Shopping

It’s Not Just What You Buy, It’s What You Don’t

buyerarchy
With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday almost safely behind me, I’ll admit, the merry madness threatened to sweep me away — I nearly lost my eco-consciousness.

Black Friday is most definitely not my thing — and the mighty Hudson River stands between the malls and me.

Saturday, I cruised the shops in my vibrant small town, and hit the Farm and Flea on Sunday.

So far, I’ve made it through today without a purchase. With so many cyber-deals flying furiously past my screen, it’s a miracle the credit card hasn’t shimmied its way out of my wallet.

I have a new strategy for not shopping. Every time my mouse gets twitchy, I grab a snack.

It’s Munchy Monday!

Not so fast…

It’s not just what you buy (or eat), it’s what you don’t.

How do you get through the holiday shopping season hoping to save a buck, save the environment, save yourself?!?

Image: Long Live Irony

Doggone It: A Holiday Shopping Tale

woman_dogI am a dog lover. We have two big labs and my daughter just left my holiday nest with the first “grandpuppy.” So I know dogs. I know they target the one person in the room who is not a dog lover and make sure to lick their hand. I know they sniff people in places they shouldn’t. I know they use their eyes to beg for food and win treats. I know my dogs have good manners. But I also know they can be impulsive.

Needing a break yesterday — away from the home scene, I decided to go shopping — alone — no husband, no kids, no dogs. I headed to Woodbury Commons, an outdoor outlet shopping bonanza. It’s about an hour drive from my house. When I arrived, there were hoards of happy tourists enjoying the after Christmas sales frenzy. I meandered into MaxMara. Fancy. I own one of their warm, beautifully-crafted coats and I love it. Although there would need to be a massive sale for me to purchase a new one, I decided to humor myself and try on a black number (surprise). I place my bags and my short wine-colored Patagonia down jacket beside the mirror. I shrug into the coat. Soft cashmere. Nice. Very nice. There was a woman next to me trying on the same coat and we smile at each other as only two women who enjoy fine frocks and don’t speak the same language can. It’s obvious the coat will cozy up her seat on the plane ride back to Italy. Her husband smiles and nods in my direction. He likes the coat too. I smile back.

After checking the sticker price, I carefully hand the coat to the saleswoman. Thank you, but no thank you. I grab my no-slouch-of-a-coat that now looks more like a bruised eggplant than a fine Cabernet, and when I bend over to zip up, I gently knock into something or someone and feel a sharp pinch on the top of my hand, near the cuff of my coat. OUCH! I look down and see a Snugli wiggling — you know, one of those front baby carriers. Peeking out of the pack is a fluffy little gray dog with a red bow. Service dog? I don’t think so.

Looking at the red mark on my hand, I notice the cuff of my coat is sopping wet.

Holding my hand up, I say to the man, “Your dog just bit me.”

“Are you sure? Dog does not do that.”

The saleswoman is now all over me.

“Are you okay? Can I get you some water? Would you like to sit down?”

She seemed genuinely concerned that I may be hurt.

Pulling back my wet cuff, I showed the man the red mark on my hand. “I felt it. See, right there.”

“Dog no bite. Not a bad dog, ” the man says pointing to the dog now secured tightly to his chest.

Although absolutely fine, I am stunned the couple did not apologize. Unable to contain myself I followed them over to the register.

“Excuse me, I am a dog lover too and I understand these things happen. Your dog bit me and I think you should be concerned and at least apologize.”

He looked down at the dog, grabbed his wife’s hand and credit card, and briskly walked out of the store. The saleswoman’s face dropped.

I am reminded of what my son, a fan of Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer show, recently told me, “There are no bad dogs, only bad owners.”

Illustration: Shutterstock

Preserve, Conserve and Shop Small

It saddened me to learn that many large-box retailers opened their doors yesterday…on Thanksgiving. Here’s Walmart’s rational:

“We bought deep, very deep, and we bought deep on items that matter to our customers,” said Walmart U.S. Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, Duncan Mac Naughton.

What’s deeper than spending time with loved ones on Thanksgiving? 

“Walmart’s offers will include video games starting at $10 and home appliances such as a Crock Pot slow cooker for $9.44 each.”

There’s an underlying disconnect…and discontent in this deep thinking that inherently weakens communities.

But who am I to tell Walmart, the largest US employer, what to do? I live in a thriving small town that flourishes over the holidays. Local holiday shopping starts today and helps keep the merchants afloat during the less lucrative winter months. Shopping local during the holiday season creates jobs, boosts the economy, and preserves our neighborhoods. Keeping with peaceful holiday tidings, being a “locavore” matters because it conserves precious energy (the malls are often quite a driving distance away), and preserves our small towns.

