The holiday season is over, but unwanted gift return season is in full swing. An estimated 5.8 million items will have been shipped back to retailers in the first week of 2017 alone, according to UPS — up by about 800,000 from last year’s tally.

But once that tight pair of shoes or wrong-colored sweater makes it back, its second life begins. Waiting at the other end of this flurry of returns is an entire ecosystem of bargain businesses that buy those returns by the truck load — literally — and resell them on the cheap to consumers.

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