Tag Archives: buyer be-aware monday

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Impressions of Facebook

It’s been four weeks now since I jumped aboard the Facebook  bandwagon. I had hesitated for so long to do so, fearing I’d set up my account, log in…and you’d never hear from me again (well, except via Facebook, haha!).

Perhaps I should call today’s post a Consumer Alert – after all, when you visit Facebook and participate in activities like “writing on walls”, leaving “like” affirmations, and sending out friend requests, you aren’t really buying a product. However, in being part of the Facebook community, you are supporting a major online industry, so that is where the “buying” aspect is relevant.

Below, then: some of my reflections, likes and dislikes of Facebook…

1. The media have hyped Facebook and made it greater than it really is.  Prior to joining Facebook, I had the impression that everyone who was anyone was on Facebook. Thanks to articles in newspapers, mentions on blogs, visibility on TV, Facebook is depicted as the place where the cool kids hang. If you’re not on Facebook, you’re definitely not with the “in crowd,” if you believe what you see and hear. Facebook is fun, Facebook is interesting, Facebook is helpful with keeping in touch with people. Facebook has NOT changed my life or completely rocked my world. My life is no better or no worse because of Facebook.

2. Facebook is NOT a life-sucking force. This was always my primary defense when asked why I wasn’t on Facebook. I already spend a lot of time on my computer, reading blogs and sending emails. Have I increased my daily computer time because of Facebook? I would respond with, “minimally.” I actually find I am on Twitter less than BF (Before Facebook). Now, I tend to follow Twitter for celebrity tweets and Facebook for news about people I really know.

3. Facebook is like hosting a party with all of your friends present. Most party guestlists are made up of people from one circle of your life: your family, your work colleagues, your running friends, your high school chums, your neighbours. Well, Facebook is like picking and choosing some friends from each of your social groups, then throwing them in a room all together. One stop socializing, customized by your preference in who you want to hang out with!

4. Facebook is efficient. Like Twitter, you write one sentence statements or give a couple of words response to a friend’s piece of news. The lazy-Facebookers’ easiest response is just click the “thumbs up” symbol to show you like what someone has shared. Because nothing is earth-shatteringly in-depth, you can easily multi-task while Facebooking. So far, I have blogged, baked, watched TV, knit, chatted on the phone…all while simultaneously being on Facebook. And just like emailing or texting, (and unlike phone calls), you participate in the Facebook community when it suits you.

5. The technology blows my mind. As you know, I’ve been the first to admit that I’m no techie. But seriously, Facebook wow-ed me with what it can do, right from the moment I created my “page.” After clicking enter, Facebook gave me a huge list of “people I may know” and want to befriend on Facebook. It culled this list from my gmail account (I think?!). Then, within the hour, I had a friend request sent to me by someone I have not been in touch with for at least three years! How did she find out so fast that I was now on Facebook?! I have no clue as to how all this works; I am simply in awe of the technologisized (word?!) world in which we live.

6. I dislike the set-up of Facebook. Your Facebook home page is what is called the “Newsfeed.” SIL Ana has patiently explained this to me several times already – I think I finally get it (maybe!). The Newsfeed is like the front page of a newspaper (how archaic an item!): it shows you the latest postings from your friends. To my way of thinking, though, the Newsfeed is a hodge-podge. I’ve got people sharing what’s up, their friends giving the thumbs up, FYI’s on updated profile photos…I’d prefer more itemized listings. My second peeve is that I find it awkward to pull up the listing of all my friends. I have to click through several screens to find an alphabetic listing of all my friends (almost at 50 now!) The Facebook app on my Blackberry is much more user-friendly to the way MY brain likes to receive information, but the Blackberry is not as quick or as all-encompassing as going online on my own computer.

7. Too Much Information: I’ve already had to “defriend” somebody. I felt really eesh about doing this – I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But allll this person posted was about the games she participated in, and she provided updates about seventeen times a day. Sorry, but that’s excessive sharing – to my mind – about nothing.

8. Virtual mail, 24/7. One of my favourite parts of Christmas is receiving Holiday Cards. I love going to the mailslot every day in December and expectantly opening the door to see who sent us a Christmas card today! Facebook gives me that same gleeful feeling. I love when I have a new friend request, when someone has written on my wall, or when a friend has responded to a comment. These little surprises and points of contact are warm fuzzies in my day.

9. Facebook gave me an A-Ha Moment. I have loved becoming Facebook buddies with old friends from public school. I went to school from kindergarten through Grade 8 with a set of friends. Then I went off to a different high school, and lost touch with all of these people (except BFF Debbie, and we only re-friended each other about 12 years ago). Thanks to Facebook, I am now reacquainted with many of these childhood mates. To receive friend requests from childhood school chums really touched me. I realize that some people try to acquire as many Facebook friends as possible (a status thing), and could care two figs about you, but that’s not the vibe I have gotten. These people have no clue as to what I have or have not accomplished in the past 25+ years. They don’t care how many marathons I’ve run, how I live, what I do, where I work; they’re in touch because they liked who I was as a person, way back when. And I feel the same way about them. It’s a nice reminder that it’s who you are at your core that counts, not what you do.

