Feb 8 2011

how many of you stayed home today? [day 257]

The day after the Super Bowl is apparently the most missed day at work for hangovers.  The Dallas Morning News ran this article in a Super Bowl special excerpt.  There’s a website that will give you good excuses so you can miss work if you’ve partied too hard.  Seriously?  The newspaper is posting ways to lie to your boss?  So let’s say the employees of the DMN read this and call in sick.  I think they should all get a paid day off for lying, as suggested by their employer.  How about scheduling a vacation day is you plan to get smashed?  Or maybe just have one or two beers instead?  I just find it somewhat disturbing that the news would tell people to lie.  Sad.


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstoreconvenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 27 2011

surrounded by plastic [day 247]

Today, just a small collection of odd photos.  These remind me of a joke told by Steven Wright a long time ago.  He says he owns two rare photos, one of Norman Rockwell beating a child and one of Whodini locking his keys in his car.

Photo #1: Protecting the plastic

Seriously?  We need to wrap the plastic recycling bins in plastic sheets, and then place that wastefulness in a box?  What exactly is the purpose of the plastic wrap?  Maybe they did that so we would have something to place in our new recycling bins.

Photo #2: Surrounded

This is an old photo, taken in a motel room on our way to Mexico.  Did I really need a Starbucks latte that bad?  I have my own travel cups, but instead of bringing one I wasted a waxed paper cup, a plastic lid, a cardboard hugger thing and a plastic keep-your-coffee-from-spilling stick.  My roommate had a plastic bag sitting behind the coffee, and all of this sitting next to a plastic sign saying “save our planet”.  It’s a sign to place on the bed if you don’t want them to wash the sheets.  I wanted to place it on the bed, but we were only there one night, and I’m guessing the next guest would appreciate them being washed.

Photo #3: Sustainable styrofoam?

Wow.  What were these marketing people thinking?  Sustainably grown coffee, a beautiful story of how they’re helping the environment, all neatly packaged in a styrofoam cup.  My friend took this photo while traveling on an airplane.  Not like there’s a lot of choices at 32,000 feet above the earth.

These photos are just a few reminders of our disposable society.  How long will it be before our planet looks like a scene from a sci-fi movie?  No, I don’t mean the fun futuristic ones where we all own spaceships, wear silver clothing and have intergalactic space travel.  I mean the ones where people are trying to survive because there’s nothing left.  Yes, this might sound extreme, but is it?


Jan 20 2011

the ridiculousness of cereal straws [day 239]

I told my kids I would let them buy a box of cereal straws if they promised to blog on the  ridiculousness of them.  They chose to do it, so I purchased the box of Oreo Funstix cereal straws for $3.50.

Joe: O.K. First of all. My mom is making me do this. So I’m not going to write much. Here’s what I am going to say. ‘’Cookie straws are stupid. Their a waste of plastic, and a waste of sweet, precious, awesome money.’’

Obviously he places a high value on his money, not mine.  He can buy the cereal straws next time, with his own money.

Cole: I don’t mean any of this. Cookie straws are too expensive. Also pointless and stupid.

I don’t allow him (or his brother) to say the word stupid, but I suppose he thinks it’s okay to type it.  Apparently cereal companies aren’t selling enough cereal, so they’re molding cereal into other forms and marketing it to kids.  If my kids want more of these, they will have to buy them with their own money.  I think they’ll become less important to Cole and Joe will buy a box every so often just to annoy me.  :)


Jan 5 2011

what retailers should you support? [day 222]

I found myself being irritated at the grocery store, stirring over the little yellow tags again.  (day 160… trained shopping monkeys)  Upon a very deliberate observation, I would guess 60% or more of the little yellow tags are ‘low price‘ tags and not ‘sale‘ tags.  How am I supposed to grocery shop for the best prices?  My kids have been yellow-tag-trained too, as they shop thinking anything with a yellow tag is one sale.  Isn’t marketing wonderful?

Even with the irritation, I have found a few retailers that are doing some really good things.  Competition is fierce and I think all retailers succumb to the manipulative marketing at some point or another.  Here’s a few retail stores I would support, you know, if I could shop.  ;)  This is not a comprehensive list, just a few I’ve run into lately.

Lowe’s hardware store. Of any shopping I might miss, I do miss my home improvement / hardware stores.  I’m going to be a little generic here since I’m not sure how public this information is, as some companies do things under the radar to stay out of the corporate ball of red tape.  Lowe’s has not only donated the materials, but also the labor to add restrooms, showers and laundry facilities to a local homeless shelter.  Not only that, but finishing off the rooms, painting, and many other details too numerous to mention.  Need some screws?  Go to Lowe’s.

Again, probably under the radar, but not sure, Market Street grocery store donates a lot of leftover foods to shelters in the area.  There’s a lot of stores putting perfectly good food in dumpsters, but not MS.  Shopping at Market Street is a treat, as it’s a little on the pricey side for my shopping habits, however they carry foods you can’t find anywhere else.  Their cafe is also a great deal for lunch or dinner, as the prices are good, portions are big and the food is great.

Yes, Kroger.  Even though I’m not so happy about their little yellow tags, they still do good things for the community.  On day 55, I blogged about how Kroger gives away $1 million dollars a year to organizations that help people in need.  All you have to do is print their little bar code and have it scanned when you shop to support organizations in your area.

I don’t know the motivation of any of these stores, but I do know when I choose where to shop, I want to know I’m not just making some fat pockets for a few executives that don’t need more money.  I want to support businesses that strengthen the community, minimize waste, treat their employees well and participate in the good of people.  :)


Nov 30 2010

*read the fine print [day 188]

*Blog post subject to change without notice.  Other terms and conditions apply.  Not responsible from broken windshields.

