Tag Archives: stores

What I Surprisingly Missed During Covid-19

With the recent announcements about gradually reopening the economy, I look forward to seeing how the new normal will unfold, even though we have already been adapting to progressive new normals like mice working their way through a maze.

By necessity, for the health and safety of employees and customers alike, businesses that were able to remain open have had to make significant adjustments.

This was also true for citizens being told to only go out for groceries and pharmacy items, and to only step out once per week to accomplish that if possible.

For me, cutting back on shopping trips wasn’t so challenging in itself because as I get older and more practical, the urge to shop seems to be on a downward slope. Similarly, with the finish line to retirement clearly within sight, it’s not like I need to stock up on collared shirts, pants or dress shoes. For those reasons, shopping only for the essentials wasn’t a huge adjustment.

The big adjustment was in HOW I shopped for the essentials.

The first thing to go was my ability to casually and spontaneously do errands. In the old normal, after my work day, if there was a traffic tie-up on the highway (which, due to a major construction project, was becoming most nights), I would make the best of it and use the time constructively to do errands in the neighbourhoods around the office, picking up a few items here and there. By the time I hit the highway later, with less traffic, I could actually be home in less time.

Also, with only a few items in hand, I could swiftly pay for my purchases through the stores’ express lanes.

The other benefit to my approach was that with the help of sales flyers, I could plan an itinerary to pick up items on sale at different stores on my way home, which helped to stretch my shopping dollars.

And for someone with recurring back issues, running smaller errands was ideal because I would be walking out with only one bag.

The experts’ advice to try to buy everything at one store was a bit of a struggle for me. Let’s be honest, no matter how many acres a single store may occupy, walking out with absolutely everything on one’s list is not a guarantee. When compounded by people grabbing enough staples for a six month isolation, the resulting shortages had me editing the week’s menu plans and rejigging grocery lists on the fly.

And when heeding the advice to buy from only one place, my treasure hunt for picking up sale items at different stores was no longer possible.

My small errands at multiple stores at short internals usually yielded individual totals in the 20 to 40 dollar range. The first time I had a grocery order that crossed over the three digits, I could feel the beads of sweat popping out of my forehead. The last time I had a total that high was Easter 2014, when I was preparing a dinner for 15 guests.

One week, I had an 8 day interval between shopping trips in which I had used up many staples. When the cashier announced my total was over $170, I asked her to repeat it… twice! Admittedly, if I took the time to add up my receipts from my old method with the multiple stops, it probably would have added up to something close to that, but I never really saw it.

Becoming a list keeper is not new to me. I’m usually pretty good about keeping a grocery list and to note items as they are close to running out. But in the first few weeks, I was tormented repeatedly when discovering that I forgot a key ingredient within minutes after returning home. With practice, I got pretty good at taking quick inventory of all staples and anticipating what might need replenishing.

The security briefings before stepping into stores were appreciated but so unlike our usual way of doing things. I remember one clerk advising I should “shop with your eyes, not with your hands.” I thought that was wise advice and hoped everyone else did the same. But trying to pick firm oranges with your eyes is not easy. When the first three I picked up with my freshly sanitized hand deflated on contact, I stepped away from the display and concluded that risking scurvy was the lesser evil when compared to risking Covid-19.

With grocery aisles not quite allowing two metres for social distancing, I appreciated the arrows on the ground that turned each row into a one-way street. But they didn’t come without their own share of issues like the dude parked in the middle of the aisle calling “Honey” to find out which flavour to buy. There was no way to get around him safely to respect social distancing rules and I feared the dire repercussions of doing a three point turn and going down a one-way aisle illegally. Who knew that my new normal would become this kind of traffic tie up?

With a full cartload of groceries, the express lane was out of the question, as I stood semi-patiently on my red dot, two metres behind another frowning shopper with a full cartload of groceries, grunting as he threw his items on the conveyor belt.

And then it was the production of hauling multiple grocery bags back to the car and then into the house. Every step felt infinitely more cumbersome and time consuming. Oh, and I found out the hard way that paper bags are crap on a rainy day.

And then when I got home it was the decontamination process of the items, of me, of the car, of the front door, of the entry hall, of the doorknobs, of the light switch, of the railings, etc. That, in itself, was enough reason to reduce the number of shopping trips.

Between the sanitizing, the social distancing, the bombardment of signage and the multitude of lines, arrows, dots and crosses on the ground, doing groceries wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun. But each time, I recognized the need for all of these precautions, to remain safe, healthy and to not become a community transmitter.

Through the first two months of the outbreak, I didn’t realize how much I would miss something as simple as breezing in and out of stores to run quick errands. Getting into the habit of less frequent trips to acquire more items was indeed a significant adjustment, but given the risks to staff and my fellow shoppers, the adjustment was worth it in the long run to do my part to help flatten the curve.

