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How to keep your holiday gifts a surprise

By Kristin Byrne,


Online shopping and shipping are in high gear as we get closer to Christmas. TMJ4 heard from shoppers receiving their holiday purchases unboxed -- meaning the present came in the original package. That can be a big problem if it was supposed to be a secret.

We turned to shopping expert Trae Bodge with Smart Shopping Tips for advice. Bodge says this holiday season, if you're purchasing a large product as a gift for family or friends, don't expect it to have additional packaging.

"If they're buying something large, like a big train set, something like that might come with the full gift revealed on the outside of that box. It's very hard to avoid that, to be honest," said Bodge.

Bodge says when ordering online, to avoid ruining a Christmas surprise, see if there's a comment box where you can tell the retailer to deliver the product to your garage or side door. She says to pay close attention to the store policy when it comes to packaging.

TMJ4 discovered major retailers Target, Amazon, and Walmart all handle this differently.

A Target spokesperson pointed us to a warning that pops up when you buy a larger product like Barbie's Dream House for example. The message says the item may ship in original packaging and tells you if it's a surprise to send the gift to a trusted friend or relative or choose order pick-up.

We found Walmart's policy under the "Help" section. We clicked on "Other" then on "Find purchase and send a gift" and that's where we saw shoppers need to watch for a note warning them a product may be shipped in original packaging "which may reveal the contents." On that same page, Walmart says to ship your product in a Walmart box, you need to mark your order as a gift at checkout.

An Amazon spokesperson directed us to this page about its "Frustration-Free Packaging" program aimed to reduce waste. On that page, it says if you want to hide your purchase, you need to choose "ship in Amazon packaging" at checkout. A spokesperson with Amazon also provided the below statement to TMJ4:

"Amazon partners with brands around the world to reduce brand-supplied packaging and the need for Amazon to add additional protective packaging. Since 2015, Amazon has reduced packaging weight per shipment by over 36% and eliminated more than 1 million tons of packaging.

Here are some examples of how it works: [] [] []

Additionally, Amazon offers a network of package pickup and return locations offering customers three options: Locker, Counter and Locker+ in more than 900 cities and towns across the U.S.

Amazon package pickup network:

Locker [] is a secure and self-service pickup and return kiosk at locations including Whole Foods Market stores, 7-Eleven, LA Fitness, Ross, and more.

Counter [] is a partner-staffed location that offers Amazon customers the option to pick up their package while shopping in-store at small to medium sized business as well other companies including Rite Aid, GNC, and Health Mart pharmacies.

Locker+ [] is a secure, Amazon staffed pickup and return location with helpful associates and self-serve kiosks.

Apartment Locker offers high-rise buildings to garden-style apartments an easy and secure delivery solution that frees staff from daily package management. Apartment Locker does not require an Amazon Prime membership and does not charge a fee to residents.

This network of convenient locations available for tens of millions of items sold on at no additional cost with the fast shipping options as home delivery, including FREE Prime Same-Day, One-Day and Two-Day shipping. Non-Prime members can also get FREE shipping for orders over $25; otherwise standard shipping rates apply.

To use a package pickup location, customers simply need to find a convenient location and add it to their Amazon address book, or search for and select the location when prompted at checkout. Once their package has been delivered to the preferred location, customers will receive an email notification with details about how and where to pick up. Customers then simply visit their selected Locker, Counter, or Locker+ location to collect their package."

Bodge says another option that will keep your purchase a secret is to pay for gift wrapping.

"A lot of retailers online do offer gift wrap or a gift bag. There will be an additional charge in most cases, but that's something you can opt for so you're not taking any chances that the product is just going to arrive revealing exactly what you bought," Bodge said.

If shoppers are worried products delivered in original packaging would only entice porch pirates, you can sign up to track your package, ask a neighbor to look out for it, or require a signature for the delivery.

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