It was the day after Christmas, not even 10 a.m., and already the return bins at the customer service counter of Target on Central Avenue were brimming with boomerang merchandise.

There were pajamas too small and women’s underwear awkwardly too big, and even something called a Yeti Hat, which featured the white, plush-shag pelt of a snow monster grafted to the face of a baseball cap.

The pace of shoppers approaching the counter to make an exchange was more than one a minute.

“We’re bringing back some pajamas and sweat pants,” said Nicole Warner. “They’re too big. My mom thinks my son and husband are bigger than they are.”

Stacey Williamson was returning a football because there was more than one under the tree Thursday morning. She also had a pair of too-small pajamas she bought for her son. The collection of receipts Williamson produced from her purse looked like the tale of the tape for a prepared returner. She got the sales reversed on her card and then slipped into the steady stream of post-holiday shoppers looking for deep discounts.

Post-holiday merchandise returns are a double-edged sword for retailers. None want to see a sale undone, but most customers returning items stick around to find a replacement and often end up buying more.

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Reversing a sale isn’t desirable, but customer satisfaction can pay off quickly with new purchases.

“They shop to find the same thing in a different size and they might find something else” said Kevin Vincelette, Kmart store manager. “A lot of the sales are still going on, with prices still 50, 60, 70 percent off.”

In the stream of customers waiting to return items at Kmart, Patti Pollock was pushing a basket overloaded with gifts yet to be given at the Chapel Family Christmas, an event she launched with her Chapel family siblings.

“We have a family Christmas the Saturday after Christmas. We started that three years ago mainly because the kids are scattered all over the place,” Pollock said. “It’s easier to travel.”

The move to Saturday also made the shopping much more affordable. Pollock and her daughter, Alicia, had already maneuvered a cart full of merchandise through the checkout line of Target in Billings Heights. The family plays a game known as “Dirty Santa,” a sort of white elephant gift exchange in which Pollock’s 17 relatives try to outwit each other and walk away with the best present.

“They call it Dirty Santa because you steal each other’s gifts,” she said.

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