In the spirit of the season, let’s be conscious of where we shop. It matters more than saving a few cents on video games and Crockpots. In fact, it matters because shopping local is the glue that holds communities together.

Photo: Fickr

Only Fools Dye Their Young

Sometimes I think I might get arrested for loitering in the grocery aisle. I read every single food label. I’m a food marketer’s nightmare because I can sniff out misleading and meaningless food lingo in a heartbeat. Why? Because I’ve been reading labels incessantly since my daughter was young.

It’s Not Nice To Dye Our Young

It started with an innocent breakfast cereal that made grandiose claims of being “All Natural Berry, Berry Goodness,” “Kid Approved” and “Contains Healthy Antioxidants.” After ingesting bowlfuls of her new favorite cereal, my daughter started to display frightening symptoms. First, she developed a headache. So we gave her Children’s Tylenol. The headache got better. Then she broke out in hives. We gave her Children’s Benadryl. Very quickly after taking the antihistamine, she complained that her throat was feeling weird, like she couldn’t swallow. We rushed her to an allergist, who confirmed what we had already figured out. My daughter was allergic to Blue Dye #2…a common food dye that was an ingredient in the cereal and the two over-the-counter children medicines.

Of course, we learned to avoid food dyes like the plague…reading labels like one would read an FBI file. Everything from lip balm to ice cream became suspect. Who knew?

It’s Not Nice To Fool The Bees

French apiarist Andre Frieh holds a sample of normal honey (right) besides a blue colored one (left) Ribeauville, France, October 5, 2012.

I was reminded of this parental chapter (nightmare) when I recently read that beekeepers were discovering blue honey in their hives. Apparently, bees were harvesting M&Ms manufacturing waste from a plant that processed the industrial runoff from a Mars candy factory.

“The plant operator said it regretted the situation and had put in place a procedure to stop it happening again…The company, which deals with waste from a Mars chocolate factory, said it would clean out the containers, store all incoming waste in airtight containers and process it promptly.” ~ BBC

We’re not innocent bees, we’re conscious consumers who should not be duped by honey-coated claims. Although labels are supposed to say exactly what’s in their product, the food aisle is teeming with misinformation. As parents, we like to fix things like this. How can we fix marketers who aim to make money by poisoning our kids? We can’t.

But don’t be a fool…Real food doesn’t come with labels.

DIY Folding Chairs To Die For

My latest DIY obsession is repurposing old chairs. A while back, we found two Scandinavian chair frames abandoned by the side of the road. Making cushions is beyond my DIY realm – I’m crafty, but sewing a hem musters up a learning curve that I’ve yet to master. Why? Because I’ve always had a lovely sewing enabler in my life. I’m lucky because my mom is my go-to seamstress/upholsterer. And I’m thrilled she’s still willing to aim her magic thimble in my direction. Mom is currently chopping away on a maxi-skirt that I snagged at my local second-hand store, Rupo. It’s a beautiful long, narrow skirt, but torturous to climb steps in. When my daughter was here last week, she whisked the skirt off to mom and asked her to put a slit up the side (probably way higher than I would wear). Bye-bye skirt. But I digress…

I saw these Overdyed Terai Chairs at Anthropologie (above) and was immediately inspired by DIY possibilities. I’m thinking an oh-so stylish bluish, vintage-vibe would give new life to my old chairs.

Here are 3 of my favorite fabric pics:

1. Madeline Weinrib – This Ikat fabric is just stunning. Ikat means ‘to bind.’ I’m bound by love for this hand-dyed and handwoven silk/cotton fabric.

2. Marimekko – Who doesn’t love Marimekko? With its quintessential retro designs, these fabrics wink back to groovier times. This bold pattern from 1964 is almost identical to the ‘flower power’ wallpaper pattern of my childhood room (hence, the blue trend). In fact, I had to buy a few items with this pattern when I was at the NYC Marimekko store recently.

3. Amy Butler – I’ve written about Amy Butler’s designs before. Not only does Amy provide organic fabrics (below, organic velvet), her business philosophy inspires me as much as her gorgeous designs: “Being generous, fair, and honest in business and in life rewards you with grace and is it’s own success. Giving back to your community is sewing what you reap (sharing the love)…Care for YOUR community and it will take care of you.”

DIY Folding Chair Instructions HERE.

Photo: Anthropologie