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Black Friday Tips for the Best Buy and Least Insanity

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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The Puppacita, ready to shop

Shop at the prime time. You can often get the same deals online starting Thanksgiving or earlier, so spare yourself the Friday pre-dawn credit-card riot. Stores are also often breaking their sales into Thanksgiving deals and Black Friday deals, hoping to snare customers with the best buys before the turkey has settled. However, the “pre-Black Friday sale” is not always a substitute for the real thing. For example, right now PetSmart has 40 percent off many products. The Black Friday ad notes that online Thanksgiving discounts go to 50 percent off, with free shipping. Puppacita can hold out.

Consult a clearinghouse of Black Friday ads, such as BlackFriday.com, to browse through full ad circulars and get updates on which sale starts when. Kohls’ online sale has started; two years ago I got a king-size down comforter for $24.99, but unfortunately I don’t see that deal this year.

Do deal detective work. For retailers who have not yet announced a Black Friday sale, look at their current promotions and read the fine print for its expiration. For example, I am addicted to Kerastase hair products. Expensive but worth every penny, I wait for sales to ease this mane expenditure. Their current promotion for a free deluxe sample set ends at Nov. 27 at 3 a.m. EST. Every year, Kerastase does 20 percent off the site for Black Friday. So I’m holding my horses for Nov. 27 at 3:05 a.m.

Divvy it up to get more freebies. For retailers offering promotions with purchase and free shipping, split up your purchases. I was holding out for today’s ultimate Black Friday bonanza from L.A.-based skincare guru Ole Henriksen — a gift bag full of $100 worth of products free with a $50 purchase. I had two sets I wanted to buy: one $55, the other $59. The system wouldn’t let me get two of the $100 bags, but I just headed over to RetailMeNot to root through the promo codes. I used a code to get a free cleanser on my second purchase.

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A Guide to Black Friday & Holiday Shopping for Conservatives

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

I love, love, love a good deal. I follow half a dozen deals blogs on Twitter (here’s my list, my secret weapon). And I pride myself on never, ever paying full price on anything. Black Friday is one of those days that usually isn’t worth getting out of bed for (or throwing on your skinny jeans after a big meal). There are a few exceptions, and I’m here to tell you what they are. Are you shopping for a conservative in your life and can’t decide what to get them? Here’s some gift-giving ideas:

1. For the academic

Do you have someone in your life who has been eyeing the Victor Davis Hanson series in the PJ Store? Or perhaps someone who is just a history buff? We have three different VDH series on sale this Cyber Monday on World War II, the Odyssey of Western Civilization and The Western Story; all three will be 30% off this Cyber Monday! The guide to WWII is a six-part lecture series and both the Odyssey of Western Civilization and The Western Story  come with eight lectures and eight accompanying e-books. They’re sure to expand the mind without drastically shrinking your wallet.

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2. For the news buff

Do you know someone who loves to spend an afternoon or weekends catching up on current events or the latest music news? While few smaller conservative publications are participating in Black Friday sales, it’s still worth taking out a subscription to magazines like Commentary, National Review, and The Weekly StandardThe website DiscountMags has other subscriptions for magazines like The Atlantic, Rolling Stone and Food & Wine, all at a drastic discount. Keep an eye on their site — their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals are always spectacular.

3. For the fashionista and fashionmister 

I first heard of Sword & Plough because of a Kickstarter campaign they were running to get the company off the ground. Successfully funded, they are now running a full shop and will be releasing new designs for Black Friday and will be offering 10-15% off for these designs (all the ones on their website are backordered and thus won’t be discounted) on Black Friday in addition to free domestic shipping over $100. Sword & Plough have several different components that make them a great company to order a new bag from:

  • We empower veteran employment by working with companies and non-profit organizations that employ veterans as sewers and manufacturers, and we ask our partners to scale with us by hiring veterans to meet the growing demand for S&P products.
  • If the fabric doesn’t have a cool story, we won’t use it. We recycle thousands of pounds of military surplus that would otherwise be burned or buried. Because our bags are made from repurposed military gear, they are also water, fire and UV resistant!
  • Our goal is to emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives. We aim to remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and veterans face, and the power that every person has to help.

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What’s Good at Aldi? Test-Driving the German Import

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 - by Bridget Johnson
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A Germanic haul from Aldi

Striking fear in the hearts of every Walmart protester in the world, German discount chain Aldi is apparently taking over the globe. And they have begun taking over my neighborhood, so I had to investigate.

