Sunday, July 31, 2016

Riddle me Retail

"I hear there's a good promotion going on."
Yesterday at the Lovely Boutique Where I Work I found myself trying to explain why I couldn't give a customer a price adjustment on an item she had bought on promotion, now that we were having 30% off all sale. Her eyes were beginning to glaze over as I tried to make clear the difference between promotion and sale. I realized how much this must have sounded like gobbledygook.

None of it is meant to pull the wool over your eyes, but I can see where it's confusing. Herewith a glossary of retail terminology. It all makes sense-- to a point.

On Sale. A Martian landing on earth and needing a wardrobe would surely think "on sale" meant you could buy things in this place. No, that would be "for sale". "On sale" means the item has been reduced from a previous price. This is often called "hard-lined", "hard-marked" or "red-lined"  because we once took a red pen, drew a line through the original price and wrote a lower one in red ink. Nowadays you are more likely to find a sticker or even no reduced price, just a sign reading "40% off regular price".

Promotion. A promotion means the item, usually a group of items, are temporarily reduced to "promote" them to the customer. The price will revert back to normal once the promotion is over (thus they are not hardlined). Nordstrom, which has a limited amount of sale events, famously hold its Anniversary Sale in July. New fall merchandise is temporarily marked down for the duration of the sale. Nordstrom shoppers consider this a big deal.

30% off Sale (actual percentages may vary). Some stores always offer an additional percentage off sale merchandise. It's true, we consumers have come to expect that and are disappointed when we don't find it. Other stores only slap on an additional discount when they really really want to move the merch and/or bring shoppers into the store.

Loyalty cards. These may or may not be actual credit cards, but store loyalty cards often come with an extra perk, such as a percentage off to celebrate your birthday. Depending on the store, this may or may not be able to be combined with % off sale items or promotions.

Shopping passes. I only know one store that has them around here, Macy's. Macy's is a behemoth so there's probably one near you. The shopping pass allows you a certain percentage off store items (with a laundry list of exceptions) for a certain day, often with more savings when used in the morning. This was once found in newspapers but today are more likely an online coupon or app. 

Price adjustments. To bestow fairness to the above proceedings, stores will often allow price adjustments of a certain duration. What you purchased may go on sale, on promotion or be further reduced. The time frame is usually two weeks to receive a credit for the difference. A store really doesn't want you returning, turning around and then buying it back at the lower price, so it doesn't hurt to ask if you've missed the deadline by a little (not a lot).

Online versus retail price. In an ideal world, they should be the same and usually are. But I've seen where they are not, and there doesn't seem any way around it. If the price is lower in the store, it may be because this was an item returned from online that the bricks-and-mortar would like to get out of its system. I'm not naming names, but one place I've noticed this has the name of a fictional country, beginning with B that stands for a tropical fruit.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, but I sense your eyes starting to glaze over as well. I haven't tackled discount merchandisers or big box stores, but surely a little knowledge is better than none. Oh and all this is, of course, subject to change.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Everyday Birthday Thoughts

I may need a few boxes...
While I joyfully celebrate what looks like trying to burn the house down (should all those candles actually be on the cake), I'm also aware of the implications of time passing. Here's a trick I use every year (and have used for years)— I tell myself I'd rather be a young old person than an old young person.

If that isn't obvious let me explain: nothing is so futile as trying to hold onto what isn't there. Unless you are well-practiced at deception, you are not even fooling yourself. Clinging to what's behind you is negative and paralyzing.

It surprised me to learn that legendary beauty Elizabeth Taylor wasn't bothered by aging. That's apparent in candid photos taken over the years by a good friend, Firooz Zahedi in the new book "My Elizabeth". What concerned her most was her health, and she had some cause to worry. I loved Elizabeth even more when I read that.  

You can do this with three Oscars
On the other hand there are great benefits to age (wisdom and grace for starters) that you will never realize unless you welcome it. As you discover you can say what you feel (with tact and humor of course) there is the most delicious boost to your self-confidence. When people actually listen? Over the moon.

Remember for a minute just how little you knew back when you thought you knew everything. It's a wonder any of us survived Youth!

Last, in the immortal words of Satchel Paige: How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

Hhmmm... I think I'd better re-read this every July 23.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hanging On... and Up

A friend posted this on her Facebook page. It turned up in a closet of her late mother's home, long forgotten by the friend, obviously long treasured by the mother. Now it's part of her life, one of those things you just can't throw out though its original purpose is long past.

I realized I've been hanging on to a few hangers, too. This one belonged to my Aunt Sally. It's hand painted, but I don't know by whom. She gave it to me when I was about nine. It was my "favorite hanger". I hung only special clothing on it. As years went by I just displayed the hanger by itself as a piece of found art.

Another favorite is this blue hanger. Obviously old but no provenance that I can recall. "143" is scratched into the paint near the hook. Do you suppose there were 142 others like it???

Then there are the myriad hangers taken from hotels back when hangers weren't nameless and bolted to the closet rod. We didn't consider it stealing, more like taking a souvenir. I guess we assumed the hotel would appreciate the advertising. We used them for coats in the guest closet.

Besides being darn sturdy and an endangered totem, I grew to love the hangers for their graphic typography. Over time they made their way from my mother's house to mine.

Crocheted hangers were actually a thing back in the craft-crazy 1980s. Fortunately I realized that would be a lot of effort for little gain.

Athough they have a bad rap (from yours truly as well), wire hangers can become art.

There's not one wire hanger in my house. I drop them back off at the dry cleaner. Keep the plastic, take back the hanger!