To conclude! Do I recommend joining Facebook? Yes. The positives far outweigh the negatives, and the socializing capabilities astound. As with anything, set your own parameters of security and time commitment, then chat away! Just don’t be shocked when you look up and it’s midnight!

And that, my friends, will conclude our series of Buyer Be-Aware Mondays! We’ll see what themes ‘n variations my brain wants to attack next! (Speaking of attacking, I’ve been zealously baking and reading of late; check out the appropriate Kiki Project pages in order to catch up!)

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Behind Closed Doors in the Retail World

I’ve frequently mentioned the store on this blog. I absolutely, completely LOVE working retail.

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Several factors work in my favour: I get to talk about one of my favourite hobbies…and get paid for it, so it’s not really “work” to my mind; our clientele is 98% “nice people” – I do think it would be challenging to work in a retail environment that caters to all walks of life; I’ve been at my store for 5.5 years so I’m competely comfortable with our inventory, policies and practices.

Every so often, though, I get a customer who does NOT make my day. Happily, these retail transactions are the exception, but a negative customer experience can really put a damper on your shift.

For today’s info session, I’ll take you over to the OTHER side of the retail counter and give you an insider’s look at a few of the whys and wherefores of retail practices.

GOOOOOOD EVENING!!!

Do you cringe every time you have to walk past the Walmart Greeter?

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This has got to be the worst example of getting a welcome to a store! I know I duck my head and skulk to the side of the entrance in order to avoid an overly-enthusiastic “Hello, and welcome to Walmart!”

However, I do give a cheery “Hello!” to every customer who enters my store. Most people will respond with a friendly hello back (good). Some people just mumble and walk to the back of the store (ok), while others completely ignore my greeting (bad!). So why do we greet you? Two purposes: 1) I genuinely want to make you feel welcome in the store, and hope you feel comfortable; 2) I want any “shady characters” to know that I know they’re in the store (got that?!) – the risk of shoplifting is decreased if your presence is noticed. If you’re the type that does not really appreciate having to say hello, sorry! I’m not trying to offend you, just genuinely want to make you feel like “you’re important to us!”

I AM NOT YOUR MAID

At home, you may be accustomed to leaving your clothes on the floor, inside out, dangling off hangers. Your room may be a hodge-podge of mashed wearables. When you shop, however, please note: you are not at home! 

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Suggestions for how to best help (me) your sales associate: give back the “no thanks” items, along with all hangers. You don’t need to attempt to rehang/refold/repackage merchandise yourself – we have a practised touch, with our methods down pat. We’ll end up redo-ing your kindhearted yet feeble attempts, anyway. Please do thank the associate who takes your “nos” on your way to pay for any “yeses.” And please don’t just leave a jumble on the change room floor! Hate that!

COULD I GET YOUR AGE, BIRTH WEIGHT, AND ASTROLOGICAL SIGN, PLEASE!

When you make your purchase at my store, we ask you for your phone number. No, we’re not trying to see which of us can pick up the most chics/guys during our shift! And no, we’re not collecting this info so we can coldcall you, or pass you name on to some agency or another.

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So why should you divulge this personal information? There is reason to our inquiry. First: if you need to return your purchase but don’t have the receipt, we need to be able to track your purchase and have a record that you did indeed pay for x object. If we can’t recall the purchase, how can we be sure that you aren’t holding stolen merchandise? Second: let’s say you know that you adored the last pair of shoes you bought, but you can’t place the model or the size. Well, we can look up your purchase history and quickly get you the shoe you want, or at least know what type of shoe we should direct you towards. The purchase log really benefits you, the customer. If you do have doubts about the retailer’s intentions, do feel free to politely inquire as to why this information is necessary. A reputable store will be able to give you a reasonable explanation.

GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY, NOW!!!

Returns are a fact of life in the retail world.

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This process does not have to be a negative experience, though! Here’s how to return an item and leave as a satisfied customer:

~ if you think you may need to return an item, check with the sales associate about the store’s return policy as you are paying for your purchase. You may have only 14 days to return an item for a full refund, or you may need to contact the manufacturer (say, of an electronic product) after 30 days. When you are clear on the rules, you can avoid requesting an “exemption” to the store’s rules.

~ leave hang tags on clothing, keep shoe boxes, SAVE YOUR RECEIPT! If you’re returning an item, the store will wish to resell it, so return it in resale condition. Would you want to buy something that has damaged packaging? I didn’t think so!

~ if you have a return that is out of the ordinary, phone the store ahead of time and speak with the manager. Explain your situation and ask what the store can do for you. If you show up, unannounced, and happen to catch a part-time sales associate off-guard, you ARE going to get poorer service or an unsatisfactory resolution than if you go directly to the manager.

~ admit if YOU made an error. There are times when, really and truly, we as customers are in the wrong. I think we all have a pair of shoes that ended up as *expensive* gardening or grocery shopping shoes, or a kitchen utensil that lasted three egg scramblings. If you made a poor purchase, chalk it up to experience, and get on with life!