I’m glad that I Googled the deep secrets of Aldi before heading over to the new store, which opened in a location once occupied by an Office Depot. Bring your own bags or pay for them at the register, so I stuffed several plastic bags from Wegmans (also known as the emergency Puppacita poop bag stash) into my purse. Bring a quarter deposit if you want a shopping cart, a small price to pay to avoid stray carts hitting cars in the parking lot. Make sure you’re paying with a debit card or cash, as they keep prices down by not accepting credit cards. And block off enough time to properly comb through the store.

Aldi stores are so minimalist there’s no ’90s soundtrack piped through the store, and you shop in silence through a fraction of the selection of a regular grocery store with mostly store brands. The bag-your-own-groceries model was nothing new to me; in California, a chain called Food-4-Less kept me equipped in $1.99 10-pound bags of potatoes and 10-for-a-buck ramen in college. Food was also displayed in the packing boxes or pallets, but that chain was a full-size grocery store with bakery and meat counters.

Aldi is the compact version. The name brands I did see weren’t offered at much of a discount — the Kraft chipotle mayo I picked up, for example, was slightly more expensive than at Walmart. The store brands were, for the most part, dirt cheap.

One of the products I tried, among a cornucopia of Sunday football snacks, was the faux Cheez-It. Horrible crackers with a weird aftertaste. However, the Chili Cheese Fritos knockoff was very close to the real thing, as my taste buds from 3 a.m. college cuisine remembered.

I confess I was hoping for piles of cheap greens to more economically feed my bunnies, but the produce selection was hit and miss. Four Anjou pears for $1.49 equalled a good find. Baby carrots for 69 cents rocks. A bag of very good grapes from California’s San Joaquin Valley was $2.49. I got one clamshell of baby lettuces, but the bagged salad was the same price as Trader Joe’s ($1.99) with superior selection and quality at the wonderful marvelous fantastic chain owned by Aldi.

In fact, I needed to set aside my deep, abiding love for Trader Joe’s to accurately judge Aldi.

Aldi has extensive stashes of organic and gluten-free products, and some “gourmet” products that I found intriguing, such as the gouda snack sticks for $3.29. Not the richest gouda in the world (try Trader Joe’s double cream gouda, mmm), but a nice change from string cheese. A big bag of faux Chex Mix in the “bold” flavor (when I make this stuff fresh, it’s drowned in Worcestershire sauce) was $1.49. Their fresh meat section did look fresh, and the frozen selection was vast (and creative if slightly scary — a gyro-making kit).

I found myself hunting for the German imports: big jars of Austrian beer mustard and Bavarian sweet mustard for $1.29 each, a tower of doppelkek cookies for $1.99, frozen cinnamon apple or fruits-of-the-forest strudel for $2.49, and a roll of pretzels that you bake like biscuits (complete with the rock salt) for $2.49. In other words, the Cost Plus World Imports grocery section gets walloped on price points.

I hear, too, that the German goodies increase exponentially when the holidays roll around, so much so that they need to reorganize the store to make extra room. Intrigued.

The next day, I drove to a different Aldi to see if products were the same at each store. Since I realized their customer service was so minimal, I accurately predicted that I could put the Puppacita in her tote in the child seat of the cart and no one would raise an eyebrow. This location had beer and wine, random brands at cheap prices — but I love the store that sells Charles Shaw two-buck-chuck, so who am I to judge.

The selections didn’t vary greatly, though I did pick up German dark chocolate for 99 cents and faux Sun Chips for $1.99. The middle of each store had kitchen and home goods, and even some plants. I understand that the “special buys” section rotates frequently and if you see something you like you should buy it. At both locations, I was pleasantly surprised by the low total at the register.

So Aldi is giving supermarkets heartburn wherever it goes. Have you tried this German import and found favorite products?

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The New America: Shopping instead of Job Hunting

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I was not surprised to read that more unemployed people are shopping rather than job hunting:

On the average day, an unemployed American is more likely to be shopping—for things other than groceries and gas—than to be looking for a new job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only 18.9 percent of Americans who were unemployed (in surveys conducted from 2009 through 2013) spent time in job search and interviewing activities on an average day, according to BLS. Yet 40.8 percent of the unemployed did some kind of shopping on the average day–either in a store, by telephone, or on the Internet. 22.5 percent of the unemployed, according to BLS, were shopping for items other than groceries, food and gas…..

An unemployed person—on the average day—was more likely to spend time on shopping, sports and recreation, socializing and leisure, than they were searching for and interviewing for a new job, according to BLS.

According to BLS, 96.7 percent of the unemployed spent time during the average day participating in “socializing, relaxing, and leisure” activities and spent, on average, 5.93 hours on those activities—or more than twice the number of hours they spent job searching.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

image via shutterstock / Rawpixel

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The Most Comfortable Chair For Writers On the Go?

