In the city that never sleeps, Macy's Herald Square was wide awake during the wee hours of Christmas Eve.
Under the glow of an appropriately full moon, this reporter found herself rolling down the highway in the pre-dawn hours of Dec. 24 being conveyed to Manhattan by a nearsighted taxi driver.
"Merry Christmas, welcome to Macy's," said the woman at the information desk, sounding much too peppy for 1 a.m.
Macy's was like manna for procrastinators, indecisives and thrill-seeking journalists like this one, operating eight locations, including the Herald Square flagship, round the clock, starting Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24.
Is Santaland open?" the information desk lady was asked. "Santaland closes at 9 p.m. It reopens in the morning."
Disappointing news, but the store might not want people in various states of sobriety traipsing through the claustrophobic Christmas exhibit that precedes the Santa meet and greet and photo op.
Casting a gaze across the main floor, the gilded garlands arching gracefully over the center aisle and red carpet runners installed for the holidays could be seen as if for the first time. Without the typical workday crowds, the store had an almost peaceful quality.
"It's relatively dead now," admitted a sales associate in the jewelry department, who declined to give his name. "By 3 a.m. it will be totally dead. Yesterday, at 3 a.m. it was crowded. People read in the newspaper that there were no lines, so everybody came. Today it's dead. Maybe it's because of the rain. People want to be in their beds."
Another employee said she was asked to work the holiday hours two or three months ago. Could she have refused? "You can't talk to reporters," her colleague scolded. "Don't you remember orientation?"
"I was asked three months ago," said a cosmetics associate. "I wanted to help the manager. We're not being paid extra."
The holy grail of the Starbucks logo was visible from the 35th Street balcony. Customers in the lounge area were supine in oversize upholstered furniture. So much for the caffeine jolt. "On Christmas Eve we're going to buy gifts for each other," said Hernany Hernandez, a tourist from Holland, who was traveling with six friends. "Now we're going to make lists of what we like. The prices are good. Stores are never open for 24 hours in Holland."
Compared with the laid-back atmosphere at Starbucks, the fragrance counters seemed downright exciting. A small crowd was gathered around Burberry; the shoppers were very young and many of the men wore T-shirts with irreverent statements such as "I am not an idiot savant." At nearby Chanel, a group of men with large diamond stud earrings and leather jackets loaded up on fragrance and handed the bags to significant others sporting serious bling.
The other floors were sparsely populated, with just a handful of shoppers on the second floor taking advantage of the 50 percent discounts on Inc. and 20 percent to 40 percent off on Tommy Hilfiger. "We just had dinner at a [nearby] Korean restaurant," said Nicole Kung. "The sale prices are OK, but they don't have anything in our size [small]."
"I kind of like it better now that you don't have to fight with everybody over a dress," said Alice Kung, her sister.
Peter Zanpella Jr., a window display designer, bought a pair of Alfani shoes for his sister, "Imelda Marcos," he joked. What he liked best about all-night shopping was that "there's not stuff thrown all over the floor."
A woman sitting on the rug beneath an Oscar de la Renta rack marked 50 percent off was catching up on her sleep. Other designer merchandise at markdown prices appeared to be T Tahari, 50 percent to 75 percent off, and Michael Kors, with nearly every rack reduced by 50 percent, 25 percent or an extra 15 percent, taken at the register.
Standing on Broadway outside Macy's at 2:45 a.m., a Northern New Jersey housewife, who declined to give her name, said, "This was a night out with the girls. We got really good sales. Everything was 50 percent off, or more. It was worth it."
Adam Ng spoke for his friends when he said, "We came because we knew it was open. Some of us needed last-minute gifts. We're crazy."
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