Retailers aim to make after-Christmas returns pleasant

When it comes to least-favorite holiday pastimes, returning unwanted gifts ranks just above getting your credit-card bill.

But this year, when sales are down and consumer confidence is low, retailers are doing all they can to make your final visit of the year a bright one.

Employing new technology and softening some return policies, cash-strapped retailers are intent on making the returns process as pleasant as possible.

After all, a happy customer is one more likely to return soon.

"There's been this shift toward wanting to please the customer," said Karen Mishra, professor of marketing at Meredith College.

"Their whole point is, 'We want people to really trust us and be loyal to us, but at the same time, times are really tight right now, and we really want to protect ourselves.' "

Walking that line can be tough.

To read the complete column, visit The News & Observer .