Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Should retailers be responsible for all comments made by their employees?

Yesterday I purchased a pair of Vans KISS Sk8-Hi Skate shoes for my son. I’m not sure about you but buying footwear for either of my sons is such a chore. So, when we were shopping with my nephews for winter boots and L’il Spo just had to have these shoes, I obliged on one condition. I needed to know they could be returned. Yes, they could... for a full refund within seven days as long as he didn’t wear them outside and we kept the bill. Why? Because I know he tends to get suckered in by the appearance and often complains about the fit when he gets home.

Last night I checked them out on the Getoutsideshoes.com. Surprise, they were on sale for $15 less than what I paid in the store. I called them right away and very politely told the woman who answered the phone. She was most apologetic and said sometimes the “north” store doesn’t have its systems up-to-date but that I could come in and get a price adjustment. The refund policy would still stand. Today I went back to the store, presented my bill and got a refund for the difference between the regular and sale prices. Painless.

Sounds great, right? We’ll not really. Getoutside is right on when it comes to customer service policies. The staff could have been more helpful though. They weren’t very attentive when we needed help – there was plenty of staff – the store is set up in a self-serve manner but we were shopping for kids’ footwear and stores selling to kids need to be more accommodating.

But that’s not the issue that concerned me most. When I called back last night, the woman I spoke to was lovely and accommodating. She wanted me to know it was an honest mistake. The problem was how she said it – she said, “I wasn’t trying to gyp you or anything.” Yikes! I never assumed she was.

There’s no excuse for racist remarks even when said out of ignorance. Regardless, that type of comment never sits well. I think it reflects as poorly on the store as it does the employee. What about you?

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Bargainista’s list of 2009 Boxing Day Sales

This list will be updated continuously so check it often. You may also want to click through to Bargainista’s comprehensive list on Twitter.

If you find a sale that isn’t listed here please add it by leaving a comment or e-mail me and we’ll do our best to post it quickly.

Sumaya is helping out this year. The ˆES or ˆSK at the end of each tweet represents our intials.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HoHoTO Hangover Auction - the Daily Bread Food Bank

On Wednesday night I attended #hohoTO - the third event in a series initially conceived on Twitter by some hardworking Toronto folks a little over a year ago. Last year everyone thought it was incredible the community raised $25,000 within a matter or days. In August, the tally approached $15,000.

This time around, thanks to almost 700 people who bought tickets and a truckload of sponsors and prizes raffled off at the event, almost $50,000 was raised for the Daily Bread Food Bank. But see, that’s the hitch. Not quite $50,000 was raised and there are still some prizes that weren’t claimed at the event. So, what’s a savvy organizing team to do? Have a HoHoTO Hangover Auction on Twitter, of course.

You can share in the fun and holiday cheer Tuesday, December 22, starting at 8 p.m. ET. All you need is a Twitter account and your chequebook. Besides, doesn’t it feel good when you can do your holiday shopping and help others in need at the same time? See you there!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Tis’ the season - part 2

I hope you enjoy this second of two-part guest post from two savvy shoppers I work with at iStudio’s sister company. None of their suggestions are from client companies. Lauren and Lauren are in PR, both work at Fleishman-Hillard. They occasionally spend lunch window shopping and wishing to be begifted. Happy Shopping!

6) Sarah Jessica Parker brought back the flower accessory and Club Monaco has run with it making the flower accessory accessible for every woman. Whether you want all black, or a punch of colour these headbands are the perfect touch of femininity. Wear yours out with the girls, out with the boy, or in the office.

7) So we’ve just dealt with our first blast of winter…what a perfect time to break out those Sorel boots. Functional, yet with a touch of style, these boots were made for the Canadian women walking to work, the grocery store or just a night out at the movies. These boots can be found almost anywhere, but they go fast so make sure you get yours early.

8) We all know that accessories can totally make an outfit. What better time of year to spice up your favourite pair of boy jeans or that little black dress? Hidden on the top floor of a converted house in Yorkville, Betsey Johnson’s jewelry line is so unique there’s something for everyone and every occasion.

9) Let’s be honest, we live in Canada and its cold. We love long scarfs that not only keep you warm but that look great. Burberry does a great job with scarfs, and who doesn’t love matching ear muffs to create the look. While Burberry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, GAP also has long and great scarfs in different patterns.

10) With all this shopping it’s time for a quick break for High Tea at the Windsor Arms Hotel. Classy all the way, this afternoon delight will put a smile on anyone’s face. And who better to share an afternoon tea in the laps of luxury than with your fave lil sis who is probably the only other person out there who gets just how important all these things are.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bargainista interviews Matt Kantor from Little Kitchen

Matt Kantor is the Chef/Owner of Little Kitchen, based in Toronto, cooking dinner parties and teaching professional culinary tricks and techniques in people’s homes and other private venues.

