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Thoughts on a trip to the mall

It’s a rare occurrence when I visit one of the local shopping malls that I come home empty-handed. In fact, when I do leave without purchasing anything I feel rather virtuous and self-satisfied having once again narrowly escaped the sirens’ call. Giant, shiny shopping malls that sprang up in the suburbs across the country in the last few decades are modern cathedrals—a holy gathering place where humble worshipers go to deify the goddesses of consumerism. The bright window displays of the latest fashions draw us in and tempt us to lay down our souls and over-loaded credit cards in the name of instant gratification. How many times have we gone out to purchase a single needed item like a new pair of winter boots only to leave with multiple bags of not needed and not appreciated extra items of clothing, jewelry or skin care products?

The curse of consumerism hasn’t escaped me. If I’d purchased fewer pairs of shoes and purses during my working years and been less concerned about strutting out in the latest disposable fashions, I’d have a lot more money in my RRSP to draw from now. But, that’s all past history. The important thing is I learned something and that lesson affects my behaviour today. If I could give young people a word of advice it would be financial freedom = overall freedom. Save for the future.

A lot of my boomer friends reached a plateau around mid-life. Many of us had been at jobs that were unsatisfying or highly stressful and wanted to consider other ways to spend the rest of our days. We wanted options. That’s not possible when you’re broke, have crushing mortgage payments or onerous consumer debt. By middle-age things should be getting easier but because of profligate spending in our glory years we were chained to our weekly paycheque.

Now that I’m retired I’m free to do what I please. Doing what we like doesn’t have to be expensive. It can mean having the time to ride our bikes on a beautiful day, visit friends during the week for a cup of tea and a chat, even during the day which is so lovely. There are so many little benefits that come with retirement but let’s face it, retirement is that much more fun and satisfying when we can scrape together enough toonies and loonies every year to indulge our hobbies, take a vacation or splurge on a golf or tennis club membership. If we’re creative types, we need money to purchase canvases, paints, craft supplies, or a little fishing boat or RV if we’re outdoorsy. During our retirement years the one thing we all have is common is we have to watch our spending habits. Some may continue doing part-time or volunteer work after retirement. The beauty of it all is now we have options.

Seniors have made a science out of pinching pennies—although now that Canada has discontinued the use of pennies, I guess I should say pinching loonies. Not only does it give us an intellectual challenge, it helps ensure we’re going to be able to finance a comfortable lifestyle for as many years as possible. There is no way in the world I need another pair of shoes. I have more than enough of everything but going to the mall to get my hair done on a quiet Tuesday morning still requires a hefty dose of discipline to not pick up that cute pair I saw on sale in Ron White’s window. The best way I’ve found to keep myself in check is to not visit the mall unless absolutely necessary. When I see a gorgeous white blouse at Hudson’s Bay on sale, I remind myself I already have too many white blouses hanging in my closet that are barely worn. Although I admit, I feel somewhat vindicated when I think about a mother I saw interviewed on Oprah once who confessed to owning ninety-three (93) pairs of jeans—and her five children didn’t have health insurance. I’m not that bad!

Then there’s the online shopping issue and it’s not to be underestimated. And, as we get older and less inclined to get out and drive to the mall or local store, we’ll be increasing our use of online shopping. It is convenient and allows us to price shop from our livingroom LaZgirl. But we have to watch those sneaky advertisers. Once we purchase an item online, we’ll be forever bombarded with ads for the same or similar items available from different retailers making it sometimes too easy to click “Purchase”.

It’s all so seductive.

I have more success with staying away from the mall altogether and constant vigilance is necessary. Who isn’t a sucker for a good sale, especially when it’s a brand we favour? They’re always trying to outsmart us. Many large retailers are closing bricks and mortar stores in favour of fewer outlets and expanding the online experience. I wonder what shopping will look like in a couple of decades. Considering all the changes that have taken place in the last few years, it’s hard to imagine what things will look like when drone delivery and digital technology amps up further.

