Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Get On-line Intead of In Line

By Ann Mulhearn

DECEMBER 15, 1997:  Yes, it’s the holidays – the claustrophobic crunch at malls, restaurants, banks, post offices, and grocery stores, the endless lines, the pain of getting in and out of traffic. Makes one want a little of those Christmas “spirits.” There has to be a way to avoid this perennial crush of grumpy cashiers, cranky kids, and disgruntled shoppers.

Well, that chick at the Flyer keeps harping about the virtues of the Internet, so maybe I should give on-line shopping a try. My living room beats the, uh, heck out of the mall, no matter how new and plush. But I’ve got a zillion cards to send, three nieces from 6 months to 13 years old, a persnickety grandmother older than the hills … where do I start?

Excuse me, excuse me! Hey, you! Yeah, it’s me, the chick from the Flyer. I think I can help.

First, I think you should try to get into the holiday mood. Www.techdirect.com/christmas/ has a plethora of stories, traditions, and even recipes. Or go straight to the source at www.christmas.com/.There are also thousands of Hanukkah sites such as www.jewishshop.com/jstore/hanuk-kah.htm and www.earthlink.net/holidays/hanukkah/, in addition to the thousands of Kwanzaa sites like new.melanet.com/kwanzaa/. If you go to your favorite search engine, I’m sure you can find a host of other seasonal sites.

Now that I think about it, maybe you should visit the North Pole and have a little talk with that jolly old elf himself. He has several cyber homes. Try www.north-pole.com/ or maybe www.claus.com/. His elves keep up with the sites (as well as the naughty and nice lists.) You can even get his e-mail address so your little ones can save you 32 cents.

Speaking of postage, forget the post office. You can send anyone with a valid e-mail address an email or Web card from any number of sites. No licking envelopes, no signing your name over and over, no stamps, no lines. Simply click, type, click, and it’s on its way. And the Internet has a better success rate on overnight deliveries than FedEx. For traditional cards, there is www.americangreetings.com/ and www.hallmark.com/. There are smaller, more unique card companies such as www.bluemountain.com/. These also offer Hanukkah and Kwanzaa cards, so there’s something for everyone.

Now, gifts are a little harder. You want them to be a little more personal, and the Internet is there to help. Several sites offer gift suggestion tools. www.amazon.com/ and www.barnesandnoble.com/ are two biggies, but toy companies such as www.hasbrotoys.com/ list their new and classic lines. In fact, there is a toy store that exists only online at www.etoys.com/. Even legendary toy store F.A.O. Schwartz has a cyber storefront at faoschwartz.com/.

Even though almost all major retailers now offer cyber-shopping options, don’t feel like your choices are limited to name brands. Specialty stores abound.www.tike.com/ is a storefront specializing in Kwanzaa-themed gift items. www.jewishshop.com/ offers Hanukkah books and gifts. For those offbeat, unexpected presents, mom-and-pop stores are still alive and well in cybermalls such as http://www.imall.com/ as well as independent Web sites. The key to finding what you want is leg work.

But wait. Before you start blubbering that the whole point was to avoid the outside world and all its holiday cheer, let me finish. I meant search engines! And, for an added holiday bonus, many of these on-line stores also provide delivery with gift-wrapping. But how do you pay for all these goodies? A credit card, of course. I know, I know, there’s the whole security issue. Just remember, Internet commerce today is far different from yesterday. I wouldn’t advise giving your numbers to just anyone on the Web, but major sites and those that offer secure transactions are as safe as using a card at the corner Texaco, maybe more so.

All that shopping can make you hungry, but no long lines at Chick-Fil-A for you. Instead, print out some of the goodies from Mrs. Claus’ site, www.thunderhead.com/santa/recipes.htm, or from Poppin’ Fresh at www.bakeoff.com/seasons/baking/baking.html. Then just whip ’em up in your own kitchen, and relax – feet up, music on, kids asleep, at home in your recliner, in front of your fire.

Aren’t the holidays great?

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