Every year I vow to do all my shopping online. Just like promising the dentist that I really will floss, I completely fail to do it. He's stopped giving me free floss now. I have literally stacks of it in my medicine cabinet. I might as well stack all my good intentions next to them, because I'm never going to do my shopping online. By the time I think of doing it, it's too close to the holiday and everything would be shipped late. If you, like me, find you have no choice to head to the mall, here are some helpful insider tips to get you through the ordeal.
1) Get Organized. You don't want to be wandering aimlessly through the mall on Christmas Eve wondering what to get everyone. (Yes I'm looking at you men) Make a list of who you need to buy for. What gifts and cards need to be shipped out and when should you have them in the mail by. Canada Post has a helpful guide on their website for you to refer to.
I find it helps to make a rough chart of who you need to buy for, ideas of what to look for, and ultimately what you ended up purchasing. Some people are easy to shop for, others not so much. A little chart you can keep in your pocket or wallet will help you stay focused.
2) Search From Home First. Once you have a general idea of what it is your looking for, search online and in flyers to see who is likely to sell what you want. You're not going to find everything at one mall or store. This will also allow you to compare price points between the retailers and make your money go further. Once you know what stores and malls to hit, you can organize your route accordingly. There's nothing more frustrating then backtracking through crowds and traffic when you could have avoided it.
3) Set a Limit. It's important to set a spending limit per person and for the items you're looking for. Overspending on one person often leads to overspending on everyone else. You know, to keep it fair. Think about what is reasonable to spend on each person on your list. That doesn't mean everyone has to be the same, just make sure there's a ceiling in place. No less important is making sure once you find a possible gift, is it reasonably priced. Don't be so desperate to cross things off your list that you'll let yourself be gauged at the register. Do your homework and spend wisely!
4) Get Out Early. This refers to two things. Firstly, don't leave your shopping until the last minute. If you can get started in November that would be great. There are less crowds and it is a lot less stressful. Of course people rarely do that. Those who do can't help but brag about it. Don't be that person! You risk immediately being put on someone's naughty list. Secondly, the early bird catches the worm. Wake up early, have a good breakfast, and get to the stores when they open. There will be less crowds and the staff will be better able to help you faster.
5) Eat! Don't leave the house on an empty tummy. Eat well and bring some snacks with you. We all know how pleasant you are when you're hungry and your blood sugar is low. Yeah, I'm talking to you. If you're out all day, stop for some lunch. Trust me. Everyone turns into three year olds when they're starving and tired. Keep your energy and spirits up!
6) You'll Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar. When you're shopping and need a favor or exception made for you, be nice. The merits of this should be obvious, but many people don't get it. People are much more willing to help you if you're being respectful and reasonable. Those who are rude and demanding often don't get their way purely for that reason. Sure, the squeaky wheel gets the grease eventually. You could escalate it up the ranks, but is that what you really want to be doing right now? Plus, it's really not in the spirit of the holidays to act like such a...Grinch.
7) The When and Where of Asking Questions. You don't go to a mechanic if you have a question about your dishwasher. You need to ask the right person your question if you want to get the right answer. If you have a question about the merchandise such as the price or additional colours, ask a sales associate on working on the sales floor. They are equipped to answer these questions. If you would like a price adjustment or amendment to the return policy, ask someone that can give you a "yes". This might mean asking a sales associate to call someone for you or going to customer service. Don't stand in line and wait to ask the cashier! They are nine times out of ten not able to answer your question. This holds everyone up, including you, and will make you no friends. However, while you are at the register, ask the cashier the return policy. They are usually extended during the holidays, be aware of the deadlines. They will also have particular policies relating to how the item may be returned. Some may only issue store credit, others will return only in the tender it was purchased. Be aware of the particular return policies of the stores you purchase from. If you see it as potentially problematic, you may be able to ask the manager for an exception. Remember, be nice. If what you ask is reasonable people are more than happy to oblige.
8) Don't Leave Purchases In the Car! People are just waiting for you to do this. Often someone will dump off purchases and then go back to shop some more. Worse yet, the receipts will be in the bags! Very bad elves will watch you, brake into your car, and later return your hard shopped for gifts! I've seen it many times.
9) Make it Easy On the Giftee. Not every gift is a perfect fit. Some, regrettably, will find their way back to the store. Make the return as easy as possible. Keep tags attached wherever possible. No one wants to leave the price ticket on, but the more information the store has about your purchase, the easier and faster the return. If you can not rip off or conceal the price, keep the tickets separately in case a return might be made. Keep the receipts! If an item is returnable without one, and this is rare, they will require your personal information. Your Aunt doesn't want to give her phone number or drivers licence information away just to return a sweater.
10) Unwind Afterwards. Go home, soak your feet and enjoy a glass of wine. Or two. In fact, pick up doughnuts on the way home, your earned them.