Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Randocity Tech Holiday Shopping Guide

Posted in giving, holiday, video game by commorancy on November 23, 2018

GiftBoxIn the spirit of the upcoming holidays, I offer the Randocity Tech Holiday Shopping Guide otherwise known as the How-to-avoid-technology-pitfalls Guide. Let’s explore.

Purpose

The purpose of this guide is two-fold. First, it’s designed to help you choose various electronics and video game gifts. Second, it’s design to keep you from falling into pitfalls with said gift purchases, to help minimize returns / exchanges by selecting an incompatible item and to help avoid making you look like you don’t know what you’re buying.

Let’s get started…

Xbox One Wired Microphone + Headset

Here’s one gift where you might think it would be easy to locate a functional item. Thanks to Microsoft, you would be incorrect.

🛑 Pitfall: Even though the Xbox One does have a 3.5mm jack on the controller, it only accepts certain compatible chat headphone accessories. If you’re planning on buying a chat headset for someone with an Xbox One, you should check the box for the words Universal, Xbox One and/or Samsung / Android compatibility. The problem… The Xbox One is only compatible with headsets wired for use on Samsung / Android devices or devices specifically labeled compatible with the Xbox one.

👎 This means you cannot buy any Apple compatible headphones with a 3.5mm jack and have the microphone work. The stereo output will work, but the microphone will not. If you’re unsure of the compatibility of the headset, ask the store, search the manufacturer’s web site or find another brand.

✅ Instead, look for and purchase wired headsets that list Samsung, Android, Xbox One or Universal on the box only.

🔥 Note that it is getting more difficult to find boxes labeled for Android or Samsung as most Android devices understand this incompatibility and have built their latest devices to support either headphone type. This has caused more confusion rather than helping solve the problem.

👍 Gaming headsets change yearly and offering a specific recommendation means this advice will be out of date by this time next year. I will say, Turtle Beach quality isn’t great so steer clear of this brand. If you stick with Sony branded headsets for the PS4, you should be good there. Microsoft doesn’t make high quality headsets, so you’ll have to buy from third parties for the Xbox One. I personally have a Plantronics RIG 500 Pro HC and can recommend this as a good basic quality headset. The fidelity is decent, but not perfect. Some reviewers of this headset have complained of the microphone breaking quickly.

PS4 or Xbox One Wireless Chat Headsets

Here’s another gift idea like the above, but it too has a big pitfall. I’ll break it out by console version.

🛑PS4 Pitfall: While the PS4 does have Bluetooth capabilities, it doesn’t support the AVRCP or A2DP profiles. Instead, the PS4 only supports the HSP (HeadSet Profile). This profile is a lesser used profile throughout the industry and it doesn’t support the same quality stereo output as AVRCP and A2DP. For this reason, you can’t go and buy just any Bluetooth chat headset and assume it will work. For example, the Apple Airpods do not work on the PS4. Randocity recommends not even looking at Bluetooth headphones for the PS4 as greater than 97% of them won’t work.

✅ Instead, you’ll need to buy headphones specifically designed for the PS4, and these typically come with a dongle for Wireless. For example, Sony’s Gold Wireless headphones. There are other brands from which to choose, but be sure that the box is labeled with either PS4 or Universal console compatibility.

🛑Xbox One Pitfall: The Xbox One doesn’t support Bluetooth at all. This makes it a little bit easier when gift shopping in that you can entirely avoid looking at Bluetooth headphones at all.

✅ Instead, you’ll want to look for wireless chat headphone boxes that have either Universal and/or Xbox One printed on it. As long as you make sure to look for this printing on the box, then this headphone will work.

🔥 Many places don’t allow you to listen to a gaming headset’s sound quality. You’ll have to buy the headset untried. Whether any specific headphone sounds good, that’s a personal preference. You can’t take into account your gift recipient’s personal tastes in how they like their headphones to sound. However, if you avoid buying headphones priced below $40, the headphones should provide fair to good sound quality. Below the $100 price point, don’t expect those deep rich bass drivers, though. Though, headphone drivers have drastically improved in recent years and the sub $100 price point tends to be much better quality than what you would have found in the early 00s and 90s.

👍 Randocity recommends a visit your local Best Buy or Gamestop or even Amazon and see which wireless gaming headphones are on sale. I might suggest a gift card which avoids the situation and lets the gamer pick their own brand.