What’s with all the fine print these days?  Are lawyers really that bored?  Or are companies that scared?  Does anyone actually read this stuff?  If not, I’m guessing we all should be.

There’s some crazy stuff in the fine print.  If nothing else, it’s entertaining.  Okay, so I’m easily amused.  Maybe you will be too.  take a look.

*All terms and conditions apply. Who’s terms and conditions?  Mine?  If not mine, where does one find these terms and conditions?
*It is our firm intention to have every advertised item in stock. Firm intentions you say…
*This insert was prepared weeks in advance for publication and prices and availability may have changed. Of course they have.
*Sale doesn’t include Apple products. Boo!  It never does.
*Prior to opening, a line of customers will form outside the store. Yes, we even have line standing disclaimers now.
*Regular prices are offering prices and saving may not be based on actual sales. What does that even mean?   Continue reading

Nov 13 2010

black friday shopping: the new olympic sport [day 170]

Okay, so it’s not an olympic sport… yet.  I do however, find this black friday business very interesting.  The idea for this blog post started with an article I found in a local magazine, called Black Friday: Survival Tips.  Please understand, if you choose to participate in this sport, I’m not saying it’s bad, this might just be another way to look at it.

Black Friday, ironically a name associated with financial crisis, started back in the mid 60′s and has become a cultural icon of holiday shopping addiction.  ”Door busters” is another iconic shopping term, born out of the black friday marketing efforts of the major retailers.  Back in 2008, a WalMart employee was trampled to death by a black friday door buster event.  Is this really what its come to?

Back in 1993, I worked as a manager for Toys R Us in Miami, Florida.  This was during the Power Rangers craze, where people would line up outside the doors, knowing the the shipment came in the night before.  At opening, two people had to unlock the doors, simultaneously at the count of three, then run to paste their bodies as close to the wall as possible, as to not get trampled by the insane crowd pushing their way into the store.  I only wish I had saved the security tape where we recorded this, as it’s hard to put into words.  I also remember calling the police several times a week to break up a fist fight between parents fighting over the last of some random toy that is probably in a landfill by now.   Continue reading


Nov 3 2010

trained shopping monkey… yellow [day 160]

Trained shopping monkeys. I went grocery shopping last night.  After reading the statistics about how Americans throw away almost half of the food they purchase, either by the food going bad before they cook it or plate leftovers, I was trying to be more conscious about my grocery shopping habits.  I don’t like grocery shopping, and add two griping boys to it, and I really don’t like it.  I was thinking I need to be more intentional about planning meals and making more frequent, smaller runs to the store.  Kroger is almost walking distance from my house, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

When I got home, I cleaned out the pantry, fridge and freezer.  I did have to throw away some bad food.  It really bothered me.  I bought things I could freeze and fresh stuff in smaller quantities.  We’ll see how that plays out.

I also realized that Kroger has been training me on how to shop.  I like Kroger, but this made me a little sad.  I always look for the little yellow sale tags.  I like to get a deal and I don’t really want to pay full price.  I shop by price instead of brands.  Sometimes I look to see what my savings is over the full price and last night, I got a surprise.  The yellow tags are now in more places, but not with sale prices, but instead showing their everyday low price.  No sale here, just a highly visible price tag that looks like a sale price.  Yes, I’m a trained shopping monkey.  Yellow…

Helpful shopping tips I learned last night:

  • Budget. Know how much you’re willing to spend on groceries and shop within your budget.  If you bring cash instead of a debit card, you will have to stay within your budget.
  • Read the fine print. Look to see what your savings are.  I have seen items that say “on sale” and they have knocked off 1 penny.  Seriously?
  • You determine the deal. If you think it’s a good deal, then buy it.  If not, don’t.
  • Branch out. Be willing to try new brands or generic store brands.  Sometimes the product is just as good, and sometimes even made by the same company.
  • Duct tape.  Put duct tape on your kids so they can’t complain, fight and run around like wild banshees.  Okay, I’m kidding, but it does make you just throw stuff in the cart and hurry out when you have your restless kids with you.  For some of us, it’s not an option to leave them at home.  If you have that option, just do it.

Oct 14 2010

toms shoes vs. bobs skechers. for real?! [day 141]

I would have loved to be in the brainstorming meeting when the Skechers people thought this was a good idea…

Exactly copying Toms Shoes, marketing program and compassion program?  Why?  The compassion part is understandable if they are wanting to make a difference.  Not if they’re just wanting to compete to make a profit.  Compassion marketing is the hot thing these days, as I blogged on a couple of weeks ago, and I’m not against it, nor am I against Skechers making money, but their motive seems shady to me.

Brainstorming meeting.

It might have gone something like this…

[marketing dude] “Toms has a great concept and they’re selling a lot of shoes.  We need a product line to compete with them.”

[design chick] “Why don’t we make some fun canvas type shoes.  We can make them in many styles and colors.”

[other marketing guru] “Yes, Toms is doing this great thing where they give a pair of shoes to someone in need for each pair someone buys.”

[everyone] Hours later…  no revolutionary ideas.  Continue reading


Oct 3 2010

charitable marketing. yes or no? [day 129]

Is charitable marketing good?  I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as it’s a huge and fast-growing trend.  It works, but is it ethical and trustworthy?

As David Frey wrote on frugalmarketing.com, “Many savvy small businesses are affiliating themselves with charities to market their businesses. Not only is it a primary means for developing a powerful network but also it helps others in the process. People like to associate themselves with businesses that support causes, which help disadvantaged people in a meaningful way.”  And he follows that with, “Don’t think that charities are oblivious to your motivations. Most charities today understand your secondary purpose for participating in charities and are experienced at helping you receive a return on your charitable investments.”

I decided to research just a bit, as I find this concept very interesting.  Here’s 3 case studies from radically different businesses. Continue reading