What inspires you?

Two things: making people happy and creating tasty food with interesting textures and flavors. The best thing for me is developing a dish with unusual combinations of flavor and texture, and watching my guests’ faces light up when they take a bite.

Where did you train to be a chef?

I attended Culinary Institute of America, but the real training was working at some world class restaurants and with some great cooks in the US and briefly in Europe. I also do considerable research. I eat out constantly, trying to see what people are doing in Toronto. There are some really good chefs in this town.

Why do people invite personal chefs to their homes?

I think the main reasons are to experience something that is different but also customized to their tastes. In some cases, it's easier than getting a babysitter, and it’s also a way to entertain without spending all the social time behind the stove.

How much does it cost to hire Little Kitchen for an evening?

It’s really dependent on what kind of experience you want, because we do customize the experience to your tastes. The number of people, the number of courses and the kind of food will determine the cost. As I am just launching this endeavour, I am keeping the prices on the low side. Compared to going out for a similar level of quality, I think it’s a good value, and the interactivity can be a good learning experience if you want to pick up some cooking tips.

What is the most interesting dish you've ever prepared and why?

I’ve done a good amount of avant-garde and contemporary food in my day, but I love working with pasta and rice, because both make such a great canvas for working with so many different flavors that cater to people's needs. Risotto is a good example of this: beets, mushrooms, cauliflower, sea urchin, squash, asparagus, chocolate...the list goes on.

Why Twitter and Facebook? Are they helping you build your business? How do you know?

In general, knowing that SocialMedia is helping you build business is not a clearcut thing – which I am still discovering – it’s new to most of us. I rely on analytical tools on all my software to track engagement, but its ultimately about developing good relationships and engaging with the people you want to work with. For larger companies, a good suggestion is to work with a communication strategist to identify marketing channels and create a communication plan.

photo credit:
Matt Kantor by lexnger on flickr

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis’ the season - part 1

I hope you enjoy this two-part guest post from two savvy shoppers I work with at iStudio’s sister company. None of their suggestions are from client companies. Lauren and Lauren are in PR, both work at Fleishman-Hillard. They occasionally spend lunch window shopping and wishing to be begifted. Happy Shopping!

Whether you’re celebrating Chanukah or Christmas or anything in between, this is the season to spread the joy of giving. Since we know this is the season of giving, let’s not pretend we don’t want anything, when we really do. If you’re going to give – give right. Here is the list of our holiday top 10 picks and for you gentleman reading, the way to any lady’s heart. If you get really excited and carried away, don’t worry – Valentine’s Day is around the corner.

1) The longing of every woman who loves shoes – Christian Louboutin. Maybe not a unique find that no one knows about – but they’re hot and we all know it. C. Louboutin is a French designer who started designing in 1992 after being inspired by a piece of art in a Paris museum. 17 years later we have GORGEOUS shoes with a red sole you can’t and don’t want to miss If anyone is interested, I’m at size 6 and she’s a size 7, and we have been eyeing the black suede pumps for 8 months, two weeks, three days, five minutes and 10 seconds. But whose counting.

2) We are fairly picky when it comes to underwear. And not to divulge too much, but our favourite is Hanky Panky. Not only do they come in every colour imaginable, they’re lace, one size fits all panties/thongs that don’t dig in where they shouldn’t! Who could ask for anything more? While they’re a little expensive, what do you wear more than underwear? They’ve also gone e-commerce and can be bought online. P.S. I’m wearing black boy shorts and she’s wearing the hot pink low rise thong.

3) FACE atelier, a Canadian makeup brand, is a makeup artist and celebrity favourite – worn by Lady Gaga, Rachel Ray and Fergie! The lip glazes – Peach, Flamingo and Cameo, are apparently amazing. Non sticky and cover perfectly. I’d like to see one of each in my stocking on Christmas morning. Lucky for the other Lauren, FACE atelier is her mother’s company and she’s been in the know for years! For me, I’m working to catch-up.

4) Like most women, we like perfume – you know… that extra touch to finish a look. But who wants to wear a scent named after Paris Hilton– not us. We want something more personal and voila – Aromachology, a NEW custom perfume line. It works by filling out a personality profile, and then the ladies of Aromachology blend a custom scent based on your personality. While we may have the same name, we definitely have different personalities. I think I would be Clean and Fresh, while Lauren is probably Exotic and Spicy Oriental. Check out Aromachology at The Bay on Queen Street from December 18-24.