Sunday, August 31st, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

So back in February, I reviewed an extraordinary product from Sumo: the Gigantor, a premium beanbag large enough for the whole family, a replacement for a sofa. (Star Trek-obsessed household that we are, it was soon dubbed “The Tribble.”) Now Sumo has a new, portable product that also intimidates and challenges expectation:

Is this new product as successful as the Gigantor? Will it become a daily seat for me? I try and read every morning in the Gigantor — the ideal chair to lose oneself in a book. Will the Omni Reloaded become the writing chair that I’ve been needing? (I’ve come to accept that siting at the desk in front of the laptop is no longer a conducive environment to writing. Typing on a keyboard isn’t writing. And likewise we can’t all be Winston Churchill and work in bed or in some equivalent mass of comfort. For my ideal writing environment I need comfort but also to be in an up-right position)

Last week I decided to take Maura for a walk to the park and give the Omni Reloaded a field test. How does this portable beanbag hold up in the real world?

Maura and me at the park, testing out the Sumo Omni Reloaded... More pics coming that I just shot.

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10 Ways to Have a Child on the Cheap

Saturday, August 30th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

Raising kids these days isn’t cheap. New calculations from the USDA estimate that for the average family in America, it costs $245,340 to raise a baby. Parents will tell you many things about raising kids — that it’s exhausting, life-affirming, fun and often overwhelming — but they will never tell you it’s cheap. Even the most careful savers won’t make it off easy, but with some flexibility and an eye on your bottom line, it’s possible to minimize the cost of having a baby in your house tremendously. Here’s where to begin:

Celebrating #worldbreastfeedingweek with this picture of nursing my babe a few weeks ago at a rest stop in Upstate NY.

(Photo: Author breastfeeding at a reststop on a road trip with my daughter)

1. Breastfeed and minimize formula purchasing

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy or fun, but few can deny that it can save big bucks in formula costs. Babies need either breastmilk or formula for the first year of life, and formula costs can really add up over time. If your baby has a sensitive stomach, specialized formulas can cost even more. I’m a big breastfeeding advocate, as I’ve written previously here at PJ Media, and cost is a big reason why. Because I breastfeed, I have fewer costs associated with feeding my baby, no formula and fewer bottles, and no bottled water.

If you’ve found a brand of formula you like, ask for free samples and coupons from friends, your pediatrician and from the companies themselves. While I exclusively breastfeed, I like to keep a canister around our apartment in case I get hit by a bus. I asked my pediatrician, who gave me several, and I also wrote messages on social media to several formula companies, who also gave me free samples. Keeping formula in the house is a known “booby-trap,” which is what breastfeeding activists have indicated can get in the way of a healthy and long-lasting breastfeeding relationship. Despite this, my morbid need to always be prepared led me to keep it in the house regardless. I knew I was determined not to use it, and over ten months into my daughter’s life, I haven’t ever opened a canister.

Pumping can be a chore, and while breastfeeding can save money, that often comes at the cost of a mother’s time, especially if she’s working. Even if full-time pumping isn’t possible, keeping up a woman’s breast-milk supply can minimize formula costs, if it’s impossible to totally eliminate the need to buy formula. Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing, and any feeding that can be made with breast milk instead of formula can help save a family money.

Insurance companies and FSAs (I get into that more later in the post…) can also help ease the cost of breastfeeding and pumping. Most insurance companies, as part of their increasingly expensive plans, offer breast pumps to anyone interested in ordering one. Contact your insurance company to see how to go about ordering one through them at no additional cost. Breast pumps aren’t “free”; they have been mandated to be covered by ObamaCare, which has increased insurance premiums across the board. While a breast pump through your insurance company isn’t “free” in the traditional sense, it does come at no cost to the mother. If your insurance company for some reason doesn’t offer a breast pump, or the pumps they do cover aren’t what you’re looking for, look into if your or your husband’s office has an FSA plan available. An FSA can pay for many costs related to childrearing, including a breast pump and some basic supplies (extra valves, tubing, etc).

If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, there are plenty of resources available to help ease any trouble you may be having. La Leche League is a wonderful resource, and most of the leaders are certified lactation consultants. They can help for free during meetings, and many will come to your house (sometimes at a cost) to help one-on-one. Even if they do charge for their services, getting off on the right foot with breastfeeding from the start, even if it costs several hundred dollars, can save many more hundreds of dollars down the line. The hospital you delivered at should also have nurses and perhaps even a hotline to help you address breastfeeding issues as well. If you do have to pay for a lactation consultant, inquire with your insurance company if they cover it. If not, this is another example of where an FSA can come in handy.

