Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Launch for Opportunity Rings



What?
You’re invited to the launch of Globe and Mail contributor Sheryl Steinberg’s new book, Opportunity Rings!

Thanks to June MacDonald who shared the invitation to this event.

Sheryl describes Opportunity Rings as a “comedic novel” about women and technology. It sounds like a fun read for any digital diva who loves gadgets. I won’t be able to make it so please let us know what you think if you go. Check out Sheryl’s Facebook page.

When?
Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009
7 p.m.

Where?
Indigo Books
Manulife Centre
55 Bloor St. W. (See map.)
Toronto

rsvp@keyporter.com

You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.

Today you’re a part of something special thanks to Keith McArthur who created the cluetrainplus10 project, celebrating the tenth anniversary of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

I’m one of 95 bloggers around the world who has volunteered to write about one of the 95 theses in the manifesto. The 95 theses examine the impact of the Internet on markets and organizations.


Monday, April 27, 2009

A baby registry primer

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares all the nitty gritty details of setting up a baby registry. (Warning: This is a long post but worth the effort.)

Depending on your cultural beliefs, you may decide to create a baby registry so friends and family can purchase things you really need for the baby’s impending arrival. Clothes tend not to get included because everyone buys cute baby outfits. But where is the best place to register?

There are many stores and specialty boutiques where you can register, especially in large communities like Toronto. However, if you have people spread out across the country, like we do, chances are you’ll need to go for one of the big three department stores like The Bay, Babies R US or Sears because they have locations nationally in case some are not comfortable shopping online. We obviously did not want to register at all three stores, so we did some research to try and figure out which store was the best for our needs.

Situation:
We’re busy parents-to-be (who’s not, I know?) – with a large, spread-out family – who purchase as much as we can online after an initial in-store visit to see/touch/feel items for ourselves.

The Bay
Pros:
Registry completion program: While the materials and consultant we spoke with at the baby show didn’t give specific information, they did indicate that there is special pricing for anything not purchased on your registry after the baby is born.
Provides registry checklists, which helps for determining number of gifts to put on registry.
Incentive offer at baby show
Reasonable prices

Cons:
Creating the registry online only allows you to choose from only two stores where you can go in and select gifts.
Can’t create your entire registry online, only the initial registrant information
Can only add or delete in store, or by phoning/emailing or faxing a gift registry consultant.
Selection varies store to store, and is very limited.

Babies R Us
Pros:
Depending on the size of the Toys R Us, the Baby section is almost large enough to be its own store.
Selection is great.
Contests to win gift certificate.
Bag of goodies for registering.
Can create entire registry online.
Can add or delete items online without having to go into a store.
Clearly show you what’s available to be purchased online or required to be purchased at store.
Reasonable prices (and often lowest of all three stores on comparable items/brands.)
Tools available online to help you start and complete the registry (popular items, buying guides and checklists.)

Cons:
No gift registry completion program.
Bag of goodies varies widely by store and is some what of a lottery.
Overall sense the company knows it’s got a stronghold on the baby market, so no real desire to woo consumers.

Sears
Pros:
Completion program.
Waiting Game Club.
Add or delete items online (requires knowledge of SKU numbers in most cases.)
Free Ship-a-gift service for out-of-town family who use the catalogue (and phone) to order your gift. Gifts will be shipped to your local store without additional cost to your family.
Like the other registries, Sears has checklists available to help you create your registry. In addition, there are some helpful hints (for first-timers) about things to think about when choosing particular items like car seats or change pads.

Cons:
Adding items isn’t the easiest, as you need to add by product number.
Prices were generally more expensive than the Bay or Babies R Us.
In-store selection small and varies widely by store.
Doesn’t actively promote the Completion program, only told in-store of its availability.

Based on the cost of items and lack of selection, we immediately narrowed down our options to the Bay and Babies R Us. Based on the completion program and that we received a $50 gift card for pre-registering at the baby show, we initially decided to go with the Bay.

However, things did not go according to plan. Arriving at the Bay a few days later to complete the rest of our registry (which would also activate the gift card), we were told that somehow we weren’t “in the system.” Even though I had all the paperwork from the show, they couldn’t start a new registry for us, or our gift card wouldn’t be valid. We were given two options:

1. Wait for them to call us and book an appointment, which they would do if they hadn’t heard from us in a few weeks; or,
2. Come back at another time to see if we were in the system.

