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Modus Shoperandi : ONLINE 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|CONNIE KOENENN

Michael Latkin, 27, has been comfortable with computers since meeting Apple II in high school. And this holiday season he will join a growing band of consumers who shop by computer modem.

Pointing and clicking along the Internet's thousands of World Wide Web retail sites, these pioneers are buying everything from Adirondack chairs to vintage wines via on-screen order form and credit card number.

The online shopping possibilities had intrigued Latkin, who works at the Cigar Warehouse in Sherman Oaks, for some time. But he held off on any purchases, feeling a little apprehensive about providing a personal credit card number online. "I'm still leery about the whole Big Brother thing," he says.

But a new service called eShop Plaza finally lured him in. When he signs on, the screen blossoms with a cluster of stores (Tower Records, Spiegel, 1-800 Flowers and Insight Direct), complete with a marquee scrolling each outlet's discounts of the day.

Latkin can click his way from store to store, or department to department, getting a close look at merchandise and adding items to his shopping basket. He even gets greeted by smiling clerks.

All this makes him a happy shopper. "There is an appealing, family feeling to it," he says. "I've already gone into Insight Direct and bought a couple of computer programs."

He likes the fact that the stores offer coupon discounts, that the service is free, that he can browse for as long as he likes, and, most important, that eShop utilizes encryption technology to keep credit card numbers and other personal information private.

So while others swarm the malls this weekend, Latkin will settle back in his comfortable burgundy office chair, sign on to his IBM-compatible PC and work his way through a shopping list.

"I've got a good 10 gifts or so, and I can definitely get most of them on eShop," he says. "I can get CDs at Tower Records, and a lot of my friends have computers so I'll shop for them at Insight. I haven't gotten into Spiegel yet, but I'm sure I can find something for my parents there."

It's not that he doesn't like real-life malls, he adds, it's just that he works six days a week and has better things to do with his day off--like going to a movie, or to brunch or on a drive--than shopping.

"I am a social person, energy permitting, but this is a real convenience for people who don't have time to shop. It is so nice to sit back and relax in your own dwelling. I can browse around at my own pace."

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