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Reality TV’s 10 Biggest Lies About America

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

10. Americans are all obese.

From the messy buildup in the fat folds of Mama June’s neck (affectionately known to her children as “neck crud”) to Honey’s proclivity for bathing in mayonnaise, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo embodies the myth that everyone in America weighs a minimum of 300 pounds. One of the best episodes involves Mama June dumping a 5 pound bag of sugar into 2 gallons of lemon juice in order to make homemade lemonade. For the record, 64% of Americans are not obese. But with shows like HHere Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Biggest Loser, Extreme Weight Loss, Shedding for the Wedding, Thintervention, Dance Your A** Off, Celebrity Fit Club, I Used To Be Fat, and Ruby, we’re just a bunch of big, fat Americans.

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The 10 Best Hot Sauces

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

There are thousands of hot sauces to choose from today, and most of them are terrible. They’re novelty items designed with an amusing label and name. The sauce itself is inedible, with inferior ingredients and so much capsaicin from the peppers you’ll blister your tongue.  A good hot sauce is a combination of great ingredients and a balance of heat and flavor.

These ten hot sauces are filled with zest, spice and peppery heat. Dash enough on your eggs or tacos and you’ll find your eyelids sweating, but no matter how hot the temperature gets you’ll still get a mouthful of great flavor. Let’s start with a surprising number 10 on the list:

10.) Taco Bell Hot Sauce

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No need to squeeze the sauce from those tiny Taco Bell packets any more. The Taco Bell folks now provide bottles of their famous sauces, and the best is Taco Bell Hot Sauce. This is the Goldilocks of hot sauces, not as tomatoey as Mild Sauce but not as overwhemed by pepper as Fire Sauce. Don’t turn your nose up at Taco Bell just because Doritos Tacos are an orange abomination. Their Hot Sauce is delicious. Shake it on a homemade taco and enjoy.

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1 Partridge in a Pear Tree: Last-minute Stocking Stuffers

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Tuesday, December 24, 2013—Christmas Eve.  If we were having a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “one partridge in a pear tree” today.

Christmas is tomorrow…

Here are some last-minute stocking-stuffer gift ideas:

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Men:

Socks: Kirkland Merino Wool Blend Socks

Cuff links:  Ion-Plated Stainless Steel and Carbon Fiber Cuff Links

Wallet: Calvin Klein Mens Bifold Black Wallet

Scarf: John Hanly & Co. Irish Lambswool Scarf

 

31QVdSuZbfL._SY395_Women:

Wrap: Paisley Jacquard Pashmina Wrap

Ear Warmers: 180’s Tahoe Komen Ear Warmers

Earrings: 14K Yellow Gold Ball Stud Earrings (4mm)

iPhone Case: OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender Series Case

 

71HUB2F43lL._SL1500_Kids:

Games: Bananagrams

Hat: Critter Cap Plush Wolf Hat

Movie: Despicable Me 2 DVD

Slingshot: Flingshot Slingshot Flying Screaming Monkey

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9 Ladies Dancing: A Gift Guide for the Kings and Queens of Beauty Products

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Monday, December 16, 2013.  If we were having a literal, backwards countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas,” we would all receive “nine ladies dancing” today. Newsflash, there are only nine days until Christmas!

Shopping procrastinators, overwhelmed list-makers, and confused uncles and aunts, listen up.  Although there is one fewer weekend in December this year, and Christmas shopping is sure to be even more hectic than usual, there is still a way to keep your sanity in tact!

Take back some Christmas peace and quiet and make your shopping painless. Here is a gift guide chock-full of holiday cheer and guaranteed smiles for some of the people on your list:

The Beauty Queen/Well-Groomed Man

For that person in your life who loves all things beauty and grooming—from head to toe!

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For The Ladies:

Skin: Clarisonic Mia Skin Cleansing System

Beauty aficionados know that beauty starts with healthy, glowing skin.  (This is also a good gift for the males who love a deep clean, skin deep.)

Nails: London Butter Nail Polish Set

High-end, high-pigment nail color that is sure to make their fingers and toes sparkle.

Make-up: Bare Minerals Starter Kit

Bare Minerals powder system has good coverage–but without the thick, goopy foundation mess. This is a good starter kit for those who are curious about the “mineral powder craze” or want to try something new!

Lips: Frola Cosmetics Professional 66-Color Lip Gloss Palette

So many color options, so few days of the week!

