christmas

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The presents have all been opened and many will be heading back to the store.   

Returning or exchanging gifts is part of the American holiday shopping season tradition.  

But Patrick Bennett with the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan warns if you plan to return a present you should know the store’s rules for returning or exchanging merchandise. 

“It’s important that consumers retain the original packaging if they plan on returning items.  Or if they receive something that they know in fact they are going to return it, don’t even open it. Take it back in its original condition," says Bennett.   

Bennett also advises people returning presents to see if the business charges a restocking fee. He says restocking fees are common for businesses that sell electronics.  

Bennett says many retailers have tightened their rules on accepting returned merchandise in recent years to crack down on fraud. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 The next phase of the holiday shopping season will start Monday with 'After Christmas' sales.  

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association.    He says most retailers will offer some extra incentives to get customers into their stores, especially ones who got ‘gift cards’ as presents.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 One week ago, a fire destroyed the Saint Vincent de Paul store and warehouse in Lansing.     

The community is helping the charity to rebuild.   

Saint Vincent de Paul provides help to those in need with clothing and other donated goods, heating assistance and even Christmas presents for children.  But last Sunday’s fire threatened all of that.    

A Christmas letter

Dec 23, 2011
Creative Commons

Sending out a formal Christmas letter is a holiday tradition for many people. 

Author Wade Rouse, after receiving one too many Christmas letters, decided to pen his own.

Wade Rouse lives in Michigan and is the author of "It's All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine.”

 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 This is turning into a very merry holiday shopping season for Michigan retailers.   

 The hard numbers are still coming in, but it appears early optimism for a strong Christmas shopping season is panning out.   

Photo by Jennifer Guerra

There’s a long-running debate about which kind of Christmas tree is greener: real or artificial.  We wanted to try to settle that debate... or at least add to the discussion:

Lauren Northrop and her husband Tom are big fans of Christmas.

“We love celebrating it, I love decorating, but we always have this dilemma: what do we do about a tree?”

They didn’t want a plastic tree because it’s, well, plastic. And they didn’t like the idea of bringing a live tree into their house, only to have it die and then drag it out to the curb to be recycled.

So they skipped the Christmas tree thing altogether for the last four years. But then, their son was born.

They bought a live, baby Christmas tree with its roots still intact. That way, when Christmas is done and the ground thaws, they can plant it in their backyard.

“I was planning to keep the tree inside until December 25th so that we could decorate it and put lights on it. When we went to buy it they said if you do that, it probably won’t survive.”

That’s probably way too much hassle for most people.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio.

Sales of real Christmas trees are down more than 20 percent for the past two decades. This season Christmas tree growers wanted to collectively start an advertising campaign to try to reverse that trend. But of all things, politics, got in the way. 

Artificial Christmas trees gaining favor

Real trees still outsell fake trees by about three to one. But artificial tree sales have been increasing for several years. Fake trees now have a slightly higher share of the Christmas tree market than real ones. Michigan is the third largest grower of real Christmas trees in the U.S., harvesting around 3 million a year.

Photo by Sarah Payette

Most of us get our Christmas trees from a lot or a farm.

But if you have a saw and five bucks, you can cut down a tree in the national forest. Peter Payette took his family out to do it the old fashioned way and sent this report:

It’s true that five bucks is not much to pay for a tree, but it’ll cost you some time and gas money to get there.

The first stop is at a U.S. Forest Service office to buy a tag.

There’s one in Cadillac where Dianne Berry sells us our tags and helps us get our bearings.

“This is a two sided map... the other side has the area closest to Manistee. And on the Huron-Manistee we have almost a million acres.”

That means there are 500,000 acres of trees just on this side of the state, between Cadillac and Big Rapids!

Vincent Duffy

I always enjoy the holiday related updates I get from friends and relatives at this time of year. Some send old fashioned Christmas cards, others send elaborate newsletters highlighting the successes (usually) of each family member from the previous year, and still others just send a quick email or Facebook post to say they’re thinking about me.

It’s also the time of year when I’m frequently accused by listeners of being a soldier in the war against Christmas.

The death of a prominent Al Qaida leader is not expected to have a big effect on jury selection in the case of an alleged terrorist in Detroit next week.   

A U.S. drone attack today in Yemen killed US-born radical Islamist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who allegedly inspired ‘underwear bomber’  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.    He’s accused of trying to blowup a Detroit-bound airplane on Christmas day, 2009, with a bomb hidden in his underwear. 

More details are being learned about why Detroit was chosen as a target in an attempt by an al-Qaida operative to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009. It appears Detroit was picked because, quite simply, it was a cheap destination. The Associated Press reports:

The Associated Press has learned that when an admitted al-Qaida operative planned his itinerary for a Christmas 2009 airline bombing, he considered launching the strike in the skies above Houston or Chicago.

But tickets were too expensive, so he refocused the mission on a cheaper destination: Detroit.

The decision shows that al-Qaida's Yemen branch does not share Osama bin Laden's desire to attack symbolic targets.

After the failed bombing and the arrest of suspected bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the question of why Detroit was targeted had gone unanswered.

Current and former counterterrorism officials told the AP that Abdulmutallab considered Houston. Another person with knowledge of the case said Abdulmutallab also considered Chicago.

All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

Christmas trees in a pile for recycling
(Photo by mmhaffie, Flickr)

So you’ve put away all the ornaments and the lights and the tinsel... and you have that bare tree in your living room... what now?  It’s not illegal in Michigan to throw your Christmas tree away... but a lot of cities and counties do recycle them... and chip them up into mulch.  The recycling website Earth 911 lets you type in your zip code to find tree drop-off sites near you.

I talked with Marsha Gray - she's the executive director of the Michigan Christmas Tree Association. She says the first thing you should do if you want to recycle your tree is call the people who pick up your trash.

“You want to ask them if they do a separate collection for the trees. If they’re collecting them separately from your regular trash, that means they’re most likely recycling, probably chipping those trees into mulch. If they’re collecting at the same time and they’re going right into the bin that means they will go to the landfill."

Marsha's tips for recycling - or reusing your tree:

  • If your waste hauler won't recycle your tree... call your city or county park department.  There's a good chance they offer a drop-off site for the first few weeks of January.
  • Stand your tree up next to the birdfeeder for a little perching spot for birds while they wait their turn at the feeder.
  • Use the branches as plant stakes
  • If you're really ambitious, break out the chainsaw and remove the branches (you don't want to burn these in a fire - they can spark!), cut the trunk into logs, and add them to your log pile to season for a year.  Free firewood for next Christmas!

Online sales are reportedly up about 12 percent this holiday shopping season. That could be bad news for Michigan tax collectors.  Michigan residents are supposed to pay sales tax on items bought online, but few do. 


 Caleb Booth is a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.  He says the state lost out on $328 million dollars in uncollected sales taxes on online purchases in 2009. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s not Christmas yet, but Michigan retailers are in the holiday spirit. There are signs this will be the best holiday shopping season in Michigan in many years. 

When the holiday shopping season was getting started a month ago, a survey showed a majority of Michigan retailers were optimistic that they would see increased sales compared to last Christmas. The latest data is backing up that optimism.

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