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Modus Shoperandi : LAST-MINUTE SHOPPER : While many Southern Californians swear by old-fashioned assaults on local retailers, others attack their holiday lists by mouse and modem, phone and fax. And, luckily for those unclaimed bottles of Chanel No. 5, more than a few always hit the mall at the last minute. Here are five of the most common shopping strategies of the season.

November 24, 1995|CINDY LaFAVRE YORKS

Come Christmas Eve, Frank McDonald will be wandering through a store as the sun sets, frantically searching for a gift for his wife; it won't be the first time, and it won't be the last.

"Shopping is definitely not my favorite pastime," admits the 69-year-old Oceanside resident, who developed his last-minute habit even before he married and relegated the bulk of the holiday shopping to his wife.

His reasons for procrastinating range from the practical ("preoccupations with more pressing matters") to the capricious ("it takes me until the last minute to get into the mood"). Before retiring from his job as a mining geologist, McDonald would attend the office Christmas Eve party and head straight to the store to shop before arriving home to spend the evening with his family. Although his dilatoriness is the subject of gibes from family members, he maintains he's never missed quality holiday moments with his loved ones.

McDonald completes his Christmas Eve mission at warp speed, never spending more than 45 minutes, including the wait for gift wrapping. He not only avoids soaking up the holiday atmosphere--strolling, people watching--but does only "a little thinking" about what he might buy before venturing out. He just pulls into the parking lot of what he considers "the biggest or best general merchandise store in town" and lets it happen.

McDonald claims there are several advantages to waiting until the 11th hour to get down to business. "You really beat the crowds, everything is winding down, and I never have a problem parking," he says.

The downside, he concedes, is facing the occasional dilemma of having to paw through picked-over merchandise. While he admits to buying a few clunkers (kitchen knives proved too non-glamorous), his fragrance gifts usually meet with favor and are often pre-wrapped, adding to their efficiency appeal.

Once McDonald completes his task, he engages in a little self-congratulatory ritual: He heads to the nearest tobacco shop and rewards himself with a good Mexican cigar to enjoy on his drive home.

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