Video Game Controller for iPad or iPhone

Here’s another area that would seem easy, but it isn’t. Apple requires a specific hardware certification for all game controllers called MFi. This makes it a little more tricky to find a controller that works.

🛑 Pitfall: There are many game controllers on the market including Microsoft’s Xbox One controller, PlayStation 4’s DualShock controller and even Nintendo’s Pro controller. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can get these to work. Even though all of the aforementioned controllers are Bluetooth, that doesn’t mean they’ll work on the iPad. None of them have the MFi certification. Avoid buying one of these “other” controllers as you cannot get it to work.

✅ Instead, look for and buy only MFi certified controllers, such as the SteelSeries Nimbus controller. Not only does this controller charge using a Lightning cable, it is fully compatible with all Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and even MacOS.

👍 Randocity recommends the SteelSeries Nimbus controller for Apple devices as it feels the most like a PS4 or Xbox Controller.

Newest iPad and Headphones

With the introduction of the latest iPad using USB-C, this throws yet another dilemma into the works for gift purchasing. This problem also underscores why Apple should never have removed the headphone jack from its devices.

🛑 Pitfall: With the introduction of the current home-buttonless iPad, you’ll also find the unwelcome surprise of a USB-C charging port. This means that any Apple headphones (other than the Airpods) won’t work on this newest iPad. To use either a pair of Lightning or 3.5mm jack headphones, you’ll need an adapter.

✅ Instead, pick up a pair of Bluetooth headphones which will remain compatible with all Apple devices going forward.

🔥 Apple insists on changing its port standards regularly. As a result, you should not buy into any specialty jack wired Apple headphones. If you want to buy any wired headphones, buy the 3.5mm jack version and eventually Apple will create an adapter to its newest port. Since every other device on the planet still supports a 3.5mm jack, you can use these headphones on every other device. Buying Lightning or USB-C headphones means you’ll be extremely limited on where those can be used… and when Apple decides to change its port again, those USB-C or Lightning headphones will be useless.

👍 Randocity recommends gifting Apple Airpods for Apple devices. Not only do they sound great, they’re easy to use (mostly) and they’ll remain compatible with future Apple devices… unless, of course, Bluetooth is replaced with a wireless protocol of Apple’s design. The Bluetooth Airpods are also fully compatible with many other Bluetooth devices, including the Amazon Echo. Skip the wires, the hassle and the expensive dongles and go wireless with Apple devices.

DVD, Blu-ray and UltraHD 4K Blu-ray

I find it funny that we still have so many optical disc entertainment formats. DVD as a format was introduced in the late 90s and has survived for so many years. Yet, we also now have Blu-ray and UltraHD Blu-ray.

🛑 Pitfall: Be sure to read the disk case carefully. Even though DVD is typically sold in a different sized case, packaging standards in movie entertainment are loose at best. Be sure to read the package carefully so you are getting the disc you think you are getting. For example, both UltraHD 4K Blu-ray case packages and DVD use black plastic cases. If you’re eyeing the case strictly by color, you could accidentally pick up an UltraHD version of the movie when you wanted the DVD version.

✅ Choose the best format that can be played by your gift receiver’s equipment.

🔥 During the Holiday season, particularly on Black Friday weekend, you’ll find all sorts of content on Doorbusters. Take advantage, but be careful to read the packaging. You don’t want your gift receiver to be surprised that you bough them a Blu-ray when they only have DVD or that you bought them an UltraHD 4K Blu-ray when they only have Blu-ray. Be a careful shopper and read the box and also know what your gift receiver has.

It’s likewise just as bad if you buy a DVD for someone who has an UltraHD 4K TV and Blu-ray player. They won’t want to watch your DVD and will return it for credit towards something else.

Additionally, if you give a DVD or Blu-ray, you may find that they have access to Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix. They might already have access to the film or have already watched. So, be cautious.

👍 I’d recommend a gift card intended towards the purchase of a movie. This allows the recipient to buy whatever film they want in whatever format they have. Though, you’ll want to go look up the film and determine its price, then give a gift card that covers that purchase price.

Video Games

Here’s another one you might think can be an easy gift. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

🛑 Pitfall: Video games are very much personal to the gamer. Because there are so many genres and types of games, it can be impossible to choose a game that not only does the gamer not already have, but impossible to choose a game they might actually like.

✅ Instead, because most games are $60, you’ll be safe to give a gift card in the amount of $60 to cover the purchase of the game.