Even the grocery store can be seductive these days with their Joe Fresh clothing line and too many tempting edible treats that should never land in my grocery cart but somehow do. But the biggest culprit is still THE MALL. Breathing that hallowed air with sunshine streaming in through strategically placed skylights, wearing my most comfortable and stylish ‘shopping’ shoes, it’s far too easy to succumb to temptation. Just like losing that last 10 or 15 lbs., it’s all up hill and takes a lot of discipline. Sometimes it helps to remind myself how lucky I am to have such first world problems and nothing exemplifies this better than a trip to the mall.

 

 

 

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Step right up and behold the wonders of the season

I think I can; I think I can, but I may need help to put on the brakes.

When I walk into a department store at this time of year I feel like a mouse standing in front of a trap loaded with lovely fresh Gruyère, wagging my cute little tail with a sense of anticipation and a teensy bit of caution. My nose and my credit card are twitching, my ears are perked up taking in the cuddly Christmas music and my belly is calling out for gratification. I want all the cheese and I want it now. The cosmetics department is strategically positioned at the entrance to every store because that’s how their marketing gurus bait us as soon as we walk in the door. It’s particularly hazardous during the holiday season because everything is festooned with sparkles, sequins, tulle and ribbon unlike any other time of year. And what girl can resist bling? Visions of sugar plums dance before our innocent, unadorned eyes.

My Achilles heel.

Speaking of eyes, have you tried the latest bedazzled glittery palette of eye shadows? Electric turquoise, sparkly bronze, shimmery green, deep sea iridescent blue; they’re all on display and irresistibly packaged with a bonus highlighting apricot blusher in a clever little compact resembling an evening clutch. With a little leopard motif. And if I spend just $65.00, I can score a travel case loaded with more than $400.00 worth of products for a mere $85.00 extra. By my calculations, that’s a savings of $315.00? How can I resist? The fact that the travel case and most of its contents are of no use to me is irrelevant. I’m smitten. Hooked. Sucked in. But not quite.

Then, there’s perfume. The bottles enchant me; the fragrances rarely do, which is why the fragrance companies hire top designers to create new, glamorous decanters that gullible people like me can’t resist. And at this time of year, they’ll toss in a cute purse-sized atomizer and a lovely bottle of matching body lotion exquisitely packaged in a gilded gift box with pink and gold grosgrain ribbon. My heart is screaming “Load up” while my brain says, “Whoahh girl! You already have #$%^ bottles of perfume and you’re running out of spaces to put them.”

‘Tis the season to stay home and cocoon.

Due to my advanced age, I’ve been down this road before. Over the years I’ve learned to resist the cosmetics sirens calling my name. I even have photographic evidence to remind me of my previous falls from sanity. The only solution I’ve found to avoid these seasonal promotions is to avoid department stores altogether until mid-January. I should be able to accomplish this because in our world of over-abundance and rampant consumerism, my family and friends have reached a “No gifts” agreement which suits us just fine. I may not be sporting the latest fluorescent yellow eye shadow or be wearing a debt-inducing glamorous new sparkly outfit this season, but that’s OK. I just wish January would hurry up and get here before I make a grab for the cheese, which will just leave me feeling constipated and hating myself. That would not be in the spirit of the season at all.

To order a copy of my latest book BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.

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A retailer who actually listens to customers. Glory hallelujah!

Monday morning’s Globe and Mail featured an article by Marina Strauss on the front page of Report on Business entitled Holt Renfrew resizes strategy to focus on core markets, brands  that immediately had me high-five’ing the air above my newspaper. Holt Renfrew (for my non-Canadian readers, it’s our answer to Neiman-Marcus) wanted to improve business so they finally did something I’ve been suggesting to The Hudson’s Bay Company in letters, emails and blog posts for years, which they’ve categorically ignored. Holt Renfrew (are you sitting down?) actually asked their customers what they could do better. Remember us? The often ignored customer is retail’s entire raison d’être but few retailers recognize that obvious fact.

Holt Renfrew: new and improved.

