One way around the hassle of malls and mailing is to shop from the safety of your home. People with a taste for ceramic figurines and cubic zirconium are out of luck, though, because television shopping services like QVC and the Home Shopping Network insist that customers order by mid-December--which might as well be August, as far as the late shopper is concerned.
You can hire a professional shopper like Farber to do everything for you--usually for an hourly charge or a percentage of the total bill. Catalogues also fill the breach. J. Crew will, for a price of $20 per gift, take orders on its array of T-shirts, sweaters and pants and have them delivered Christmas Day.
"We receive calls right up until noon on the 24th, which is our cut-off time," said Colleen Carl, director of telemarketing for the Virginia-based clothier.
And the catalogue folks will handle the wrapping. For when the buying is done and the credit card, still warm, lies safely tucked away, the rush is by no means over. Next comes the sticky, crinkly mess of tape and tissue, which can shake even a brazen procrastinator.
"I come home on Christmas Eve and I've got two hours to get all the presents wrapped," Loftus says. "At that point, I get nervous."
Freeman knows all about last-second wrapping. She wistfully recalls a Christmas, many years ago, when she had all her presents bought and wrapped by August.
"I said, 'This is the way it's going to be from now on,' " she recalls.
A few years later, she found herself wrapping the last of her children's gifts at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning.
"They got up at 6 and undid everything in about five minutes."