5) Holiday season brings a lot of evening outings… and what does every girl need for an evening out? A trusty clutch. Sometimes less is more and that’s why we love the simplicity yet modern and classic look of M0851 envelope clutches. Hidden on a small side street off of Bloor Street, these clutches come in all colours and we dare you to just walk out with one.
To be continued...

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kim Vallée’s at home with the Star today

I was thrilled for my friend Kim, of At Home with Kim Vallée when I received a direct message on Twitter from her out of the blue this morning asking me to let people know she was going to be interviewed live on thestar.com at noon. Readers would be able to send in their questions and if chosen, have them answered in real time.

Not only do I think Kim has an incredible sense of style and wonderful insights and advice about home entertaining but I know she’s a very bright woman who works non-stop. So, when I learned she was being featured in today’s Toronto Star, I was overjoyed for her.

If like me you were tied up at noon, have no fear. thestar.com archived the discussion. Unfortunately, I can’t share the article Kim had published in the print version of the paper because it’s not available online.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tassimo Smart Talk event – an inside view

A few weeks ago, Candice Shirreff, Sarah Roger and I shared our experiences with our new Tassimo beverage systems that we each had the good fortune of winning either on Twitter or by entering to attend the TASSIMO Smart Talk event in Toronto as Candice did and won the opportunity to attend and walk away with her own machine. I caught up with Candice and asked her to share her experience.

Candice, you won tickets to a TASSIMO smart talk event in Toronto with Sarah Richardson and Nik Manojlovich. What did you think? Did you leave feeling pressured to discuss the event or the Tassimo system?

Being a big fan of Sarah Richardson, I was really excited to attend this fairly intimate event about interior design and entertaining – although I have to say that leading up the event I did not really know what to expect. How many people would attend? The invitation said bring your questions so I thought it would be a relatively intimate setting but it ended up being bigger than I thought. Also, the invitation said the event would last from 1:00-4:00 p.m. – what were we to do for 3 hours?

Anyway, here is what really happened:

My guest and I arrived at 1:00 p.m. or shortly after and was greeted by several Tassimo staff who directed us to the ticket station where my guest and I were signed in. My guest was given a ballot for a chance to win the $10,000 Bosch kitchen. So, we proceeded to the Great Room and immediately saw a huge sign at the other end of the room that read Ballot Here (or something of the like). So that is where we headed.

Afterwards, we noticed that there were a series of Tassimo stations where staff were brewing everyone drinks. Unfortunately, the lines were too long and the brewing took too long that my guest and I gave up and grabbed some water before heading into the auditorium to grab a seat. We figured we also would have lots of time to test out the machine after receiving the free machine at the end of the show. Needless to say, we needed a little more time to get our own Tassimo beverage – but water would do since I didn't want to miss Sarah Richardson.

After waiting a few minutes for those who decided to wait for their Tassimo beverages to finish brewing in the Great Room – Nik Manojlovich came out to introduce himself and his history with Tassimo - which all started at a cottage a couple years ago. Throughout his introduction and chat with Sarah Richardson he would give out Tassimo products and Tassimo staff would brew selected products for audience members.

The chat itself was great – the only downside for myself was the fact that audience members brought their personal decorating questions along. I didn’t think those were the types of questions the event planners had in mind – but Sarah did a wonderful job of generalizing her answers so that they could apply to anyone.

When the event ended, and before it did, people began running back to the Great Room to get their free machines but before everyone left, Nik Manojlovich encouraged everyone to share their Tassimo machine and its beverages with friends and family – but by no means did I feel any pressure to “sell” this product to others.

My guest and I then made our way to the Great Room, which quickly turned into a bit of a mess with the usual pushing and chaos that happens when things are free. This is coming from someone who avoids sales for that very reason. I am about enjoying my purchasing experience, or this case - free experience, rather than saving 10%. Anyway, I quickly got my beautiful burnt-orange Tassimo machine and made my way out in amongst a sea of people trying to trade machine colours.

Thank you Tassimo for a great event and fun take-home prize!

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Teaching children to give back

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny talks about teaching her daughter to help give back to less fortunate children.

Along with holiday-related stress, the onset of the holiday season always brings thoughts of those less fortunate than ourselves. This year we decided our 5-year-old is old enough to understand the plight of the needy, in the simplest terms of course, and to join the family in giving back to the community through support of a charity.

For the past couple of years we’ve encouraged her to go through her toy collection and fill a bin with items that are still in good condition which she no longer wants or plays with, to donate to Goodwill. (As a bonus, this helps us to clear some space in our house for the new gifts Santa is bound to bring!)

