Malls make quick work of holiday needs

Maybe you love mall shopping, but I hate almost everything about it: crowds, lines, parking, long walks to the restrooms, lousy food options, and overspending brought on by exhaustion, hunger and desperation.

But short of doing all the holiday shopping online, going to the mall is the most efficient way to get a lot done fast.

And with a little guidance (that's where I come in) you can check off a bunch of people on your shopping list in just a few hours, with many of those gifts wrapped, tagged and ready to give with no scissors, tape or further grief — except, of course, paying the credit card bills in the new year.

To show the way, I set out to locate presents in seven traditional categories. I have one word for you as you set out on your shopping journey: courage. <a href=",0,2482355.photogallery"><b>See the photos here.</b></a>

Savvy shoppers ask ...

• Do you have complimentary gift wrap?

• Can I have a free box? Tissue paper? Ribbon? Gift tag?

• Are there any gifts with purchase or free samples?

• For bulky or heavy packages: Can you help get this to the car?

• A gift receipt enclosed with the gift, please?

• At the mall: Where is the concierge desk or mall office? (For discount and coupon booklets)

When to shop?

Weekday mornings are best to avoid the usual mall aggravations. Delay is deadly: Shop now; irritations mount as Christmas closes in.

For easier returns ...

1. Get a big envelope and use it to save every receipt!

2. Before you buy, utter these words: "What's the return policy?"

3. Buying on sale? Make sure it's returnable.

4. Be persistent. Ask for a supervisor if you're not satisfied. Stores want happy shoppers.

5. Enclose a gift receipt with the present.

6. Wait until a few days after Christmas to avoid huge return lines.


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