A guy's guide to last-minute shopping | December 24, 2010 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- December 24, 2010

A guy's guide to last-minute shopping

by Nick Veronin

It is a well-worn gag, drilled into the ground by television commercials and cheesy sitcoms with canned laugh tracks that play after each tired punch line and pun: the space-case guy who forgets to buy his sweetheart a gift until the day of; in a panic, he sets off to find a suitable present before time runs out.

Well, guess what? Trite though it may be, there is more than a kernel of truth to that stereotype. Just ask Erika Posadas.

"It's usually guys doing last-minute shopping," Posadas says, standing behind the register at The Body Shop. Posadas has worked at this Stanford Shopping Center location for more than a year, and has been in retail for about a decade.

She says that as Christmas Eve draws nigh she sees many frantic young men dash into The Body Shop looking for a last-minute gift for a mother, sister or girlfriend on their list.

When that happens she knows what to do. She says gift sets are very popular among the 11th-hour crowd. These sets combine a smattering of items — hand cream, body butter, lip balm and lotion — in one ready-to-go package. In the case of Posadas' store, the prefab boxes of beauty products are even adorned with a bow, which saves the step of wrapping.

Cosmetics are not the only type of gift that comes in bundles. Consider the local Starbucks or Peet's. All those impulse items stacked on shelves and display tables throughout the store — that ceramic mug, half-pound of Sumatra beans and French press package, for example — make great gifts.

The crafty giver might even pull apart the bundle, Posadas points out. Because the sets are often a better deal than purchasing each item individually, the thrifty gifter can save a few bucks by dividing up such a package.

Mark Wheldon, while waiting in line to pay for a shirt at Macy's, says that when it comes down to the wire and he needs a gift for mom, he might go for jewelry or something craftsy. If his brother or a friend suddenly announces they are coming by for a holiday visit, it is really easy.

"Liquor," Wheldon says. There is two-buck Chuck, all the way up to Johnnie Walker Blue Label, depending on how well you know the guy.

A clerk at Macy's, who asked that he not be identified since he was not authorized to talk to the media, says that the closer it gets to Dec. 25 the more he sees small items, such as ties, wallets and hats flying off the shelves.

Priyal Sheth, another Macy's shopper, says that when it comes to the women in his life, he goes with accessories or perfume. It makes for a worry-free purchase, he says, because "I'm not too familiar with sizes."

For a male friend, Sheth says a video game or something from an electronics store would do in a pinch.

And then, of course, there is the gift card. Although it is maligned by some for being impersonal and uncreative, one thing is certain — letting people choose their own gift is a sure-fire way to ensure that they get what they want. These days, with debit gift cards available at the checkout counter of most major groceries stores, it is easy to pick up a gift for someone anytime.

Finally, here is an idea for the fantastically frugal shopper: dollar stores. Sure, it may sound cheap to some, miserly even. But, hey, you barely know your girlfriend's uncle's new squeeze from Adam, and at the rate that Casanova burns through gal pals, it will be a wonder if she is still around next week to give him a New Year's kiss.

Plus, have you been to a dollar store lately? They have some pretty useful items. A set of wine glasses, some candlesticks, tree ornaments and other great stocking stuffers can be found.

The point is that options abound and are often hiding in plain sight. For the resourceful gifter there is no such thing as last minute.

Mountain View Voice Staff Writer Nick Veronin can be e-mailed at nveronin@mv-voice.com. The Voice is a sister newspaper to the Palo Alto Weekly.


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