As snow gives way to sunshine, many head to Bel Air to return, exchange gifts

After some morning snow and cold weather made local roads slick in places, the sun came out as many Harford County residents headed to Bel Air area stores to exchange or return Christmas gifts that were broken or didn't fit or just plain weren't wanted.

The parking lot at Harford Mall was packed with people heading into Macy's and other stores to make their holiday exchanges and returns.

Bill Williamson, 58, of Fallston, trudged toward the Macy's entrance to return a robe he purchased to give his wife for Christmas.

"I liked it a lot, but she didn't like it; it is one of those one size fits all hotel robes," Williamson said. "I also bought her another robe from Victoria's Secret. She liked that one better."

Returns are normally part of the Christmas holiday for Williamson. He said he typically buys his wife two relatively similar gifts during the holidays and returns the one she does not like.

Brooke Foley, 20, of Havre de Grace, and her mother, Fran, headed into the mall to return a pair of shoes and for a watch repair, both Christmas gifts.

"I bought my dad a watch for Christmas and we have to get it repaired," Foley said. "The [strap] pin came out of it."

The mother-daughter pair said they do not traditionally have to return or exchange Christmas gifts, so this year was different.

Michelle Durastanti, 43, of Forest Hill, took her daughter, Gabby, 14, to Harford Mall to a gifted shirt she had purchased for Gabby at Hollister.

"I didn't really like the shirt," Gabby said, opening up the gift box to show the navy shirt. "I do wear Hollister, but I just didn't like the style of the shirt."

Durastanti said she normally ends up returning or exchanging a few Christmas gifts every year. She said she anticipated a long line in the mall.

"It's usually a long line the day after Christmas," she said. "But, that's what you are supposed to do the day after Christmas, return things."

Tony Battaglia, store manager at Target in Bel Air, said fewer people were lining up the day after Christmas to return presents this year in comparison to previous years.

"It's a little down this year compared to last year," Battaglia said. "We opened up at seven this morning. Based on the numbers we aren't seeing a lot of returns right now."

Battaglia said Target customers typically return or exchange gifted Christmas presents on the first two or three days after the holiday. He said he does expect to see an increase in returns in the coming days.

In anticipation for the large return, exchange crowd, Battaglia said the store will open up to eight registers along with the customer service area to service returns and exchanges.

"Team members are cross trained to go returns and exchanges during the holiday season," Battaglia said. "We do make sure we have additional individuals behind customer services."

Around noon on Thursday, a line of about 10 people formed in front of the customer service area for returns and exchanges at the Bel Air Target. Target cashiers pulled customers out of line and over to their registers to keep the line down.

Jenny Martz, 47, of Bel Air, stood in line at Target to exchange Nook e-reader tablets she purchased for her children.

"I thought I bought the ones with the light," Martz said. "I brought the plain one that doesn't hae a light, so they can't use it if it is kind of dark."

Kristy Bunn, 35, of Bel Air, and her husband, Kevin, stood in line at Target to exchange two broken toys they purchased for their 4-year old son for Christmas.

"We're exchanging a toy that we put together that doesn't work anymore," Kristy Bunn said. "My son is definitely expecting an exchange. My husband put together the other toy Christmas morning and it was missing a part."

Bunn said she was surprised the number of people returning and exchanging items at Target wasn't bigger.

"I thought it would be a lot more crazy than it is," she said. "I have the Target Red card and so it made it really easy to get the money back."

After about 15 minutes the crowd at the customer service desk in Target dwindled and by noon was almost non-existent. But plenty of customers were shopping, taking advantage of day-after clearance prices on Christmas trees, cards and wrapping paper and of other sales around the store.

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