Black Friday Shopping Survival Guide

On Black Friday weekend more than 138 million people plan to shop according to a preliminary survey by the National Retail Federation. That is a lot of people and I plan to be one of them.

But Black Friday isn’t like any other shopping day; you need a strategy. After working at retailers during my college holiday breaks (Macy’s and Express) and many Black Friday shopping sprees, I have a few dos and don’ts to share.

• Do plan ahead. Check out Black Friday websites or your Thanksgiving Day newspapers to make a list and plot your course. This will help you spend less time driving and more time shopping.

• Do make a list. Making a list will help keep you on track and on budget.

• Do bring snacks. If you are like me, you’ll need to refuel every few hours. Pack water and food like peanut butter crackers, almonds and granola bars that are good for sustaining energy.

• Do wear comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Just in case you find the perfect pair of shoes, you can take a minute or two to try them on!

• Do wear layers and leave your bulky coat in the car or at home. One less thing you have to carry the better.

• Do wear a tank top under your layers. Should you find a sweater, shirt or coat you want to try on, you will not have to wait in line for a dressing room.

• Do check pricing prior to going to the register and ensure your merchandise rings up correctly. You will save time by stopping the sales associate if something doesn’t look right while he or she is ringing you up. Otherwise, you’ll be standing in the customer service line for a price adjustment.

• Don’t be afraid to ask the sales associate for a coupon at retailers that are known for them like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Belk, etc. The worst they can say is no or I’m not allowed to do that.

• Don’t head to Target, Walmart or Best Buy unless you are fighting for a limited number of electronics. Rather wait until later in the day to get the same sales without all the lines. Most retailers have plenty of stock on Black Friday and will continue to stock their shelves throughout the day.

• Don’t leave your purse on a dressing room hook unless you keep a good eye on it. There is an increase in theft during the holiday season. And this is an easy way for thieves to get your pocketbook while you are distracted looking in the bigger dressing room mirror. Also, be sure to lock your car doors.

• Don’t want to fight the traffic or the crowds? Stay home. It is highly likely (almost guaranteed) retailers will continue to offer special sales throughout the entire holiday season.

Do you plan on being one of the millions of Americans that will be shopping on Black Friday? If so, share your personal survival tips in the comments section.

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Black Friday Sales “Leaked”

Black Friday, the day that most retailers begin operating in the “black”, is      almost a week away. We all know that on Black Friday retailers are known for slashing prices on popular gift giving items (electronics, toys, etc.) to get shoppers up at the crack of dawn and into their stores.

But what is killing me this year is media is claiming that major retailers like Walmart, Sears, Target and Sams Club Black Friday sales have been “leaked” on popular Black Friday websites. Come on… first of all is this really “news”? And secondly, how are the sales being “leaked” if on my way out of Costco last weekend, the sales associated handed me the Black Friday circular.

On a more positive note, you don’t have to wait for the newspaper to arrive on Thanksgiving morning to start planning your Black Friday shopping marathon. Head to the Internet to sites like http://bfads.net/ or http://www.blackfriday.info/ or http://www.black-friday.net/ or http://www.blackfridayads.com/ or http://www.theblackfriday.com/.

Happy Black Friday shopping!

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A Holiday Hallmark Hasn’t Commercialized

As most of you know today is Veterans Day. As I began thinking about the day and all the veterans who have served our country and those who have lost their lives, I realized it is one of the only holidays that the greeting card manufacturers and retailers haven’t commercialized.

I have seen some Veterans Day cards at retailers like CVS and Walgreen’s, but every year the cards continue to look the same and their little space on the rack never seems to grow. That is certainly not the case with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Sweetest Day, Grandparents Day and on and on. Apparently the greeting card manufacturers and retailers haven’t determined a way to capitalize, and by that I mean dollars, on this special day and I certainly hope it stays that way.

Commercializing this day would only take away from its true meaning and the raw reality of war. Our veterans face things we civilians cannot even begin to comprehend and the sacrifice veterans and their families make is truly amazing. As a Marine Corps wife, I understand that first hand.

So I ask greeting card manufacturers, florists, candy companies, retailers, etc. to continue to leave Veterans Day alone and let us honor our veterans with raw emotion and gratitude they deserve.

