Entries in Holidays (12)


Packed Planes and High Fares for Christmas Travelers

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Planes are full and that means even higher prices for holiday travel. A new report from airline trade group Airlines for America released Thursday shows demand strong and planes flying at 85 to 90 percent capacity over the 21-day holiday travel period.

About 42 million passengers will fly between Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, and Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2013.

Translation: The time for holiday airfare bargains is up. Non-stop ticket prices Christmas week are nearly double what they were at the beginning of the month, and rising by the day.

"Every day you wait for your virtual airline ticket, add about $7 to $8 ... and if you wait until the second week in December you could start adding about $15 a day," said Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.

The average domestic air fare is now $414, according to Travelocity, nine percent more expensive than last year's holiday season. The most expensive days to fly, up to $500 or more a ticket, are Dec. 21 and 22 and on the return Dec. 30 and 31, and New Years Day.

The cheaper days to fly? Christmas Day, and the three days following. Flying on those days can save as much as $330.

"You're going to sacrifice price for convenience, but you'll also encounter fewer crowds at the airport," said Genevieve Shaw Brown, ABC News Travel and Lifestyle Editor.

Adding injury to the already insulting high holiday fares this season: Baggage. It, too, increases the cost for travelers this holiday season. Airlines charge excess baggage surcharges that start at $90 on top of the now-normal checked bag fee, and the scales at the airport are not always accurate. Use a home scale to make sure your bags aren't overweight., experts advise. "Fees can range wildly from as low as $100 for bags over 50 pounds to over $275 depending on the airline," said Seaney. "It can cost really more than your airline ticket on a short-haul airline flight. The checked bag starts out as $50 round-trip, this [excess bag fee] is on top of that... The only exception to that is JetBlue and Southwest where your first checked bag is free."

An ABC News investigation last year at this time showed five percent of airport scales checked nationwide were off by at least half an ounce, enough to add costs. New York had the highest rates of inaccuracy with 48 troubled scales at JFK alone. San Francisco had 13 off; at Dallas, seven were faulty.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Record Holiday Gift Returns Create Shipping Wave

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With robust holiday retail sales comes the inevitability of a mountain of returns, and Tuesday is the biggest day for shipping firms to handle that tsunami of unwanted items. Some retailers are even easing their online gift return policies.

According to commScore, people spent $35.3 billion online for the holiday season as of Dec. 28, a 15 percent increase over the same time period last year.

Consumers spent about $44 billion at retailers just in the week ending Dec. 24, a 14.8 percent gain over the same week last year, according to ShopperTrak.

The National Retail Federation estimates holiday gift returns will total a record $46.3 billion in 2011, up 4 percent from the previous year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Holiday Gift Return Policies at Nation’s Biggest Retailers

Rayes/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- Christmas has come and gone, but holiday shopping has not. The National Retail Federation estimates that holiday gift returns will total a record $46.3 billion this year, up 4 percent from last year and 10 percent from two years ago.

Read and click below to see the return and price-matching policies of the nation’s biggest retailers to save time, money and headaches when returning your holiday gifts.

Return Policies:

Price-Matching Policies:

Wal-Mart’s temporary, holiday price-matching policy will give customers a store gift card for the difference of any eligible product purchased from Nov. 1 to Dec. 25 that is found at another store for a lower price.

Staples:  “If you find a lower price anywhere else on a new identical item, just show us the lower price when you buy the item at Staples and we will match the price, or within 14 days of your Staples purchase and we will give you the difference,” according to the website.

Target:  Customers have within seven days of purchase to make a claim., the online entity of the company, is excluded from price matching.

“If you find an item in a competitor’s printed ad that is priced lower than it is at your Target store, we will match the price. The competitor’s ad must be local and current, and the product must be the identical item, brand name, quantity and model number,” according to the company’s website.

Sears:  “If you find a lower price on an identical branded item with the same features (in Consumer Electronics identical brand and model number) currently available for sale at another local competitor retail store, Sears will match that price plus, give you 10% of the difference. Just bring in the original advertisement to a sales associate at the time of, or within 14 days after, your purchase,” according to

Best Buy:  “Best Buy will match the price if you find a lower price on an identical available product at a local retail competitor’s store, a local Best Buy retail store or Simply let us know when you are making your purchase or during the return and exchange period. Perfect Match Promise products have an extended 60-day price match period,” according to the company’s website.

