Did you know that you CAN shop too early for Christmas? At least if you shop at Target, that can be the case.
I am a procrastinator by nature. People who learn that about me are often surprised, but it is true. I'm organized and efficient ... I'm just slow in getting started. I "mull" things over for quite some time ... waking up at 3 a.m. worrying about what I have to get done, when I will find the time to do it, what piece of it to begin with, etc.
Take Christmas for instance In early October every year, I find myself starting to "panic" about all that must be done in only 2 1/2 months. What's everything? Oh, Christmas shopping (I buy approximately 80 presents), wrapping those 80 gifts, decorating the house, putting the tree up, writing and mailing our Christmas letter, picking a date to frost and exchange cookies with the kids and grandkids, etc., etc. So on approximately October 10 each year, I start what I call the 3 a.m. heebie jeebies (this is where the procrastination piece comes in). After tossing and turning for several hours in the wee hours of the morning, I get out of bed, acknowledging that "the season" has begun (my season of panic, that is), but then I might spend 2 hours that night sitting in front of my computer playing Free Cell or looking at pictures on Facebook, or working the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle .. all the while my stomach is twisting and turning in anticipation of all that must be done!!!!
So I was quite proud of myself when, in April of this year, I bought my first present for Christmas 2011! No hints. It's a secret, so I'm not telling who it was for or what it was. Suffice it to say, I was pretty darn pleased with myself. Maybe I was finally shedding that old bugaboo, procrastination! The gift made its way into a closet, with a sticky note on it advising as to who it was for and the occasion (just in case, I'm kidnapped by aliens and my family is left behind to sort through all of the stuff I have in various closets throughout the house) ... or, in the more likely event, that I just plain forget by December who it was I purchased a gift for in April.
In August, I picked up 3 more gifts. I was on a roll and was happy to say goodbye to this nasty character flaw.
One day last week, I decided to REALLY prepare early by wrapping the gifts already purchased. As I pulled out what I had bought, I started second guessing myself as to the size (oops, a clue!) and decided that an exchange was in order in case the recipient had grown a bit since August.
A quick glance at the receipt brought a smug glow as I again patted myself on the back at my early preparedness.
A trip to Target's return desk brought me face to face with a very helpful customer service rep. I couldn't help myself .. I had to tell her that these were early Christmas presents I had bought IN AUGUST(!) and was already returning, BEFORE I ever gave them to the intended recipients. I explained I wanted to get different sizes and waited for her to congratulate me on being one of the "early Christmas shoppers" that we all aspire to.
Imagine my shock when she told me it was a good thing I had returned them because the receipt would expire on 11/17/11. I pointed out that I had gift receipts that would accompany the gifts. She said that wouldn't matter. The gift receipts would be expired also. I asked what that meant (I felt as if we were speaking in two different languages).
It means, all you early bird shoppers out there, that the person returning the gift would be given whatever the clearance price of the item was the last time it was sold at Target. You've all seen those "clearance stickers" on items ... some of them say things like "$1.38." I'm frugal, but I don't want people to think of me as cheap!
I was flabbergasted. I observed that shopping early, then, really wasn't such a great idea. She advised me to never start my Christmas shopping before October ... and to always check the expiration date on the receipt to make sure that it would occur after the date the gift was to be opened!
While I was disappointed that Target's return policy is so penurious as to discourage a population that might want to avoid the craziness of the Christmas rush, I was also pleased to finally realize that no matter how early I started worrying about Christmas' impending arrival, I absolutely cannot start shopping before October 1 if I suspect that someone might need to exchange a gift from me. And, historically speaking, that DOES happen periodically (I really don't know why my husband didn't like those striped coveralls I gave him for Christmas that year. I thought they would be perfect to wear while blowing out the driveway!)
So, if you are planning to do your Christmas shopping early, avoid Target until after October 1. Oh,and that gift I bought in April? Guess I'll keep it for myself and start all over again! Level 2 of panic setting in ....