Tag Archives: retail

Pre-Christmas Crowd Avoidance

It is a little silly the lengths to which I will go to avoid getting stuck in a pre-Christmas crowd.

The reality is that I don’t fear crowds. I just don’t happen to like what happens to certain people trapped in their hot parkas for too long, among dozens of other people trapped in their hot parkas for too long. It creates a bit of a pressure cooker effect that raises blood pressures and potentially spills over into an eruption of strong negative emotions.

When you add to the mix the ticking clock of Christmas approaching and stock flying off the shelf, it’s that wild card of not knowing when you might get caught in the crossfire of people whose attitude would get them a permanent placement (with glittering gold stars) on Santa’s naughty list, and a free gift card for anger management training.

Despite buying my first presents in August, making about a hundred lists and checking them twice, and stocking up on anything and everything that doesn’t go bad to reduce my number of store visits in December, there are still things that need to be bought at the last minute for the sake of freshness. I accept that.

But to minimize my exposure to people whose tempers need tempering requires strategy, problem-solving skills and a strong Internet connection. Not only does it demand shopping at off-peak times, but around here it also means dodging snowstorms, freezing rain and Ottawa Senators game night traffic.

To calculate the logistics of this early morning weekend run, it starts with a chart of the last minute items, the location of where I expect to find them, and Google searches to verify at what time each store opens.

I’ll then rearrange the order chronologically to try to be at each stop shortly after they open, to zip in and out before the crowds begin, and before the parking lots turn into inescapable mazes of vehicles parked in improvised spots. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour

When Did Everything Become an “Experience”?

Back in my school days, I was a huge fan of marketing classes and thought that one day I might want to work in advertising. Life took a different spin and I didn’t end up working in that field, but I still had the opportunity to put some marketing know-how to good use in the field that chose me.

Just the same, as much as I bow to the wisdom of the marketing masters, I really don’t understand when or why everything suddenly became an “experience”.

Picking up something at the store has become a retail experience. Getting a bite to eat has become a dining experience. Music is now a listening experience and movies are now a viewing experience.

Did everything have to become an experience?

I was amused when I recently visited an establishment and noticed a poster prompting readers to tell management about their experience. The odd thing is that it was posted in the men’s washroom.

What would I have written back? Do they really want a description of my bathroom experience? (Careful what you wish for! Creative types with a sneaky sense of humour might actually take you up on the offer.)

“My approach to the urinal was a pleasant one as the aroma of disinfectant pucks filled my sinuses with a gentle, welcoming blend of lavender and chlorine.

The automatic flushing mechanism was very effective in bathing the urinal in a fresh cascade of water, reminiscent of a serene waterfall, a perfectly choreographed three seconds after I stepped away. I couldn’t have cued it better if I had flushed it myself. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Humour

The Downside of Long Weekends

Don’t we all just love long weekends?

Long weekends are often synonymous with tying up loose ends at work, a sense of pride in a job well-done, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of levity, and the joy of being rewarded with an extra day off to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labour.

In my perfect Pollyanna-bubble world, on the last work day before a long weekend, people are sporting their best smiles, wishing each other a great long weekend, high-fiving each other as they pass each other in the lobby of the office tower. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and everyone is in the best mood eagerly anticipating the best long weekend ever!

That is… until they get outside. From about noon onward, the city is in complete gridlock.

Traffic is at a standstill, the electronic signs on mall parking lots are blinking “FULL”, the grocery stores are bursting with hangry people with towering shopping carts, and liquor store patrons are lined-up as far as the eye can see.

For some reason, there isn’t a drop of patience to be found as drivers are almost mowing down pedestrians, everyone is blowing yield signs and stop signs, and the world is seemingly possessed by road rage punctuated by a stronger than usual sense of self-entitlement.

It was incredibly validating to hear that it wasn’t just my own borderline introvert lens that saw things this way when I was told that law enforcement officers are posted in the parking lot of the “warehouse-style” store to keep the peace and to direct the crawling traffic. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Humour

Dear Loyalty Apps, Please Stop Logging Me Out!

In 2016, I published a blog post about the number of loyalty cards I was carrying and the challenge in keeping track of all of them. There had to be an easier way.

I still maintain that with impeccable client service and reasonable prices, we could probably skip loyalty programs.

But marketing wizards seem to have tapped into our basic human need to belong, and have turned clubs and memberships into an art form that seems to fill a void. Sometimes the exclusive rewards and personal offers are so well thought out that we overlook the consumer information that we have volunteered about ourselves to get to those benefits.

Shortly after that post appeared, I figured I had nothing to lose in trying to keep track of all of them with the smart phone apps that they were offering.