OH, WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

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To be honest, you ARE likely to receive better service at your neighbourhood specialty store than at a big-box monstrosity. I love when my regulars, or “favourite customers” come in – it’s genuinely a pleasure to help people who I know (and like)! When the retailer knows your style, or your size, you’ll be in and out in no time, purchase complete. If you need help choosing a gift, we’re happy to give you our time, chat, and assist you in finding what you’re looking for. Plus, as a regular, you may quickly rack up “bonus dollars” or “frequent shopper rewards;” – if you’re not aware of such a program, ask if one is available.

Whether you’re a shopping diva or the dash-with-cash type, you should receive polite, helpful customer service wherever you go. Shopping is a two-way street, and should be a positive experience for both retailer and customer.

Since I love both retail shopping and retail selling, maybe my next career should be personal shopper! …Either that or I’ll open my own store???…well, maybe I’ll save that for my next life!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: RockTape

I really get quite envious when I read other blogs and see that the blogger is the happy recipient of free goodies that x company has shipped to her to review. Part of the fun would be to test the product. The rest of the fun would be just being able to say that I received products for free and that my review and opinion are my own. (Did you know that there are actual bloggie rules  for when you review a product, received for free? True!)

Well, no one has sent me anything for free yet. Unlike Katie who received a cornucopia of nut butters! Then again, I’m also thankful I’m not Holly, whose request to review Bragg products was denied because the company felt her lifestyle wasn’t healthy enough! I tell ya, it’s a soap opera world in blogland some days!

But I digress. Today’s Buyer Be-Aware segment has been in the works for a couple of weeks! And it includes something I got for free!

When my manager at the store, Paul, showed me some samples of RockTape, I immediately had the brainwave to make B try them out.

Poor B – for over a year now, he has been plagued by nasty plantar fasciitis. It truly is the dickens to get over. Funny enough, B can hike up and down mountains, literally, all summer long, and not feel a thing; he returns to our concrete jungle, goes back to time on his feet teaching, and the old PF roars back to life. So when Paul told me about RockTape, I hoped that it could help B and his frustrating foot situation.

So full disclosure: the samples of RockTape I used were free to me. The opinions and findings, though, are 100% my own. (Oooo, that was fun to type!)

the product

So what is this stuff? Our sample included the free tape, above, and full instructions. RockTape is a form of supportive tape, more or less. Our instruction sheet showed how to apply RockTape to provide extra support for issues athletes face with: the IT Band, the thigh, the shoulder, the achilles tendon, the shins, the groin, the lower back, the calf, the neck, the sciatic nerve area and the knee – and of course to the feet, for plantar faschiitis.

i'm really impressed by the detailed instructions included!

So late Saturday afternoon, we got to work RockTaping B (I know, rockin’ good times at our Condo Casa on Saturday nights!)

is that a plea for rocktape or a plea to get out of being my victim?!

 I followed the diagram provided…

it's not brain surgery, but i wanted to apply the stuff correctly!

missed my calling: shoulda been a physio!

According to the directions, we were to attach the tape from B’s heel to the base of the toes. It says NOT to stretch the tape, but if we do this again, we are going to stretch it slightly as B hasn’t yet felt any support from these longitudinal attachments. The second step involved taping around B’s arch. B reported that he DID notice the additional support in this mid-region of his foot.

the tape applies easily; it's also not too sticky or tricky to work with

Ta da!

just look at that application!

let's cover all angles...

Sunday: B walked on the treadmill in the morning. Reported no difference in his feet before/during/after this workout. In the afternoon, we went on our usual Sunday Long Walk (about 1.5 hours) – now while he didn’t notice a difference while walking, B did report afterwards that his foot was less stiff than usual. All right!

Monday Morning: The RockTape has now been through the shower two times:

uh oh...

Yup – the tape is peeling off the bottom of B’s foot. It’s supposed to last through about five days of wear and tear…

...and it's coming loose on the top of the foot! oh dear!

The final trial: a day at the college, walking around on the concrete floors for several hours…

B’s comments: “The stuff [that would be the thin strips] underneath is a waste. The wrap around the middle actually might be working.” 

My questions: Would you pay money for this product? “No.” which then changed to “I’m undecided. Here’s the thing: I didn’t have a shower this morning. If I had a shower, came out of the shower, how would I dry it? I’d put my sock on, put my shoe on, I’d have a wet foot. And why is this any better than athletic tape? I could buy a whole frickin’ role of athletic tape for less money. So I would say no.”

Would you try it again? “Yes. I would try it again, I just wouldn’t pay the money for it.”

Did you feel any benefit at all over the 48+ hours that you wore the RockTape? “Maybe my foot has not gotten worse. But I can’t say it’s gotten better. Maybe it’s prevented a decline.”

My conclusions? After examining the diagrams, I am impressed by the versatility of this product. The promo materials state that this tape works for swimmers, runners, cyclists…I’d love to see how it works with someone with another athletic ailment.

