Shoot to Stun
By PAUL H. ROBINSON
As effective less-than-lethal weapons proliferate, the laws of self-defense may ultimately relegate last week’s Second Amendment ruling to the status of an odd little opinion.
New Life for Unwanted Gifts
It's High Season for Firms That Resell Returned Items
By Ylan Q. MuiWashington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 29, 2007; Page D01
The ugly sweater with the tags missing. The book you already have. The digital camcorder you couldn't figure out how to use.
Each holiday season, we relegate our unwanted gifts to the return bins of retailers across the country and never think of them again. But these items have a second life.
Third-party businesses known as liquidators swoop in and rescue truckloads of returned, damaged and unsold merchandise from retailers and resell it to other merchants, who in turn sell it back to consumers. The busy season lies ahead for those companies, which buy up a windfall of post-holiday products ranging from artificial Christmas trees to consumer electronics over the next several months -- not as romantic as the Island of Misfit Toys in the classic TV movie about a certain red-nosed reindeer, but this is real life.
"We help [stores] rapidly convert those excess items into cash sales," said Bill Angrick, chief executive of Liquidity Services, a District company that works with many big-box stores.
The holiday season is the most lucrative time of year for retailers, accounting for 20 percent of annual sales. But not every purchase is a success. A recent survey by the National Retail Federation, a trade group, found that 36 percent of consumers made a return last holiday. The NRF estimated that 7 percent of merchandise sold in stores wound up coming back.
Dealing with returns is a headache for retailers, which would much rather focus on selling goods than on taking them back. Sometimes, an unopened item in pristine condition can simply go back on the shelf. Stores may stick returns with beat-up packages in a discounted section or ship them to their outlet stores. Retailers can even send a small amount of returned merchandise back to its manufacturer or resell it to other stores or on eBay.
But often, retailers just want to shift the headache to someone else. Perhaps the item is defective. Or the instruction manual is missing. Maybe the box is so wrecked that shoppers would turn up their noses. Restocking the merchandise, fixing the packaging or even simply shipping it to a retail distribution center could cost more than the product itself.
"They don't want it to end up back in their stores," said Dan Butler, vice president of merchandising and retail operations at the retail federation. "When they get rid of it, they want to get rid of it."
That's where the liquidators come in. These companies receive unwanted merchandise from stores. They then sell it for a profit to mom-and-pop shops, discount retailers, eBay power sellers and even exporters. Dale Rogers, director of the Center for Logistics Management at the University of Nevada at Reno, said the market for such goods in the United States totaled $223 billion last year.
"Today, because there are so many secondary markets for things, you can drain stuff out of the system and not get hurt as badly," he said.
With Liquidity Services, retailers ship their unwanted merchandise to one of the company's six distribution centers across the country as frequently as once a week. The company then inspects and sorts the goods before holding a private online auction for interested buyers, typically small businesses. Liquidity Services keeps an average of 20 percent of the selling price, and the retailer gets the rest.
The company, which was founded in 1999 and works under loose contracts with retailers, has sold $840 million of merchandise in its online auctions since 2002, Angrick said. The average transaction is $1,100, and only rarely do products not sell, he said.
"There is a buyer for any quantity or condition of merchandise," Angrick said.
The bulk of unwanted holiday products begins to reach liquidators in February, as many retailers give shoppers 30 days or longer to make returns. Angrick said he moves a lot of consumer electronics after Christmas. Recipients often return them because they are too complicated to use, and technology progresses so rapidly that stores frequently end up saddled with out-of-date merchandise.
Jacques Stambouli, chief executive of Via Trading in California, said his liquidation company has already begun receiving Christmas trees and other seasonal products. The amount he must pay for the merchandise ranges from 2 to 20 percent of its value, he said. Holiday decorations are especially cheap.
"Christmas trees sold in January will not get you a lot of money," Stambouli said.
Out of sight does not mean out of mind for many stores, however. Some retailers place stringent restrictions on the products they turn over to liquidators for resale. After all, they don't want them reappearing at a rival down the street for half price.
Stambouli said some retailers request that their products be sent outside the area or even overseas. They also want to ensure that any evidence of the goods' original home is erased to prevent return fraud.
But in a retailer's utopia, there would be no need for liquidators. Stores would have just enough merchandise to meet demand at just the right time. Every product would work perfectly. And every gift would be loved.
"The retailer's goal is to touch the merchandise as little as possible," Butler said. "It's not their goal to have a lot to send back anywhere."
Public enthusiasm for airship travel rather plummeted after the Hindenburg went up in a ball of fire in New Jersey in 1937. Overnight, airships-once the height of elite luxury travel-were relegated to the status of scary-sounding historical white elephants.
go up in （+smoke, flames...）：片語，化為烏有。在本文中興登堡升空後化成一團火球，一語雙關。例句：My life savings went up in smoke after the global economic crash.（經過這場全球經濟崩盤，我畢生積蓄都化為烏有。）
white elephant：片語，貴重或稀少卻無用之物。例句：This building costs the taxpayers billions dollars but is soon to be a white elephant.（這座建築物花了納稅人數十億元興建，但很快就會變成沒用的廢物。）
tr.v., -gat·ed, -gat·ing, -gates.
- To assign to an obscure place, position, or condition.
- To assign to a particular class or category; classify. See synonyms at commit.
- To refer or assign (a matter or task, for example) for decision or action.
- To send to a place of exile; banish.
[Middle English relegaten, to banish, from Latin relēgāre, relēgāt- : re-, re- + lēgāre, to send, depute.]relegation rel'e·ga'tion n. 20世紀初德國退學的方式有二種 一為Dimission 僅限一校
[動](他)［relegate A to B］((形式))
1 〈A（人・物・事）をB（より低い地位・状態・場所）へ〉追いやる, 退ける, 左遷する, 追放する；((通例受身))((英))（サッカーで）〈チームを〉下位リーグに降格させる
3 〈A（動植物・病症など）をB（ある分野・等級・種類）に〉分類する, 帰属させる.
1 to put someone or something into a lower or less important rank or position:
She resigned when she was relegated to a desk job.
The story was relegated to the middle pages of the paper.
2 UK If a football team is relegated, it is moved down to a lower division:
If Southampton lose again they may be relegated from the Premier League to the First Division.
Compare promote (RAISE).
noun [U] UK
the act of moving a football team to a lower division:
Southampton face relegation if they lose again.
return (PUT BACK) Show phonetics
1 to send, take, give, put, etc. something back to where it came from:
The new TV broke so they returned it to the shop.
He returned two books he had borrowed from me in 1963.
She carefully returned the book to its place on the shelf.
2 in sports such as tennis, to hit the ball back to your opponent
return Show phonetics
1 [S] when something is given back, put back, or sent back:
the return of the stolen goods
2 [C] when you hit the ball back to your opponent in sports such as tennis
returns Show phonetics
1 goods that have been taken back to the shop where they were bought by customers because they are damaged or unsuitable
2 US the votes that are returned, or the results of the voting, in an election:
The election returns produced a confusing picture of gains and losses.
returnable Show phonetics
a returnable bottle