Holiday gift blitz on recipients ahead of Amazon deliveries

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Vouchers and news websites warn retailers that many of their products can no longer be sold and many recipients will no longer get them

Rushing off for the holidays? Beware of cramming gifts into your suitcase.

The cull of office gifts is underway as recipients also look to limit the amount of waste in the post, while up to half of all presents are rarely even opened, according to research.

A poll for BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs of 2,000 people found 45% of women and 28% of men never actually open the presents they receive.

Niall Rogers, a spokesman for CatchIt, which helps shoppers find vintage items online, said: “We’ve had people being disappointed because the voucher they went online to buy is now destroyed, the news they’ve got the goods in doesn’t actually exist, or for the shopkeepers who’ve given them a bad review because the items they’ve had to return.”

British office gifts are the biggest flop, it says. Almost a third of respondents said items sent by office parties on birthdays and other special occasions were unwanted, with only 13% finding them “fairly” or “very” useful.

Clothes and shoes are the most significant waste offenders, with 35% of women and 18% of men saying items left in their boxes for days.

Hugo Barra, former vice-president of mobile at Google, whose mother is a fan of household appliances, cited what he described as a “bizarre” Christmas outing to pick up something in a convenience store.

He said: “I went there and I’m looking around and I can’t find anything but what keeps coming back to me is my alarm clock, which was the thing I had for years that I would get really excited about. It was the one time I would go there and get a new alarm.”

The popular handheld Phones 4u phones have been mothballed since 2014, he said. “People are annoyed, they are really upset because people end up buying it as a Christmas present and they’re like, I really want it. I’m so excited about it, but instead I get something I really don’t want. It’s a really, really sad story.”

Police in countries including Canada, France and the US have seized shipments of used stock worth $18m linked to phoney websites that let buyers send parcels bearing online descriptions of “free returns” or “55% off”.

In a report on Chinese fraudsters targeting Americans, the Washington-based US Postal Inspection Service cited one incident in which a Canadian businessman found shipping instructions for what appears to be high-end merchandise on a website with the slogan: “Free Returns, 45% off.”

An attached link took him to a website asking for online orders, personal details and personally identifiable information (PII) to be transferred in return for a 25% discount on future purchases.

Thousands of Chinese national ID numbers were required, including those of people living in the US.

The report said that, apart from the potential economic harm of fraud, this kind of fraud can leave people vulnerable to identity theft. It warned that government and financial data is often available online, as well as other personal data to scamsters.

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