Amazon:  “With the exception of TVs, doesn’t price-match with other retailers (including those who sell their items on our website). We do, however, consistently work toward maintaining competitive prices on everything we carry,” according to

Home Depot:  “If you find a current lower price on an identical, in-stock item from any local retailer, we will match the price and beat it by 10%. Excludes special orders, bid pricing, volume discounts, open-box merchandise, labor and installation, sales tax, rebate and free offers, typographical errors and online purchases,” according to the company’s website.

Lowe’s:  If you find a lower everyday price on an identical item at a local retail competitor, just bring us the competitor’s current ad and we’ll beat their price by 10%. If a competitor is offering a percent off discount, we’ll reduce our current price by the same percentage discount that the competitor is offering,” according to the Lowe’s Website.

**Make sure to check the company’s website to read the fine print and review other requirements for price matching. Price matching varies for in-store purchases and online purchases.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top 7 Alternative Holiday Gifts

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocking stuffers, check. Office party survival, check. But still in need of a last-minute gift for your neighbor or surprise family guest? Take a look at these seven alternative gift ideas, most of which are available on Christmas Eve online or in stores. And best of all, depending on your preferences, these deals won't break the bank.

1. Experiences

Instead of a sweater or jewelry, many people prefer to share a memorable experience with family and friends. Deal sites like Groupon and Living Social offer couples massages, spa days, and lessons for everything from sewing to flying.

Exclusive deals online boutique,, offers tickets and hotel stays for PGA Tour tournaments throughout the country in 2012, which expire Christmas Day at noon EST. Those include $145 for two clubhouse tickets for a tournament in February 2012 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. and a weekend hotel package for April's Master's Tournament, from $7,500 to $12,500 in Augusta, Ga. A ticket to September's Ryder Cup in Medina, Ill., can also be purchased on StubHub for $55 and up.

You can usually print or email an experience that you purchased on a deal site. A word of caution, though: almost all deals have expiration dates and are non-returnable. And you risk having an awkward conversation when you ask whether your father-in-law used the deal you gave him.

Or, you can get creative and plan your own experience catered exactly to your loved one's preferences.

2. Donations

Giving a goat, meals or farming tools to communities in need has been a trend since at least since the 90s. In 1996, humanitarian organization World Vision created a "gift catalog" for charitable giving on behalf of a loved one. Oxfam offers similar donation opportunities. World Vision's gift catalog, online and in print, includes donations to impoverished people in the U.S. as well as around the world.

Razoo, an online platform that helps individuals and nonprofits conduct online fundraisers, created charitable giving cards. The cards are good for an online donation to any 501c3 U.S.-based nonprofit of the recipient's choice, and the giver gets a tax-deduction. Almost every charity, or P.T.A. or religious institution will have their tax I.D. on and can accept donations through the site, said Alison Risso, Razoo's director of communications.

3. IOU

Who says you have to get a gift right away? If you haven't found the perfect gift yet, consider an IOU. Post-Christmas sales are bound to have some relevant deals if you can risk the crowds and have time to shop before the New Year.

4. Gift cards

Stores including Walgreens, Costco, CVS, Duane Reade sell gift cards to other retailers so you can easily snag a $20 or $50 gift before you head to a holiday soiree. Many retailers also offer e-gift cards, such as Best Buy, Apple, iTunes, and Amazon.

5. Lottery ticket

Jeff Somogyi, dealnews media editor, notes that lottery tickets are not the best gifts.

"But, if it's zero-hour, you can't afford to worry about the eye-rolling of whomever you'll be giving these hateful presents!" he writes on

And the "$1 life-savers" are available at nearly any gas station, supermarket, corner store or deli in the country, he said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


6 Last-Second Holiday Deals

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Shoppers hoping to pick up last minute holiday gifts are still in luck.  Here is a list of some of the deals still available on Christmas Eve.

1. Old Navy $20 Groupon

Groupon is offering a $10 for $20 deal at U.S. Old Navy stores. The deal expires on Saturday at noon EST but can be used by Jan. 28. Shoppers can snag the deal as a holiday present by emailing or printing it for a gift recipient, if you can withstand the stigma of giving a coupon.

