The Christmas buying frenzy started early this season and the reports are the year is going to be a sales whopper. New records are being set on Internet buying. Brick-and-mortar stores are holding their own. People seem to be in a spending mood even if money is short.

Here in East Contra Costa County there is less enthusiasm. It showed up in random interviews with 10 locals. Many are skeptics who are questioning the sales figures being claimed. Some shoppers say their funds still are tight and they are spending less than last year.

Kathleen Canario of Oakley just retired. "I have to think high sales are being exaggerated to make people think the economy is improving," she said. "The early tabulations might be skewed because of the deep discounts available. It's deceptive. I'll be spending no more than last year."

Oakley's Linda Heifner feels the same. "I don't think sales figures really are up as reported. I think it's a hype to get people to spend," she said. "I'm spending less this year on family gifts."

Mitch Gamet of Brentwood has two new grandkids which he says explains why he will be spending a little more this year. "But the overall sales figures are strange. I find it hard to understand those reports. I don't think anyone has extra money," he said.

Elaine Ortiz of Antioch said she's budgeting the same amount as she did last year. "Most of my buying is on the Internet because it's convenient. Reports from around the country indicate that people already have forgotten the tough times we've been through and it doesn't surprise me."

Chris Dolger of Brentwood also questions the sales figures. "Almost everyone I know will be spending less because they have to cut back. That includes me," he said. "But it's not going to affect the gift buying for my two small boys."

"It's hard to know whether the reported sales are accurate," echoed Antioch's Jack Smith. "I do believe the economy is on the rise but it's nothing spectacular. I'll be spending less this year mainly because of family medical problems."

Judy Aiken of Brentwood believes the economy definitely is coming around. "We're in construction and we see the jobs that are coming back. It's going to be a really big Christmas." Then she added with a sigh, "We'll be spending a little less because our kids have grown older."

Lisa Evans of Discovery Bay sees it this way. "Sales are high because of the bargains being offered. We're buying and we're being smarter about what we buy. But I'm spending less because I have less to spend."

"I'm a bargain hunter. I'm still buying gifts, but spending less on them," said Claudia Mendoza of Brentwood. "We just bought a new home and we still need to spend a lot of money on it."

Antioch's Jose Flores is out of work. "Last year I spent $1,000 on Christmas. This year I have nothing to spend." "I'm working on a list of people who will be cut out," he said. "The big sales figures come from people with lots of money to spend. Good for them. People like me have nothing to spend."

Contact Ed Arnow at BrentwoodBuzz@aol.com.