Hair: Moroccan Oil Hair Treatment

This stuff really is a miracle worker—smooth on wet or dry hair for a silky smooth finish and frizz control. (Also available for curly hair)
For The Gentlemen:

Shaving (Manual): The Art of Shaving Starter Kit

The lucky person on your list who receives this gift is sure to become addicted to the products. My male friends especially rave about the “sandalwood” scent kit.

Shaving (Electric): Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D

This bad-boy came highly recommended by the gadget gurus.

Cleansing for the traveling man: Men’s Jack Black Cleansing System

All the essentials for face, hair, and body and it’s great for frequent travelers who need to take better care of themselves.

Men’s Face Mask: Baxter of California Clarifying Clay Face Mask

Purify and invigorate your mug. You can’t go wrong with Baxter of California.

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Kmart Takes Shaking Your Package to a Whole New Low This Christmas

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Who still shops at Kmart?

This advertisement is a pathetic cry for help. It’s even less effective than an 8 year old “acting out” to get his parents’ attention and then ending up with a time-out in the corner.

Kmart is the commercial version of that kid. Once the darling of the American family, it fell into obscurity after its bout with porn a couple of decades ago.

In the early 1990s, Kmart, through their Walden books stores, was one of the largest retailers of pornography in America. Kmart refused to take porn out of their bookstores. Walden then sued the American Family Association (AFA) for meddling in their backdoor profits. So AFA let the rest of us in on Kmart’s dirty little secret and called for a boycott.

It only took a few months for Kmart to feel the heat. By 1994, while Walmart and Target sales saw healthy gains, Kmart had suffered consistent and continuing profit decline and announced plans to close 110 stores.

This year a new boycott is being threatened after Kmart announced that its stores will remain open from 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving through Black Friday. The uproar is over the company’s apparent lack of concern for its employees’ ability to spend time with their families over the holidays.

Perverting Christmas by showing men tinkling their testicles in public is one thing, but perceived corporate greed is the unforgivable sin of our new Marxist economy.

H/T  Todd Starns

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Rediscovering Washington, D.C.: Acting Like a Tourist and (Surprisingly) Liking It

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
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“There’s no place like D.C….”

The good and bad of living in a city that is a tourist destination is that all of your friends and relatives come to visit you (this is a pro, by the way).  The con of having such frequent guests is that you are expected to tour them around the city and D.C. metro area each time.  Constant visits to sites around D.C. tend to get repetitive.  HOW many times can you see the Natural History Museum before they might as well hire you as a guide?  The monuments are pretty constant in their appearance—the only changes are either the building of hideous scaffolding to make improvements (at a glacial pace) or orange tape to block off re-paving projects.  Also, D.C. is small and getting from Point A to Point B usually requires that you pass several D.C. landmarks.  Needless to say, they start to blend in to the landscape.

Writing this, I realized how unfortunate this is.  Washington D.C. is a VERY cool city that is chock-full of buildings dedicated to history and extraordinary Americans.  I live in the same city as the “Star Spangled Banner Flag,” a piece of Plymouth Rock, the red slippers from Wizard of Oz, and several dresses from America’s First Ladies.  I mean, isn’t that pretty cool?  To answer myself, yes, it is.

My brother and his girlfriend came into town last week. It was their first time in Washington, D.C.  Honestly, in the beginning I wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of having to visit all the museums and monuments again.

But, I accepted my fate:  I was going to have to revisit many of the museums that I had seen before. However, this time, I “rediscovered” one of the most popular tourist destinations in D.C. and even found a new one! Not too shabby for a girl who thought she’d “seen” all of D.C.

Break out the Hawaiian shirt and sunscreen! It’s time to go be a tourist!

Put on those Walking Shoes!

Yes, I’ve been to the National Museum of American History many, many times, but instead of getting mad at the fleet of baby strollers, or just shutting my mind off and breezing through, I actually took the time to read all the information on the exhibits that I had skipped over and/or written off as “boring” during my previous visits.  My brother is very interested in politics and history and he ended up being MY tour guide in some of the museum exhibits.  It was also really fun just to watch his sheer amazement at some of the museum’s artifacts. It was like watching a child on Christmas morning with all of the “oohs” and “ahhs.”  It gave me a new appreciation for the museum — and taking D.C. “new-bees” to visit.  Also, did I mention it’s free?

Who should go? Even if you think you’ve “seen it all,” you haven’t.  Take some friends and re-visit the American history museum.  They have rotating exhibits and you’re bound to discover something that you haven’t seen before.

Where is it? Smithsonian National Museum of American History

14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, D.C., 20001

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Just One of Those Days

Saturday, September 15th, 2012 - by Pamela Weiss

Have you ever had “just one of those days”? If you’re old enough to be reading this, then of course you have unless you are a complete oddity of life.

