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Modus Shoperandi : GONZO 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|JEANNINE STEIN

Painless, hassle-free, relaxed holiday shopping may sound like an oxymoron, but Katie Meyer knows how to find nirvana in a busy mall two weeks before Christmas.

She books a room at the Westin and shops till she drops at Costa Mesa's South Coast Plaza for two or three days. There's no traffic to worry about, no parking lot mega-jams and no bulky packages to lug around all day--just a stroll across a nearby covered bridge.

"If you think about it," Meyer says, "it's one of the most enjoyable ways to shop. You pull up, valet park your car at the hotel and walk across the street. The crowds [inside the mall] don't even get to you when you don't have to fight traffic. And just the fact that you know you can always go back to your hotel room makes it worthwhile."

It figures the 38-year-old Meyer would do her holiday buying this way: She's the public relations director for the Century Plaza Hotel (sister hotel to the Westin), working right across the street from the Century City Shopping Center. But at least 175 other shoppers have also bought into the Westin's VIP weekend shopping package ($99 a night) so far this year. Other hotels, including the Century Plaza and the Regent Beverly Wilshire, offer similar deals.

Meyer admits that she was an almost-last-minute shopper before she devised this ninja strategy five years ago.

The benefits are obvious: "You can come back to the hotel, put your packages down, put your feet up and order room service. If you get your shopping done in time you can even get some sun at the pool--I did that one year on a particularly nice 90-degree day. . . . It's a great feeling to get home and just have the packages to wrap. . . . I really can't see a downside"--unless you count the extra $200 or so for the hotel room.

Wearing jeans or leggings and comfortable shoes, Meyer hits the 300-store mall like a woman on a mission. Armed with a gift list, she allows herself some leeway: "I'm a good window shopper," she says, "and I pick up things along the way."

That means sometimes blowing her allotted budget on an occasional splurge for the 10 people on her list--and one or two items for herself. "I don't mean to buy things for myself, but, gosh, when you have so many great stores there. . . . But it'll just be token things, otherwise I couldn't live with the guilt."

One year Meyer made the trek with a co-worker; the two split up during the day but then met for dinner to compare stories and packages.

"I know people who do it in other cities," she says, "like San Francisco. People will check into a hotel on Union Square. I think it's something that's becoming more and more popular as people have less patience and less time."

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