Having already had two bad experiences with the Bay in the last couple of years (many of our wedding registry items took over six months to receive, and an online order that was finally deemed as “lost” and refunded three months after placing it), my husband and I decided this was the last straw. No matter how many incentives you offer, it doesn’t make up for horrible customer service. It’s now been four weeks since “pre-registering” and I still haven’t received a call from the Bay. And guess what? Our incentive gift card expires in two weeks. How many bets they call me minutes after the card expires?

Our final choice by process of elimination? Babies R Us. And you know what? Registering was a breeze. We had fun looking at all the items in store and then adding/updating our registry online with other products. The bag of goodies we received at our store was small, but really nice and personal. Among the coupons and some samples, it included a coupon for a free handprint plaque (complete with our baby’s prints), courtesy of our local store.

Of course what worked for me, may not be right for you. What the moral of this post comes down to is to determine what works best for you (can you go local, or do you need to go national for example) and what types of offers/incentives or bargains will help you decide where to register if you choose to do so.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

All silver tarnishes even at Tiffany

Last Saturday, I was at Yorkdale. The visit wouldn’t have been complete without a peek inside the long-awaited Tiffany store. (Anyone know why it was at least six months in the making and not open for the holiday season?)

I have two pieces of Tiffany silver jewelry - an Elsa Peretti “e” necklace and a link bracelet. I’d always been told Tiffany would clean them for life for me for free.

A couple months ago, I broke the delicate chain on the necklace. At the time, the Bloor St. location wasn’t as convenient as Yorkdale. So, I decided to wait and have an excuse to visit the new store.

As for my necklace, I did a dumb thing and didn’t put it back in it’s tarnish-resistant case while I was waiting to take it for repairs. I’ll know better for next time. In the meantime, I understand it will come back to me looking as good as new. (Note: for silver jewelry more than a year old, there is a repair charge.)

Since I was there, it only made sense to have my bracelet cleaned at the same time, right?

I was quite surprised when I saw a price list for silver cleaning at the customer service desk. The lovely and apologetic woman at the desk explained that they had to follow the policies at Tiffany New York and the policy changed last December. She went on to say how they now use a muti-step process which is more costly. For one-time only, I agreed to have my bracelet cleaned - partly because I had already handed it over.

When I returned a few hours later to pick up my bracelet, the woman in front of me was there to have her silver jewelry cleaned as well. She was shocked to learn about newly-implemented charges and went on to explain how she travels all over the world and never paid to have her jewelry cleaned at any of the Tiffany stores along the way. Glad to know I wasn’t the only customer who recalled the free cleaning service.

Times are tough, retailers are clamping down and I’m far from the typical Tiffany customer. However, this new policy made me think a lot about the Tiffany brand as a leader in customer service and how it’s being compromised during the recession. Aren’t there other ways retailers can trim expenses without having to hurt their long-established traditions of excellent customer service?

Unlike the Bloor St. store, Tiffany Yorkdale, is quite stripped down, although extremely busy and Tiffany blue bags can be seen throughout the mall. I wouldn’t have thought any less of them if the customer service desk wasn’t made of thick marble. Wonder how many cleaning charges it will take to pay for that?

As for me, next time I’ll save the $10 and polish it myself. ($10 goes along way when it comes to jewelry cleaning products that last forever, even Tiffany offers a wide-range of home cleaning solutions starting at $5 and up.)
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Shops at Don Mills

A few years ago, when Cadillac Fairview* announced it was going to demolish the Don Mills Shopping Centre, there was a huge public outcry. Today, with all the warm sunshine at newly opened The Shops of Don Mills – a new urban village – all that was forgotten.

People of all ages were roaming the sprawling space and enjoying the shows at the Town Square. Little ones splashed in the fountain, conveniently located outside a public washroom. Buskers were performing and for $5, you could even ride a Segway.

However, this is a shopping centre and most of the shops and restaurants hadn’t opened yet. Those that had, were full of people but it was hard to tell if the traffic was translating into sales. Most people weren’t walking around with bags but there were line-ups in the two stores I visited: McNally Robinson Booksellers (a Manitoba-based chain) and the much-anticipated, U.S.-based Anthropologie – home d├ęcor items were lovely and affordable, while clothing seemed overpriced and most wasn’t that different from anything I’d seen at shops like Aritzia, Mendocino or The Gap.

