This is where 'everything else' goes.

As Seen on (at) TV (Bed, Bath and Beyond)

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , , — Wigi @ 7:47 pm March 22, 2009

I don’t care for shopping… not even a little. A shopping trip with me almost always ends badly.

Since I don’t shop much, the latest trends in retail are lost on me. On the other hand, I did work in television for a while, so I am fairly tolerant of advertising, particularly television advertising… so while I might not be inclined to go into a store to buy something, I have a reasonably good idea of what might be out there on the market. I like to watch ads to see if the advertiser did a good job of getting his or her point across.

So the other day, we received a print ad for Bed, Bath and Beyond, and one of the family members pointed out that on the back page of the ad, it showed that they had “Pedi-Paws”, which is basically a manicure device for your pets. This is one of those cases where advertising meets need – we have a neurotic dog that hates to have his feet touched, much less have his nails clipped… So we have been contemplating this purchase for a while. The impediment was ordering it by mail, and the wait. So when we found out that you could walk into a store and buy it, we were sold (that and the $10 off coupon sealed the deal).

So yesterday evening, off we went to Bed, Bath and Beyond. When you combine my disdain for shopping with the kind of merchandise that one might find at Bed, Bath and Beyond, it is no surprise that last night’s trip was my first visit there… ever.

It wasn’t what I expected.

It was as if Crate and Barrel, JC Penney, TJ Maxx and Costco had a four-way love child. Every endcap had an “As Seen On TV” item. “Pedi-Paws” was right by the front door, which for the Anti-Shopper, was incredibly convenient. They had those bowl-sealing things – those were on clearance for $5. They even had that item that looks like a bluetooth headset, but is really a hearing aid.

It was like walking into the Infomercial Store.

There were ten thousand of every kitchen gadget ever. The “Mandolin Slicer?” . . . Had it.

Strangely, I had a certain curiousity about the things I saw in there. It wasn’t a consumer curiousity, but more of a people-watching or car crash curiousity… except for retail items.

Living in Alaska, you live a relatively sheltered life when it comes to the retail world. If a big retailer comes to Alaska, it is probably the end of their growth cycle: Target. Kohls. Bed, Bath and Beyond. They arrive here with a bit of fanfare. Ultimately, they’re just another store. And I feel a little bit of culture shock when I go into these places. Every square inch of usable merchandising space is occupied, managed, and designed to put these consumer items within easy reach of you as you walk through the store… and as a result, puts your hard-earned dollars within easy reach of their cash register.

But I have to hand it to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Were it not for the “As Seen on TV” items, there would be virtually no reason for me to ever go back there. I doubt I would make a special trip back… but if I was in the neighborhood, I might stop in… Which is what I do when I go to the local mall, where they have a “Hotdog on a Stick.”. If you’ve never been, it is worth the visit.

Inspired by Daylight Savings Time

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 7:52 pm November 17, 2008

One of the operational premises behind daylight savings time is that by setting your clock ahead at 2 am on a Sunday morning, you minimize the impact of the time change. At 2 AM on a Sunday, almost everyone is asleep. Very few people are going to miss an appointment because they were supposed to meet someone at 2:30 AM, and the clock on that day went from 1:59 to 3:00. Other than sleeping, what were you doing with that hour, anyway?

One way to interpret this is that the people who created Daylight Savings Time didn’t think much of the 2 AM hour on a Sunday morning.

What an inspired thought!

If you could do that with an hour, couldn’t you also do it with a day, or even a week? What about a whole ‘season’?

I don’t think too much of Christmas, or Christmas shopping, or for that matter, shopping – but Christmas shopping is just the nexus of two really bad ideas – two bad tastes that go bad together [sic]. Retailers have been encroaching on my sensibilities for months, but all hell is going to break loose very shortly. So I have a plan.

At 2 AM this Sunday, I am setting my calendar ahead to January 2, 2009.

Problem solved!

(I know what your thinking… the answer is, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are available on DVD. You can watch them anytime.)

Kid Chow

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 9:15 pm October 21, 2008

I don’t have kids.
I never wanted kids.
I did once.
But I laid down,
and the feeling went away.
My partner has kids.
They’re really kids in adults clothing.
One of the kids has kids.
The kid’s kid spent the weekend with us.
it was off to the store.
To get food for the kids’s kid.
and chocolate milk.
And bread,
and ham.
Cereal and regular milk, too.
So as I navigated the aisles,
food for the kid’s kid filled the basket.
And then I noticed it.
Froot Loops.
But not the cereal.
Cereal straws.
Adults would call these ‘cookies’.
Except they’re Froot Loop-colored
and flavored.
I guess they’re a guise.
“Drink all your milk, Jenny.”

No sugar shortage here.

The Intangibles

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , , — Wigi @ 9:28 pm October 18, 2008

It is Saturday morning, and my usual Saturday ritual is without direction.

My partner and I have made it a habit to take off on most Saturday mornings to get breakfast somewhere. For a long time, we went to a place in midtown, where we found good food and a very friendly server, who was the inspiration for a blog I wrote way back when entitled Sunny Side Up. When we went, we would always try to sit in her section, but even when we didn’t (or couldn’t), she would always come by and say hello.

Since that time, our favorite server has departed for greener pastures. We hadn’t heard that she left… we went a few times and noticed that she was missing… but for all we knew, she was on vacation or something. The strange thing was, the quality of the food seemed to drop, too. The eggs weren’t cooked correctly, things would be cold… Nothing else had changed… same owners, same crowd.