🔥 If your recipient is an adult, the purchase of any game shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your recipient is a minor, then you’ll want to give a gift card to avoid any ESRB rating or content issues that a parent might not want within the game. Avoid becoming “that aunt” or “that uncle” by buying an inappropriate game for a minor. Because video games are a personal taste situation, buying any game blind could end up with a return. I do realize that gift cards are an impersonal gift, but in some situations like video games, it is well worth it to play it safe.

👍 Randocity recommends buying gift cards over buying physical game copies, particularly for minors. If you happen to have a specific game request by the receiver and the parent has approved the game, then by all means buy it. If you’re simply shopping blind, then a gift card is Randocity’s recommendation to avoid this pitfall.

Giving the Gift of Music

Here’s another one that should be easy, but it isn’t. If you’re thinking of buying CDs for your tech savvy friend, you might want to ask some questions first.

🛑 Pitfall: Because of music services like Apple Music and Amazon Unlimited where you get access to nearly Amazon and Apple’s full music catalog, subscribers no longer need to buy CDs. As long as they remain subscribers of these music services, they now have instant access to the most recent music the day of its release.

✅ Instead, it might be wise to avoid this type of content purchase, particularly if you know the person is affluent and a music buff.

🔥 Be careful and ask questions if you’re thinking of gifting a CD. If they have access to Apple Music, Spotify or Amazon Unlimited, buying them a CD may result in a return.

👍 Randocity recommends giving gift cards to iTunes or Amazon instead of buying a specific CD. If you give a gift card, they can apply the amount towards their membership or whatever other merchandise or music they wish. This avoids the awkward look you might get once you find out they already subscribe to Apple Music.

Giving the Gift of an Apple Watch

Thinking of giving someone an Apple Watch for the the holidays? You need to understand the pitfall here.

🛑 Pitfall: An Apple Watch is entirely dependent on an iPhone to function. In order to even get the Apple Watch setup and working as a watch, it must be configured using an iPhone. Further, because the Apple watch only pairs with an iPhone, don’t give it to someone who only has an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone 4 or below. It won’t work. It also won’t work for someone who owns an Android phone.

✅ Instead, if you’re not sure if your gift recipient has an iPhone that will work, I’d suggest getting them a different watch. If the person owns an Android, you’ll want to choose one of the Android watches instead. The Apple Watch doesn’t work at all with Android.

🔥 If you do decide to chance that they own an iPhone, be sure to give them a gift receipt as they may need to return it if they don’t have one.

👎 Randocity recommends avoiding the purchase of an Apple Watch as a gift, particularly if you know the person doesn’t have an iPhone or has an Android phone. This is a particularly tricky gift item and is likely to end up returned if the person doesn’t have an iPhone. If you know the person doesn’t have an iPhone, then you’ll need to gift them both an iPhone and an Apple Watch… which is a whole lot more expensive of a gift than you might have expected to give. For this reason, I thumbs down 👎 giving the Apple Watch as a blind gift. If you are absolutely 100% certain the person you are giving the Apple Watch to has an iPhone, then go for it.

Gift Receipts

👍 Randocity always recommends asking the store for a gift receipt. Then, include it with any gift you give. This allows the recipient to trade it in should they happen to get two copies of the same item.

Happy Holidays!

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Whole Foods: Everything wrong with Amazon in a store.

Posted in botch, business, shopping by commorancy on September 20, 2018

When Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017, I wondered exactly what that meant for Whole Foods as a brand and as a store. In 2018, I have found out, and so have the store employees. It’s not exactly what you might have predicted. Let’s explore.

Drastic Changes on the Aisles

One thing is clear, Amazon isn’t keeping Whole Foods stagnant. No, sir. However… are the changes being made inside the stores great? In many cases, no.

At one time, Whole Foods had a huge aisle of bulk tea ingredients. Today, they have maybe 10-15 jars total. Most of the jars are of the caffeinated varieties. Other than loose Rooibos, there was very little in the way of herbal tea ingredients. Whole Foods was the only real place where you could go get bulk tea ingredients. I was sadly disappointed at the state of affairs in visiting Whole Foods this weekend. The sad handful of jars seemed off, but I guess that’s what Bezos wants. In fact, the whole store seemed a little off.

Another department that has undergone drastic remodeling is the health and beauty area. Where they once carried clothing, scarfs, plush toys, mounds of loose organic soaps and various other eclectic HBA goods, today the area is nearly barren with only tiny amounts of certain items. They’ve also decided to do away with the HBA counter and rebuild a new kiosk for Customer Service there, so they can put in more cash registers. As if they need more registers… they barely man the ones they already have.

