Monday, December 21, 2009

Only ___ online shopping hours until Christmas (fill in the blank)

Do you shop online? Do you do this routinely, or just at Christmas?

I ask because a big part of the news coverage this holiday season, as it was last year, was how our retail economy is faring in a generally bad economy. And while I don't know anyone personally who's forcibly unemployed, I'm sure that people I know DO know such folks, as you might. So, with all of that going on, the media has been highlighting every trend in retail sales since Thanksgiving, trying to divine some meaning that will tell us where the economy is headed.

And today's morning news coverage spoke volumes about how fragile this economy has become as retailers all along the east coast suffered because of the wintry blast that dumped feet or at least many inches of snow on major cities. But what I didn't see is any mention of a corresponding jump in retail sales by homebound shoppers looking to check off their shopping list.

I actually had a customer once who ran a family-owned business and surrendered the child-rearing and housekeeping duties to her husband. When the seasonal subject of Christmas shopping arose she sighed and said, "My children don't get anything for Christmas that cannot be bought online." And she meant it, as well as her own emotions, as that meant that there would never be anything that could not be shipped, so no ponies or anything absurdly large. And that also meant that there would be nothing unique that she would simply encounter by chance in a store on a side street where she was forced to park.

Kinda takes the fun out of it, don't you think?

For my part, we do some shopping online every year, although the amount varies from year to year. And in some years we have to shop online for the Colorado branch of our family, as there are retail establishments, restaurants and such that we simply don't have in Kentucky, so if you want to buy from them, that's the only way. But for the most part it works, stuff is in stock, they'll gift-wrap your items and the shipping is often free. But most importantly for me the lines are a hell of a lot shorter than at the traditional bricks-and-mortar store locations.

So I don't think I'll be following the lead of my former customer, but if you're already there, good for you, as you've injected a little more efficiency into the process. Unless you simply can't stop shopping, which means you now have about eighty hours until Christmas.....


Monday, December 7, 2009

The Christmas-yard dash

My wife and I did our Christmas shopping over the weekend.

You read that correctly. We didn't start the process, nor did we "get a leg up" on the entire shopping list. We completed ALL of our holiday shopping. And did so in a foreign location called Cincinnati, Ohio.

Allow me to explain....

Two or maybe three times a year, we make a trip to Cincinnati, largely because it's the biggest and best city that's less than two hours away by car. Because my job requires me to travel extensively, I accumulate a large quantity of hotel points, so we use those points for a room at a better hotel chain. And because the hotels are really hurting for leisure business, we don't have to pay out as many points as before, and sometimes get free stuff along with our stay. This particular time we were granted a room on the concierge level, so there were fewer people up there, and were comped our breakfast both days. So our primary cost--lodging--is no longer an issue, and on this occasion, free meals were part of the experience, too! Plus the visits allow us to dine in some restaurants that we don't have here in our hometown of Lexington, KY, so that's fun and interesting, too.

The other thing worth mentioning is that with our daughter and her family living in Colorado, it's necessary to have the process completed somewhere by mid-December so that we can ship their gifts to them in time for Christmas. With her family growing again this year and with the unpredictability of weather and flight schedules over the holidays, we accept that we won't see each other during that period in exchange for the knowledge that no one is stranded somewhere and forced to sleep in an airport terminal.....

But the shopping part is primarily why we go in November or December every year, but even though this is something close to an annual pilgrimage, I don't remember a time in the past when we were this efficient with our time and effort, as we systematically checked off a fairly lengthy list for family and friends. In two instances we saw items that inspired us to place Internet orders due to size and color selection issues, but in the end we visited two malls plus a number of other shopping centers in order to complete the process. We were tired but VERY satisfied with our effort, and now we have eighteen days until Christmas.

The secret? Well, there really isn't one, except it's good to be organized, and you must have a budget, or else the entire process can get away from you in a real hurry!

So I'll accept your congratulations and even your accolades, at least until we realize we forgot someone.....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Observations on the sporting life

I'm no sports expert, nor am I a journalist of any ilk, but what I am is a very interested observer in many aspects of the sports world. And a few things caught my attention since my last posting, which was about my Kentucky Wildcats of various sports. To wit:

KENTUCKY FOOTBALL LOSES 25TH CONSECUTIVE GAME TO TENNESSEE: What is it about trying to beat their border rivals that causes so much heartache for Kentucky's up-and-coming football program? Around Lexington there was a lot of talk that "this could be the year" and I even encountered a member of Kentucky's athletic administration who gave me a couple of "Beat Tennessee" bumper stickers, which popped up all over town. Yet, once again, the Cats fell short and disappointed fans question coaching decisions, etc. Truth be told, Tennessee's skill players appear to be better, for the most part, than Kentucky's, and in greater supply. Until that changes we can expect this quarter-century streak to continue.

TIGER WOODS INJURED IN UNUSUAL AUTO ACCIDENT: My, the waters filled with sharks awfully quickly after this story broke. That this occurred within days of a tabloid's revelation that Tiger was allegedly enjoying an extracurricular affair with a restaurant hostess is potentially not a coincidence, but I side with the few in the media who say that it's really his business, not the public's. What this might do to sully Tiger's reputation is the public's business, I suppose. Regardless, there's probably a logical explanation, but only those close to the situation know what that explanation is.

SAINTS 11-0: Need I say more? Has a city ever needed this kind of feel-good story more than New Orleans? I've only visited there once, well before Katrina took the wind out of this city's sails, but it's great to see the citizens of that area have something that can give them justifiable pride. Well done, Sean Payton, Drew Brees (my son's favorite fantasy quarterback) and the rest of the Saints. Anyone remember when they were scornfully called the Aints? I do....

HOCKEY PLAYER INJURES TEAMMATE WITH OWN STICK: Say what you will about other "major" sports, but there's no less strange combination of stunning athletic ability and brute force than professional hockey, especially in the National Hockey League. Just last night a Florida Panthers player swung his stick wildly in frustration at allowing an opposing player to score. In doing so he hit his own goalie in the head. The goalie appears to be well on the way to a full recovery, but that just shows that it's very easy to get hurt in this rough-and-tumble sport. Now, let's be careful out there....

THANKSGIVING NFL GAMES TURKEYS THIS YEAR: Other than the unexpected beatdown that the Broncos put on the Giants Thanksgiving night, the NFL could see from miles away that the two earlier games, Green Bay at Detroit and Oakland at Dallas, were going to be one-sided, boring affairs. My wife and I were thankful that the DVR was full and we had some time to play catch-up, as we invested little time in either of the day's games, waiting for that evening to see the Broncos whup the Giants.

NOTRE DAME FIRES CHARLIE WEIS, PAYING RUMORED $18 MILLION TO SAY GOODBYE: Need I say more? That may be why the "elite" college football coaches in the country are not exactly clamoring for the chance to coach at Notre Dame.

Now, be a good sport, will you?

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