After three or four visits, we concluded that our friend had left… but more importantly, we weren’t enjoying the food, and we were not enjoying our visits to this particular restaurant. I don’t know how or why, but the departure of one server had made a profound difference in the quality of the entire experience… not just the service, but the food, too.

I must say that I am a creature of habit, and that might be a part of it. There is a convenience store that I go to on weekday mornings for coffee… and there is a rather pleasant guy there that I joke around with… and while I don’t go out of my way to go there to see HIM, if he didn’t make the visit a pleasant experience, I might get my coffee elsewhere.

There’s something to be said for being seen as a ‘regular’. You don’t really get any better service… or at least, you shouldn’t. But it is nice to be recognized, and it is nice that you get some value out of your visit that goes beyond just the item you pay for.

Back about fifteen years ago my job took me to Pearl River, LA for an extended work trip. At the time I was living in California, so there was a slight amount of culture shock that I experienced in the five weeks there… but it showed up most interestingly when I would go out to eat. Pearl River isn’t very big, so when you stopped in at a place, it only took one or two visits before people started to know who you were.

The most striking thing I noticed was when you left a restaurant (or any other place, for that matter), the server would say, “Y’all come back and see us…” Of course, this is just the bayou way of saying ‘please come again’, but it was so different from what I was used to that it made an impression on me… and I would suggest that it was subtly but substantively different, though I wasn’t sure of that at first. I became sure when I went to a diner in downtown Pearl River. A co-worker and I walked in and sat down. We immediately attracted withering stares from a woman standing behind the counter. The interesting thing was, this woman looked and sounded exactly like one of the women who worked in our Pearl River office…

The woman came to our table, and started quizzing us about who we were – apparently Pearl River doesn’t get too many visitors… especially visitors with a distinctive non-bayou accent. When we told her where we worked, her entire countenance changed. It turned out that she was the twin sister of the woman at our office. We went from suspicious carpetbaggers to long-lost relatives in the span of a sentence. And when we left and she said, “Y’all come back and see us…” you could tell that she would have been disappointed if we hadn’t.

I think a lot of owners and managers don’t look at the intangibles when it comes to marketing their products and services. I hate going to Costco or Sam’s Club, because I feel like the relationship part of the experience is stripped out so that customers can save fifty cents on a twenty pound tub of grated cheese. But, at least for me, the whole experience is important. When I go out to eat, I want to enjoy the entire experience. When I go to a store, I’d like to know that there’s someone there that wants to help me, if I need it.

After my partner and I realized that our favorite server had bolted from our breakfast haunt, we started looking for a new place to go. We found a place, and immediately liked it… but our second visit was troubling – when there were errors in our order, the server had excuses rather than solutions. The third visit was worse than the second… the food was room temperature, and the service was slow. So today, we’re without a breakfast haunt.

A couple of weeks ago I was walking out of the grocery store, and I ran across my wayward server friend. She immediately saw me and ran over and hugged me. I told her how much we missed her, and that we don’t go there anymore, since she’s not there. She could barely hide her contempt for her former employer… and she thought we were sweet for changing our habits when she left. She told me that she had a new job, and she was working at a different restaurant. Unfortunately, she’d taken a job with a one of the chain restaurants… and as much as I like her, it isn’t enough to get me to go eat there. I am glad she’s landed on her feet… but finding her didn’t solve my problem.

So now I am getting hungry, and it looks like it will be me cooking… which is fine… I like to cook. But in the meantime, my Saturday morning quest continues, for je ne sais pas…

Late Night in the Checkout Line

Filed under: Life — Tags: , , — Wigi @ 9:47 pm May 11, 2008

I was at the grocery store just a bit ago, and the woman ahead of me had a very interesting set of items:

20 Mothers Day cards
1 bottle of Tums

I suppose if you need 20 Mothers Day cards, it is a good bet you need Tums.

Round Numbers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Wigi @ 10:19 pm March 22, 2008

I am just a few days from departing on my twice-annual pilgrimage to the place of my birth, Washington, DC. Whenever I go back, I often find myself immersed in nostalgia for things that I remember from my childhood – Some rather impressive and grand, such as school field trips to the Smithsonian, and others rather mundane.

My mother still shops at the same grocery store that she did when I was very small… An independent grocery store with only one location. She likes that store because they have excellent meats.

When I was a kid, my mother would take us shopping with her, and she would walk the aisles, routinely grabbing things off of the shelves and placing them in the basket. At some point, we would find ourselves at the Deli counter. The store was always busy, so it was rare that you would walk up and be served right away. Off to one side, there was a little machine, where you’d pull down a handle, and out would pop a a little ticket with a number on it. As a kid, it was always a special treat to get to “pull the handle”.

As you walked up to the Deli, you’d see the number, and wonder what number you would get. The mechanical sign behind the counter would read, “NOW SERVING: 9″ and when you went to pull the handle and get your ticket, you wondered if you were going to get number 10, or number 17.

I was thrilled when I got number 10… but as a kid, you start to wonder… What if someone else has also has number 10? What if she just skips past you, and on to number 11, or stops taking numbers altogether? Of course, she would always serve number 10, but it always took longer than you thought it should.

However long the wait, it was always worth it. They really did have the best meat anywhere. In fact, it would have been worth the wait even if I was number 11!