I would bet that this tape would help in a race situation or as a temporary “quick fix.” I would hesitate to suggest it to someone, like B, who is dealing with a chronic situation. Other forms of rehab are likely more effective.

RockTape retails at my store  for $19.99.

Thanks for being my guinea pig, B! And thanks, RockTape, for the free sample!

ETA: After shower #3 on Monday eve, the RockTape COMPLETELY came away from B’s foot…so the claim that it will last five days is a bit of a stretch…unless you shower less than daily!

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In other news that is neither here nor there…

Remember the stash of ORBIT gum that B brought back for me from the States? I chewed my last piece today. 😦

back to nom-nomming on Extra...although i have some STRIDE and a REACT 5 to try now, too!

I finished a baby blanket last eve:

i love brights for babies; i shy away from traditional pastels

I’m semi-pleased with this final product: I love the feel of the yarn, love the colours. NOT SO HAPPY with the blotchy patterning that emerged, as you can see in the photo. This was actually really hard yarn to work with in terms of finding a pattern that looked good with the bright variegation in colours. I ripped out multiple possibilities before settling on this lace pattern!

a pretty simple 4-row repeating pattern - was fun to do!

After several attempts to watch this season’s Mad Men episodes (that would be Season Four) that I have stockpiled on PVR, I give up. The show is just not doing anything for me this time ’round, despite the eye candy stellar acting of a certain Don Draper. It’s so incredibly BORING! (Even more boring than “The American!” Click here if you missed my review…)

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 Or is that Dick Whitman?? Maybe I’ll just read the episode recaps online…

What I AM finding tres fun is Top Chef!! Go Angelo!!! No, it does not inspire me to cook, sorry.

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Let Your Money Do The Talking

One of the benefits of living in the heart of Uptown Waterloo is the opportunity to “Support the Independent.” Now, I have nothing against the retail Corporate Giants like Chapters, Loblaws, Starbucks, and chain restaurants like Cora’s – in fact, I adore the selection at each of these locations. And let’s not forget that I work for a store with over 100 locations! But it pleases me greatly when I can shop at places like Wordsworth Books and Vincenzo’s Fine Foods, and purchase treats at The Huether or brunch at Angie’s.

You may feel that where you purchase goods and find entertainment means nothing in the grand scheme of things. Maybe not, if you just consider one purchase, one outing. But over time, (repeat visits, multiple years of spending), you can make a statement with how you shop.

If you are a regular shopper at a store, you are inherently supporting the ethics, the mores of that retail establishment. Don’t like that Nike manufactures shoes in China? Don’t buy a Nike shoe. Don’t like Walmart‘s treatment of its employees? Don’t shop there. With the wealth of shopping options at our fingertips, it’s easy to take your business elsewhere when you come up against a policy or practice that you don’t agree with.

This sign caught my eye last week:

sign in a storefront window

To be blunt, this sign offends me – it’s discriminatory! Can you imagine the uproar if the sign said NO WHEELCHAIRS or NO CHILDREN?! This is one place in which I would refuse to spend a dime because I don’t agree with the owners’ philosophy. On this street, it is simply not safe nor desirable to leave a stroller sitting out on the sidewalk. And tell me a wobbly toddler is not capable of wreaking a little havoc?

The stance on no strollers at this store is a rather extreme example of what a store owner will allow or not. Here’s another example:

not just banning dogs! don't bring your parakeet in here, either, apparently!

This request makes a little more sense in terms of sanitation and safety. But if you’re a lover of our furry or four-legged friends, you might take exception to this store’s policy.

Best be-aware of an eatery’s payment options BEFORE you eat, or embarrassment may result!

is there a bank machine close by?!

One request I DO appreciate is when spas, restaurants, and cinemas require patrons to turn off their cellphones. Common curtesy is always in order; given our proliferation of personal technology devices and the lack of etiquette of some users, it is necessary to state the obvious and request some consideration!

Bottom line: shop where you feel comfortable. Just realize that you do make a statement, explicit or implied, with your spending practices.

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Did you know it’s also NEON MONDAY?!

Sarah and I had the pleasure of working together today since our manager was still off, enjoying some well-deserved vacation time. Since we both have the same shoes, we thought it would be funny to revisit high school practises each wear our hot-pink Nike Free shoes at the same time – they’re not exactly plain!

sole sisters unite!

Gave us a giggle during my shift, anyway!

...and the same colour of shirt! can't get much more matchy-matchy!

Fun times on a Monday!

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Stay tuned for the next post – it’s going to be extra-special because we’re celebrating!!!…. 🙂

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Alternative Therapies

Over my years of enjoying running and other physical pursuits, I have had reason to see alternative caregivers, sometimes numerous practioners in each discipline! Comes with the territory: if you push your body, it’s going to rebel at times.

So how do you go about choosing an alternative health care practitioner? Unlike the shortage of medical doctors, the supply of chirpractors, massage therapists, naturopaths, ART practitioners, pedorthists (I’ve seen at least one person in each of these disciplines!) more than meets demand. But simply opening the Yellow Pages, and blindly choosing a name could likely lead to disappointment.