This year, we started giving her a small allowance, and with a little help with the math she determined how much to set aside each week for spending, saving, and “sharing” or charity. This week we took the total “sharing” amount to the local toy store and she chose a new, unwrapped toy to give to a toy drive that the store supports.

She really seemed to enjoy the experience of picking out a toy for another child, and to understand for the first time the value of giving and helping others. Now we’re wondering how we can expand on this next year!

How do you encourage your kids to give back to the community during the holidays? At what age do you think it’s appropriate for them to volunteer their time as well as their cash?

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bargainista interviews Edmoure Ralph

I discovered a real hidden gem during my recent visits to LIV by Au Lit, a new jewellery line called Edmoure Ralph founded by two talented women both named Julie. As a gift for attending the private party, I received my first pair of Edmoure Ralph earrings. I received another pair as a gift a couple days later, as a thank you for spending more than $100 at LIV during a holiday event. Part of my purchase included an outstanding Edmoure Ralph necklace.

Today marks the official opening on Edmoure Ralph’s online store so I thought it was only fitting to publish my recent interview with Julie and Julie.

Where does the name Edmoure Ralph come from?
The name Edmoure Ralph was inspired by our grandfather’s names. We wanted the name of our company to reflect the bold yet timeless quality of our design aesthetic. The names are classic in themselves and the combination of the two evokes a certain unexpected impact – just as jewellery pieces do. It's also nice to have some sentimental meaning behind the name of our brand!

What inspires you?
Before we started Edmoure Ralph, we struggled as consumers to find jewellery that satisfied our desire for well-made pieces that are priced reasonably and look like a million bucks! There's a lot of costume jewellery out there, but it often caters to specific trends and is not necessarily designed with longevity in mind. We believe that jewellery (even if it's not “fine jewellery”) should uphold a certain quality and deserves to be enjoyed for many seasons to come. We’re inspired to produce Canadian-made, original pieces that can effortlessly transition between seasonal trends.

What inspires your designs?
We both come from design backgrounds – graphic design and art history, so we are intrinsically inspired by all things beautiful. While we constantly look to current fashion trends for ideas, we can't help but find inspiration from the past and we're naturally drawn to vintage-inspired materials. Materials like raw brass, pearls and cameos often influence our initial designs, but we also incorporate more contemporary design elements to achieve our final look. For example, the pearls might be the inspiration, but the way in which we layer them with other materials is how we achieve the Edmoure Ralph look.

When did you start designing jewellery?
For years we’ve shared design ideas and often joked about starting a jewellery line. It wasn’t until the last year or so that we joined forces to satisfy what we believe is a growing niche for a well-priced, good-quality jewellery line.

What would you like people to know about your approach to design?
The Edmoure Ralph approach to design stems from the idea that jewellery is the icing on the cake when it comes to putting a look together. We all know how our wardrobes can feel tired at times and accessorizing is an easy way to freshen up any outfit. We approach our collections with versatility in mind and strive to design jewellery pieces that can stand on their own or be layered for varying looks. Each piece is an accessory staple in its own right, but can be transformed when mixed with another!

Why Twitter and Facebook? Are they helping you build your business? How do you know?
Both Twitter (@edmoureralph) and Facebook have been essential networking tools for the growth of our new business. We’ve made so many connections with new clients and other professionals in the industry and we've also been able to get some honest feedback about our product. For a new small business, it's also been a cost-effective way to launch our line and get our name out there!

When is Edmoure Ralph’s online store opening?
Today! To celebrate the opening of the Edmoure Ralph online shop, we’re offering complimentary shipping on purchases over $100! Place your order by December 16 and we’ll make sure you receive it by December 24. Enjoy!
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I Love Sample sale

I Love Sample sale featuring premium denims, clothing and more for both men and women all at fantastic discounts. Designers include citizen of Humanity, Robins Jeans, Christian Audigier, Dylan George, Tenstate, Local Good, Paco Chicano, Crystal Rock and Glamour Campaign.

90 Wingold Ave., Unit 7 (map)

Wednesday, Dec. 9: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 10: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Friday, Dec 11: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Cash, Debit, Visa, Mastercard, Amex

Parasuco Jeans Warehouse Sale

Up to 80% OFF
5 days for men’s and women’s fashions.

Just in time for the holidays, an awesome selection of world famous Parasuco Jeans for women and men, including Awesome Denim, T-shirts, Jackets, Leathers, Accessories, Party Dresses and lots more – all at up to 80% off. Hurry in for the best selection.

