FORTUNE
December 12 2007: 3:07 PM EST
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Learn to shop like a pro

Are you missing the shopping gene? Meet the woman who knows what your wife, your assistant, your cousin, and everybody else wants.

By Abby Ellin, Fortune Magazine contributor

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Julie Subotky, Consider it Done founder.
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A few of Subotky's favortie things: Tea Forte chamomile teas, $14 each, chelseamarketbaskets.com; enameled teapot, $220 Nicole Farhi; Eleni's designer handbag cookies, $75, elenis.com.

(Fortune Magazine) -- Shopping with Julie Subotky is like watching A-Rod at bat. Even during a casual stroll through a boutique her eyes operate on a deeper level, seeing the possibility in objects that other mortals would barely notice.

"Look at those trays!" she says, pointing to a series of different-sized plastic numbers at Manhattan's Nicole Farhi 202. "They're not expensive" - $80 to $130 - "and the colors are great. You can jazz them up with coasters or a carafe, and voilà! Perfect mother-in-law gift."

Subotky, 40, started shopping for busy executives ten years ago when she founded Consider It Done (consideritdone.com), in Aspen.

She's since opened a Manhattan outpost, where she helps clients (who pay about $4,000 a month, with a six-month minimum) find everything from perfect birthday gifts for their kids to thank-yous for their employees (she recently arranged a luxurious weekend in New York for one lucky driver).

We went shopping with Subotky and came away with five rules for a smooth gift-giving season.

Start with a list

Think about the different areas of your life: The office (assistants, receptionists). Family. Home (doormen, trainers, housekeeper, handymen, nanny). Make a list that includes the name, gender, age bracket, and at least one characteristic or thing that they like. Set a price range for each one.

Get personal

"Try to customize each gift," Subotky says. If you know the person from the beach, think of something beachy. It can be as simple as remembering that she has a pet and tying a dog toy to the ribbon.

Typically, Subotky chats with the gift-giver -- or her assistant -- to gauge her taste. Then she finds out about the recipient.

"You can know one little thing about the person -- that she likes the color blue, or the Beatles -- and the gift means so much more."

Get beyond the basics

"You can't go wrong with classics like a cashmere throw, but you can get a little bit more creative," she says. "I like the idea of a fur hot water bottle holder, a throw, and a Scrabble board. It's decadent and thoughtful."

Make it a wrap

"If I walk into my office, and there's a bottle of water with a sticky note that says 'Happy Birthday,' I think, 'Oh,'" Subotky says. "If it's wrapped with a balloon and a card and a ribbon, I'm, like, 'Someone got me a gift!'" If you don't want to be wasteful, you can always use burlap or fabric and tie it up with twine.

If all else fails, delegate. "Every CEO knows to let people focus on what they are good at," Subotky says. And even when somebody calls in a pro, "the best part is, they still get all the credit."  To top of page