What happens when Santa gets it wrong?
Truth be told, the old guy has been known to occasionally mistranslate the odd whispered request mumbled through trembling lips in a noisy mall.
In some cases, such a misunderstanding this year turned into a wrong-gift situation on Christmas morning. In others, faulty craftsmanship or operator error caused a device to fail. In the most egregious disasters, the big man's elves may have simply forgotten to pack a coveted item into the sleigh.
Short of sending complaints directly to the North Pole, parents are left with few options on Christmas Day, with family in town and many stores shut down. But on Dec. 26, the fourth-busiest shopping day of the year, it was back to business as usual for retailers across the Chattanooga area, and back to retail stores for consumers loaded down with gift cards and unwanted presents.
Robert Sanders headed to Best Buy on Thursday morning with one mission in mind.
"I'm here because somebody didn't get what they wanted," he said.
For Christmas, Sanders' young cousin received an Xbox headset that allows the boy to verbally celebrate his victories after vanquishing online opponents. The problem was, Sanders' son didn't get one.
"He wanted to be able to tell his cousin, 'I'm shooting you,'" Sanders said.
Sanders was far from the only shopper on a mission to engineer a post-Christmas miracle on Thursday. Hordes of shoppers, sporting brand-new Christmas sweaters, jackets and shoes, braved the cold Thursday to find clearance deals like the tables full of iPhones, laptops, tablets and speakers that graced the entrance to Best Buy on Gunbarrel Road.
A steady stream of consumers clutching gift receipts and electronics boxes dodged cars in East Brainerd strip malls, exiting a few minutes later either clutching new packages or emptyhanded save for a few extra bucks.
Jackson Williams ended up with two copies of the Xbox 360 game Batman: Arkham Origins, so he decided to bring one back.
"I couldn't wait for Christmas, so I ended up buying an extra copy," he said.
A few blocks away, Chris White trudged through a packed Walmart parking lot carrying a tube of toothpaste in a plastic grocery bag.
"My girlfriend bought me the wrong kind," he said. "I'm gonna go get the one I want."
Associates in Walmart pulled pallets of now-obsolete Christmas gifts toward the front of the store, where they formed a picket line of clearance items across the interior entrance. Beyonce-branded perfume and Superman-themed Gillette razors were 50 percent off, as were red and green spotted pig toys and starter makeup for young girls.
Workers piled returned gifts into shopping carts in the customer service area, and items that were difficult to find before Christmas -- such as the popular Xbox One and Playstation 4 gaming consoles -- were back in stock.
Sherie Lackey crossed her arms against the cold outside a strip mall as she waited for her husband to finish shopping for Blu-Ray movies.
"He got something like $250 in gift cards," she said, before heading out to get the car warmed up.
While video games, movies and electronic gadgets make for popular post-holiday gifts, other types of retailers were less crowded. Parking spots were easy to find at home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's, which were primarily serving contractors ready to make the best of what remains of the week.
Contractors lined up outside the Home Depot entrance on Gunbarrel Road to load up cinder blocks, wood planks and paving stones, as the Scenic City's blue-collar workers returned for two more days of work before the weekend. Casey Raburn, owner of Casey Raburn Construction, loaded particle board and plywood into his large pickup truck just before lunch, with plans to build some shelves for a homeowner in Apison.
"We didn't work on Christmas, but we're back at it today," he said.
Most shoppers, however, said they were off work for the rest of the week and were just looking for ways to kill time.
Jose Medina went out with his wife to pick up a pair of work shoes.
Johnny Holman hoped into the car with his two sons, who are out of school until January, to see if the Geek Squad could take a look at an ill-fitting case for his Kindle Fire HDX.
Mark Pistrang and his wife decided to run a few errands, including picking up a digital TV antenna from Best Buy.
"It's just a good day to go shopping," Pistrang said.
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at 423-757-6315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.