This weekend and next week used to be my very least favorite time of the year. Why? For 10 years I was the marketing director for a large shopping center.
This would be my typical week leading up to Christmas: I would be exhausted from working most nights until 11 pm (midnight on Saturdays). The workers for the free gift wrap booth (the cornerstone of our holiday marketing program) were either calling in sick or just not showing up, and I would have to find someone to fill in (usually me).
Customers would yell at me because there were lines for the gift wrap. (Come on, it's free! Of course there are lines!).
And if sales weren't great the store managers would be calling or be in my office telling me I needed to do something about it. (Oh. Okay. I'll just get on the phone with the President, tell him how to turn the economy around overnight and everything will be fine in the morning. I mean, seriously? I don't think I could cram another customer in this place if I tried! How do you suggest I force them to spend more? I don't remember you in my office last year thanking me when we had a sales increase. But now it's my fault and I have to fix it?)
Um ... sorry .... I had a flashback there for a moment ...
But it wasn't just me. At this point in the season everyone, including mall management, security, customer service, housekeeping, store management and clerks--even Santa and the Elves--were just about ready to let the Grinch steal Christmas, head to the bar and start downing margaritas.
But we were nothing compared to the customers! Last minute shoppers are frantic. They actually fight each other for parking spaces and the last (fill in the blank for whatever toy is hot this year). They are tired. They are irritable. They are worried they are not going to get everything done in time. For most people, last minute shopping is just not something to look forward to.
So as a public service, I'm going to give you some inside tips to make your last minute shopping easier!
Now, there are some people who have told me they love crowded malls. They say the hustle and bustle put them in the holiday spirit. If that's you, I say go for it baby--this your time!!!
But if you'd like to avoid elbows in your back, long lines, or people literally pushing you out of the way, I will say something I could never say when I was working in mall land: Stay away from the shopping center this week!! Try to find your gifts in your local stores or in the smaller strip centers.
That's not always feasible however, so here are some suggestions:
- The Saturday of the weekend before Christmas (tomorrow) is typically one of the busiest, if not the busiest shopping day of the year, usually surpassing the day after Thanksgiving. So avoid shopping tomorrow if you can. (Don't feel bad if you're a procrastinator, because there are a lot of
youus out there!)
- If possible, take a day off of work, or at least a couple of hours, to hit the mall during the week.
- Mall traffic is lighter first thing in the morning, or late at night. Most malls will be open until 11 pm or later the week leading up to Christmas.
- Come prepared! Do some pre-shopping online for gift ideas, and make sure you bring your gift list. There is nothing worse than wandering around and around, with no idea whom you still need to buy for, or what you want to get them.
- Leave excess cash or credit cards at home. Pick-pockets take advantage of the jostling crowds this time of year.
- Food, wine, and gift cards make great last minute gifts.
- The day before Christmas is usually less crowded with shoppers, and you may find some great mark-downs!