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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Last-minute shoppers now ready to get started

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion & Ethics Writer

John Ching, the consummate last-minute shopper, usually does manage to find decent night-before gifts.

Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

C'mon, John Ching, what were you thinking?

You work at a mall, Ala Moana, and you still haven't started your Christmas shopping? Plus, you haven't mailed that Danielle Steele book to your mom in Guam, and you've got not only a birthday but a Christmas present to get for the woman in your life.

It's not the first time the 23-year-old sometimes-student, sometimes-actor finds himself rushing out on Christmas Eve, grabbing something frilly for his 9-year-old niece or something not frilly for his 11-year-old nephew.

"Oh, and my girlfriend!" he said, whistling low to himself. "Yeah, I gotta get for her."

"Thank God the ATM is open 24 hours," he said with a laugh, noting that his nephew's favorite color is green.

Sure, he could have gone to Kmart or Longs last weekend, when those and other stores were open 24/7. Well, he and others like him could have — if it wasn't for the fact that they didn't.

Some round-the-clock convenience stores plan for Ching and other last-minute grabbers like him. At 7-Eleven, displays are set up with low-price ($6 to $10) gifts, such as manicure sets, M&M holiday candy dispenser ... oh, and a lovely travel kit, with toothpaste, toothbrush, etc., in a black tote.

If you do eye that $7 brush set or $4 paperweight for Cousin It or Auntie Morticia, let's hope you already stocked up on wrapping paper, said 7-Eleven assistant manager Lehua G. (who would only give her last initial because, "I don't want everybody to know I work here"). At the Waimanalo 7-Eleven, you can't get holiday wrapping paper, bows or even Christmas bags, so the telltale shopping bag will give you away.

Ching, who took off time from his liberal arts studies at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa to film "Windtalkers" (he was the body double for Adam Beach), personalizes his gifts, no matter how last-minute: He'll buy a T-shirt from his day job at Town & Country, stick money or a gift inside, and then wrap it up.

While you might be able to clock him in seconds for the amount of time he spends picking out the gift, he puts a great deal of time and energy into wrapping it: He'll use the Sunday color comics section ("The Advertiser, of course") to wrap the box, then cover up every possible inch of paper with clear packing tape — "just so people have to work for my gift," he says.

Waiting until the last-minute often means you forego comparison shopping, he admits, and often leaves you with a long line at the checkout, even if you did manage to make it to the mall before it closes at 6 p.m. today. (OK, 6:30 p.m. if it's Macy's in Ala Moana.)

Thank heavens for some grocery stores.

Last year, it was Foodland that saved him: He could show up for Christmas dinner with a pie, some ice cream and flowers for his girlfriend's mother.

Daiei will remain open until 11 p.m. tonight, and here is where Ching this year picked up a wood photo frame for his sister.

Which reminds him:

He has to get to Longs by 3 p.m. today for a one-hour photo, because the picture he wants to put in the frame "is still in my camera!"