The weeks before Christmas may be busiest shopping days of the year, but the days that follow are also some of the busiest – for returns. Research shows that the majority of gifts returned are apparel, which makes sense since style is such an individual taste. While returns on consumer electronics skew much lower, plenty of bad tech still makes it under the Christmas tree. If you’re a recipient of one of these duds, we suggest a kindly thank you to the misguided giver, then heading straight to the store for an exchange. (We have a few suggestions for that too.)
Budget point-and-shoot camera
Chances are a teenager’s smartphone takes better photos than a sub-$100 digital camera, and it’s more convenient, to boot. There’s no doubt still an audience for cheap cameras, but in the U.S. that’s shrinking. The only P&S camera you should consider keeping is one that offers various advanced shooting modes, optical ultrazoom, and high image quality.
What to spend your refund on: Get a useful accessory like a tripod or bag, or even a lens like Canon’s “Nifty Fifty” (EF 50mm f/1.8) or Lensbaby. Or, even more fun, grab a GoPro, or one of the quirky toy cameras from AC Gears or Lomography.
Any BlackBerry phone
How the mighty have fallen. Once considered the “it” smartphone amongst both corporate executives and teenagers alike, it has failed to attract users to new devices running its long-awaited BB10 operating system. BlackBerry couldn’t even move the Q10, which has a physical keyboard – an iconic BB feature that people supposedly couldn’t live without (spoiler: people could). If BlackBerry Messenger is what you miss, know that the service is now available for iOS and Android. Another phone to return immediately? Flip phones.
What to spend your refund on: Check out our list of the best smartphones! The iPhone 5S is always a winner, the Moto G is one of the best deals going if you’re on a budget, and the Samsung Galaxy Active makes sense if you’re a klutz or just prone to jumping in pools.
A cheap DVD player
This DVD player is cute and pink. What little girl (or, you know, whoever) wouldn’t love it? That’s probably the logic that goes into most purchases of this model, but it could really be any number of similar cheapies. While the buyer almost certainly had good intentions, what they probably don’t know is that junkers this cheap will often work for a few months – just long enough for that sweet little girl to get attached – and then die a horrible, sad death, possibly clamming up and taking that precious My Little Pony DVD along with it.
What to spend your refund on: Pick up a couple of DVD movies instead, or maybe step things up to a Blu-ray player.
Like cheap point-and-shoot cameras, the MP3 player is another piece of tech that’s been sidelined by the smartphone. You could argue that iPods are still cool and useful, but even Apple isn’t selling as many of them as it used to. Basic, single-function MP3 players like this really have no business existing anymore, especially when smartphones have double-to-triple the capacity to store music, with access to online stores for MP3 downloads and streaming.
What to spend your refund on: If music is your passion, put it toward a gift card to use with online music stores, like iTunes or Amazon.
Unlike the products above, which have lived past their prime, smartwatches might actually be too new. We’ve had a chance to review a number of them, and unless you’re an early adopter willing to overlook a lot of their shortcomings, smartwatches just aren’t ready for primetime. (An exception is the Pebble, which performs better than most.) Eventually some company will figure it out (Apple, we’re ready when you are).
What to spend your refund on: For the price of a smartwatch, you can get an actual timepiece that won’t die in a year. Or, you know, an Xbox One.