Otherwise, shoppers can use the deal to purchase a gift in-stores Old Navy stores, most of which close at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

You can't use the Groupon deal to purchase a gift card however.

If you don't have time to go to a store before it closes, you can still buy an electronic gift card. Gap Inc. sells an "Options Giftcard" to use at any of its brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy,, and

2. Sweaters

Black said "there's a glut of sweaters in the marketplace," so expect deep discounts on traditional designs from retailers like Gap, Ann Taylor, and Ann Taylor Loft.

Unless you're a specialty retailer, like women's sportswear store Lululemon and lingerie seller Victoria's Secret, Black said shoppers should expect deep discounts on apparel.

"If it's not 40 percent off at least, shoppers may not pay attention," she said.

Whenever you buy something, ask a retailer if they will give you an adjustment. If you save a receipt, retailers may give you the price difference if the store makes additional markdowns after Christmas. Black said retailers like Nordstrom allow adjustments.

3. Barnes and Noble Printable Coupon

Dealnews said this 30 percent off coupon is "the largest general coupon" it has seen from bookseller Barnes & Noble this year. The coupon expires at the close of business on Saturday and excludes NOOK purchases and digital materials.

4. Nikon Coolpix L120 14MP 21x Zoom Digital Camera

This Nikon Coolpix camera is $199.99 with free in-store pickup but Dealnews points out you must place your order by 3 p.m. local time no later on Saturady for pickup before Christmas.

5. Dynex 32" 720p LED-Backlit Widescreen LCD HD Television

Also for $199.99, this flat-screen has similar time constraints if you want to pick it up before Christmas. Dealnews said the price has even dropped $50 from three weeks ago and is one of the least expensive LED-backlit 32" LCD TVs it has ever seen.

6. Nintendo 3DS Handheld Game System bundled with a $30 Gift Card

This bundle costs $169.99 with free in-store pickup and comes in black, red or blue. The 3DS features two screens - one 320x240 touchscreen and one normal 800x240 -- that display 3D visuals without the need for 3D glasses. It also features a 3D camera and 2GB SD memory card.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Scheduling Snafu Brings Super Saturday Shopping Early

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- This year shoppers will get not one, but two Super Saturday's to grab gifts for the holidays.

Super Saturday, a day of huge savings and deep discounts normally falls on the last Saturday before Christmas. But this year that day is Christmas Eve, leaving just hours for retailers to unload all that holiday merchandise. That's why several national chains including Macy's, Sears and JC Pennys celebrate Super Saturday on Dec. 17.

This scheduling snafu is a big deal for desperate retailers. While Thanksgiving weekend might have set sales records, the drop in the following two weeks of 2.4 percent was the biggest since 2000.

More than forty percent of Americans say they were done with their holiday shopping as of last week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Luxury Goods Show Strong Sales

Sean Gallup/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Retail sales overall haven't been too hot this holiday season, but one sector is on fire: luxury. At Tiffany, Burberry, and Neiman Marcus, cash registers are ringing. From Houston to Boston, sales of life's necessities may be flat, but minks are flying out the door.

"When we look at luxury sales on a national level," says Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York City, "we see they're doing just fantastic. Saks and Neiman's, they're terrific. Coach is fine, Nordstrom is fine. Bulgari and Tiffany, tremendous."

Retailers catering to the middle class are hurting, however. "Best Buy is off, Sears is off. Target? Not so good. But if you're selling luxury, you're golden," he said.

Davidowitz views the contrast as proof that, "our society continues to be bifurcated," with the rich doing fine and everybody else hurting. "The top 10 percent represent 35 percent of spending. A lot of that is driven by the capital markets, which have been very strong lately. The rich have a disproportionate percentage of their assets invested there. People are making a lot of money on their investments."

Tax firm Deloitte, in its annual holiday survey of U.S. households, finds that those with an income level over $100,000 feel more upbeat about the economy's prospects than do those below. They intend to spend 3 percent more this holiday than they did last year, in contrast to lower-income households, who said they expected to spend 12 percent less.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Salvation Army Surprise: Gold Bars Dropped Into Collection Kettles

PRNewsFoto/The Salvation Army(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) -- The Salvation Army got a little more than the usual spare change this weekend.