One other area of HBA (and other products) is product reformulations. I had been using the Whole Foods house brand of 365 glycerin bar soaps. Recently, I purchased new bars only to find a new label. After opening one of the soap bars I noticed a change in the fragrance. Clearly, Amazon is trying to cut costs by changing manufacturing of some of their house brands to new manufacturers.

I’ve also found other brands of products which have now changed. Where once Whole Foods had carried specific brands for years, these are now gone, no where to be found.  Whole Foods was really the only place that stocked these brands. I can’t imagine what this has done to those brand sellers. Whole Foods was likely their lifeblood. Without Whole Foods, they’re dead in the water. Safeway has never considered ordering those brands and likely never will. Good luck trying to find those brands ever again as those manufacturers are likely out of business.

Also, Amazon has started adding in small lockup rollabouts stocking Echos, Fire Tablets and Kindles, among other electronic and gadgety things. This is a grocery store, not Best Buy.

Checkout Lanes

Another change is that the Express lanes were always open with at least 1 or 2 people manning them. In the last 2-4 months, this no longer is true. I’ve walked in in the morning or in the evening and the Express lanes are always closed. Now they are keeping a few regular registers open. Not sure what’s going on with this change, but it seems odd considering the majority of people unloading their carts had less than 10 items to buy. Express lanes make more sense.

Not All Changes Are Good

I never performed my whole house grocery shopping at Whole Foods. It was always too expensive for full cart shopping. I only visit Whole Foods for very specific items that I cannot find at Safeway or other supermarkets. Today, I do most of my grocery shopping at Target, to be honest. Since Target has fully built out a respectable grocery section, when combined with Cartwheel discounts and the extra 5% RedCard discount, it’s usually worth my while to grocery shop at Target. They may not be the cheapest at everything, but considering the amount of discounts I get there, it’s more than worth it in the end.

Why this diversion about Target? Because Amazon and Whole Foods are trying something similar, except they’re mostly failing at it. Certain sale items and items with blue cards give extra discounts if you’re an Amazon Prime member. Considering how few items actually end up on actually discounted with Prime, it’s really not worth it. If Amazon could see fit to offer something like Target’s 5% off the entire basket + extra discounts like with Cartwheel, it might be worth it. Even then, I still find Whole Foods prices to be well above where they should be and nowhere near competitive with Target.

Worse, while Amazon seems to have cut some quality products down in an attempt to make even more money, nearly all of the dry goods still suffer from what I call, “highender syndrome”. What that means is that these items are sold at prices that are intended to entice buyers of a certain affluence level or above and feel make them “special”. However, what I’ve personally found after trying these products is while the price is well above where it should be, these packaged foods when prepared are lackluster and mostly taste of cardboard. Anyone willing to shell out that kind of dough for cardboard food, I got a bridge to sell ya.

As this section began, not all changes are for the best. The changes that Amazon has been making to Whole Foods have been questionable and seemingly geared toward selling Amazon products in a retail store environment. Amazon, if you really want to open an Amazon store, then just open one. Don’t ruin Whole Foods to make it a platform for Amazon products.

Workers Seem Disenchanted

I spoke with one worker at Whole Foods recently who is just as disenchanted with Amazon’s changes as I am. One thing he mentioned was that before Amazon’s purchase, the store could restock individual items as necessary. This meant that items were almost never out of stock and aisles were always full. I certainly noticed this change recently. When I visited to buy my glycerin bars, I noticed the unscented bars were out of stock. I purchased a couple of the other bars to hold me over for a bit. I then visited a day later and they were still out of stock. I’d say all told, I visited the store about 3-4 times before I finally found them in stock.

This employee told me that after Amazon took over, Amazon’s changes stopped allowing individual item reorders. This leaves shelves bare of products until the next whole shipment arrives. This is one of the things I always liked about Whole Foods before Amazon. I could walk into the store and nearly be 100% certain that the item would be in stock. In fact, I can’t even remember a single time when I visited Whole Foods and those soap bars (or pretty much anything else.. especially house brand items) were out of stock before Amazon’s involvement.