"Leave the guns; take the cannolis"

PS A reader below wondered what to do with a collection of hangers. Why not hang them (on tiny nails) cheek-by-jowl on an empty wall? If you have one, that is.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Women We Love: Lois Lane

Noel Neill aka Lois Lane
She was only playing a role, but Noel Neill was my role model. She played Lois Lane in tv's (and to my mind never equaled) "Superman". Noel died last week at age 95.

Lois was a valuable reporter on the Daily Planet. Although there were never other women on staff, she was not relegated to the women's pages. Lois worked for the blustering editor Perry White, was boon companion to Clark Kent/Superman and benevolent mentor to cub reporter Jimmy Olsen. Please don't tell me the "great metropolitan newspaper" was meant to be anywhere other than New York City.

Perry White, Superman aka Clark Kent, Jimmy, Lois

Noel originated the Lois Lane role in the 1948 Superman movie serial. The first tv Lois (1952-53) was actually played by Phyllis Coates (still with us at age 89). Phyllis was very pretty in that 1950s-Ozzie-and-Harriet kind of way. Noel returned to the role for tv and stayed with it through 1958. They looked similar, but as if Phyllis had a spunk makeover.

Phyllis as Lois 1952

Noel as Lois 1948
There was always that twinkle in Noel's eye. She was up for anything and not afraid of danger. I'd have to re-watch the old shows to be sure of this— and I just might— but I remember thinking Lois knew Clark was Superman but liked him enough to keep his secret. She also realized it was foolish to think their relationship would go any further.

So this 1950s working gal was in it for the job, not to meet Prince Charming. Although her character insisted on wearing hats a little longer than most women around me, I liked her no-nonsense tailored suits. I liked her even more when she stripped down to that white shirt and pencil skirt when the action called for it.

Business casual

Noel was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a journalist father. Although she showed early promise as an entertainer, her first job out of college was as a reporter (of all things) for Women's Wear Daily. She was a popular photographic model, whose "pin-ups" rated #2 among GIs behind Betty Grable. Small roles in movies followed, then the series of early Superman serials starring Kirk Allyn as Superman. Noel joined the tv cast in 1953 and stayed with the show through 1958, when it was cancelled due to the death of actor George Reeves, the tv Superman.
Noel as the #2 pin-up

Although acting roles became few and far between, Neil never shied away from her connection to Lois Lane. She had guest parts in several of the Superman cinema reboots (one as the dying wife of Lex Luther) and often appeared at Superman-related events— with a great sense of humor, stories to tell and more of that spunk. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Do You Blend in or Stand Out?

This little gecko appeared in my garden the other morning. I was so happy to see him. Aside from that beautiful color, geckos are practically fearless and will stare you down before disappearing into a flurry of matching leaves. This guy preened and posed a bit before he took off. Green geckos are rarer than when we first moved to Texas. Most of them now are another breed— basic black (chic but boring).

So it occurs to me that we probably can hitch our paths to that elusive star, Style, by determining if we like to blend in or stand out. Trying to be one when you are really the other will get you nothing but a closet full of mistakes.

Something else about green geckos: When feeling threatened they can change color to a mousey brown and disappear in a flash.  Perhaps you like to stand out only when you feel confident or are in control? Is there something conservative that you wear when you're unsure how far to go but want to look fabulous? I own a very simple burgundy dress. Sometimes I wonder why I have it, but I know it's a go-to for that very reason.

I've mentioned before I once turned down an otherwise interesting job because the staff all wore uniforms. The job required me to be creative. I just didn't think I would be if I couldn't even pick out my own outfit. For that— and many other reasons— I wouldn't have made a good nurse, airline pilot or brigadier general.

So let's hear it for the green geckos, ladies who stand out (but not enough to be in danger of being ridiculed). And hurrah to stylish women who also know how to do it quietly. Kudos for anyone who puts some time and effort into figuring out who they are...

...or at least who they want to be that day.

Today I might be a leopard gecko...


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Granny Takes a (Shopping) Trip

Since becoming a grandmother-to-be some traits have developed. I've suddenly taken up a long discarded interest in knitting— so long ago that I gave away all my needles, yarn holders and stitch counters. I also give myself license to bill and coo over little babies. Okay, maybe I make a few comparisons for the future. I'm only human.

But what does a woman who loves the marketplace and loves to shop do when she has someone else to shop for? Go shopping, of course. What I've discovered, in the world of kids' clothes, is eye-opening.

First of all, they are expensive. I mean really, really expensive. Sure, a t-shirt for $10 is not much, but this t-shirt is 6" x 8". In other words, it uses 12 cents worth of fabric. Is shipping from China that expensive? Is it made from organic cotton? Make that $18.

Just for the record, organic cotton is "grown from non genetically modified plants... grown without the use of any synthetic agricultural chemicals such as fertilizers or pesticides." Are you trying to tell me that non-organic cotton means you are wrapping the baby in a bundle of pesticides?

I am reminded of raising my own child what seems like 150 years ago. The only thing we were cautioned about was making sure the pajamas wouldn't catch on fire. Just how that was to happen was always a mystery.

Small but deadly...

Realizing the cost of baby clothes I now head to the sale racks to stock up on out-of-season-greatly-reduced items for the future. However at this point there is no way of knowing how Baby will relate to the newborn, 0-3 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months sizing. If I remember correctly, my child skipped 6-9 months entirely.

Our mother-to-be has received heaps of lovely clothes, outgrown or otherwise not needed, from her friends. Thank goodness for that. I noticed some things still had their tags, other looked like they might have been worn only once.

And one more thing: Why do manufacturers think they have to add a ducky, a frog, an owl or a puppy applique to everything? If they've resisted the cutesy doodad, there is a good possibility we will get "Mommy's little devil" or "I need a nap" emblazoned across the front.

As a shopper with high standards and a budget, I have my work cut out for me.

Like the sentiment though...