I won’t bore you again with all the links to previous blog postings I’ve written about The Hudson’s Bay Company’s missteps that could be totally alleviated if they just listened to me, the customer. Holt Renfrew President Mario Grauso is either a regular follower of boomerbroadcast.net (yeah! right!) or he’s as smart as I am!! He actually invited real, live customers of Holt Renfrew to a meeting and listened to their suggestions on how to improve business. And, to his horror and enlightenment, they told him. Here are just some of the things Holt’s customers wanted but weren’t getting:

  • more sizes that address a wider range of real-life bodies, including half sizes in shoes.
  • greater personal assistance in interpreting trends and styling.
  • better editing of merchandise so the shopping experience is not so overwhelming.
  • improved on-line shopping
To the curb.

Well. Blow me down. Aren’t these exactly the same things I’ve been ranting about for years? Grauso fired about half of Holt’s top executives and corporate staff, and eliminated many brands including Clinique and Michael Kors as well as their HR2 off-price locations that weren’t producing. Grauso is reinventing and repositioning Holt Renfrew to better serve (hold your breath) —yes, it’s true—their customers. Who knows better than we do what we want to lay out our heard-earned cash or credit card to buy? It would seem obvious to most consumers of retail goods but not to The Hudson’s Bay Company and countless other retailers.

The transition for Holt Renfrew will not happen overnight and probably will not be without some pain involved, but I think we’ll all be the ultimate beneficiaries—not to mention the owners of the privately-held business, the already-wealthy Weston family. Ironically, I’m not a prime Holt Renfrew customer (now that I’m retired) as their price points are somewhat beyond my budget, but I admire and heartily endorse their initiative. And I love to browse their store, holding up lovely items to admire myself in the mirror in futile attempts at my quest for a new and improved me.

P.S. OK. I lied about not including links to former postings. Forgive me, but here’s the most recent one, which should tell you all you need to know about my campaign to get retailers to listen to customer needs and wants. It’s all in a day’s work, or should be, for any retailer. (I probably don’t need to c.c. Mario Grauso as he obviously already follows boomerbroadcast.net.)

https://boomerbroadcast.net/2018/02/18/the-hudsons-bay-company-welcomes-new-ceo-and-this-shopper-couldnt-be-happier/

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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It’s March madness time again

For the benefit of new readers I’m reposting my annual March Madness message.

march-madnessPlease tell me I’m not the only person in the world who thought March Madness was about special annual retail sales—like Black Friday or Boxing Day. For weeks leading up to the big event and for the duration, I’ve been waiting for the flyers from my favourite retailers to arrive in my mailbox. With visions of bargain-priced sugar plums dancing in my head I couldn’t wait to hit the mall to stock up on half-price bras and underwear and my favourite jeans. Surely all the big cosmetics companies would be having extra-special promotions with yummy new shades of lipstick in their give-aways.

Excitement turned to disappointment when my husband gently explained that the “real meaning” of March Madness was about sports— the narrowing down of basketball teams competing for ranking in their respective cups—as in athletic. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus, but not in March.

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It’s my fault retail stores are closing

Girls just wanna have fun!

No one enjoys browsing through the mall every couple of weeks more than I do. My day usually includes a nice lunch out, either in the new and improved food court with an amazing selection of international foods and beverages, or at one of the lovely tenant restaurants where a nice server named Ryan or Stacey brings me a plate of healthy greens with grilled chicken or salmon artfully arranged on top. I enjoy perusing the stylish mannequins decked out in the windows wearing the latest fashion trends. Browsing the merchandise, feeling the nap of brand new jeans or caressing a display of soft, colourful sweaters gives me a gentle sense of pleasure. I slip on saucy new shoes and admire myself in the store’s full-length mirrors; drape a divine leather purse over my shoulder to assess its balance and heft, spritz a new perfume on my wrist, and hold cute earrings up to the side of my face for a preview of a potential new me. The sensual pleasures are unlimited.

The truth is I’m a traitor. Unless I see something at a knock-down irresistible sale price in the store, I inevitably go home and look for the same thing on-line at a better price. I’m loyal to several brands and years of trial and error have nailed down my taste and sizes. For clothing and fashion items, I’ve had tremendous luck with a site called SHOPSTYLE.COM. They take the legwork out of on-line shopping by searching the web for specific items I like and linking me with the stores offering it at the best prices. If I tag something, they’ll notify me when it goes on sale. I’ve scored wonderful Eileen Fisher pieces for 70 percent off which makes them pretty unbeatable.

