Tag Archives: shopping

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

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Filed under Humour

My Struggles with Sunscreen

After an Ottawa winter that seemingly never ended, there is no greater pleasure than the feeling of the sun’s warmth against our skin. But as some experts tell us, we can enjoy that feeling but we should be protecting that skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

I am no stranger to sunscreen. I have been wearing it pretty faithfully over the years, and stepping up the SPF number at the urging of my dermatologist. Because I am pretty fair-skinned and can burn pretty easily, it makes sense.

But much like I have described in other blog posts, shopping for a sunscreen is another never ending episode of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a brand of sunscreen that I considered “just right”. It had a nice light fragrance, it didn’t feel sticky, and it held up well when I was out running. Basically, it felt like I wasn’t wearing sunscreen when I had it on. I could even reapply it throughout the day and not feel like an oil slick. To me, that was the gold standard.

But I wonder if they changed the recipe because it doesn’t feel “just right” anymore. By my schnoz, the pleasant scent now seems to present notes of chemicals (which makes me a little apprehensive about meetings in small boardrooms) and the texture seems stickier than before.

Even if I wrote to the company with my questions, would it change anything? Probably not. And there is a chance that it could be my body chemistry changing, as opposed to the product. Some colognes I wore a decade or two ago smell very differently on me now, so I wouldn’t rule out that a sunscreen that was once perfect, might not behave the same on my approaching-geriatric skin.

And so began the auditions for a new sunscreen. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Health and Wellness, Running

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

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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

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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

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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

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Filed under 50+, Inspiring

The Extreme Joy from a New Chair

As much as I love my living room set, the reality is that if my back is not feeling well, lying on my couch is not a good place for me due to a disc issue. If I am there vertically, it’s fine, but horizontally, it doesn’t support me in exactly the right spots. And if Ivy the Wonder Cat decides to join me and sit on my stomach while I am horizontal, it seems to throw my spinal alignment off.

I certainly don’t blame the sofa, I tested it thoroughly before buying it and it is quite comfortable, but when my back is aching, I end up on the floor, preferring the flat surface for prolonged periods of TV binge watching or movie watching. But on cold winters’ days, which seem to be 183 days of the year here, that floor can get chilly.

One day I was running errands when I saw a lady at a busy intersection waving a sign indicating that the nearest furniture store was having a moonlight madness sale. I thought to myself that it might not hurt to take a few minutes and see if there were any good deals.

I toured the store, checking out the seemingly endless selection of lounge chairs and it didn’t take long for me to narrow the search to a few favourite models of reasonably-priced recliners that felt like they supported me in all the right places.

One model in particular seemed to be stealing my heart. Not only was it supportive, but it also felt like I was lounging in a cloud. Five minutes later, after almost falling asleep, I knew that this was the one. If my back was not happy, it would have screamed at me by now. Continue reading

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