And while OHIP covers a visit to your doctor, you most likely will pay out of your own pocket if you require a chirpractic adjustment or a massage (unless you enjoy benefits thanks to your employer –  and even that perk has financial limits). So you want to make sure you’re receiving quality care from which you will feel the benefits ASAP!

Here are some tips to keep in mind when deciding how to choose an alternative care provider:

  • get a referral from family or friends: this is the best way to go. When someone can give you a first-hand account of the care they received, and of the practioner’s style, of the cost per treatment, of how many appointments they required, you have a better idea of what to expect than simply reading an ad or contacting an unknown name. For example, I found my chiropractor because my dad visited him; my dad got the referral from a church contact.

 

  • ease of contact: how easy is it to book an appointment, change an appointment, ask questions? For example, my massage therapist does not have a secretary so I always have to leave a message on his answering machine. But, he is conscientious about returning calls, and we have never had a communication snafu – this system works for him. The chiropractor I have been seeing for laser therapy on my leg welcomes emails from patients. Nothing is more frustrating than not getting calls back or wasting time setting appointments!

 

  • see a specialist for your type of woe: if you’re experiencing an injury due to sports, seek out a practitioner who specializes in seeing physical fitness freaks! Other examples of specialty areas could be pre-natal patients, older adults, chronic fatigue sufferers, etc. Someone who sees numerous patients with a similar ailment will have more knowledge than a practitioner who is a jack-of-all-trades. I always see sports massage therapists because I don’t want a relaxing massage (go to a spa for that, by the way!) – I want muscle knots released and tight spots eased.

 

  • ease of getting to appointments: if you can get to the caregiver easily – their office is close to your home, office, gym etc – you’re more likely to go regularly than if you have to drive out of your way and spend time on the road.
  • beware of practitioners who advertise excessively or heavily self-promote. If they’re talented, they will have an arsenal of patients, and won’t need to advertise (I’ve heard this straight from practitioners themselves). Do you really want to see someone whose face is on the side of a bus?!

A few other tips:

  • treatment ethics:” obviously, the more clients a practioner has, the more money they are going to make. And B and I know from running our own business that it’s much easier to book repeat customers than find new ones. Be aware, though, of alternative practioners who “string you along.” A number of years ago, I saw a naturopath for a breathing ailment that had been plaguing me for months, and for which numerous doctors and specialists had been unable to find a cure. Within a couple of weeks of seeing the naturopath, I was healed! However, she then started to find other areas that we could address…it was a snowball effect. I finally cut the ties because I foresaw an endless string of “ailments” that she wanted to treat.

 

  • find someone with whom you “jive.” If you feel ill at ease with your practitioner, you feel like they are patronizing, or you don’t like their style of treatment (rough, fast, sloppy), find a new person. For example, I only saw an ART practitioner a couple of times before I switched to his colleague: the first guy was always in a hurry while the second guy was precise and careful in his methods. And don’t feel bad about making a switch! Only YOU can stand up for you! You should feel comfortable chatting with your care giver, and look forward to your treatments (unless you have super sore muscles – haha!)

 

  • book on a schedule you are comfortable with: I once asked my chiropractor how often I should see him (I knew that I could trust him to give me an honest answer at this point). I wondered whether it is better to wait til you feel something out of whack, or to have a set appointment schedule? He used the analogy of visiting the dentist: most of us get regular checkups, then call if we have an emergency situation. Preventive care is better than only receiving care when in dire need. And this schedule could be different for each of us: weekly, monthly, annually – decide what your body requires.

So, if you have been feeling like you could use a massage, an adjustment, a pair of orthotics, do your research before blindly choosing. Your pocketbook and your body will thank you!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: I WANT THIS JOB!!!!

We have SIL Ana to thank for inspiring today’s Buyer Be-Aware post!

the non-corporate side to SIL ana!

When I heard about SIL Ana’s recent shopping experience, I thought: a) I can’t wait to try this myself, b) it’s a fabulous concept c) more people need to know about this awesome opportunity!

SIL Ana has been at home on mat leave for the past year and will be returning to the workforce after Labour Day. In her career, Ana wears a number of different hats, and juggles everything from on-site industrial visits to meetings with high-profile clients to office time with the bosses. As such, her wardrobe needs to be professional yet comfortable. After a year away from the corporate scene, Ana was ready for some new mix-n-match clothing items. But who has time to search high and low, hither and yon, when you have two kidlets and just need the clothes, already!

Yorkdale Mall, one of Toronto’s finest shopping destinations, to the rescue! Guess what they offer: A PERSONAL SHOPPING EXPERIENCE also known as their Wardrobe Planning Service. Yes! Basically for free, you can enlist the services of a professional fashionista to guide you in your shopping quest.

