For some it wasn't a costly error, but rather an embarrassing episode. Others are still paying the bills.
What's the worst shopping error you ever committed?
Mine was buying my mother a stuffed pheasant, forgetting entirely her fear and loathing of anything in feathers. My husband's mistake was holding out on the disco fashion craze--until the day before disco died. He was left with several polyester shirts with large pointy collars and a couple of pairs of high-heeled shoes.
Here's what other county residents said about their worst shopping mistakes.
"I'm almost afraid to confess," said Gaddi H. Vasquez, 33-year-old member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors. "One year I bought and sent my dear grandmother a box of gourmet jams and jellies. Unfortunately, she suffers from diabetes."
Like Vasquez's grandmother, Maura Eggan's father-in-law took her faux pas in stride. Shortly after she was married, the marketing director at South Coast Plaza bought her "very elegant" father-in-law a fancy electric toothbrush. It wasn't until after he opened her gift that she learned he had false teeth.
Nancy Noble, Irvine's child-care coordinator, said her mistake was more amusing than costly.
"It's amazing how when you're so busy your floppy disk gets full and you can't think," she said. "I was shopping at the Mole Hole (in Irvine) for my sister when I saw this sweet little gold bird pin. I bought it, but when I got home I had a nagging feeling. Then I realized I bought this for her last year."
Noble said the card on the box says "a gift of love."
"So I'm giving myself 'a gift of love' this year."
A similar lapse was that of Kitty Leslie, fashion coordinator of Fashion Island at Newport Center: "We have a new house, and my husband has been bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have a bar. So I bought him a brass bar cart from Robinson's. I forgot that I had told my son to buy him the same thing. So there are two beautifully wrapped bar carts under the tree."
Gloria Zigner, who owns the public relations firm, Gloria Zigner & Associates of Costa Mesa, admitted hers was a pretty costly mistake. She went to Milan with a friend from New York who told her she could buy anything in the Milan fashion shows for much less than it would cost in New York. So she bought an entire wardrobe, not realizing the Italian sizes were different from U.S. sizes and forgetting about the lire -dollar exchange rate. She also didn't realize it would take six months to have the clothes shipped to her in the United States.
"I got caught up in the excitement of the shows." she said. "I got nuts."
Zigner said once she paid shipping and duty charges, the wardrobe probably cost her three times what it would have cost here. Not only that, but the clothes were all the wrong sizes and, by the time Zigner received them, were for the wrong season. As she said, she got nuts.
Xavier, who owns Xavier's of Newport Flowers and Gifts, said we came to the right source with our question.
"You're asking a real pro here," he said. "Three hours of shopping a day is habit. I was literally born to shop."
Xavier said his worst error was taking literally a request for a very simple present.
"I'm sure now they meant buy a shirt or something," he said. "I bought two vehicle ID tags, you know, those metal things that hold your license plate. I think they were thrown at me."
He added that his costliest mistake was buying diamonds for someone "who later made it clear to me they never wear diamonds."
When asked when he made his biggest mistake, Whitney Clayton, a lawyer with the Call, Clayton & Jensen law firm in Newport Beach, said: "That's easy. When I bought my 1984 Audi. It's a lemon."
He said his second-biggest shopping error was trying to get out of the South Coast Plaza parking lot the day before Christmas a few years ago.
"I should have just stayed through Christmas," he said. "It took me three hours."
And for Harriet Nelson, actress and wife of the late Ozzie Nelson, the whole season has turned out to be a mistake.
"I'm making all my worst shopping errors this year," she said. "I just haven't had any time to do any real thinking-type shopping, so everyone is going to get what I happen to see."