I’m embarrassed to tell you how many pairs of FitFlops I own but these Superskates are my favourites.

Much as I would like to buy my wonderful FitFlop™ sandals and shoes at The Hudson’s Bay store in the mall, I prefer to watch FitFlop’s website where they’re sometimes offered at sale prices as low as $30.00 or $40.00 a pair compared with more than $100.00 in the store. Some stores have better on-line shopping than others and the ones that do get my business. Nordstrom’s superior in-store experience is matched by their on-line shopping. Their sales are equally attractive and I love to follow their latest offerings.

I should support Canada’s own stalwart Hudson’s Bay Company, but they’ve been ignoring my letters and emails about poor customer service for years. I warned them that unless they start listening to their customers they’ll die but they choose to ignore me. Their stores are bereft of informed sales associates and even finding assistance or a checkout counter is like Where’s Waldo. That’s no way to do business in a highly competitive world. Nordstrom understands me.

I’m sold.

As a retired baby boomer, I must say that my consumer loyalties have now shifted to high-tech as I let my fingers to the walking on my iPad mini. I blame Amazon Prime. For $99.00 a year I get (amortized) ‘free’ delivery within two days on all orders. And I take full advantage. Over the years, I’ve realized that it’s so much easier to sit in front of my laptop and tap out a few commands than it is to put on some makeup and decent clothes, start the car, drive to the store, walk across a giant parking lot and hike through several stores where I may or may not find what I’m looking for. It’s just so much easier to carry a giant bag of dog food from my front door to the kitchen than going to a big box store with all its challenges. I’ve ordered everything from tiny replacement stoppers for the bottoms of salt and pepper shakers to cookware, vitamins and cosmetics to printer cartridges, shoe horns and books. Nothing is too big or too small to order on-line. Amazon Prime also has free movies and other services but I’ve never figured how to access the movies I want for free.

Introducing . . . my new BFF.

On-line shopping can only get more appealing as baby boomers age, especially in winter when we reach the point we won’t be able get out as easily or escape to Florida anymore. Mississauga is apparently on Amazon’s short-list for their new distribution centre and wouldn’t it be wonderful for Canada if they landed here. The job creation would be an enormous boost for our economy and we seniors are going to need all the taxpayers we can get to keep us in hip replacements and medicinal gummy bears. I’m doing my part to support on-line shopping but I still enjoy those Tuesday’s at the mall. Oops! The doorbell just rang. My special tea bags from Britain have probably arrived. It’s a wonderful world we live in.

P.S. I am not compensated in any way by the brands or suppliers mentioned in this post.

You’re beautiful mes très chères.

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Is there really a Santa Claus?

Boomer gals looked to Helen Gurley Brown for divine guidance in the sixties.

Every boomer gal worth her salt in the sixties read the best-seller Sex and The Single Girl by Helen Gurley Brown. Our lives were modeled around the latest COSMO decrees as our entire generation was creating a new world order. We also read Coffee, Tea or Me? about two high-flying stewardesses (as they were called in ancient times) living the swinging single life. There was even a movie and television series made of the book. We aspired to live exciting lives as modern gals enjoying beginning careers and the freedom of the sexual revolution—just like Helen Gurley Brown, Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones. Reading about Trudy and Rachel’s escapades as they flew the friendly skies in search of adventure was enough to make this boomer high-tail it to an Air Canada recruiting (cattle) call in their old Toronto head office on Bloor Street in 1971. Although I was turned down, a friend of mine was deemed to have the requisite ‘sex appeal’ and was hired. Fortunately, my life eventually turned out OK despite the rejection by Air Canada.