How does it work? You book an appointment online here by filling out the registration form and answering a couple of questions. You can get more information about the service here in the FAQ section. It’s all fine and dandy to read the details online, but it’s always better to get a personal review. With Ana’s permission, I share with you her experience…

As noted on the website, there is a $25 fee to book your two hour appointment. When you arrive at the appointment, you receive a $25 Yorkdale Mall Gift Card, so to me, that’s a free appointment (you’re not going to go to the trouble of setting up a consultation if you don’t have a serious purchase in mind, right?).

Ana was matched with Jean Flemming. Ana was really impressed with her professionalism, helpfulness and knowledge. She looked familiar to Ana…over the course of their conversation, Ana learned Jean has appeared on Cityline! (Wow! That alone scores majah points with me!).

Jean and Ana discussed what exactly Ana was looking for, what styles she likes, colour preferences, favourite stores, then it was time to power shop! They started at Banana Republic , one of Ana’s preferred stores, and it sounds like Ana had a blast: Ana was a whirlwind outfit-changer while Jean ran around and did all the dirty work of finding styles and sizes and giving the thumbs up or down as Ana changed ensembles.

Ana had a lot of luck at Banana Republic but still wanted another pair of pants, so Jean on they went to RW & Co. Success again!

Although the appointment is set for a two hour block (and you could request a four hour block, if need be), Ana and Jean finished up their shopping in about an hour – Ana had all the items she needed and had also reached her budget limit! (as good a reason to stop as any!). While the purpose of the outing was to find new clothing items, Jean was also helpful with accessory suggestions and footwear tips. To Ana’s disappointment, Jean gave the thumbs down to the purse that Ana had purchased in Finland this summer and had been hoping to use once back at work. Good to get a second opinion!

I was lucky enough to be at the house when Ana got home from her Personal Shopping Experience, and thus witnessed her enthusiasm for Jean’s help firsthand. It’s truly amazing what they accomplished in a one-hour blitz.

This is such a great marketing idea: a positive shopping experience for the customer who has time constraints or who has questions on a fashion choice, and positive exposure for the mall, with guaranteed sales for the stores within the mall. How completely beneficial would this appointment be for a) someone who does not particularly like shopping b) someone searching for an item for a specific occasion (wedding, gala, corporate job) c) someone needing professional guidance on fit and style but who can’t spend an arm and a leg paying a third-party professional consultant on their own.

Also to note, and thanks for the info, Ana: Cadillac Fairview malls offer this service BUT the price varies: for example, Sherway Gardens charges $150, and Square One  does not have the service available for the summer (sorry, but I couldn’t find online links for more information on these locations).

I TOTALLY could have used this type of help a few years back when searching for a dress for The Bro and SIL Ana’s wedding. Poor, patient, saintly BFF Debbie spent 8 hours at Sherway Gardens with me as we walked our feet off, visiting every available store for a dress…only to walk out empty-handed (I ended up knitting my dress so it worked out in the end, but the shopping trip itself was a rather Sorely Trying Day and not the best for self-esteem as I tried on so many disappointments!).

Now my final question is this: can I please have Jean’s job?!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Et tu, Wolfgang Puck?

Happy Monday, everyone! (hoping that is not an oxymoronic expression for you today!)

If it’s Monday, it’s time for a Buyer Be-Aware segment. Let’s start off with a quickie quiz – 3 questions:

1. How much sodium does your body need? (mg per day)

a) zero b) 500 mg c) 1500 mg d) 2300 mg

2. How much sodium are Canadians currently consuming per day, in mg?

a) 1000 mg b) 3400 mg c) 5000 mg d) 10 000 mg

3) What is the recommended intake of sodium per day for adults?

a) zero mg b) 500 mg c) 1500 mg d) 2300 mg

ANSWERS: (It’s a personal pet peeve when you have to turn a paper upside down, turn to another page, or search high and low for quiz answers, so I will spare you the effort! Question #1 = b, Question #2 = b, Question #3 = d)

(all stats come from this source)

Let’s get on with the meat and potatoes (a potentially salty meal!) of this post: SODIUM CONTENT IN TINNED SOUPS.

A can of soup is such a great concept, in theory. What is faster, cheaper, easier to prepare and eat, offers more choice in flavours than a tin of soup? Soups can be a quick lunch for the office, a warming meal on a cold night, a picker-upper when you’re sick, a secret-ingredient base for yummy desserts.

Another pop quiz – name a company that manufactures tinned soups. What popped to your mind? This giant?

CAMPBELLS!!!

That’s what my mind thinks of, anyway!

The idea for today’s post came when I was poking about the Amy’s Organic products at a local health food store. Thought I might try some sort of vegetarian soup for lunch:

a wide selection of offerings for a veggie lover!

…then I happened to glance at the sodium content of this one…

yum - minestrone!

The stats on our friend Amy? This one rings in at 580 mg per 250 ml/1 cup serving. Since the tin is 398 ml, if you eat the tin as your lunch (entirely possible), you’re consuming 923 mg sodium! I put poor Amy back on the shelf. (Many thanks to my high school math for allowing me to use an algebraic formula for the computation, above!)