I recently had one of those days, and it turned out to be one of the roughest twenty four hours I’ve survived. It started off with the fruit platter I was making to take to my parent’s house. I went to the store to buy various fruit. It was pretty uneventful until trying to pick the perfect watermelon. I had everything else I needed, the watermelon was the last thing on my list. I picked up a watermelon and thumped it. Hmmmm, questionable so I returned it to the watermelon pile and picked another. I performed the thump test again and determined that this was a ripe, sweet juicy watermelon, so I placed it into the grocery cart. As I walked away from the watermelon display, the watermelons started rolling. By the time I was able to stop them, three watermelons had already crashed to the floor splattering the fruit and its juice all over the floor and all over me. My legs and feet were covered in watermelon so I couldn’t even pretend that I knew nothing about the avalanche which had just occurred. Besides, just about everybody on that side of the store had stopped and turned to look with hopes of discovering from where the ear piercing scream had come. Ugh! Caught red-footed. As the announcement came over the loud speaker “massive clean up needed in produce”, I stood there apologizing to every employee who came over to take care of that “massive clean up.”

I was finally able to leave the produce department slipping only once, hoping that no one in the check out lines would recognize me as the “watermelon lady” while wearing my oversized sunglasses. Clever, huh? I loaded the groceries into the trunk of my car, loaded myself into the driver’s seat and headed home.

Once home, I unloaded the groceries and set about making my fruit platter. As I sliced the watermelon, I could envision how beautiful this platter was going to look. The watermelon slices as flower petals, cherries, cantaloupe and kiwi placed in the centers of those flower petals to create the illusion of various flowers. Sigh. My eyes were getting watery at this picture dancing in my head… Or was it because I had just sliced my finger nearly taking off the top. Blood was running everywhere, so I guess it was a good thing that I was cutting watermelon — it wouldn’t show. I wrapped up my finger and continued working while trying to decide if I had time to get the top of my finger reattached. I figured my finger could wait until the next day and if still bleeding, I would take care of it then, maybe a little super glue. I finished my fruit platter and although it resembled melted crayon blobs more than flowers, I was happy it was done.

The next morning I awoke knowing that it was going to be a great day. Naturally I hit my wounded finger on the first thing I walked past causing the bleeding to start again. Oh well, I needed to get going and get that oh-so-beautiful platter to my parent’s home. I put the fruit into the back of my SUV and hit the road. I cranked up the music as Bob Dylan, one of my favorite songwriters, voice came through the speakers. I continued along a street which I drive daily, but I’m really not sure when that curb which juts out into the road was added. Hitting that curb not only brought me out of my reverie, but broke a tire rim along with the tire, and caused the destruction of my beautiful fruit design. Okay, maybe that looked better.

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The Sad Truth About Bad Bulbs

Monday, July 23rd, 2012 - by Stephen Green

STUDY: CFLs are bad for you. Daily Caller reports:

Scientists concluded that CFL light bulbs can be harmful to healthy skin cells.

“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said lead researcher Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, in New York, in a statement. “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.”

According to Rafailovich, with or without TiO2 (a chemical found in sunblock), incandescent bulbs of the same light intensity had zero effects on healthy skin.

The scientists found that cracks in the CFL bulbs phosphor coatings yielded significant levels of UVC and UVA in all of the bulbs — purchased in different locations across two counties — they examined.

I was an early adopter of CFLs, but have since removed almost all of them from our house. Not because of reports like this one, or because of the potential for expensive cleanups after a broken one, or any of the other many problems the screwy little bulbs create.

No, I took them out because the light sucks. And also because they’re too expensive, don’t last as long as advertised, and therefore aren’t any cheaper to run.

I still keep a few installed, mostly outside. The sconces around our house have frosted covers, which masks just how damn ugly the light is. Besides, we’re trying to make it possible to see the sidewalk at night — not to put on makeup in the bathroom mirror or prepare tasty-looking food in the kitchen. It’s also nice to run the equivalent of ten 100-watt fixtures on just a fraction of the apparent wattage.

We keep two in the garage, also — but that’s out of three ceiling fixtures. I’ll explain in a moment.

CFLs broke a lot of promises.

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The Politics of Shopping

Friday, July 13th, 2012 - by Myra Adams

As Americans become more politically polarized will we choose to patronize or avoid a store, brand, product, or restaurant based on that corporation’s political activity?

For example, if you are an active Democrat would you avoid Walmart if you knew that their corporate contributions lean towards Republicans?

You could go to Target instead, but their contributions also help fill the GOP coffers.

