Consumers, travelers play waiting game

Stay home or travel? Buy now or put on layaway? See a doctor or wait out this headache?

The troubled economy has made our usual last-minute holiday decisions even more of a dilemma for procrastinators.

"There are better bargains, in theory," Carlos del Cuadro said about waiting until Monday to finish his shopping at the Dadeland Mall Macy's.

Then Cuadro, assistant principal at Westland Hialeah Senior High, revealed the real reason behind his deadline-pushing ways:

"I'm a professional procrastinator," he said.

Consumers' wait-and-see behavior is extending beyond shopping malls and into travel agencies, doctors' offices and entertainment venues. Economic uncertainty is leading to a wait-and-see approach for many people, affecting everything from big-ticket purchases to travel decisions. The procrastination is bred from the fear and unease about the economic future, experts say.

Playing the waiting game adds undue stress to already anxiety-filled holidays, said Dr. Robert Schwartz, chairman of the family medicine department at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.

About one out of every three patients coming in to Schwartz's office has stress-induced headaches, backaches and indigestion, he said. And stress tends to increase during the holidays, especially when people put things off.

"I have a lot of patients who have lost their jobs and they come in here displaying those symptoms, but it's also a lot of people who are worried about losing their jobs,'' he said. 'There is a sense of 'what-if' anxiety that comes from this economy."

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