SIKESTON - While women view Christmas shopping as an enjoyable activity, the mere thought fills some of their male counterparts with stress and angst.
The reason? As a rule, women shop. Men buy.
Most women carefully plan their purchases, extending their shopping over a period of time, while many men wait until the last moment and end up choosing whatever happens to be on display that day. Not the best strategy for getting the right gift.
The best advice to make holiday shopping a more pleasant experience? Don't wait until the last minute.
Knowing that fun is not how her husband would describe holiday shopping, Kathy and Justin Medley decided long ago to reach a happy medium. Not only does she alleviate some of the frustration he feels at not knowing what to get her by selecting and buying her own presents, but there's no doubt she'll get exactly what she wanted.
"I just don't like to shop," said Medley. "When I need something I just go and get it and I'm in and out of the store in minutes."
"I don't buy my own presents from him all of the time, but if there is something I really want and I know he is not going to get out and get it, I'll just suggest getting it myself and he gives me the money," Mrs. Medley said. "He's happy and I'm happy."
Sometimes she said she wraps the presents she's obtained for herself and puts them under the tree. "I don't think Justin knows how to wrap," she said jokingly.
And there are times when their children give Dad a little extra encouragement. "My older daughter, Kayla, is 19 and she just tells her dad, 'come on, we're going shopping for mom.' I think she and her sisters enjoy shopping with Dad every once in a while."
"I'll do it, but I don't want to be gone long," Medley added.
And Scott Beetley has an idea why he and other men feel that way. "In my case, it's the crowds," he said. "When I go shopping I know exactly what I want and I am direct in my route. But while I'm that way, I'm still having to wait on other people. It's a hurry-and-wait situation. My time is like everybody else's and I'm having to slow down for people who are in the 20 items or less checking lane with 40 items. If I had a lot of people to buy for I think Christmas shopping would be miserable. It's not that I'm a Scrooge or that I don't like the public, I work with the public every day and I love it. It's dealing with a bunch of strangers who are extremely rude. The other day I was Christmas shopping and this woman was right on my heels with her cart, everywhere I went she was right there."
He also said he has found a lack of customer service at many stores. "Can you ever find someone when you need them?"
Some men prefer for the women in their lives to give them wish lists of items they'd like to have for Christmas, complete with color, size, particulars and a photo if possible. Going to the store together to see firsthand what the item looks like is also not a bad idea.
And there are couples who put a limit on the amount of money that each can spend on the other to make sure the total bill is similar.
Mrs. Medley recommended online shopping for men, remarking that her family has been doing a lot of shopping via computer and her husband seems to enjoy it.
"You don't have to deal with any crowds on eBay and if you need help, you just push the little help button," chimed in Beetley. "And you can't go wrong with gift certificates, which you can get at the service desk and you don't have to go through the line, or cash. It's not that there's no thought into that kind of gift, she can take it and browse around all she wants to find something she likes."
Medley also suggested men consider purchasing gift items being sold at work. "Maybe Avon or Mary Kay," she gave as examples. "One year I got a nice Mary Kay gift basket from Justin. I knew he got it from Kay Harper who he works with but it was nice. And I didn't mind that he didn't spend too much time shopping for it, sometimes it really is the thought that counts."
Beetley said finding out what a woman wants for Christmas is simple. "Just listen," he advised. "Listen to what they say, they tell us all year long what they want us to get them. You wake up Christmas morning and open presents, then for the next 11 months they'll be giving you hints."
He also advised men to always keep the receipts just in case she'd like to quietly make an exchange.
Only having women to buy for makes Beetley somewhat of an expert on the subject. "If you're totally stumped, four little words: what do you want? And if she won't tell you or if she says surprise me, then ask her if she'd like a blender. That'll open her up real quick," he quipped.
"You can't go wrong with jewelry, sorry! Dinner rings are nice, so are one carat diamonds and past, present and future necklaces," Beetley noted. "Does she like scrapbooks? Would she like a new leather coat or a new pair of shoes? How about a package at a day spa? But don't ever ever give a woman a flannel shirt or anything that has a cord on it for Christmas. And just when you feel you've spent enough on her, spend a little bit more."