If this information leaves you feeling in a blue state and you want to shop that way, then head on over to COSTCO where Democrats receive 99% of all contributions.

How about if you are planning a trip to Disneyland and discovered that so far in the 2012 election cycle Disney has made $575,000 in political contributions with $411,000 or 77%  going to Democrats.  Would you change your travel plans?

Is it important for you to know whether the company you are supporting is an R or D before you hand them your hard earned after-tax dollars?

If so, Open Secrets, a unit of the Center for Responsive Politics, makes it easy for consumers to discover just how much corporations are donating to a party and/or candidates.

Besides donations, does the relationship between a company and the President of the United States affect consumer behavior?

A few years back when shopping for a new car, I refused to even consider a GM model because in no way was I was going to support “Government Motors” any more than my tax dollars already had.

It turns out I was not alone in this thinking. Recently the New York Times revealed that in the first quarter of 2012, in a survey of 30,000 Americans shopping for new vehicles, 32 percent said they would not consider a GM car because of the 2009 U.S. Government bail out.

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10 Secrets to Shopping the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012 - by Bridget Johnson

Ah, being a woman rocks. Especially this time of year, when the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale rolls around. This morning, Angel cardholders received the email invitation to dive into the online sale early. Being a shopping ninja, I’ve learned some tips and tricks over the years to make the most out of this little-unmentionables bargain-a-thon.

1. The winter sale is better than the summer one. Why? Because the week after the in-store sale starts, it’s major closeout time with all clearance bras dropping to about $15 — even if the bra was a $125 Christmas special edition — and panties going for $2.99. In some stores, like Connecticut Avenue in D.C., all sleepwear is also half off the last marked price, so you’re getting the Pillowtalk Tank PJ, regular price $49.50, for $15. Prices also drop late in the online sale. Because the summer sale is shorter, doesn’t have as good of a selection, and is not as price-dropping as the winter one, get the things you want quickly in the summer one.

2. Shortly before the sale begins, Victoria’s Secret will start teasing loyalists with sale offers — hold fast and save up for the real deal. The only one that’s a better bargain than the SAS is the 7 for $26 panty sale that VS held in store and online this past weekend — they come out to $3.71 per pair, better than the $3.99 sale price.

3. When the online sale starts, pick up matching sets first and any neutrals you may want. While Victoria’s Secret has gorgeous colors and prints, these will be in plentiful supply both later in the online sale and in stores. And later in the sale, it’s more of a hunt to find matching bras and panties.

4. The sale is the time to try one of the new lines of bras that you hadn’t wanted to try at full price. But buy that sample piece early enough so that there are still others colors left if you’re smitten and want to go back to buy more.

5. The in-store sale, which begins nearly two weeks after the online sale begins, generally has better deals on beauty products (like 75 percent off fragrances) and on sleepwear. If there are prints you want in the Angel sleep T’s, though, the 2 for $39.50 deal online is comparable to the $19.99 markdown in stores.

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Retail Stores Staff Up On Soldiers In Hopes of Forcing ‘Best Christmas Ever’

Friday, December 16th, 2011 - by Sunny

The recession hit most American business hard, in particular the real estate industry, but perhaps the second hardest hit was Big Retail. Retail sales growth was achingly slow over the past few years and this year is expected to be no different, in spite of a not terrible Black Friday that showed the corpse is only MOSTLY dead. This holiday season, in a push to improve sales numbers retailers won’t be pointlessly staffing up on retail sales staff. Instead, they are buying extra soldiers and the latest in weapons technology to guarantee shoppers will buy more this year.

Buy this lego transformer kit or else!! Oh, and Merry Christmas.

Big Retail has always held a gun to our head to buy the latest Elmo doll, fluffy pink robe, or tool set every Christmas, but this year the stakes are higher as bankruptcies loom. Retailers aren’t willing to rely on the usual tactics of isolated violence and intimidation, emotional manipulation, and predatory pricing. They are bringing out the literal “big guns.” Several of the major national retail chains met at a Starbucks in Colorado over the summer to agree on and flesh out the details for the offensive. They passed a resolution to increase spending for “boots on the ground.” Recruitment offices were opened from coast to coast. One insider says Wal-Mart hired enough solders that every household in America could be paid one visit between now and December 25th. But no one thinks that will be necessary.

 

No! Not Elmo! Ahhhhhhhhh!

“It just simplifies things,” said James Bass, CEO of big box toy retailer Kids Korner. “It never made sense to make a product people wanted, or to lure them in with promotions or even with Santa Claus. All that was window dressing over the gun we held anyway. We tried giving people choices and look at the mess the economy is in!”