Hot Food Bar Changes

At the hot food area, I spoke with another worker who was disenchanted to see the home cooked prepared meals area has disappeared. No longer can you find the hot foods like mashed potatoes, cooked lamb shanks, meat loaf, grilled veggies and other staple foods they carried there every day. Now they’re gone and have been replaced by a Pizza display area. If the food isn’t on the hot food buffet area, too bad, so sad. I always liked buying those mashed potatoes there. They were the best in the store. The mashed potatoes on the buffet bar were plain and flavorless, as is most of that hot food bar food. The home cooked food they made at the food counter was much, much tastier.

Shopping at Whole Foods

Amazon has made no efforts to reduce Whole Food’s overall prices. But, Amazon has done much to remove, change, reduce and limit availability of items. I’m uncertain of this chain’s longevity. One of the things about operating a higher end gourmet grocery store like Whole Foods is attention to customer service and attention to product detail. Amazon doesn’t get it. Draeger’s gets it. Piazza’s gets it. Bianchini’s gets it. I realize these are SF Bay Area high end gourmet markets, but I’m sure you have some like these in your area, too. Whole Foods used to get what it meant to be classed as a gourmet grocery store, but since Amazon, they don’t.

As for the store proper, the reduction in products, the change in brand formulations and removal of mainstay brands doesn’t say Amazon knows what Whole Foods is really about. You can’t just begin gutting the fundamentals that made this gourmet grocery store and expect it to survive. Amazon is playing with fire making these changes to Whole Foods this fast. So far, I still see a fair amount of people shopping here. With each and every product removal or switch, the store will lose more and more customers.  Those customers who once frequented looking for that specific item only available at Whole Foods will end up over at Draeger’s, Bianchini’s or Piazza’s (or any of a number of smaller high end markets).

I know I’m not the only person who stops shopping at places when they kill my favorite brands and products that I relied on. Amazon hasn’t yet fully killed my last remaining reasons to visit Whole Foods, but changing soap manufacturers doesn’t bode well for at least one of those products.  Let’s hope I can use the new formulation without skin problems. We’ll see. They’ve also changed their brand of unsweetened ketchup. Yes, they still carry it, but the new brand jar seems quite a bit smaller for the same price. So far, they still carry the Stevia liquid brand that I use and at a “reasonable” price.

Feedback and Thank You

If you’ve gotten this far into this article, I’d like to thank you for spending your time here reading Randocity articles. In this YouTube age with people putting their faces out there as hosts, I have also contemplated setting up a channel for Randocity. Each time I have considered this, I realize that writing this blog is what I enjoy about blogging. Vlogging has its own set of constraints, time sucks and technical problems that to me don’t seem very enjoyable, particularly buying all of the necessary equipment and spending hours editing videos together.

If your shopping experiences have changed as a result of Amazon’s purchase of and changes to Whole Foods stores, please leave a comment below explaining what problems you have encountered in your shopping experiences. I will consider extending this article to include quotes from various reader’s recent shopping experiences. I’m always interested in hearing reader feedback. If you work at Whole Foods and are willing to speak up, please leave a comment below.

If you would like to be notified whenever new Randocity articles are published, please click the Follow button in the upper right corner of the screen.

Shopping and haggling at the checkout lane

Posted in shopping by commorancy on May 10, 2010

While I know the economy is not in its best shape right now and people are looking to pinch every penny, there is one pet peeve of mine that I just have to write about here. That peeve is when someone gets to the checkout lane at a store and begins price haggling over every item in their cart. The thing that annoys me about this practice is that the checkout lane is not the place to haggle or argue about the price of a garment or item. I mention garments because it’s almost always a garment that’s in dispute. Worse, though, is that it’s not just a single item, it’s usually every item in the cart. So, those of us behind you are stuck waiting while you haggle and argue with the checker.

The checkout is not the place to shop

Once you get in line to check out, you need to have already decided what you will and won’t purchase. If there is something in your cart that you don’t need or want, then politely tell the cashier and they will take it from you. Don’t stand there and argue over the price (or lack thereof) of that item with the cashier. Don’t hem and haw and decide if you want it. The checkout is not the plate for making long decisions or doing additional shopping. The store is where you shop, the checkout is where you buy. It’s really a very simple concept.

