Last-minute shoppers scramble to buy gifts

Shameka Patton, left, and her sister Tchicaya Williams shop Saturday at Bath & Body Works in the North Plains Mall. They were Christmas shopping for last-minute gifts for other sisters who will be in town for Christmas. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

The aisles of Wal-Mart were filled, some so crammed not a cart could get through. Bands of people sifted through oceans of merchandise on Christmas Eve. They examined clothing and video games and tools and much more.

Though a few approached the task laxly, most — the young and the old, those alone and those amongst family — bore serious signs of stress.

In one parking lot, a man pumped his arms and legs so ferociously he appeared on the verge of a full-blown sprint toward the doors of the mall. Inside stores, mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers, boyfriends, girlfriends, wives and husbands painstakingly compared attire shape, size and color in the name of scratching someone, or many someones, off their Christmas lists.

These are the last-minute shoppers.

Less than 24 hours remained until Christmas morning, yet these men and women had not completed their shopping.
Their reasons vary.

Some admit freely to habitual procrastination.

“It is poor planning. I always procrastinate,” said Alyssa Guy as she filled a cart with stocking stuffers for her family.

Ace Marcello, 21, is a pretty carefree shopper, and he doesn’t mind last-minute shopping.

“We don’t plan. That’s why we shop late,” Marcello said cheerily of he and his friend, Cesar Castro. The pair balanced bags in both hands — gifts for their girlfriends, they said.

According to Dillard’s sales associate Jessica Wymore, Christmas Eve shoppers are often rushed and more easily frustrated than shoppers who buy sooner in the season. She said she some of her last-minute customers simply grab the first item they see.

“They don’t put much thought into it,” said Wymore, who picked out entire outfits for several customers to give to family or friends.

But some last-minute buyers cannot be faulted. Sometimes receivers, rather than givers, can put crinks into shopping timelines.

Renee Wilson browsed through DVD aisles, picking out a couple of things for her 25-year-old son. He is so difficult to buy for, she said, that she waited until the last minute to purchase his gifts and simply asked him what he wanted.

Unexpected family guests arrived at Beverly Colvin’s home and sent her rushing to the mall. “I had to have something for them under the tree,” Colvin said.

For others, it is financial restraints or the duties of work that dictate their shopping patterns.

One man tenderly held a wrist watch toward bright overhead lights. He said he always shops for his wife last. The couple usually spends more than $1,000 on gifts for their three children, choosing the items together. After they have balanced their checkbooks, they pick something out for one another, he said.

Holly Perry, who also looked at buying a wrist watch for his wife, is a truck driver. He spends weeks on the road without coming home, so finding time to buy presents is difficult, he said.

“I just got home last night,” he said, grateful to be home for the holidays, his two children by his side.

“I have to get back on the road Monday afternoon,” Perry said, turning his attention once again to the watches, and the task at hand.