced with Cupids with arrows and bright red hearts.

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