Getting price checks

In most department stores today, it’s easy to find a price so long as it has a barcode. If so, locate a sales person on the floor or find a bar code scanner. Most stores today offer scanners around the store for just this purpose. However, should you find a garment or item without a barcode, don’t wait until you get to the check out line for for pricing and then decide if you want it. Go to Customer Service or ask a floor person to price the item. It will save you and everyone behind you lots of time at the checkout. You might even be able to derive the price by finding the rack of items and looking for a similar style, color or design. So, use your own resources to find something similar and decide if you really want it at that price. If you really can’t find the item on the floor or the price, take it to the Customer Service desk. They can always help find the price. In fact, Customer Service is probably more efficient at finding prices than just about anyone else in the store. Considering they do returns all day long, they have to have an easy way to locate prices. So, take it to Customer Service and ask them attach a price tag to the item before you get in line to check out.

Haggling

If you live and work in the US, then you know big box retailers don’t haggle. So, why do people try anyway? Seriously! I understand there are a lot of non-US citizens living in the US on visas or maybe they’re working towards a green card. And yes, many countries require haggling to get the best prices. But, not in the US. So, when you live in the US, you don’t go to Wal-Mart and try to haggle with the cashier. Not only does the cashier not have any power to haggle, it wastes your time, their time and everyone else’s time who is in line behind you. So, don’t haggle with the cashier. Once in line, you either want the item at the price that’s marked or you don’t. If feel the need to haggle on pricing, then go to stores that sell on commission or talk to the manager on duty. Granted, there are no big box department retailers that use commission sales, but car dealerships, furniture stores, appliance stores and even some electronics retailers are still on commissions. Some more expensive clothing stores may even be on commission, but never deep discounters like Wal-Mart or Target. If you really want to know if a store is using commissions to pay their employees, then ask. If they say yes, then feel free to haggle all you want. Other places you can haggle include swap meets, garage sales, flea markets and farmer’s markets. You may even be able to haggle pricing shopping in locally owned and operated stores.

But, once again, don’t haggle at Wal-Mart, Target, Safeway, Whole Foods, Lucky, Albertson’s, Sears, JC Penney or any other well known big bix chain. And don’t even try to do it with the cashier. The only exception to this rule and only for Sears and JC Penney is the furniture department, appliances and possibly big ticket electronics. But, never on clothing at the stores and never with the cashier. Only haggle with someone working in the department prior to purchasing.

Time wasting practices

Once you get into line to check out, you need to have already decided what you want to buy. In fact, you should have decided what you are buying when you placed the item(s) into your cart. The other thing you need to do before getting into line is check for price tags or bar codes. If the item doesn’t have a bar code, take it to representative on the floor or the Customer Service desk and ask them to locate the price and price it. This not only saves you time checking out, it saves time for everyone behind you. It also shows you the price so you can decide long before you get in line if you want to pay that price.

Too many times I’ve seen someone bring up 10-20 garments to the checkout lane and hand them to the cashier for scanning. But, the items do not seem to have any bar codes. It’s not just one garment either. It’s like this person specifically searched for items that didn’t have bar codes (or somehow removed them all). I’m guessing they think that if the cashier can’t scan it, they can haggle for a price. This tactic doesn’t work. In many stores, garments or items where prices cannot be located will not be sold. That means you will have completely wasted your time and everyone else’s. In fact, I’d really prefer it if every store adopted a policy of not selling items where prices or bar codes cannot be located. Worse, though, is if the cashier decides to be nice and try to look up the price of the items. So, the cashier calls or radios for a price. That means someone on the floor has to go look for a similar item or stop by the checkout lane and pickup the item for reference.

When a cashier uses a floor runner to price an item usually takes 3-5 minutes. That’s 3-5 minutes that cashier is tied up doing nothing and everyone in line is caught waiting. So, get your items priced before you get in line.

If you feel the need to rip the price tags and bar codes off of items at Target, don’t. It’s not going to save you any money and will just cause you (and everyone else) to wait longer to check out (or possibly, you won’t purchase those items at all). If you don’t want to pay retail at places like Target or Wal-Mart, then go to Ross, Marshall’s, TJ Max or even Steinmart. If you want designer stuff, then visit outlet malls where you can find outlet stores for Coach, Tommy Bahama, Ralph Lauren and other name designers. You may even be able to haggle at an outlet store.

Ultimately, when you get in line, make sure your items have bar codes, don’t rip tags off hoping to get lower prices and don’t shop at the checkout. If you can’t find a price, ask at Customer Service. Make your decision to purchase before you get in line, not after. If there’s something you don’t want, then give it to the cashier who can send it back to the floor. If you forgot something, don’t hang the whole lane by running and getting it. Ask the cashier to suspend your transaction. Most stores can do this now. Then, go get your item(s) and get back in line (at the end of the line). The cashier can then bring up the suspended transaction with your new items and proceed checking you out. And most of all, think about all of the people behind you in line that you are making wait by not observing these most basic shopping courtesies.

