The 11th-hour shoppers

December 24, 2003|By Lisa Pollak | Lisa Pollak,SUN STAFF

If you think the guys wandering the aisles at Hecht's an hour before midnight on the Monday before Christmas have nothing to teach you about shopping, you're wrong. Or so we discovered this week when we took advantage of Hecht's extended hours at Towson Town Center (the store was open until midnight) to witness firsthand the plight of the last-minute shopper. But instead of panic, we found calm; instead of desperation there were lists, strategies and plans of attack. Our conclusion? Don't pity the 11th-hour shoppers. Just stand back and watch them in action. They've got everything under control.

The Commando Shopper

Jason Parker, 38

Sighting: 11:01 p.m., at the jewelry counter.

In search of: Frog earrings for a "lady friend" who teaches elementary school science.

Strategy: Buys more than he needs. "I call it commando shopping. You cover your bases, then return everything else."

Demeanor: Zen-like calm.

Secret weapon: Has back-up pair of frog earrings purchased in the mall earlier in the evening.

Credo: "Remember, the last minute is still on time."

Tag team

Chris Nickerson, 30, and Lance Cassell, 25

Sighting: 11:11 p.m., in cosmetics department.

Reason for late-night shopping: Avoiding crowds, getting a jump on things. "Normally I wait until Christmas Eve," says Nickerson. "This year, I'm early."

Demeanor: As jolly as Santa.

Exciting discovery: Display of women's accessories decorated with large initials. "That's the style this year," Cassell says knowingly. "It dates back to Laverne and Shirley."

Triumphant moment: Both men locate their girlfriends' initials in the pile. Cassell finds a red leather organizer embossed with a pink `t'; Nickerson grabs a black leather wallet with a big pink `s.'

Somewhat less triumphant moment: After paying for the gift, Nickerson admits he has no idea what it actually is. "It was tough enough just finding the right letter," he says.

The Thinker

Michael Faulkner, 33

Sighting: 11:27 p.m., glove department.

Demeanor: Contemplative, unhurried. "I'm not feeling desperate." A pause. "OK, a little bit."

Strategy: "I become an expert at the last minute." Received glove tutorial from saleswoman at another store earlier this evening, learning that "the average women's hand is a size 7," but came to Hecht's for better selection.

Dilemma: The Isotoner fleece-lined gloves may be a bit large for his girlfriend's hand - "It's a little smaller than average" - but the Fownes black leather with the gray knit cuffs are less sturdy. "I feel like I'm saying something with a gift. I want it to match her personality as much as possible."

Decision: After asking the advice of reporter doing newspaper interview, chooses Isotoners.

How Isotoner gloves are like his girlfriend: "They're elegant, yet sturdy," he says, peering admiringly at the tiny dots adorning the leather. "And when you look a little closer, there's even more than you thought."

The List Maker

A.J. Romano, 29

Sighting: 11:41, in housewares, examining a sea salt dispenser.

Demeanor: Affable, unflustered.

In search of: "The affordable little trinkety thing," a category that does not, he decides, include a $20 sea salt dispenser.

Impressive display of preparation: A handwritten Christmas list that not only bears the heading "Christmas list," but also drawings of a snowman and a Christmas tree.

Slightly less impressive display of preparation: The first entry on the list, for someone named "Ericka," features those hard-to-find items "big gift" and "little gift."

The Closer

Kevin Fitta, 42

First sighting: 11:59 p.m., getting change at the jewelry counter.

Demeanor: Intense, unfazed. "This is how I always do it - for me, this is convenient."

Last sighting: 12:10 a.m., wandering the now-closed store, still trying to find an unlocked exit.

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