The International Centre - Hall 4 (map)
6900 Airport Road
Mississauga, ON

Thursday, Dec. 10: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 11: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 12: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 13: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Visa, Mastercard, Debit or Cash

Lots of free parking

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Gotstyle Ladies Only Exlusive Shopping Event

Gotstyle - Ladies only exclusive shopping event. Shop for menswear while drinking champagne and having hot male models try on clothes for you! Beats the mall any day.

Wed Dec. 9- Thurs Dec. 10

489 King St West (map)
Toronto, ON

If you go, leave a comment and let us know what you find.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Baby Teresa – the gift that keeps on giving

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares this gift idea courtesy of Kathryn Lagden (@klagden) who suggested the idea.

If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season for a baby in your life that keeps on giving, consider a Baby Teresa outfit. The brainchild (and passion) of Tasmanian entrepreneurs Sammie Appleyard and Kirsty Dunphey, Baby Teresa “gives you an opportunity to Buy Once, Share Twice.”

When you purchase a Baby Teresa onesie, not only does the baby you purchase it for get an outfit, but so does another baby in need. For every outfit you buy, a second one is donated! At a cost of just $29.95 for a short sleeved onesie and $34.95 for those with both long sleeves and those adorable covered feetsies (Prices are in Australian dollars, which are nearly equivalent to CDN dollars right now.) That’s one feel-good holiday gift you can get behind. It’s only $5 for International postage – a bargain when you consider the cost of shipping some items across the border or across town these days. 

These 100% cotton onesies currently come in two colours, Lan Orange and Hieu Blue, and in two sizes: 0-6 and 6-12 months. There are plans to expand (at least colour wise) in the coming months/year.

Having just launched three short months ago, the first donation site was for newborns and moms in need, in the home state of the organization’s founders. Eventually these two ladies made a goal of clothing babies in need around the world. So far they’ve managed to make a second set of donations in Uganda and are looking to continue from there.

They “are inspired by the Mother Teresa quote ‘If you can’t feed 1000 people, then feed one,’ and want to help people clothe one baby.”

You can also help by spreading the word and/or by becoming a Fan on Facebook.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Experiencing FACE atelier at IMATS

By now you know I’m a big fan of both Canadian businesses and cosmetics. So, when I had the opportunity to meet Debbie Bondar, CEO of FACE atelier, I jumped at the chance. FACE atelier has developed a cult following with celebrity make-up artists and can be seen on many famous faces including Madonna and Lady Gaga.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I was more excited about – meeting an inspiring and successful woman behind a cult cosmetics firm on the verge of greatness or checking out some of the unique products in the FACE atelier line. 

Thanks to FACE atelier. I had a press pass to the recent IMATS show in Toronto. So did my friend, Anita Clarke so we decided to check it out together. We spent most of the time having our make-up applied by a make-up artist at the FACE atelier booth.

What we heard was true, the foundation is fantastic – we each got to take some Ultra Foundation Pro home – and I’ve been using mine faithfully ever since. Sorry Bobbi Brown I really liked using Skin Foundation SPF 15 but FACE atelier is a bit easier to apply, feels just as light but seems to really enhance my appearance. I’m not ready to hand over my Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge just yet but I have been alternating with FACE atelier’s powder blush that comes in an easy-open, one-piece compact for easier handling.

Two products I’ve tried and will be adding to my make-up bag soon are the lip glaze (it’s not gummy or sticky like other products I’ve tried) and the transforming gel – it turns any powder into a paint – perfect for turning regular eye shadow into gel liners – I’ve either been using other gel liners but have been disappointed in the lack of colour options or mixing contact lens solution with my eye shadow with so-so results. I also came to the realizing that make-up brushes really do make a difference and it’s worth investing in the best quality ones you can afford.

Find FACE atelier
online or in select locations.
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bargainista’s shopping tips at Yummy Mummy Club

I spend a lot of time on Twitter and one of the things I’ve noticed over the past several years has been the rise in activity among Canadian moms. At the centre of much of it is a woman you may remember from her MuchMusic VJ days, Erica Ehm. Over the past several years, she reinvented her brand. Now she’s known as Erica Ehm, the mom and founder of the popular and newly, redesigned YummyMummyClub.ca – an online community with a realistic view of moms. Say hi to Erica on Twitter - @YummyMummyClub - she’s very real and friendly.

Regardless, you don’t need to be a mom to check out the 16 shopping blog posts on YummyMummyClub this month. While you’re there, check out Tips to Save You Time and Money this Holiday Season by yours truly. (Big thanks to Erica for including me.)

Join Yummy Mummy Club. It’s free, you’ll have opportunities for all sorts of giveaways and receive the newsletter. Rumour has it tomorrow’s issue has my post and other great shopping tips.

Anything I missed? Add it to the comments.
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