December 1, 2011

Quick Tip: Holiday Shopping

Holiday shopping can be overwhelming, especially when you live in a big city without a car to store all your purchases. For today’s Quick Tip, I thought I’d offer up some useful suggestions, no matter where you live, to help make your holiday shopping as painless as possible.

When To Shop:
One of the most basic things to think about is what time of day you shop. From experience, the best times of day to go are during the week from 10-11am or 2-3pm. At these times, you avoid the onslaught of customers who are shopping before or after work, or on their lunch hour- basically the same rules that apply to traffic.

If you aren’t able to take work off to do some shopping, and are stuck with weekend-only availability, I’d recommend choosing Sunday over Saturday and sticking with morning hours. And of course, the closer to holidays you get, the crazier the crowds will be, so try to plan ahead.

How To Shop:
Another trick to painless shopping is about where you pay for your purchases. The key is to look for a checkout line in a less populated location. If the store you are shopping in has multiple floors, always go for the upper floors. The first floor is generally the most crowded, and since stores place the majority of their small-ticket impulse pieces on the first floor (to catch your eye as you walk in and out), you are most likely to encounter customers with larger item counts and thus longer per-shopper checkout times.

When I’m shopping for multiple people in multiple sections or departments within the same store, I also try to strategize where I’m going to go and work from the bottom up, leaving me finished with my shopping on a higher floor where I can purchase, grab my bags, and exit down, avoiding as much of the craziness as possible.

If you find yourself shopping for your wife, girlfriend, or mother I have a particularly useful tip. The ladies’ shoe department is almost always a war zone, especially during the holidays so unless you absolutely have to venture in, avoid this area of any store at all costs. If you do, stick to the hours above to get in and out with as few bruises as possible.

Shopping Secrets:
Especially if you are shopping without a car (but even if you are just doing a lot of one-shot shopping), one of my favorite tips is to take advantage of department store bag checks. Find a store with a bag check and make it your home base. Keep bringing new bags back and adding them so that you can continue to shop unhindered.

Most stores will hold onto them all day, so you can spend the entire day shopping, adding bags as you go, including going to other nearby stores or a lunch free from the obnoxious pile of purchases. Just make sure to keep track of your claim ticket, and double-check the bag check hours (they may be different from the store itself) so you get back to them before closing. Then, at the end of the day all you have to do is grab all your bags (having someone meet you to help carry is always a good idea) and go. I’ll often shop this way so that I can get everything done in a single day and then pile it all into a cab to get home.

Another shopping secret to know is that more and more stores are offering price adjustments on purchases. That means that if you buy something and then see it go on sale soon after (adjustment time limits vary but are usually between 7-10 days), you can bring it back into the store with your receipt and have them adjust the cost and refund you the difference. So, even if you’ve done your shopping, keep an eye out for future sales.

Lastly, some departments, such as high-ticket and shoes, will not let you pay elsewhere. Use this to your advantage and add on other items to these purchases rather than waiting in multiple lines.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips to have a (slightly) less stressful holiday shopping experience.

Stay stylish,
- JJ

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