Last week, to my everlasting horror, I learned that Trudy and Rachel were totally fictional characters created by ghost writer Donald Bain. I thought the original Coffee, Tea or Me book was non-fiction. It was Bain’s obituary in the newspaper that alerted me to the fact my role models were neither real nor particularly authorly. Bain, who was an airline publicist and pilot himself, based the book on stories from conversations with a couple of Eastern Airline flight attendants, but they were inspiration only. Donald Bain, who was eighty-two years old when he passed away also authored all forty-six of the Murder She Wrote mystery novels, which were turned into the popular television series starring Jessica Fletcher, his alter-ego played by Angela Lansbury. He’s what is known in the biz as a ghost writer. We all know they exist and routinely pen autobiographies for semi-literate celebs and famous people who lack the wherewithal to compose their own story. Mr. Bain was so prolific writing for others, that it was fifty years before he finally had a book published under his own name. At least HGB wrote her own material so I’m somewhat mollified.

Imagine my shock when a major totem of my swinging sixties days suddenly came crashing down. The problem this bit of information has created is profound. It has undermined my entire belief system. For fifty years I actually thought Trudy Baker and Rachel Jones were real people, role models I could aspire to. I’m now considering the possibility that there might be further deception in what I read on a daily basis. What if those long-ago stunning magazine shots of Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy had been air-brushed and they really weren’t that drop-dead gorgeous? Was I bowing down to false idols? Perhaps Resdan really didn’t cure dandruff and Bonne Belle’s 1006 Lotion wasn’t the solution to my acne problems? Here are some other sixties’ assumptions that have been called into question as a result of that bit of revealing news about Coffee, Tea or Me:

  • “I’ll still respect you in the morning.”
  • Men prefer to marry virgins.
  • Your engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months’ wages of your beloved (I rather liked this one although it meant he’d be so far in hock you’d never be able to scrape together the down payment on a house.)
  • A woman’s place is in the home.
  • Marriage is forever.
  • Smoking makes you look sexy.

The end of innocence

The possibilities and implications of those decisions based on standard assumptions in the sixties have influenced my entire life. Where would I be today if Air Canada had deemed me sexy enough to hire? Are my wrinkles now the result of applying tank trucks full of harsh astringent to my face to combat acne fifty years ago? Boomer gals were raised to do as we were told, not question authority and to be patient; the rewards will come to those who are deserving. We have all since learned those premises are total bull crap. I know for sure that being a good girl who doesn’t rock the boat in business did not serve me well. In retrospect, I wish I’d been a whole lot more assertive in insisting on equal pay and recognition for work performed. I did well enough, but I could have done better if I’d cast aside so many of those standards of behaviour baby boomer gals were raised with. Self-promotion, equal rights, speaking up were issues we were just starting to dip our toes into. By the time we realized these traits were assets in business not liabilities, we were often past our career prime and nearing retirement. We got the ball rolling but there’s still a lot of work to do. You’re welcome, Xers, Y’s and millennials who think feminism is passé.

Some things never change. Buyer beware.

The upshot of this experience is that I’m going to be a lot more discriminating about everything I read and am told from now on. From now on I’m going to be a lot more skeptical about the claims made by the cosmetics companies about the efficacy of their ‘anti-aging’ potions. It’s entirely possible they could be selling me a bill of goods. A shocking prospect to consider. Do you suppose food conglomerates are not being totally honest with us as well? Can I really lose weight and stay regular on fat-free yogurt? We learned too late that chewing Dentyne gum does not replace brushing. The ramifications of questioning all those early assumptions are mind-boggling.

My brain’s straining from the implications of the simple discovery that a book I read in sixties and considered to be non-fiction was in fact a total fabrication. I’ve always put all my faith in media being unbiased, just like in the days of Walter Cronkite. Now I’m forced to consider that my entire value system is flawed and now I’m too old to ‘be anything I want to be’. I should have clued in when Air Canada didn’t think so and chose to reject me. Next thing you know someone will be trying to tell me there’s no Santa Claus. If that proves to be another deception, then that definitely proves there’s no advantage in being a good girl. It’s taken me awhile to catch on but from now on, I’m my own boss living by my own rules. It’s about time.

To order Coffee, Tea or Me from Amazon click here.

To order Sex and the Single Girl from Amazon click here.

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