Anti-shopper’s guide to holiday gift-giving

By Mari Taketa

How to tell if you’re an anti-shopper:

  • Crowds drive you insane.
  • Crawling around looking for parking drives you insane.
  • You think all those people crowding shopping malls and crawling around looking for parking are insane.

If you’re like me, you hate shopping but love giving gifts. We may be a minority (are we?), but we’re people too: We have family, friends and co-workers on our lists and years of goodwill and tradition to maintain.

So for you out there, fellow anti-shoppers trying to survive the season when American consumerism goes into overdrive, here are my eight tips for getting through with sanity intact.

Tip 1. It’s obvious: Shop online. But you can go one better. lets you buy through major retailers like and Bed Bath and Beyond and will donate a small percentage of proceeds to a favorite non-profit. You can even list a non-profit if it’s not there.

Tip 2. Shop where you shop anyway: Longs, Costco, the supermarket. I’m not kidding. Have you seen what can fill a gift basket from a supermarket bin? Beautiful cheeses, smoked ahi spread, mac nut-basil pesto (make sure to tell the recipient to refrigerate the basket). Longs is fantastic for overseas gifts like furikake potato chips, coffee-glazed mac nuts, 100 percent Kona coffee, even slipper-shaped cloth mops that you swish around the floor with your feet.

Tip 3. Shop off-hours. At malls, your best bet for scoring parking will be in the morning when shops open, or dinner time or later (Ed Morita snapped this shot of Ala Moana Center this past Sunday at 6). From Dec. 10, major malls on Oahu will stay open until 10 p.m.; here’s a list of their hours.

If you’re a night owl, Longs, Safeway and Don Quijote have 24-hour stores.

Tip 4. Suck it up and pay the $6 for valet parking at Ala Moana. It’s on the mauka side of mall level near Genki Sushi. Making your way there might be a slight hassle, but after that you’re home free.

Tip 5. Make gifts. Handmade gifts take more work, but they’re unique, people remember them, and they keep you away from malls. One year I made candlesticks; other years I’ve made crunchy fried walnuts laced with cinnamon and cayenne. Most popular have been the small cookbooks I made from my own recipes and packaged with cute salad forks or serving spoons.

Tip 6. Give gift certificates. Major retailers like Best Buy sell these online. Macy’s, Forever 21 and others will email gift cards to recipients. Drugstore or supermarket gift cards are practical for anyone. If you eat out a lot, you won’t have to drive out of your way for restaurant certificates. Some larger restaurants have websites where you can buy the certificates; others will take credit card payment over the phone and mail them to you. Costco sells discounted certificates for Ruby Tuesday, CPK and Big City Diner.

Tip 7. Shop on vacation. I realize this won’t help you before Dec. 25, but keep it in mind for the rest of the year. For anti-shoppers, browsing is a lot more fun when you’re somewhere faraway and exotic. Just keep it small and light. I’ve given wine stoppers from South Africa and scarves from Singapore. And it makes even a small gift special when the card says, “Saw this in SF and thought of you — Merry Xmas!”

Tip 8. Last tip because I’ve been told it’s “too goody two-shoes” (what’s a newer way of saying that?), but it’s what I did last year: Donate to non-profits in your friend’s name. I cleared this with everyone first. Money I would have spent on presents went to the Hawaiian Humane Society (for my friends who hate animals), the Institute for Human Services (for the friend who has everything) and Lanakila Meals on Wheels (for the friend who eats out a lot).

But people, the shopping season is still young! So far I’ve bought only one present, and that was because I needed a photo of it for an upcoming gallery. If you have any tips that would help me and other anti-shoppers, post them in our comments, please!

— Mari Taketa is a regular Nonstop contributor who loves to eat much more than shop.

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