Intrigued now, I spent some time among the soups at Vincenzo‘s (neighbourhood specialty store). As a fan of the Food Network Channel, (watch Top Chef!!!) Wolfgang Puck  is a name I recognize and regard with awe!

not your average flavour selections!

Hey Hey!! If you’re going to “treat” yourself to canned soup, maybe a prestigious brandname is the one to go with!

lentils + vegetables = balanced vegetarian dish!

Well, Wolfgang, you come in with better stats than Amy, but I still passed you by. This puck-a-licious soup checked in with 490 mg sodium per 250 ml/1 cup. (SIDENOTE: notice the labelling info here – if you just glance at the sodium content, you may be led to believe that the sodium listed is for the entire tin…but ONE SERVING does not equal ONE TIN – be aware!) So if you open the tin and slurp it all up, you’re actually getting a 780 mg sodium bang for your buck.

So as not to just pick on Wolfgang and His Soups, I checked another offering on the Vincenzo’s shelf:

a shelf of soups, lined with all the labels facing forwards, is so pleasing to my love of order! 🙂

I know nothing about Baxters, have nothing against Baxters, just call me Switzerland when it comes to Baxters. Would I buy a Baxters? Bet your bootie, no! This one sounds good…

squash! great source of vitamins and nutrients!

Wowser! Would you like a whopping serving of sodium to go with this nutritious veg? How about 730 mg per 250 ml/1 cup serving? This tin, the largest of our sampling thus far, is 540 ml. So eat the tin (less likely, I realize, as it’s over two cups, but if you’re hungry or simply don’t want leftovers, entirely possible), and you’ll get…1576 mg sodium!!

I couldn’t wait to go pick on Campbells!!! It felt like such an easy target, as I guessed that the sodium content would be highest with this King of the Canned Soups. I made a beeline for the soup aisle…

let me turn those labels around (rubs hands in expectant glee!)

And? And?!…Here you go: Campbells Cheddar Cheese clocks in at 870 mg per 250 ml/1cup while Vegetable rings in with 650 mg per 250 ml/1 cup. It’s so fun to be right (pats self on back)!! If we look at all of the examples, above, the Campbells Cheddar Cheese *wins* the prize for most salt per serving.

As always, I want only to draw these stats to your attention. Just because a soup is organic, vegetarian or high falutin does not mean it is “better” than the run-of-the-mill offering. For sure, there is a time and a place for a tin of soup. Just BE AWARE and balance the rest of your meals accordingly.

Final stats: price. (This could be a good Price is Right game! “Put the soups in order of price and win a Pontiac!”) Care to guess the price points?? Remember: we’ve looked at Amy’s, Wolfgang Puck, Baxters, and Campbells….(thinking, thinking…)

Here you go: Wolfgang Puck = $3.99; Amy’s = $3.65 Baxters = $2.99, Campbells = $2.19 (cheddar) and $0.59 (vegetable on sale).

So to end on a positive note, think about whipping up your own pot o’ soup! Not hard! Not expensive! I leave you with a link to this website where you’ll find a few soups to sup on! Bon appetit!

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For me, Mondays feel like Fridays. Working retail, my schedule of late has been Friday, Saturday (not this past week when we had Baby C’s party), Sunday and Monday. So Tuesday is my Saturday! I’m looking forward to quite a social day tomorrow!

Buyer Be-Aware Monday: Toning Shoes

Remember these?!

an example of "minimalist footwear," for sure!

Update: I’m still easing my way into wearing the Vibram Sprints, and so far so good! I can assure you that you DO feel as if you are barefoot: there is absolutely nuttin’ in terms of cushioning between you and the sidewalk (the only surface I’ve worn them on so far)! Since I’ve been wearing my Vibrams and my Nike Frees 99% of the time when I go walking/am out and about, a “regular” pair of running shoes now feels…excessive! As previously discussed, these shoes are not for everyone, but I am transitioning without issue!

The Vibrams aren’t the only shoe phenomenon popular right now. Have you seen any of these?

(source)

The Sketchers Shape Ups – perhaps the most widely-known of the brands…they certainly advertise prominently.

Or how about…

Chapa Storm GTX (source)

The MBT Anti-Shoe…

Or even…

Post Icon(source)

The Reebok Easy Tone Go-Outside model

These are all examples of what the shoe industry classifies as “toning shoes.” What do they have in common? (besides being butt-ugly!) – this type of shoe is supposed to tone your glute and leg muscles while you walk. If you raise an eyebrow skeptically, I am with you.

My store carries a version as well:

this is the avia avi-motion shoe

…and here’s what our website says about this shoe:

Avia – AVI-Motion Walking i-Quest

Women’s

Introducing AVIA’s latest recovery footwear. The iquest makes downtime activity a powerful way of enhancing run training for both the recreational and competitive runner. AVIA’s breakthrough recovery collection uses a variety of advanced features including the Double Rocker midsole that mimics sand-like walking. This promotes muscle activation to the lower extremities.

 (source)

In the interest of today’s post, I wore these shoes for my three hour shift today.

look like orthopedic grandma shoes...