To pay for this mercenary buildup, stores have cut costs by dispensing with the usual glossy, Christmas catalogs replete with enticing goodies; Christmas decorations and extra customer service; and cinnamon-laced apple cider, gift wrapping, and other typical freebies. This year retailers acknowledge it was never about convincing people anyway since capitalism, i.e., free trade, is a vicious use of corporatist force inflicted on the poor and middle class. Instead, shoppers will receive simple invitations, randomly generated, telling each and every American what they must buy from the store by December 24th.

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Seven Ways to Save an Extra $10,000

Friday, December 2nd, 2011 - by John Hawkins

When you work for yourself and don’t have the option of living paycheck to paycheck, you’re forced to start learning how to take better care of your money.

There are some tricks that can help you out with that. Writing down every dime you spend for a month or using websites like Mint.com can give you a clearer perspective on where your money is going. Setting back enough cash to cover six months of expenses with no income coming in can also give you a lot of peace of mind. It’s great to know that if you have a major car repair or your income dips unexpectedly for a few months, you’re not going to be struggling to pay your bills.

But the real key to socking away the dough is to think incrementally. The big checks help a lot, but as often as not, it’s the small savings you make over the long haul that really pad your bank account.

Think about it like this: You’re likely to work five days a week for at least 40 years, probably even longer than that for people under 40. So 40 times 260 working days a year equals $10,400. In other words, if you can find a way to save a dollar a day, that’ll amount to an extra $10,400 dollars over the course of your working lifetime — much more if you invest the money.

Here are some ways to start putting more money back. Although most of them won’t seem like huge difference-makers at first, over time they’ll really add up.

1) Buy used cars: The average cost of a new car in 2009 was $28,400. In most states, $28,400 is more than half the median household income for an ENTIRE YEAR.

So, let’s do a little comparison. One person buys a new car every five years. Another person buys a used car at half the price, takes care of it, and keeps it for a decade. After a 10 year period, the first person has spent $56,800 on transportation. The other person? He’s spent $14,200. What could you do with an extra $42,600?

Let’s take those numbers 40 years out. $42,600 x 4 = $170,400. That alone is bigger than the nest egg most Americans have saved up when they retire.

Not really a good choice for a first car.

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A Neuroscientist’s Plea To US Retailers

Thursday, November 24th, 2011 - by Sarah Hoyt

Dr. Tedd Roberts generally approves of commerce and enterprise.  He is however disturbed by the ever-earlier opening trend on Black Friday:

The frank truth is that lack of sleep produces many of the same mental effects as being drunk or high, and Black Friday will be staffed by employees operating on too little sleep.  The busiest retail day of the year is also the day when clerks and shoppers both are at the greatest risk of making serious judgmental errors at potentially high costs.

The factors that could lead to serious lapses in judgment include:

  1. Sudden shift from working during the day to working during normal sleep hours.
  2. Long work hours
  3. Difficulty in sleeping during the day

Many stores are opening at very early hours on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Shops which normally open at 8, 9 or 10 AM will open at Midnight, 3 or 4 AM.  The employees will have to report to work 5-8 hrs early than normal, in fact, they will start work during the times of the day when they are usually asleep and all bodily functions are at a minimum.  It is as if they had suddenly traveled from the U.S. to Europe, with all of the symptoms of jet lag, without the elapsed time.

After quoting some studies, he asserts that:

When sleep deprived, it is difficult to form and use short term memory – such as ringing sales and making change.  It is also difficult to make critical decisions, such as identifying shoplifters or when to allow exceptions to sale terms.

Essentially, people who are sleep deprived show many of the same impairments of a person with a legally impaired blood alcohol level even though they do not show the same physical effects [Citek at al., Journal of Forensic Science, September 2011, volume 56, number 5, pages 1170-1179].  While factories, shops and offices that normally operate evening and night shifts have employees who are accustomed to working in the dark hours of the morning, most retail employees (and shoppers) are not.  Thus, not only are your employees working impaired, your customers are shopping and driving while impaired.  The increase in traffic incidents and police responses on Black Friday is commonly attributed to the size of the crowds, however, the increasing trend of early opening and sleep-deprived public has to be be compounding the problem.

While I don’t think he has any chance at all of being heard, not in a year when retailers are being simultaneously squeezed between the recession and competition from online stores, perhaps I should note that having retailers stumbling around and not quite able to engage the customer as they should, besides having sleep-deprived customers finding themselves back home with two hideous sweaters and a pint of Castor oil and wondering how this happened, will only push people to shopping on line more.  Sometimes, perhaps the response to unfavorable results shouldn’t be to do more of what brought those results about.

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