From living rooms to landfills, some holiday shopping returns take a 'very sad path'

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A postal worker carries packages through the snow on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

More than half a trillion dollars. That’s the estimated value of all the stuff that U.S. shoppers bought last year only to return it — more than the economy of Israel or Austria.

There’s a direct link from returns to the eye-popping scale of U.S. shopping overall. In 2021, U.S. shoppers likely spent a record $4.4 trillion.

We tried new brands with unfamiliar sizes

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