Last-minute shoppers: Tips for online, downloadable gifts

Last-minute tips for holiday gadget gifts: Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky reviews Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9 tablet, Samsung's Galaxy Camera and Nintendo's Wii U gaming console. (Bloomberg)
December 21, 2012

Maybe you left someone off of your list. Maybe you like to live on the edge. Maybe you enjoy the sound that shipping deadlines make as they fly by. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for last-minute gifts, you’re not alone. According to a customer survey from Sears, 40 percent of Americans still have Christmas shopping to do. Here are some ideas to lessen the panic for present procrastinators:

Last-minute shipping: In some ways, the calendar has favored procrastinating gifters this year by putting Christmas on a Tuesday. Many retailers are giving you until Dec. 21 to rush delivery by Dec. 24th — so if you rush right now you may be able to catch a break. Apple, for example, has said that Dec. 21 is absolutely the last day to get gifts shipped from its online store. So, anyone hemming and hawing over whether to wrap up an iPad mini should get off the fence now. And don’t expect to get it engraved, either.

In-store pickup: If you want to have something wrapped, under the tree (and not in an envelope), consider going online now and choosing your perfect gift to pick up in stores. Best Buy has a whole “Procrastination Destination” section on its site offering free in-store pickup. Several other retailers, including Sears and Kmart, also offer in-store pickup. Sure, you’ll still have to brave the stores to get your gift, but at least you won’t have to wrap an IOU.

Gift cards: If you’re confident that your intended recipient has a favorite store, online gift cards are a great way to get around the barriers of time and distance. Most stores will offer gift cards that you can e-mail. If you aren’t sure about a recipient’s favorite shopping spot, consider a prepaid gift card from companies such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

E-books and digital games: Get your favorite people a book or two to deliver to their e-reader for a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift. You can send titles to most e-readers — Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble all allow users to send gift cards or individual titles to readers. You can even delay delivery so that your book will show up on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Digital distribution works well for gamers, too, who can download games straight from publishers and marketplaces such as Steam to play immediately.

These also make great supplemental gifts, if a younger sibling wants to contribute to a larger gift like a computer or tablet.

Subscriptions: Subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video or GameFly are another option. Or, if you’re feeling a little more creative you could also subscribe a friend to an online club — there are several for wine, beer, book, bacon and more — that will send them new products every month.

Sign up today to receive #thecircuit, a daily roundup of the latest tech policy news from Washington and how it is shaping business, entertainment and science.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Last-minute tips for holiday gadget gifts: Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky reviews Amazon's Kindle Fire HD 8.9 tablet, Samsung's Galaxy Camera and Nintendo's Wii U gaming console. (Bloomberg)
December 21, 2012

Maybe you left someone off of your list. Maybe you like to live on the edge. Maybe you enjoy the sound that shipping deadlines make as they fly by. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for last-minute gifts, you’re not alone. According to a customer survey from Sears, 40 percent of Americans still have Christmas shopping to do. Here are some ideas to lessen the panic for present procrastinators:

Last-minute shipping: In some ways, the calendar has favored procrastinating gifters this year by putting Christmas on a Tuesday. Many retailers are giving you until Dec. 21 to rush delivery by Dec. 24th — so if you rush right now you may be able to catch a break. Apple, for example, has said that Dec. 21 is absolutely the last day to get gifts shipped from its online store. So, anyone hemming and hawing over whether to wrap up an iPad mini should get off the fence now. And don’t expect to get it engraved, either.

In-store pickup: If you want to have something wrapped, under the tree (and not in an envelope), consider going online now and choosing your perfect gift to pick up in stores. Best Buy has a whole “Procrastination Destination” section on its site offering free in-store pickup. Several other retailers, including Sears and Kmart, also offer in-store pickup. Sure, you’ll still have to brave the stores to get your gift, but at least you won’t have to wrap an IOU.

Gift cards: If you’re confident that your intended recipient has a favorite store, online gift cards are a great way to get around the barriers of time and distance. Most stores will offer gift cards that you can e-mail. If you aren’t sure about a recipient’s favorite shopping spot, consider a prepaid gift card from companies such as Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

E-books and digital games: Get your favorite people a book or two to deliver to their e-reader for a thoughtful, eco-friendly gift. You can send titles to most e-readers — Amazon, Sony and Barnes and Noble all allow users to send gift cards or individual titles to readers. You can even delay delivery so that your book will show up on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Digital distribution works well for gamers, too, who can download games straight from publishers and marketplaces such as Steam to play immediately.

These also make great supplemental gifts, if a younger sibling wants to contribute to a larger gift like a computer or tablet.

Subscriptions: Subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Video or GameFly are another option. Or, if you’re feeling a little more creative you could also subscribe a friend to an online club — there are several for wine, beer, book, bacon and more — that will send them new products every month.

Sign up today to receive #thecircuit, a daily roundup of the latest tech policy news from Washington and how it is shaping business, entertainment and science.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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