As for food, there will be an abundance of restaurants for sit-down dining and a Pizza Pizza for a quick bite. Food courts are a staple of indoor malls. I wonder how shoppers will manage without places to grab a quick bite on the go? For the next two weeks, there will be some food kiosks including Druxy’s and The Real Jerk – a real treat if you like Caribbean food – to bad it’s only temporary. For those of you true foodies (or foodie wannabees like me), stay tuned for Chef Mark McEwan’s gourmet food store opening this summer.

In all honesty, The Shops of Don Mills reminded me of a cross between a suburban big-box mall and a residential development with lots of free parking in a multi-level lot and bike racks. I prefer smaller shops on city streets but I will be back for at least one more visit once everything is open and while the weather is warm. I’m not so sure what this urban village will be like on rainy days or once the wrath of winter returns.

Have you visited The Shops at Don Mills yet? What did you think?

(*Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the owners of Cadillac Fairview, was my employer for almost 8 years. I never had any involvement in this project and my writing of this post is pure coincidence.)
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Monday, April 20, 2009

What NOT to buy for your new baby

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny explains why you won’t need to shop for baby clothes before you welcome your new baby into the world.

If there’s one thing you DON’T need to worry about buying before baby is born, it’s baby clothes.

I know, it seems counter-intuitive – what will poor baby wear? – but trust me on this. Save your money, at least until after baby arrives. Here’s why.

1. You’re likely to receive innumerable gifts of baby clothes after the birth even if you don’t have a baby shower. In my experience, it’s the number-one go-to gift from friends and family – especially hand-me-downs from anyone who’s already had their brood and has been hanging on to bins of good-condition newborn baby clothes in the hope of finding them a good home. (At this age babies grow out of their clothes quickly, and nothing gets worn out until baby starts to actually crawl.)

2. In the early weeks it’s easier to keep baby swaddled in a blanket or two rather than buttoned into a sleeper or onesie. This allows for faster unwrapping for that essential skin-to-skin bonding that helps your milk come in faster, and kick-starts baby’s nursing instincts (by the way, the same holds true for bottle feeding – baby feeds more effectively when skin-to-skin). It also allows for faster diaper changes – and there will be plenty of those, believe me!

3. Until your baby is born, you can’t know what size he or she will be. Don’t put too much faith in the tags that give age ranges or lbs – those are just a guideline. There are major variations between brands, and every baby is different. The photos above are of three sleepers, from three different brands (George, Snugabye, and Joe Fresh), all helpfully labeled 0-3 months – and as you can see, they vary greatly in length. If your little one turns out to be on the smaller side at first (as our most recent arrival was), you might find her swimming in onesies that are far too big despite being “right” for her age; or if your baby is longer (i.e. taller) than average (as our first-born was and still is), you might find that 0-3 month sleepers don’t offer enough room for her legs.

So when you pack for the trip to the hospital, bring just a few sleepers of various sizes and brands so you can pick the best-fitting one for the trip home; and when well-wishers ask if there’s anything baby needs, give them the specifics on weight and height to help them shop. At worst, you can always send the father or a grandparent on a quick trip to the nearest Real Canadian Superstore for some Joe Fresh sleepers or onesies. And you won’t end up with pangs of regret as you pack away or give away, unworn, the perfectly good baby clothes that never quite fit.
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lida Baday sample sale May 1

The one you’ve been waiting for is back...


What?
Lida Baday’s semi-annual sample sale

Her collection is available in only the finest department stores.

It’s one great sale you won’t want to miss! Whether you’re looking for something sophisticated for a day at the office, a night out on the town or that special something for an upcoming party, this Canadian designer is not to be missed.

When?
Friday, May 1, 2009
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

Where?
70 Claremont St.. (See map.)
Toronto
416-603-7661

Let us know what you get if you go.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Free tickets to The Clothing Show - May 1-3



Want free tix?
Once again, the nice people at
The Clothing Show are giving away three pairs of tickets to the first three of you who ask for them in the comments section of the blog. Make sure you mention you’d like a pair of tickets in your comment.

What?

The Clothing Show
Shop for unique finds from talented designers and artisans
Deep discounts on big name labels in the sample sales section and unique treasures from vintage and retro vendors
Runway fashion shows
Art gallery featuring works by local artists
Men’s & ECO sections!
Every visitor gets a goody bag
Enter to win a $1,000 shopping spree!

When?
Fri., May 1 – 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sat., May 2 – 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sun., May 3 – 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Where?
Better Living Center, Exhibition Place (See map.)
Toronto
Directions

How much?
Tickets $8 in advance or $10 at the door.

Let us know what you get if you go.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

Baby Show worth entry price for first-timers

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares her experience at the Baby Time show.

