The Coast News Group
Small Talk

Making those credit cards smoke

Not long ago, a syndicated columnist best known for her political commentary wrote a wonderful column admitting all the reasons she just loves to Christmas shop.

It struck such a chord with me, I wrote her a sheepish fan email. In it, I apologized that while all her pithy, well-researched columns on world issues failed to prompt an email from me, her light-hearted piece on shopping did. She understood. Holiday shopping is like a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Unlike in my youth, it is now the only time I can spend hours, guilt-free, strolling aisle after aisle, store after store amid sweet scents and glittering displays. I have been known to make my credit cards smoke, but I don’t recommend that approach for obvious reasons. Still, it is bliss.

The rest of the shopping year is a challenge. I particularly dislike window-shopping if I can’t indulge. I think it is the same thing that makes looking at pictures of sexy men so tiresome. I don’t care how pretty it is if I can’t take it home.

However, should I stray from gazing at mannequins and allow myself to enter a store, I get a little crazy. Suddenly, I find dozens of things I desperately need, but have somehow limped along without all this time.

If I have to pass up a bargain, it ruins my mood for the rest of the day — unless we go somewhere neat for lunch.

When I shop, I usually power shop. I blaze through looking for that perfect blend of what I must have vs. how much I love it vs. how much it costs. While I chafe at schlepping multiple malls comparing prices, sizes, styles and quality, I can’t bear to buy without seeing every possible choice. I revel in capitalism at its best.

And in the past I could easily indulge that by having a choice of several major department stores, each with its own personality and style. The subject came up at a gathering of 40-plus women recently. We all lamented the gradual carnivorous merging or folding of one store after another. We weren’t elitist. We even miss Woolworths.

But we got dreamy-eyed as we reminisced about Bullock’s Wilshire and its Tearoom. We each remembered riding an elevator to the top floor of a Buffum’s or The Broadway or I. Magnin with our moms or grandmothers. Oh yeah, you were some kind of grown-up then. One still visits San Francisco, just to wander through Neiman’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. Another fondly recalled Marshall-Fields in Chicago. New York has Bloomingdale’s.

But over the years, Federated Stores absorbed I. Magnin and Bullock’s. It then ate Robinson’s, which ate May Co. and who knows what will be next. East Germany had a better selection after World War II.

And no matter how hard I try, I can’t get excited about a Walmart tearoom.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who’s really tickled you can recycle your yard clippings. Contact her at jgillette@