For those people who prefer to shop from the comfort of their armchairs, a variety of toll-free numbers specialize in fast delivery of gifts, and eliminate the need for a catalogue.
The grand assortment of items you can buy through these 800 services ranges from teddy bears to wine and roses, from any book in print to limited-edition prints by Picasso and from tins of Christmas fruitcake to boxes of fresh caviar.
All companies listed here accept major credit cards, say they will help you choose a gift that (allegedly) suits your budget, wrap it and guarantee Christmas delivery if you call by Dec. 15 (some accept later orders).
You can wire flowers, fruit or wine (800-FLOWERS) at any hour of the day. Or call a posh Beverly Hills store called Giorgio (800-GIORGIO) and arrange to send, for example, perfume, bath powder, gloves or a scarf.
BookCall, in Connecticut, will help you decide which best seller, cookbook, or fitness book will suit different people on your list. They wrap up any book in print, and answer (800) 255-2665.
Dial (800) FOR-BABY and you'll reach mothers and ex-mothers who will help you choose an unusual toy for a toddler or baby. They have, for example, award-winning toys from Europe, and rocking horses from rural Ohio craftsmen. For slow eaters, ages 2 to 6, their $15 set of four placemats teaches numbers, colors, shapes and the alphabet with clever graphics.
They also offer bears in many sizes from the classic Gund and Steiff brands. A washable bear for a baby costs $11, and a gigantic bear for a toddler (or adult), $89.
Manhattan's popular Caviarteria, (800) 221-1020, will ship any variety of caviar you like, and offers a sampler of four caviars for $29, as well as a pound of nicely sliced Scotch salmon for $29. Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, (800) 221-3505, provides a brandied fruitcake from a New Orleans recipe in Saks' round red tin for $20, and $10 puts large pretzels or cookies in the tin. Saks also has a three-pound teddy bear made entirely of chocolate.
It's easy to spend thousands by dialing these 800 numbers. For example, (800) FINE-ART reaches a gallery in San Francisco which will help you choose an original print by Salvador Dali, Vasarely or Picasso, beginning at $400, or a Winter Olympics poster for $25. The number, (800) IBM-PC-JR, reaches people who will find a dealer to deliver an IBM personal computer.
Finally, to design the ideal recovery from the holiday season, dial (800) 2-TAHITI.