As per my previous post, my husband and I went to the 11th Annual Spring Baby Time Show the weekend before last.

First, let me say that if you are truly prepared and have shopped around at all the different baby stores time and time again, created your registry, and generally read every book or checked every baby website (or are on your third child), then this may not be the show for you. However, for anyone like us, (semi-researched, but completely clueless first-timers without a registry) I’d recommend paying the $15 entry fee.

Overall, we were really pleased with the show, but learned some valuable tips that would definitely have made the experience that much better in the future.

The show was held at the
International Centre, which is not great when there are several other shows running in the other exhibit halls. Parking is not exactly abundant if you don’t arrive when the doors first open. I wonder how many other pregnant woman raised an eyebrow and complained when told the main and secondary lots were full and that our best bet was the lot down the street next to the Go Station (read 15-minute walk.) With a baby on my sciatic nerve and a day on my feet ahead of me, schlepping to and from another parking lot wasn’t exactly high on my priority list. With a point at my ever-expanding belly by my husband, we were eventually waved through to find that there were indeed many parking spots still available.

Once inside, I realized my second mistake: I didn’t dress accordingly for the weather. Put that many pregnant women in one building (without visible coat checks) and you get a sauna! Having not been at the show for more than five minutes, Mark and I were already overwhelmed, and I was hot and cranky. Not a good start. Note to the organizers if you’re reading this: think about a bigger space for next year and lowering the heat a few degrees.

However, tuning out the crowds (did I mention I’d never seen so many pregnant women and babies all in one place!?), we were able to make use of the show. We filled our loot bags with goodies when the lines weren’t too long, pre-registered at The Bay (I’ll explain in another post, but it ended up being a waste of time) and attended some seminars.

The educational aspect was where we found the most value for our dollar. My last CPR re-training was nearing eight years ago so I was looking forward to a refresher course during The Learn to Rescue your Baby in 60 seconds from Choking and CPR seminar by 2Health. Instead, I got a wake up call. The seminar was an hour long, and those of us who attended were in agreement: this one seminar was worth the entire cost of admission for both Mark and I… and then some!

We left the show having only bought one item (a Silver Cross Micro that will make an excellent secondary stroller and was on sale for half price), but definitely more knowledgeable, loaded up with free samples and tons of information. We could wallpaper the nursery using the sheer number of pamphlets, cards and handouts we received, and we were being conservative!

Lessons Learned
Go early – especially to avoid the long line ups for free samples or discounted baby clothes

Pack a lunch and/or snacks – the food choices were limited, of dubious quality and very expensive

Dress appropriately – Bring a backpack and dress in layers to avoid carrying bulky coats and overheating

Spend time researching the seminars and info sessions – and plan your day accordingly. Not all shows are repeated each day of the show, so be sure to recheck which ones you want to take in.

Re-admission is possible for free – if you want to see a few shows one day and then some more the next day, you can – readmission was free if you stopped by the booth on the way out the door. It might help break up feeling overwhelmed and allow you to visit different booths at different days/times to avoid line-ups.

Sales are few and far between – as is the ability to buy everything you could need. While there were a few places to buy items and some decent sales, we didn’t find the kind of bargain shopping Mecca we’d expected.

Cameras and recording equipment are not allowed – So don’t plan to go taking pictures of things you want to buy so you can compare (or remember) them. Bring a pad of paper and a pen instead.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

TPOMBA Spring/Summer Sale - Apr. 25, 2009

This week’s baby bargainista is from our newest guest contributor, Tamera Kremer. Tamera became a new mom of twin girls in January. She also blogs Eco City Mama.

As any parent knows, having kids is expensive and they outgrow their gear faster than you’d like. In these tough economic times finding bargains is a must. The up-coming spring/summer sale hosted by the Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Association (TPOMBA), is a great option to stretch your budget and find great deals for your children.

The sale is includes gently-used clothing for newborns to size 12, toys, and equipment (such as strollers, high chairs, playpens, swings). All items are carefully screened and come directly from TPOMBA members.

TPOMBA members will shop first, but the sale opens to the public and with each item coming in twos or threes there will still be some terrific bargains left when it opens to the general population.

Sale details:

What?
TPOMBA Spring/ Summer Sale

When?
Sat., Apr. 25, 2009
7:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. (members’ only)
9:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m. (open to the public)

Where?
Cedarbrook Community Centre
91 East Park Blvd. (map)
Scarborough, ON
(near Lawrence Avenue and Markham Road)

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