 Granted, walking around the store is not the same as using them for a power walk, but I figured a couple of hours wear would give me a sense of the shoe.

the heel-to-toe roll is more pronounced than this photo indicates...

The shoe really rolls – you feel like you have the bottoms of a rocking chair on your feet. I did feel taller. When I stood still, my centre of gravity shifted towards the last 2/3 of the shoe. When standing or walking, you need to make a concerted effort to toe-off (all part of the muscle-toning action, I guess). They were NOT uncomfortable. However, I really didn’t feel the urge to try them on a real walk due to the both heaviness of the shoe and that rolling motion (not to mention the quite hideous appearance).

Contrary to what the box states…

can a shoe effectively tone your abs, thighs, calves and glutes??

…I personally did not feel like my muscles were working harder or being conditioned in a new way.

My opinion? Rather than trying to combine walking + lower body muscle strengthening at the same time, keep the activities separate: go for a heart-pumping walk in your regular workout/running shoes THEN add on supplementary strength and conditioning moves to target the glutes, abs, and legs. A bit of extra time, perhaps, but more effective in the long run.

The red-flag scenario would be someone who is new to fitness who reads the advertising and marketing claims, buys the shoes, and wears them for several hours the first time out. I bet this would not lead to happy muscles…just my educated guess!

Toning shoes are big business, though: last year they were worth $1.5 BILLION in sales and the projection this year is for over $2 billion. And all those claims of greatness you see on the various companies’ websites? Independent verification (ie from a neutral source, not from surveys or tests done by a company hired by the shoe manufacturer) have yet to prove them extraordinarily beneficial.

My conclusion? Invest in quality running or walking shoes, walk regularly and purposefully for your cardio fitness, then incorporate 15-30 minutes 2-3  per week of lower body conditioning moves.

*******************

In other news!…

B just got back last evening from the Colorado Hike! And while he could not find my peanut butter (boo hoo!), he did have good luck with my gum!

he even snagged some flavours i didn't try in florida!

I should be well-stocked now for a while!

Kick-Off to Buyer Be-Aware Mondays!

Here’s a photo of our current peanut butter cupboard:

both b and i luuuv our nut butters

Sadly, you will note that the shelf no longer holds this divine gem:

Naturally More Natural Peanut Butter(source)

BEST. FIND. of my entire Florida trip. Haha: B is now hiking in Colorado…I wrote down the exact name, weight, lid colour, blood type of this peanut butter and begged him to please please PLEASE bring me some home, if at all possible. Fingers crossed although my chances stand at about 5%, I reckon). I’ll let you know!

Anyway: our #1 favourite of the options above is for sure the Kraft All-Natural peanut butter.

b devours it on toast with jam, i inhale it on apples

 We go through a jar about every 10-14 days. We’ve tried other all-natural brands, but love this one the best. Frankly, I was surprised as I was sure a little indie company would knock the socks off a corporate giant, but that’s the way our tastebuds vote!

Love the ingredient list:

100% select roasted peanuts

That’s right – one ingredient. Sodium? 0 mg. no added sugars, zero preservatives. Taste? Fantabulous!

So last week, it was time to purchase yet another jar of our p.b at Valumart.

Whoa-ho! What have we here? My little eye spied this new-to-me product:

let's check this out, said i!...

My initial thoughts were: ok! whipped p.b.! sounds healthy…let’s check the stats:

70 cals/tablespoon, zero trans fat...all good...

BUT!….

let's read through that ingredient list...

First, be aware there is 60 mg of sodium/serving. Not bad – in the States, I honestly was rather dumb-founded by some of the sodium levels in the brands I found (100+/tablespoon in some cases) – but when you can get zero, why do you need 60 mg?…Now sorry for the fuzzy photo, above, but I hope you can at least make out that there is more than one ingredient in that list. In fact, here IS the list: select roasted peanuts, soybean oil, sugar, corn dextrin, hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, fancy molasses. That’s a lotta extras! (And THIS is cool! Read the link and you’ll find that “…corn dextrin also serves as a glue. In fact, it’s the glue that you find on the back of envelopes.”) Think I’ll stick with the one ingredient p.b., thanks!

This is kind of cool, too. I went to the Kraft website, searched “whipped peanut butter,” and this is what I found: information and nutrition on the whipped p.b. but they provide no list of ingredients!!!

There’s a high probability that the casual shopper will see the product, think “Oh, whipped = healthier, I’m gonna grab this!” without noticing that the ingredient list is not all that pure…

So, welcome to the initial post for Buyer Be-Aware Mondays! I’m genuinely intrigued by the worlds of marketing, advertising, and consumer awareness, and will be examining a product or claim that I come across each week. (For example, remember when I found the Eat Pray Love book in Florida – $1 for the trade paperback with Julia Roberts on the cover as opposed to the trade paperback without).

 I decided to call this Buyer Be-Aware instead of BEWARE because my intent is not to cast judgement or push my opinion on anyone; by being informed, however, we can make choices that best suit our interests and priorities.

Coming up! A Financial Post! (No, not that one, haha!) 🙂