Over the weekend, two gold bars were dropped into Salvation Army collection kettles -- a 10-gram gold bar worth up to $800 and a 5-gram gold bar worth $310 -- in different parts of Kansas City, Mo.

Last year the Salvation Army received an identical 5-gram gold bar worth $300, according to Major Michele Heaver, a Salvation Army spokeswoman.

The grand gestures aren’t limited to gold, however. Two weeks ago, a loose 3/4-carat diamond said to be worth about $2,000 was found in a kettle outside a Walmart in Shawnee, Kan. The appraiser offered to place the stone in a setting so the Salvation Army could auction it off as a ring, but the group has not yet decided what to do with it.

Heaver said her unit has found silver dollars (including one that had never been circulated), tokens for pizza places, a gold wedding band, a dead goldfish and a scrabble piece in their collection kettles.  Those are strange but small objects, able to fit through the small slot in the kettle. How the donor fit the gold bars into the slot is unknown.

The kettle tradition dates back to 1891, when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was looking for a way to fund holiday dinners for the poor. He decided to use a pot to collect money, with a sign that read “Keep the Pot Boiling.”

Today, the Salvation Army helps more than 4.5 million people during the holidays, providing poor families with toys and Christmas food baskets.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


6 Tips for Holiday Gift Card Giving

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans are expected to spend $27.8 billion on gift cards this holiday season. And whether you give or receive them, there are things you should know to get the most out of your gift card.

Gerri Willis from Fox Business Network appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to answer questions and share tips about gift cards.

  • Watch out for fees. There are two types of gift card fees: shipping charges and service charges. Thirty percent of retailer gift cards can charge for shipping, so before you order a gift card, check to see if you’ll be charged for that. Service charges can include inactivity fees, purchase fees or monthly fees. Check on the gift card’s packaging or the company’s website for the fine print about fees. Starting in January, fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.
  • Trade in cards you aren’t using for ones you will. Twenty-five percent of consumers have cards left over from last year’s holiday season. To unlock their value, trade in an old card at or or You can buy, sell or trade cards there, though you may not get the full value.
  • Get the rewards. Some vendors will give you more points for buying gift cards than redeeming points for cash. For example, Citibank's rewards program required 8,000 thank you points to get $50 cash back, but you only need 5,000 thank you points for a $50 gift card.
  • Go e-card. If what you really want is ease of purchase, think about buying your card online. Fifty-one percent of gift cards can be bought electronically. Plus, if you leave the card at home, you can still access the benefits through email.
  • Get the right card to the right person. If your family members purchase many gift cards, you might think about coming up with a gift card wish list. That way, you won’t be sighing over the Talbot’s card in your wallet and wishing it was from Anthropologie.
  • Be frugal. A Consumer Reports study shows that two-thirds of people using a gift card end up spending more than the face value of the card. Who doesn’t, right?  But in a recession or economic pullback, it makes sense to hold the line. It’s a gift after all, not an excuse for binging.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Revised GDP Figures No Holiday Cheer for Retailers

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Retailers are bracing for a tepid holiday sales season after the Commerce Department revised third-quarter GDP figures downward to 2 percent on Tuesday.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis had previously estimated that the economy grew at 2.5 percent for the quarter ended Sept. 31.  The updated figure is based on a more complete source data, the bureau said. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.3 percent.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist with Janney Capital Markets, said the source of the downward revision in the third quarter was reduced inventory growth. LeBas said one driver of the fall in inventory was lower commodity prices in the third quarter. For example, lower oil prices lead to oil inventories that are worth less.

The other issue is that companies are stocking up less.

“Retailers are little cautious about the holiday season so they are less willing to stock up if they have a less good idea of sales,” he said. “From our perspective we think the holiday season is going to be better than what are rather dismal predictions. So we’ll have another good, not great, holiday.”

Growth in the third quarter also reflected increases in personal consumption and in non-residential fixed investment, and a smaller decrease in state and local government spending, the Commerce Department said. Imports decreased and exports accelerated, partly offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio