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Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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I couldn’t have said it better

I just came across a shared article on Facebook’s Style Your Way to Success Over 50 written by Rebecca Huval in January 2017 entitled We’ve Forgotten How to Dress Like Adults which expresses the sentiments of baby boomer women and our relationship with fashion better than I ever could. I loved it and I think you will to. Here’s the link:

https://www.racked.com/2017/1/18/14112366/dressing-like-an-adult-sophistication

What do you think? Do you agree with Rebecca?

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Sharing my secrets to buying a new problem-free laptop

Like buying a car, I don’t need to know what’s under the hood as long as it gets me where I want to go as quickly as possible and preferably without shifting gears. A cup holder would have been be nice.

For many of us non-techies, buying new electronics such as cell phones, telecom services or computers is an experience right up there with sticking needles in your eyeballs. As I detailed in a recent blog “Dear Mr. Gates”, (click here to read), it’s a process characterized by dread, stress, sleepless nights, and hours of calls to a third-world call centre where English is spoken only as second or third language, if at all.  Then, there’s the outlay of hundreds or thousands of your hard-earned dollars, not to mention all the bad swears involved. Sadly, the built-in obsolescence inherent in our electronic devices means we are forced to endure this process for some piece of electronic equipment more often than we would prefer.

I packed all this excitement into a double-header recently with the purchase of a new laptop and the conversion from satellite television to Fibe TV —in the same week. I’d been putting off buying a new laptop for more than a year. My old one was taking so long to process functions I could do the laundry and re-shingle the roof waiting for my e-mails to open. Most of my day was consumed by re-booting and waiting.

I purchased every support option available, which means now I probably won’t need it.

My nervous dread turned to relief and amazement when I actually made a successful conversion to a new laptop. That miracle certainly deserves some post-mortem reflection and good-hearted sharing of information. If it worked for me, it might work for you.

  1. Purchase from a reputable retail outlet that will probably still be in business by the time you get home. I selected the Microsoft store in Square One Shopping Mall in Mississauga because, thanks to our one-way e-mail-based failed love affair, Bill Gates and I are tight. And I figured Microsoft would be committed to a fairly rigid lease with the landlord at the mall ensuring I know where they live should things go sideways.
  2. Try to pick a fairly new employee. They’re more likely to still be keen and not totally burned out by customers humping their giant printers into the store because they can’t make them work with their new computer.
  3. Bribery. When I noticed the sales rep was also left-handed (like me), I gave him my Pentel Energel liquid gel ink pen, specially designed for lefties, from my personal stash. How could he forget such a generous gesture. Anything to grease the wheel should not be overlooked in ensuring he never forgets you and will treat you royally. Don’t try humbugs, though. That’s just sad.
  4. At the risk of sounding sexist, I would ordinarily have preferred a female sales rep assuming she would be more nurturing and empathetic. However, young male sales reps can be more easily manipulated when faced with a gush of old-lady tears, which I was totally prepared to employ if needed.
  5. On the subject of old ladies, don’t be afraid to play the old lady card. When you feign complete ignorance and incompetence the sales reps can be very generous with their time and patience. I find it helps if you speak in a soft, shaky voice too.  And make them speak in language you understand, not technical Klingon.
  6. If Item 5 fails, you can resort to mean old crone. That’s what I did. I made the poor guy read my recent blog posting about my frustrations with electronics (again, click here to read Dear Mr. Gates). Then, I threatened him with my enduring presence at his store if my new computer didn’t work exactly like it should the first time I turned it on. I’m not proud of it, but I think I scared the bejeesuz out of the poor guy. That was probably the clincher that ensured all my old data would be migrated seamlessly to my new laptop. Mission accomplished.

Hallelujah. It works!

It could have been any one or a combination of all the above strategies that sealed my successful transition to a new laptop. I can confidently and honestly tell you that my new laptop works like a charm, just like my old one should have. When my tech-savvy friend Mike asked what I got, I replied “It’s silver”. That’s how much I know about computers. It is in fact an HP Envy 365 Intel Core 17, 7th Gen (whatever all that means) and cost more than three times what I paid for my old Toshiba.  And I purchased every support, replacement and tech assistance option available. I only hope it lasts three times as long which should take this old lady until the end of her time, which I would consider a pretty good investment. If only life were that simple.

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Cheerios – not just for little fingers

Gone but not forgotten.

General Mills is missing a major marketing opportunity. I keep filling out customer surveys from Kellogg’s and other companies hoping someday they’ll actually listen to me about consumer preferences. They continue to ignore my pleas to reduce the amount of sugar in breakfast cereals and instead choose to blatantly defy me by offering new ‘honey-flavoured’ or ‘crunchy’ product lines which is marketing speak for more sugar. For years I have been eating Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs which contain zero grams of added sugar, four grams of protein and only 100 calories per cup. Add my half cup of organic Canadian wild blueberries with almond milk and a sprinkle of Kellogg’s Bran Buds and I’m a happy girl. While that breakfast sounds reasonably healthy, the shocker is that the seemingly healthy Bran Buds contain a whopping seven grams of sugar (about two teaspoons) in a mere one-third of a cup. That’s just disgraceful Mr. Kellogg.

Consumers must be super-vigilent about what we eat.

The current problem is that no one carries my beloved Kashi 7 Whole Grains Puffs any more, other than Whole Foods and I refuse to pay their exorbitant prices. The solution has been to use my trusty Amazon Prime account and find the cheapest supplier on-line and order a case of ten boxes to be shipped to my home. But that’s accompanied by complications if it’s coming from the United States. The cost of exchange and duty can be prohibitive.

So I spent a considerable amount of time perusing the cereal aisle reading labels to compare ingredients and nutritional value in search of an alternative. Surprisingly, one that came up a winner was every toddler’s favourite finger snack, General Mills Cheerios. One cup of plain, old-fashioned Cheerios contains only 100 calories and one gram of sugar (¼ tsp). With three grams of protein and three grams of fibre in this tasty oat cereal, I think we have a winner.

Works for me. And I’m a tad older than this consumer.

Instead of General Mills targeting only little fingers (Donald Trump notwithstanding) they could and should be marketing to Baby Boomers. Our sluggish digestive systems would enjoy the boost and our budgets would appreciate having more cash freed up for wine. Cheerios are inexpensive and come in boxes large enough to last more than three days (unlike Kashi whose boxes are now so reduced in size at 6.5 oz. they barely stand up by themselves). The boxes are light in weight for hefting home from the grocery store and for those who care, they’re also gluten-free.

I think I’m going to write Mr. General Mills and suggest they redirect their marketing to a previously ignored demographic, Baby Boomers. They may want to consider paying me a royalty. So, if you happen to see commercials on television of a boomer couple sitting side by side in matching bathtubs watching the sun rise over the ocean while munching a bowl of Cheerios, then you’ll know they heard me. I’m no expert but it works for me, minus the tubs. And since I retired, I make a point of not being awake for sunrises. Until then, I’ll hold off investing in General Mills stock. As if anyone listens to me.

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Are the fashion experts crazy or am I?

Boomers just wanna have fun with fashion too.

Call me a bitch but one of my favourite old lady past-times is sitting in my LaZgirl chair mocking and debunking the fashion advice I see on television and in many ‘women’s’ magazines. I love watching CITY TV’s CityLine as well as CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social. I truly enjoy those shows but lordy lordy, am I the only one who thinks much of their fashion advice is a lot of hooey? To their credit, many of the models and makeover candidates featured have normal (a.k.a. not stick thin) bodies which makes it easier for we mortals to relate to the fashion challenges presented, but, the ‘before’ pictures are sometimes better than the ‘after’.

The Marilyn Denis show. My favourite host and everyone’s girlfriend.

Peter Papapetrou and Alexis Honce on The Marilyn Denis Show are my favourite targets. Sometimes Papapetrou nails it, but most of the time the outfits he comes up with are jokingly inappropriate. I like Greta Monahan but much of her fashion advice is just plain weird. Last week she took a top-heavy, tall, solidly built woman who wanted to minimize her ample bust area and Monahan put her in a faux-fur vest. Granted, it was in a dark colour but wouldn’t a light-weight fabric have been more flattering? And what woman alive can tolerate the heat generated by spending the day in a fur vest unless you live above the sixty-nineth parallel? Tracey Moore’s fashions could be better. I love her clothing supplier, Freda’s, but her choices often miss the mark. And, I have to seriously question the sensibility of anyone who would be a fan of jumpsuits, which she is. Have you ever tried going to the bathroom in one of those things? I’ll spare you the details.

One of my biggest beefs is the choice of shoes with wide ankle straps on women with short, heavy legs. Then, the fashion experts compound the disaster by putting the ladies in flouncy skirts or dresses. Or, what about the short-waisted women they insist on outfitting in belted dresses or tops with the sad little belt peeking out two inches below the bustline? Much as I criticize Marilyn Denis’s inflexible choice of jeggings and maternity tops on nearly every show, at least she recognizes she has issues with her waistline and tries to accommodate it. Once in a while she opts for a skirt and shows off her gorgeous legs but she should do it more often. And I rarely see anything on The Social’s ladies that I would wear, but then I’m not their age. I do admire their courage though.

CityLine’s Lynn Spence can generally be counted on for good advice.

Lynn Spence is a generously proportioned woman and she understands the difficulties normal women have in trying to dress fashionably. Most of her choices are not too bad but often she seems to favour promoting the retailer more than the interests of fashion for real women. I miss Sandra Pittana. Her taste is more off-beat but always fun to watch. Lisa Rogers has a reasonable fashion sensibility and I generally enjoy most of her choices. Jessica Mulroney’s tastes lean toward styles geared to women who look like her—wisp-thin young working mothers who could wear a tea towel with a bit of string and look great. She shouldn’t have done whatever she did to her upper lip though.

When these so-called fashion experts have access to an entire mall full of clothing or even a single retailer, how can they make such dreadful choices. I’d love to have the resources they do. I find myself screaming at the television, “Is that the best you can do?”. And the fashion magazines are even worse. Where’s the inspiration for real women in a sea of anorexic teenage genetic flukes?

And while I’m ranting here, does anyone recognize that there’s a whole generation of women out there called Baby Boomers who are completely ignored as a potential target market? The majority of makeovers are new mothers returning to the workforce, looking to regain their business chic while coping with postpartum bodies. Boomers are a huge demographic with the time and the money to spend on fashion, not to mention the time to watch daytime television and cruise the malls after a ladies’ lunch. But who am I to criticize? Are the fashionistas living in some parallel universe that I don’t get or is it just me being a fashion-illiterate bitch?

It’s only because we care, sweetie dahlings. Just want to keep the economy rolling along.

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Tim Horton’s franchisees aiming for a shoot-out

I knew it. I just knew things would go south (literally) when Tim Hortons was taken over by American parent company Restaurant Brands International. RBI also owns Burger King and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. How can a company with holdings like those possibly understand what Timmie’s means to Canadian culture? When the takeover happened in 2014, I was concerned Timmie’s would lose its Canadian identity and become just another amorphous American fast-food chain. In fact, I blogged about the issue in September 2015. Click here to read Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

They were hoping because of our innate niceness we wouldn’t notice.

Well, it seems our sugar-coated chickens have come home to roost. Tim Hortons’ Canadian franchisees plan to launch a $500 million class action suit against the RBI American parent and its senior executives claiming that funds they contribute to marketing and sales have been diverted to other corporate coffers, like administration. Each Tim Hortons franchisee is required to pay 3.5% of their gross sales toward a fund to be used exclusively for marketing, sales and promotion. Basically, RBI’s bean counters and their bosses have been caught with their mitts in the donut jar and are getting their fat fingers slapped. Naturally, Sam Siddiqui, President of the Canadian Division denies the accusation. If they think they’re going to pull the toque over our eyes, they’re skating on thin ice.

As a frequent customer and fan of Timmie’s, I consider myself  bit of an expert on the issue, having already noticed a change. The very thing I was dreading came to pass. RBI totally disregarded our Canadian-ness. When was the last time you saw commercials on television of snotty nosed hockey-sweatered Canadian kids gathering at Timmie’s for hot chocolate after practice? Where did those heart-warming shots of our camouflage-clad Canadian soldiers lining up at a Tim Hortons outlet in Afghanistan go? Have you seen any commercials in the last couple of years of polite, multi-ethnic Canadians rolling up the rim on a Vancouver street or on Signal Hill in St. John’s? No? That’s because the RBI bean counters were covertly diverting franchisee’s money into American corporate coffers and hoping because of our innate Canadian politeness we wouldn’t make a fuss.

Am I the only one who thinks Timmie’s lineups are getting longer?

Yep! The lineups at the drive-thru have been getting longer thanks to staff cuts. They’re messing with the quality of the products and franchisees are being pressured to cut costs in order to sustain American executives’ bonuses. Well, that’s just plain un-Canadian and, sorry, we’re having none of it. We can play dirty too. Tim Horton’s franchisees have declared foul and I for one am proud of them. Nobody takes our good nature for granted, hoping we’ll be distracted by Trump’s softwood lumber threats and free trade war. We’re lacing up our skates, putting our best offensive line out on the ice and fighting for our own double double truly Canadian cup. We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this but the RBI Americans have crossed the blue line once too often and we’re calling a penalty. Team Canada is dropping the puck at centre ice and taking our shot. It’s going to be a barn burner.

P.S. July 13, 2017: The Toronto Star ran this article about the issue a couple of days ago: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-12/tim-hortons-operators-worry-chain-is-losing-its-canadian-culture

Click here to read Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

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Bringing the world to your doorstep

I may not know how to use my cell phone to its full potential but this is one skill I’ve mastered.

Can’t find an obscure item in the mall or hardware store, or perhaps you’re just feeling lazy and don’t feel like putting your face on to go out in public? Or, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t available in Canada.  Technology has brought us down the yellow brick road to a wonderful place called on-line shopping. Our love affair with on-line shopping has hurt bricks and mortar retailing stores but damn, it makes life so much easier. And with the poor customer service offered in many retail establishments, it’s no wonder we’re embracing the alternatives.

A few weeks ago I wanted one of those tiny paring knives with a two-inch curved blade. It’s handy for certain kitchen chores and wasn’t available anywhere, except on line. Ordered two just to be on the safe side and for less than ten dollars they were at my door a couple of days later. Problem solved. I also follow a website called Shopstyle.com” that notifies me when something I like goes on sale. The site scours the internet for brands and items I’ve indicated I like and automatically connects me with the retailer offering it when it goes on sale. I’ve scored some great Eileen Fisher pieces for up to 70% off as well as deals on my beloved FitFlop™ sandals. Out-of-print or hard to find books can easily be sourced on-line. Amazon’s used books service has brought books right to my door from the U.K. in a few days for as little as one cent plus shipping. Then there’s the fun and anticipation of waiting for your goodies to arrive—it’s like counting sleeps ’til Christmas morning.

Because I use Amazon so extensively, it was worth signing up for their Amazon Prime membership. For $99.00 a year my deliveries are ‘free’ which, when I do the math is still cheaper than paying shipping charges on each order. And, if I could figure out how to use the movie download feature on my iPad I would have access to movies and TV shows as well. I’ll figure that out as soon as I sort out how to turn on my new cell phone. But that’s another story.

Life just keeps getting better. Think I’ll stick around awhile.

This is all good practice for when I can no longer drive to go shopping. While I could take the bus, that involves waiting on a freezing cold or sweltering hot street corner for my connection, then lugging my heavy bags up the street. Letting my gnarly old fingers do the walking just seems so much easier. By the time we Boomers have to give up our driving privileges, I hope on-line shopping has amped up the meals-on-wheels choices and wine deliveries to accommodate our evolving needs. When their drones can drop a DQ chocolate peanut blizzard at my front door before it melts, then I will have achieved nirvana. Coming soon to a door near you—it’s worth staying alive for.

