BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and movies.


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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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What a difference a scale makes


Mother’s little helper. Wish I’d bought one of these little scales years ago.

Sometimes we spend an inordinate amount of time in an attempt to save money when spending the money in the first place would save us a great deal of time. Such was the case in my recent purchase of a kitchen scale—one of those nifty little digital jobs for weighing food items in recipes. In more than fifty years of doing my own cooking and baking, I could never see the value in investing in a scale. I had a large supply of measuring cups, spoons, scoops and various gadgets that allowed me to calculate the correct quantity of flour, sugar or other ingredients. And, yes, many times I also employed a pocket calculator to convert imperial to metric or vice versa.

The other day I dug out my nearly one-hundred-year-old recipe for dark Christmas fruitcake. My mother would traditionally make it every year while Dad was away deer hunting in early November so it would have about six weeks to season and ripen in time for Christmas. When she got beyond making it herself, I would go and stay with her for the week Dad was away and make it myself in her kitchen. The first time I couldn’t find a bowl big enough to contain all the ingredients so I had to wash out a cooler, dump all the ingredients in and do the mixing with my hands.

My ancient recipe for Christmas cake called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries. How much do you reckon that is?

The difficulties associated with working with such an old recipe include interpreting quantities of the listed ingredients. The recipe originally came to my mother in the fifties from a girlhood friend of hers who got it from her aunt who, with her husband owned the dairy in our small town. It called for one jar of red cherries and one jar of green cherries but gave no indication of what size the jar should be. I could take a guess at around twelve ounces each but that brought up another problem. The ingredients in the store today are now labelled in odd metric sizes like 375 g or 2 kg which always presents nearly insurmountable problems for someone like me with zero aptitude for math and conversions. Despite forty-plus years since Canada’s conversion to the metric system, I’m still thoroughly and utterly imperial. When I pass on I’ll be buried in a six-foot coffin and dropped into a six-foot pit. No metrics involved. When I buy a Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey, don’t ask me to do a quick mental calculation to convert the size from kilograms to pounds. I can’t do it, so I just eyeball the size and hope for the best. Usually I cook two turkeys just to be on the safe side and enjoy the bounty of the leftovers.

The sheet of paper with the old Christmas cake recipe on it has numerous calculations scribbled on the side of the page after my attempts to nail down the quantities in language I can understand but I’m never confident I get it right. This year, after all this time, I picked up a little President’s Choice digital scale (less than $30.00) with my groceries and I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it. And it works in imperial as well as metric. I simply put the empty bowl on the scale, hit zero then add the raisins or whatever until it shows the two pounds, one-quarter pound or whatever quantity is needed of nuts, currants or glazed fruit. No calculator, no Google, no brains required. Right up my alley. I don’t know why I waited so long. Just think of the painful hours I could have eliminated with my pocket calculator or Googling conversation charts over the years trying to adapt recipes to something I could understand. My mother would be proud. If you don’t already have a little digital countertop scale, pick one up. It’s a good investment by anyone’s measure. Believe me.

Footnote: The one scale I’ve never been able to find is something to measure butter when the wrapper has been cut away. This is further complicated by the fact that many American recipes call for one stick or two sticks of butter and in Canada butter is sold in a solid pound, unless you want to pay extra for ‘sticks’. At one time I saved the little strip along the closing flap from a Tenderflake lard package but lost it and now that I never make anything requiring lard, I’m lost without that little cardboard measuring strip. I think I’m going to have to create my own, get it laminated and put it on Etsy. I’m bound to make a fortune. Or I could simply buy a pound of lard, save the measuring strip and call it a day.

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What did you have for breakfast?


Not in my front yard.

Our house is located at the end of an eleven-home enclave on a T-shaped street. It’s tricky to find without specific instructions, particularly on a dark night. Naturally, little Halloween trick or treaters are reluctant to turn the corner where our illuminated pumpkin on the front porch confirms we’re open for business on the big night. I particularly love the little ones who often look bewildered as they’re being toted from house to house in the dark, wearing funny outfits they don’t understand. We ate dinner early to be ready for the onslaught, stacked the goodies by the front door, turned the inside front hall light on and sat anxiously in our his and hers La-Z-Boy® chairs waiting for all the little Cinderella’s, Spidermen, zombies, Big Birds and other assorted costumed munchkins. We turn every outside light on to make the path to our house less scary and more welcoming but despite our best efforts at hospitality we received only two (!!!) visitors on Halloween this year—the 12-year-old boy in camouflage gear from two doors down and a single pint-sized superhero of indeterminate gender. What happened? Were the parents unable to cobble together a politically correct costume for their little ones so they just opted out and stayed home?

I can see I’m going to have to take extra measures to try and lure trick or treaters to our house next year. I could place fluorescent traffic cones along the sidewalk and hire a policeman with white gloves and an official flashlight to direct children to our door. Or does that sound too creepy, even for Halloween? We’re still smarting from the rejection and don’t care to experience a repeat of this year’s poor turnout.

You can never be too prepared.

Last year we had sixteen visitors and our friends at the more visible front of our little court received over one hundred trick or treaters and had to come and relieve us of some of our loot to pass out after they ran out. We’re never quite sure how many will ring our doorbell on Halloween but just to be on the safe side, I stock extra goodies. With the foresight of any good host, my hand-outs are something we enjoy in case there are left-overs. Then, there’s also the issue of the peculiar ‘evaporation’ of supplies before the big night so extra inventory is essential. This year I bought a box of fifty bags of potato chips. I actually prefer ripple chips but they went the way of Trump’s integrity this year and were nowhere to be found—not at the grocery stores, Costco or Wal-Mart. Since potato chips are rather unimaginative, I felt a bit embarrassed and planned to top off the handout with little chocolate bars. Then, at the last minute on Tuesday, I sent my husband out to buy packages of red licorice Twizzlers (see personal preference comment above) in case we or our neighbours ran short.

