More than half a trillion dollars. That’s the estimated value of all the stuff that U.S. shoppers bought last year only to return it — more than the economy of Israel or Austria.

There’s a direct link from returns to the eye-popping scale of U.S. shopping overall. In 2021, U.S. shoppers likely spent a record $4.4 trillion.

We tried new brands with unfamiliar sizes after seeing them on TikTok or Instagram. We overbought for the holidays, worried about the supply chain delays. And we shopped exceedingly online, where returns are between two and five times more likely than with purchases from stores.

Where does it all go? Take the blanket I bought on holiday sale, only to discover it’s just too small for my new couch. So I sent it back. Sorry, blanket! What will happen to it?

Listen to the full NPR interview here>>

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