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I Drink the Same Wine As Courtney Cox!

A few weeks ago I was at dinner with friends who ordered a bottle of The Prisoner wine for the table. It is an Orin Swift wine and is simply divine. If the wine itself is not a conversation starter, the label artwork, which is very dark and mysterious, will. 

Just this week, my friends who ordered The Prisoner sent me an email that the wine was going to be featured in this week’s Cougar Town. They have the inside track on Orin Swift wines because a friend of theirs is a distributor.

Evidently, Courtney Cox and her cast mates are huge fans of the wine and reached out to Orin Swift awhile back for some product placement. The first episode that featured The Prisoner was just last night and the wine will make several additional appearances in the show.

The show is very wine centric so the winery is pretty excited about the opportunity. But what stuck me the most about this was the email from my friend that said:

Do you recognize this bottle? This is one of the bottles we drank at dinner. We are so hip!

Hip huh? This is a true example of how TV product placement and celebrity endorsements can benefit brands. Point proven by my friend, product placement and celebrity endorsements can not only increase sales among new customers, but also can keep current customers coming back for more. Because after all, if Courtney Cox drinks The Prisoner then that makes us “hip” for drinking it too!

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Is AT&T Shaking In Its Boots?

The rumor on the street is Verizon Wireless will start carrying the iPhone in early 2011. While that has yet to be confirmed, it appears that AT&T, the current exclusive provider of the iPhone, is preparing for Verizon to enter the market.

Typically mobile phone providers lock you into their service for 2 years when you take advantage of their free phone offers, but that is not the case with the iPhone. When I purchased the iPhone and set up my AT&T coverage, I was never locked into AT&T’s service. This makes it easy for current AT&T iPhone customers like myself to make the switch to Verizon. With millions of iPhone users and many complaining about dropped calls, it could put a small dent into the country’s largest telecommunications provider.

Just yesterday, I received a direct mailer from AT&T. The offer was for a free Samsung Strive multimedia phone. According to the mailer this is “NOT a phone we would normally offer for FREE.” And to sweeten the deal, AT&T makes it easy to get the $219.99 FREE phone. You simply call a toll-free number and they mail it. No mail-in rebate required. The hook is you have to sign a 2-year contract with AT&T.

I never remember receiving any type of direct mail, email, statement stuffer, etc. offering me a FREE phone from AT&T, and I have been a customer for more than 2 years. Plus the focus on the fact that this was a multimedia phone worth $219.99, which is slightly higher than the iPhone, immediately leads me to believe AT&T is beginning to unleash its marketing weapons to keep it’s current iPhone customers.

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Have You Ever Been Bitten?

Just this week I saw a Revlon commercial for its new lip stain called Just Bitten. It comes as no surprise that the commercial features Jessica Biel and one of the lip colors is called “Twilight”.

I’m definitely not into Twilight or True Blood or any vampire related movies/shows so my perception of this new Revlon product might be a bit tainted. But who in the world is going to buy a lip stain called “Just Bitten” except for the tween/teen market. And maybe that is who Revlon is targeting, but I think this is inappropriate on two accounts.

First, the name itself doesn’t encourage me to run to the store and buy it. Who wants to be “bitten”? Secondly, if Revlon is targeting tweens and young teens, what kind of message is this sending to our youth? You need to wear lipstick to be bitten?

At a time when Sesame Street is trying to get kids to accept the fact that not everyone’s hair is going to be long and blond like Barbie’s, cosmetic companies are targeting our tweens/teens with sexual and superficial messages.

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Pink, Pink and More Pink! I’m Sick of Pink!

As a board director of a local non-profit, I can certainly appreciate how much time, talent and treasure (dollars) it takes to gain awareness for a cause. So what the organizations behind National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) have accomplished is nothing short of spectacular. In fact, other non-profits are jumping on the bandwagon, but none that have come close in my opinion to NBCAM , except maybe National Heart Association Heart month (Feb.).

But NBCAM has gone too commercial and now every consumer product and service is trying to make a buck off of it. From pink mixers to pink laptops, pink product labels and pink hair, this is literally out of control. I’m not saying we should stop creating awareness for breast cancer, but we need to move away from the commercialism and back to the real cause.

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