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The Folks Who Bring You Christmas . . .

It’s finally Christmas morning, and another hectic holiday season is almost over.

Santa has come and gone, and most of the colorful wrappings are torn from packages that were under the brightly decorated tree. The stockings that were hung by the chimney with care lie discarded on the floor.

Preparations for Christmas dinner are under way, and the smell of roasting turkey wafts from many a kitchen. Thoughts turn to family and friends who will gather later.

All but forgotten are the crowded parking lots, the long lines and the rest of the nerve-racking hustle-bustle that goes with the season.

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Also far from most of our minds are the people who helped bring us Christmas--the store clerk who painstakingly helped select that special tie or cologne, the delivery man who banged on your door each time a package arrived, the nice woman who hand-packed a box of candy and waited patiently as you made your selections.

Most who provide services to people during the holidays have worked long hours and have had little time for Christmas preparations for themselves.

“I have one day off before Christmas, and I haven’t even bought one gift,” said a harried clerk in a women’s clothing store last week.

“We’ve been open until 11 every night. I didn’t want to work this much.”

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Following are a few examples of people who made Christmas a little brighter for others this year. Their stories were compiled by Times staff writers.

The cosmetics clerk: Mary DiBlasi guides devoted customers through the daunting task of selecting just the right fragrance.

When Mary DiBlasi is helping someone with a holiday perfume or cosmetic purchase, she isn’t just cutting a deal, she’s forming a relationship.

“We’re very strong on customer service,” she said. “A lot of people are intimidated when they come to a cosmetics counter.”

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DiBlasi has been serving many of her customers since she started at the cosmetics counter of May Company in the Sherman Oaks Galleria more than 10 years ago. When they need perfume or makeup, not just any salesperson will do.

“I have customers who won’t come in here unless they call in first and know I’m here,” she said. “Because I take care of them.”

DiBlasi, who started working shortly after her husband died, said the job has been a saving grace. “It’s been a therapy for me,” she said. “I enjoy my job, and I love people, and I love my customers, and they all bring me presents.”

This year, one of her faithful customers took her out to dinner and gave her a bottle of champagne as a Christmas present. When she recently was in the hospital for surgery, cards and flowers came flooding in from customers. And while she was out of work, the store couldn’t sell anything in her line of perfume. Her customers instead waited for DiBlasi to return.

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“You become friends,” she said. “That’s the kind of customers I have.”

This holiday season has given her the opportunity to make many more friends. Although the season started slowly, business picked up two weekends before Christmas. On one weeknight, during a five-hour period, DiBlasi sold $2,500 worth of perfume and cosmetics. “That’s a lot of selling, that’s a lot of money,” she said.

This year, people seem to be buying but are holding back and spending a little less, she said. “The only thing is that people, instead of spending $200 or $300, only spend $100 on a fragrance.”

DiBlasi estimated that about 60% of her customers this holiday season have been men, and she said they are by far the easier to please.

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“Women watch their pennies more,” she said, and will often ask for something less expensive when they hear the price. With her male customers, however, “the first thing you show them, they take it.”


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