Initially, the issue I encountered was that my antiquity of a phone was sometimes too slow to produce the apps as soon as I needed them. To proceed with the experiment, I had to wait until my phone was retired and replaced.

When I bought a new phone, I jumped on the bandwagon in a big way and signed up for all of the apps to replace the imposing stack of loyalty cards I had accumulated.

My next task was to learn how to juggle products like a circus performer, while waiting in line to check out. I wanted to avoid the huffing, puffing and sighing from the shoppers behind me, as we all waited for an app to launch.

I became pretty good at holding different products under my armpits, between my legs, or in my teeth while needing both hands to swipe my way to the right app at the right time. I’m sure that there is some funny security footage out there to attest to my newly found skills. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs

My Attempts at Reducing Plastic Packaging

We’ve known for years that the plastics we discard now can potentially remain on this planet for generations to come. With that knowledge, I have been trying to do my part to reduce my plastic footprint by switching to fabric shopping bags (and remembering to bring them), by using reusable containers for my work lunches, and by finding substitutes (or additional uses) for single-use plastic bags.

And then, despite my best intentions and efforts, I have weeks where I feel defeated when unpacking my shopping and seeing so many products entombed in plastic bubbles, with no offer of alternatives.

Just looking at recent weeks’ shopping, I have seen item after item that probably could have been served up in a bin like at a bulk food store.

I understand that these sturdy packages prevent breakage or leakage in shipping, and at the retail level they help in reducing shoplifting. Also, for some personal products, plastic is considered necessary to keep products clean and sanitary. But in doing a 360 degree turn in many stores, all I see is plastic, plastic and more plastic. It’s discouraging.

We need to rethink retail. Maybe we need things behind counters and hire actual humans to sell them to us rather than putting things in big blobs of indestructible plastic. For taking products home, are there other more eco-friendly materials than plastic bags?

Also, when it comes to clothing or fabric products, could everyone in the manufacturing, shipping, storage and retail chain get by with one tag and a more mindful use of plastic fasteners? I recently bought a throw for the sofa, to protect it from Ivy the Wonder Cat’s claws, and spent 10 minutes removing a multitude of tags and a ridiculous number of tiny plastic fasteners. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Misc blogs

Goldilocks and the White Socks

Regular readers of my blog are probably familiar with my adventures in shopping that involve a lot of research, testing, comparison and disappointment that often sound like a story about Goldilocks.

When some products are too big, others are too small, and over the course of multiple shopping trips, I hope to find the one that is just right.

One such situation these days is my hunt for white socks. All I am looking for is plain, white, mostly cotton, athletic-style socks for very casual situations. Sounds simple, right?

For some reason, manufacturers and buyers for stores don’t seem to be on the same wave length. Plain white socks are hard to find.

For years I was able to find them here in Canada at a well-known store (that shall remain nameless). One day, I bought a pack of three pairs that left me with the impression that they had changed. The answer came a few washings later when the elastics completely gave out and the socks were falling repeatedly. This didn’t happen before. Someone must have changed the “recipe”.

I switched to another brand that was available at that time, which lasted a few years until they discontinued the men’s small size and carried only “one size fits all”. Continue reading

3 Comments

Filed under 50+, Humour

My New Year’s Resolution for 2019: Expecting More

New Year's festivitiesWhen I attended university 35 years ago, majoring in business administration, the book “In Search of Excellence” written by Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. was often referenced as a case study in best practices.

As a student in the 1980s, the book resonated with me. I was particularly in awe of the innovative concept of seeking input from clients and front line employees for simple yet effective ideas for enhancing the quality of products and services. The concept’s success was further demonstrated in the documentary movie that was making the rounds at that time.

“In Search of Excellence” was probably the book that inspired me most to pursue a career in business. Even as a young man, I was moved when a business (a store, a restaurant or a service) valued quality and worked a little harder to achieve it. This was (and still is) an important value for me and it appealed to me to think that a business career could revolve around the theme of quality.

But when the business world constantly hungers for a competitive edge, management principles are ever-evolving and replaced by new theories and best practices. And as a consumer, I am saddened that quality has been caught in the crossfire.

Some products don’t seem to last as long as they used to, despite the call to be more mindful of our use of landfills. Some stores are ghost towns, where it is impossible to find assistance when I need to ask questions or to get a product from a high shelf. And when I am able to find assistance, on some occasions I am given wrong directions or wrong answers.

I have also noticed some products I buy often getting cheapened by cutting corners on workmanship or incorporating cheaper materials. It is very disappointing. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under 50+, Inspiring