Think locally, shop online-ally

Just because I do my shopping online doesn’t mean I’m not supporting my local businesses. Most of them have Web pages. They’ll gift wrap any present and mail it for me. I don’t have to drive around looking for a non-existent parking spot, I don’t have to elbow my way through crowds, I don’t have to wait in line at the cashier, I don’t have to wait at the wrapping desk. It also cuts down on my impulse buying. Not that I’ve made an impulse buy since the beginning of the Great Recession.

Face it: There are things you can buy online that simply aren’t available locally. Walmart sells caskets now, but you can only buy them online. I guess they don’t want anyone who’s buying Tasmanian Devil T-shirts to get any ideas regarding quality of life, especially during the holidays. It puts a damper on the impulse shopping. It’s hard to pretend you’re buying a coffin as a gift. But it’s hard to pass up a good deal; they range from $895 to $1,099 and are made in America. They say diamonds are forever, but if you think about it, so is a good casket. It also answers that “What do you get the guy who has everything?” question pretty quickly. If only they were stackable. Maybe Tupperware should start making them. Now that’d be a party!

Some people are hard to shop for. If there’s a music hater in your house, I recommend the new Bob Dylan CD of Christmas songs. Until you’ve heard Bob croak his way through “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” you cannot appreciate how good those dogs barking out “Jingle Bells” on the radio really are. They are the Susan Boyles to Bob’s William Hung. The CD is probably available at stores, but something tells me most Bob Dylan fans will buy this from iTunes or Amazon, so there’s no chance of their friends catching them buying it. If you get this as a non-gag gift, take the giver off your Christmas-card list immediately. If you get it from a co-worker, watch your back.

I suppose any toy is dangerous if you hit a kid over the head with it, but if you don’t eat the mechanical Zhu Zhu hamsters or set them on fire, they’re probably pretty safe. I don’t see what the big problem is with these toys or why there is a watchdog group after them. Where was the watchdog group when that little rascal climbed into his parents’ oversized balloon?

If you can’t get one locally, you can get them online, but not for the $8 they are barely worth. Some places online are selling them for $24. I’ve heard someone actually got $65 for them at the height of Zhu Zhu madness. I don’t know what Zhu Zhu means in Chinese but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Zhu Zhu meant “boondoggle.”

Statistics show that more and more people do at least part of their shopping online every year. Someday, I hope so many people will shop online that it might be fun to leave the house and go shopping again in a real store.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2009, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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