Because we had only two visitors, I’m now researching how to recycle ninety packages of red licorice that cost $25.00 (that’s what happens when men shop) that are now on sale at the same store for half-price, forty-eight bags of a brand of potato chips I don’t care for, and several dozen little chocolate bars that taste like icky brown wax. Any suggestions? I suppose I could make forty-eight tuna casseroles to crumble the potato chips on. Or use the puffy bags of chips as packing material when mailing packages at Christmas. I’m sure the grandchildren would much prefer bags of potato chips instead of styrofoam pellets in their gift boxes. The chocolate bars could be handy for stabilizing wobbly chairs or table legs. They might even work as temporary glue when I run out of Elmers. With a little zap in the microwave to soften them up they could be repurposed as caulking around our drafty doors and dryer vent. Or, I could keep them in the console of my car as part of my emergency rations when I’m stranded in a snowstorm. The problem with that is emergencies are highly subjective and they might not last until winter. Waiting at a slow red light qualifies, as does going through the automatic car wash. And as we all know, frozen is no obstacle to devouring canned chocolate frosting, cake, cookies and other rations in times of need. We’re experts at adapting stale and otherwise inedible treats to accommodate cravings.

Breakfast of champions.

The beauty of Halloween candy is it keeps forever. I’ll bet the archeologists who uncovered Tutankhaman’s tomb in ancient Egypt found toffees that were still edible after centuries of being stashed in cool, dark urns. In a few years when I’ve passed on and my executors go through my house, they’ll still be able to eat those tiny Mars Bars and KitKats they find hidden in my night table. That’s the advantage of buying quality. It lasts. When you’re having menopause cravings there’s nothing as satisfying in your hour of desperation as year-old Halloween candy. Ask any baby boomer woman. In fact, the calories probably diminish after awhile so the older, the better. I should probably tackle those boxes of goodies by the front door right away as they’re a definite tripping hazard and at my age I can’t afford any broken bones. I’m pretty sure I can find a use for the red licorice but I won’t disclose it here in case my friends at Weight Watchers read this. Or I could save everything for next year. In the meantime, I’m going to have to keep an eagle eye on what my husband eats for breakfast until I dispose of the loot. A woman’s work never ends.

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I’m glad I don’t have to outfit children for Halloween


It’s a political mine field.

The PC’ers are now targeting Halloween costumes. It has been deemed politically incorrect to appropriate a variety of ethnic looks adapted for Halloweening at school and in your local neighbourhood. Dressing as a Japanese geisha, an indigenous North American or an Arab sheik is considered disrespectful appropriation of other cultures. Don’t even consider outfitting your child in a striped Breton T-shirt and beret to pretend they’re French for an evening of fun. Our go-to home-made costume as boomer kids was usually a tramp because, unlike today where everyone buys their ready-made costumes at the store, we fashioned our own from whatever we could scrounge from around the house. In today’s world that would eliminate a tramp costume in case it disparages the economically underprivileged. Even dressing as a witch supposedly demeans the Wicca religion.

Let me state clearly up front, I agree that Halloween costumes that are intended to negatively represent cultural or religious symbols are absolutely not acceptable. However, some of the most creative and endearing Halloween outfits I’ve ever seen were never intended to demean but most often were aspirational. The children considered their look a compliment, an homage to whatever style they were portraying. Many years ago, a little bi-racial boy in my neighbourhood regularly turned up hand-in-hand with his mother at my door in his dalmatian costume, until he outgrew it. I adored his costume and him. Another little curly-haired brown-skinned seven-year-old was decked out in a three-piece pinstriped suit with crisp white shirt and tie depicting Johnny Cochrane. We may not have admired Johnny Cochrane’s cause, but the costume was brilliant and deserving of an extra treat.

Could this offend farmers?

These issues must present incredible challenges for parents trying to create imaginative costumes for their children. No more cowboys and ‘Indians’; no turbans, no ‘blues’ musicians. Will we be offending a particular group if our children are dressed as rappers or crew members from McDonald’s? If I answer the door dressed as myself, an aging baby boomer in a comfortable T-shirt and yoga pants will I offend my entire generation? That just leaves the graphic not-quite-human comic book heroes like Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. Or would that offend the acting profession? Should we revisit the ethics of actors wearing ethnic costumes of any kind? Would dressing your child as a pumpkin offend farmers? Would dressing as a farmer offend farmers?

When I was little, I dreamed of being a saloon girl, just like Kitty on Gunsmoke. I couldn’t imagine anything better than wearing beautiful, sparkly evening dresses all day every day, feathers in my hair, a handsome Marshall as my boyfriend. I often pretended I was Kitty when playing with friends. But dressing as a benevolent hooker for Halloween in today’s world is unimaginable. I’m just glad I’m not the parent of young children faced with running the gauntlet of political correctness. Oh no! I said ‘gauntlet’. Did I just offend indigenous people? Give me strength. Do I need sensitivity training? Now I can’t even dress up as a ‘Smartie’. I’m so confused. I think I’ll just turn out the lights and hide behind the sofa on Halloween rather than offend someone in the LGBTQ community by giving candy to a small child dressed as a princess.

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