The parking lot said it all.
Not only was it impossible to find a parking spot at the Pacific View Mall on Saturday morning, but there was a "relatively cheap" alternative that involved paying $4 and leaving the hassle to someone else.
"This service changes the face of shopping in Ventura, because we greet them, help them with their bags or their strollers and generally make it more pleasant to shop during Christmas," said Travis Spurgeon, co-owner of Tri-Valley Valet Parking.
Shopping during Christmas can be a nightmare--exhausting and frenzied--according to shoppers at The Oaks mall in Thousand Oaks and Pacific View Mall in Ventura. But it can also mean quality time with the family, excitement and an opportunity to do some interesting people watching, they said.
Curt Roth, a contractor, visited the Ventura mall with his two children to get Kylie, 8, a pair of white tennis shoes. But on the way, she saw shoes with blue stripes in a store window.
"I've been here for three hours now, and I'm having a great time," Roth said as his children ran down the up escalator. "I sat in the shoe store and watched that movie 'The Water Boy' for an hour."
Stetson Gruber, 11, a friend of the children's, said he liked shopping at Christmastime but "there should be a Rollerblade shop here."
Kylie said she wants light-blue, tie-dyed wheels for her roller skates. But she did not see any at the mall, which was missing a few other things, too, patrons said.
There were not enough women's bathrooms or lunch tables, said Monica Kenton, 13. Then again, it was the weekend before Christmas.
"I came looking for a good arcade and there is no arcade," said Veronica Medina, who was accompanied by her son, Ryan, 2.
Forget the specialty shops, many consumers wanted a toy store to prowl around in, said Gina Stonebraker, a mall representative.
"We don't have a toy store, but there are lots of places to get things like video games and Pokemon," Stonebraker said.
One of the most popular Christmas presents is a gift certificate that can be used at any store in the mall, she said.
"It means that people can get it without feeling limited by having to pick one store."
Also selling well, retailers and shoppers said, was anything with a leopard print, from cloths used to clean glasses to slinky dresses and slippers.
Monica bought a leopard skin steering-wheel cover for her father, a cow-spotted headband for herself and lots of little jars and tubes of glittery pink lip gloss for her friends.
Anything glittery seemed to be popular, including sparkling cucumber melon lotion and a $99 diamond heart necklace that comes in a music box. After a busy day of holiday shopping, many consumers wearily plopped themselves onto the couch and chairs just inside the mall entrance.
Donald Townsend, 74, took his grandson shopping for clothes. But after 20 minutes, he sat down to rest: "I'm ready to leave as soon as he gets back."