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We survived Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Super Saturday, now it's time for "Gift Receipt Monday," the day when people take back all the stuff bought on those other days in order to get the Christmas gifts they really wanted. Millions of shoppers are expected to flood stores today to return or exchange presents, add accessories and batteries to their new gadgets, redeem gift cards, stock up on expired Christmas decorations, and search for one more round of steep discounts. Or you could just be getting cash back for all the shoplifted merchandise that was swept up this year.

The trend in holiday shopping over the last several years has to been to create an event, that will get shopper motivated to get off the couch and spend their money en masse. But as the economy has struggled, Black Friday no longer gets retailers into the "black" anymore. Hence the extension of the shopping season until well after the holidays are over. Of course, Boxing Day has been a December 26th tradition (and an official national holiday) in Great Britain — where a timely subway workers strike is hampering business today — and Canada for years, but for Americans it's all about the bargains, particularly this year with the day coming on a Monday when many people were given the day off.

Unfortunately for the stores, returns are not as profitable as the initial buying. While those bringing back items may upgrade or be lured to buy more stuff, there are costs associated with putting all those items back on the shelves. According to one survey, for every dollar that stores take in, they’ll have to give back 9.9 cents in returns and manufacturers will spend $17 billion on "re-boxing, repairing, restocking, and reselling" electronics this year.

If you're heading out today, expect long lines, grumpy sales clerks, and difficulty finding clothes in your size. Take your ID, receipts and cash to avoid hassles. (Banks and post offices are closed, as are the financial markets.) Just don't take back your pets. If you thought it was a good idea to surprise your kids with a new puppy, you should take the responsibility to give it a good home.

Update: A man was stabbed to death on Oxford Street in the heart of London's shopping district today. It's unknown if it was related to any of the shopping madness, but it will certainly snarl things further for those out and about in the central city today.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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