Click here for Fitflop.ca (they’re having a big 50% sale right now)

Click here for Shopstyle.com

Note: I receive no benefits for mentioning Amazon, Fitflop™ or Shopstyle. Just sharing good info.

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Top 10 suggestions for Hudson’s Bay to survive

My love/hate relationship with The Hudson’s Bay Company (comparable to Macy’s in the United States) just took a turn. I want to scream “I told you so”. When I heard the news they’re laying off thousands of people in response to declining sales I felt an immense sense of sadness for the sales associates who work there at low wages and will be losing their jobs. But what about the customers? In all matters relating to retail, the number one factor that gets ignored in the equation is the customer. The experts and execs say the cuts are necessary because customers are resorting to on-line shopping. No bloody wonder.

I love The Hudson’s Bay Company and have their limited edition Barbie doll to prove it. As Canada’s oldest retailer (350 years+), Hudson’s Bay has been my default department store since the days when Robert Simpson Company occupied their stores. Over the years, I’ve written snail mail letters to the executives, emailed store managers and blogged about their abysmal customer service. Obviously they weren’t listening to me—the customer—after all, what do I know? Shopping at Hudson’s Bay Company is an experience right up there with shopping at Costco, minus the giant carts. Their stores offer an overwhelming inventory of great, good and not-so-good merchandise, crammed into unimaginative space with minimal eye-appealing merchandising, no visible sales associates to help customers and tiring lineups at the few available check-outs. What’s crucial is we expect better from Hudson’s Bay.

The bean counters have deemed that the problem with The Hudson’s Bay Company can be solved by reducing the payroll. Brilliant! That’s like closing the barn door after the horses have left. And replacing them with wooden replicas. I’m going to really love shopping at a store where the service is even worse (is that even possible?) than before. As the humble generator of business and the total raison d’être for Hudson’s Bay to exist, I, the customer would once again like to offer my suggestions for improving sales and ultimately the bottom line:

Some retailers get it.

  1.  Audit and edit your merchandise. Get rid of the crap no one wants to buy. Pare down inventory. This might require editing your buyers as well. Are your buyers truly tuned in to your customers?
  2. Use the money saved from getting rid of excess inventory to hire more sales associates to help me find sizes, assist with “looks” and suggest options.
  3. Put these new additional sales associates on the floor to actually help customers, not just be chained to the checkout desk attending to lineups.
  4. Expand the use of tasteful displays and mannequins. I’m often inspired to purchase by creative merchandising displays. Downtown flagship stores are lovely but suburban mall stores frequently resembles a jumble sale. Make the shopping experience more (dare it say it?) enjoyable. Unfortunately . . . see Item 2.
  5. Pay your staff enough that they enjoy what they’re doing and take pride in being a sales associate. Provide better training. Paying overworked sales associates minimum or low wages only causes resentment. This can be financed by following Item 1 above.
  6. Here’s a radical idea. A place for Boomer ladies to rest our old bones while we’re shopping or waiting for ASSISTANCE?

    Amp up the store environment. Improve strategic lighting and deep six the blanket fluorescent lights treatment. How about placing a few comfortable chairs with side tables offering inspirational fashion brochures from manufacturers or current fashion magazines. Maybe some videos of how to put outfits together?

  7. Send employees to the Nordstrom school of retail training.
  8. Always search above and beyond what’s available on the floor. When you don’t have my size, offer to find it. See Item 7 above.
  9. Don’t ever forget who ultimately pays your bills—me, the customer.
  10. Check with your customers once in a while to see how we’re doing? In all my fifty-plus years of department store shopping, I’ve never once had a retailer ask me what I want. It would be so easy to survey customers through accounts or on-line. I’d love to have the opportunity of being heard by serving on a customer council.

As someone who once worked for Eaton’s at their College Street store in Toronto, I have experience on both sides of the counter. Is anyone listening? Or are your customers irrelevant? Therein lies the problem. I told you so.

Here are some links to previous blog postings about Hudson’s Bay and general retail concerns:

How to improve sales at Hudson’s Bay

Retail rant hits home

The solution for Canadian retailers is as easy as 1, 2, 3

What on earth was The Hudson’s Bay Company Thinking?

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