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Health and Wellness, Misc blogs

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

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, 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

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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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Filed under Misc blogs

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 Irony of Black Friday Shopping

This past Friday, on my way home from work, I decided to check out a nearby department store to see if they had any stock left for a couple of items I use, which I had seen in their most recent Black Friday flyer at really attractive prices.

I also wanted to look for a few items on my Christmas gift list, which I cannot divulge at the moment as this is classified information between me and the North Pole.

On my arrival, a man bumped into me, trying to exit through the “in” door with a panic-stricken look on his face, as he ushered his son ahead of him. I could have sworn he mouthed the words “don’t do it”, but I thought to myself that I must have imagined it. But being the polite Canadians we are, we both excused ourselves, even though I clearly had the right of way.

Ten feet into the store, I understood the gentleman’s escape route.

I had never seen the store this busy before. Some people were clustered together, blocking the aisles, as they scrutinized their flyer while pointing to empty shelves, to the ire of others trying to whizz by with full shopping carts on their way to the checkout line. I could hear babies crying, young children whining and adults barking at each other. When combined with the aromatic combination of seasonal scented candles, ladies’ perfumes and snow tires, I was heading into sensory overload. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, mental health, pop culture

Boxing Day Memories: Sam the Record Man

When I think back to my Christmas wish lists over the years, music has been a constant. As a long time music lover, my voracious appetite for music goes as far back as age 10.

Through my early teens, I had an allowance from my parents, and in my later teen years, I had pocket money from a part-time job. A lot of that money was spent on records.

At that time, vinyl record albums were relatively pricey for someone earning $2.35 per hour. Christmas became that opportunity to ask Santa for the albums I did not get a chance to pick up myself through the year.

In preparing that wish list, there was some careful consideration and a few (if not several) trips to the record store(s) to ensure that the albums I chose would bring maximum enjoyment. I would meticulously review the song lists and count the number of songs I knew versus the ones I didn’t, and then compared from one album to the next.

We didn’t have listening stations, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify to check out those other unknown songs. Sometimes I might have been able to borrow a certain album from a friend or from the library, but for the most part, those other songs were often a mystery until the record was home and on the turntable.

When I think back, I am surprised at how methodical I was for such a young age, but value for money was pretty important given my limited means and my appetite for music. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Christmas, Humour, music, pop culture

My Writer’s Uniform

For as long as I can remember, spring and fall were usually times to head back to the malls and hunt for a few new items of clothing to refresh the wardrobe.

I would assume that the timing has its origins back to childhood when fall meant “back to school” and spring meant replacing the t-shirts and shorts I outgrew from the previous season. Even though I haven’t set foot in a classroom in years and “outgrowing” holds a different meaning today, the traditions of shopping for spring and fall fashion stuck with me.

But the paradigm of seasonal shopping is starting to shift. With retirement just a few years away, my clothing needs are changing.

I would like to think that until now, for my work life and my social life, I had cultivated a look that struck the right balance between the office dress code, what allowed me to feel comfortable and confident and what pleased me personally.

I developed a uniform of separates I truly loved, that fit me the way I wanted. Through carefully selected long sleeved shirts, sweaters, blazers, dress pants, cotton pants, jeans, shoes, and socks of all colours, it was very easy to mix and match the pieces to achieve a multitude of looks, appropriate for the weather, the occasion, and how I felt on a given day.

I also had on hand the obligatory suits for interviews, weddings and funerals.

Similarly, I knew exactly which pieces traveled better than others, which took the guesswork out of packing for a trip. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour, Misc blogs, Writing

With This Many Loyalty Cards, How Loyal Can You Be?

Reward CardsDo you remember the episode of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” when George Costanza’s wallet explodes from the multitude of items he had filed away in it? Some days, I feel that could be me just from the quantity of reward and loyalty cards I have accumulated over the years.

Just this past week, I was in a rush to leave the house to go see a movie and found myself deep diving through the kitchen counter pile of flyers, lists, receipts and other miscellaneous orphaned items, to look for my movie loyalty card. Fortunately I found it in time, despite the needle in the haystack factor.

I have loyalty cards for airlines, hotels, department stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. I have cards to earn me free coffee, free pet food and free dry cleaning, to name a few.

As you can see by the stack of cards in the picture, I am a member of a multitude of loyalty programs, but frankly I am not as loyal to them as they may think. I confess, I have been seeing other stores behind their back.

Out of all of those cards, only two of them are always in my wallet. Maybe five get rotated in and out of the wallet regularly (…when I remember to). The rest, I try to keep as organized as possible by placing them all in a business card keeper (…when I remember to).

Talk about a house of cards, Continue reading

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