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Malls and shopping

Posted in shopping by commorancy on July 11, 2009

I like shopping, for the most part.  But, I shop only for the things I need and I like to feel I’m getting my items at a good price.  However, more and more when shopping locally, I find myself visiting shops that are independant of malls.  Frankly, I don’t really like shopping in malls for several reasons.  The first reason is parking. In the ‘better’ malls, it can be difficult to find parking on the weekends or during other busy times (e.g., holiday shopping).  Rarely, however, do I find this difficulty when visiting stores in smaller venues or independent stores like Best Buy or Ikea.  The second reason I don’t like malls is that the retailers have to pad their prices to cover their overhead of being in a mall.  For me, I don’t need to buy their items bad enough to help them cover their mall rent.

Cookie Cutter

More and more, we have become a society of cookie cutter items.  Items that you can find at thousands of other stores.  This goes for just about every item imaginable… from clothing, to appliances, to food, to electronics, to computers.  There’s really very little made these days that is one-of-a-kind unique… with the exception of art.  Even music and movies are cookie-cutter items.  They may be unique to the content producer, but they want that material disseminated widely, so there are potentially millions of copies produced.

Gone are the days of items that are produced in small quantities.  Yes, occasionally items will be produced in limited editions.  But, the reality is, even these items while numbered and limited may not actually be limited.  The reason, the producer will turn around and repackage the item in a mass produced package that’s sold to millions.  So, the limited edition package is limited, the actual product isn’t.

Digital World

In our up-and-coming digital world, uniqueness will be a thing of the past.  Because digital items can be produced in mass quantities easily, there is effectively no way to produce a limited edition digital item.  Even if there were, how could you guarantee the authenticity or genuine uniqueness of the item?  You can’t. So our digital economy will move us more and more away from unique individual hand produced items.

Arts and Crafts

On the other hand, arts and crafts including individual tailored fashions will be where the unique one-of-a-kind items will be created.  You will need to commission an artist and pay the price in order to get unique items.  I mean, items that no one else has.  Fine artists also produce these items and will continue.  By fine art, I do not refer to such boilerplate artists like Thomas Kinkade.  I refer to actual artists who paint their own works, knit their own clothes or create their own pottery.  These are the unique items that make shopping unique and fun.  It means you have something that no one else in the world has.

Malls

Malls are frustrating, at best, to walk around in.  They are big and, at times, crowded.  As you walk around, the kiosk staff bombard you with silly offers of cleansing your face with goopy mixtures to dropping RC helicopters on your head to AT&T staff hawking their phones while you walk by.  And. these are in the ‘high class’ malls.  Is there any decorum left in these malls?  I’d rather go to a store like Target where the staff actually has shopping interferance rules.  For example, when was the last time you went to Target or Wal-Mart only to be harrassed by an employee to clean your face with some goop or hawking some latest thing?  It never happens.

On top of the markup overhead of a mall, the mall experience is simply annoying at best and frustrating at worst.  The stores do not provide unique items, yet charge high dollars for their non-unique items.  And yet, considering the cookie-cutter nature of a mall, it can still be difficult to find the right item, size or style.  Usually because what you want is not in vogue for that year, so no one actually has it.  Yet, last year they were everywhere.

Worse, the costs for a retailer to inhabit a mall is so high that you only find the most expensive chains in these malls. It’s rare that a smaller mom-and-pop sized store can afford to be in these malls just due to the square footage costs.  So, Malls themselves end up being cookie cutter by the stores they can afford to attract.  So, when you walk into the mall, you can pretty well expect only the most solvent and biggest chains will be there.  Gone are the smaller retailers and independants from these cookie-cutter outlets.

Shopping Experience

Over the years, the shopping experience has changed.  Malls used to be a reasonable fun place to visit.  There was a good mix of big chains and small mom-and-pops.  Today, it’s more about the Abercrombie and Fitchs’ of the world.  It’s less about unique items and more about bigger retailers and staying in business.  With the economy the way that it is, the mall is not the place to shop.  Yet, one visit to a mall and you will still see people there shopping and spending money getting their cookie-cutter items.  Frankly, I’d rather not deal with this hassle and, instead go to a smaller strip mall or an independent retailer and avoid that hassle.

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