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Posts Tagged ‘buying gifts’

Twenty-Five Fab Christmas Gift Ideas — Elephants Included!

In culture, domestic life, food, life, Style on December 13, 2011 at 7:51 pm
English: The Park House Club in Cardiff, wrapp...

Image via Wikipedia

This year, skip the dreary I-have-no-idea-what-to-get-them standbys — scented candles, scarves, hats, mitts or gift cards.

How about:

An elephant! Here’s a lovely stuffed, embroidered one from India for $60. My mom has owned one of these for many years and he’s a cheery addition to the household.

Or, why not adopt an orphaned elephant in Africa?

For the older music-lover in your life — perhaps someone in their 70s or beyond — how about this mix of classics from Kern, Berlin and others, played by the inimitable Stephane Grapelli?

For a stylish woman who likes unusual jewelry, these shield-shaped earrings from Vivre are exquisite: yes, a splurge at $280.

If you know and love Joni Mitchell (fellow Canadian!), you’ll know that Hejira, from 1976, is considered one of her best albums ever. I adore it.

This elegant women’s silk jacket — rich purple reversible to brown. I own one of these, (in burgundy) and love having two jackets for the price of one.

A travel shaving kit for the man on the go: $50, smells of sandalwood. Yum!

A mini food-processor, in bright tangerine, great for soups, smoothies: $39.95. I use mine all the time.

For all you old-schoolers who still wear a watch, here’s a simple, all-black field watch from LLBean; $129. A nice unisex gift for all ages.

I dare you to resist this insanely great-smelling (citrus) French soap, Hesperides by Fresh. One bar lasts for a month. A friend gave it to me and I now love it; $14.

For a woman with pierced ears, these tiny “diamond” studded pyramids would be perfect with everything from jeans to her favorite LBD; $28.

Or these really comfortable lug-sole black patent leather loafers. Comfy, water-resistant; $99. I own them and love them!

This Turkish seasoning is the bomb! Rub it into chicken or pork. Add it to Greek yogurt. A big $3.49.

How about a meter of this amazing Liberty print cotton? Red, yellow and blue ladders designed by an award-winning film and fashion designer. From my favorite London shop, Liberty. 21 pounds; $38.85.

From one of my favorite old-school Manhattan shops, founded in 1907, Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, a pound of chocolate cinnamon coffee; $9.95. Their teas are great as well.

Here’s one of my favorite lingerie stores, in Canada, La Senza. Two of these floral push-up bras for $39.50. Deal!

I love this tight close-up color photograph of a cowboy’s tools of the trade, by a Wyoming female photographer on Etsy; $20. If you haven’t yet explored Etsy, get on over there! It’s a huge on-line marketplace of things all made by creative individuals worldwide. (I’ll be opening my site there in 2012.)

This home goods store in Alexandria, Virginia has a fun, retro-look mantel clock in red. It would add a nice pop of color and a small, great style hit; $118.

A fresh set of towels, in rich and unusual earthy stripes: rust, gray, cream: $35-45.

These astonishing pewter candlesticks -- with a geranium leaf motif. Designed by a San Francisco artist, I have one by my bed and love looking at it every day.

Here are five global charities endorsed by international columnist Nick Kristof of The New York Times.

If your giftee has an Iphone 4, here’s a leather Iphone case; $38.

Or a man’s tattersall shirt in a nice weathered gray; $69.50.

Here’s a blog post with ten gorgeously-wrapped foods, (cake, chocolate, marzipan) you can order on-line.

You could also buy a copy, e-book or hardcover, of my own memoir, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail”, which received terrific reviews from People, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly and Marie-Claire. It tells the story of working in a low-wage job, and is filled with useful, practical lessons for employees, managers and shoppers alike. You can read two chapters for free here.

I hope, wherever you shop and whatever you buy, you give as much business as you possibly can to your local retailers, the men and women who give our cities and towns such character and style.

Be sure to say a genuine thank you!!! to the weary associates helping you. Their feet are killing them, they’re making minimum wage and no commission and working crazy-long hours. (Give the best ones a candy cane! Then tell their manager how helpful they were. That way they might get hired on after the holidays.)

Be the best Santa ever!

The Hell Of Holiday Shopping: A Few Last-Minute Tips

In business on December 15, 2009 at 9:10 am
Drawing of a self-service store.

The associates have fled in fear...Image via Wikipedia

If you’re still holiday shopping, you’re almost out of time. Working retail offers a front-row seat to the annual insanity of people trying desperately to buy things for people they apparently don’t know.

Yesterday a man in his 60s came in. “I need a gift for my daughter,” he growled. Happy holidays to you, too.

I wheedled and cajoled and finally got enough details from him to show him about half a dozen items that might gladden the heart of a 17-year-old. No retail associate has the time or energy right now to do this a dozen times a day. Here is why he is sadly typical:

1) He had no idea of her size. 2) He had no idea of her taste 3) He had not asked what she might like 3) She had not told him what she might like 4) She was spoiled and fussy enough her father was too intimidated to just buy her something, trusting she’d appreciate his love, attention and thoughtfulness; at least he didn’t hand her a gift card 5) He threw his frustration and bad temper at me to solve.

Don’t be this guy.

Tips:

1) If you have no idea what size your wife/kids/husband/partner is — look in their closets and drawers! How hard is that? Or, just ask them. I found out my partner’s neck size is larger than I thought, so I could order his shirt in time.

2) Take a good look around your home: garage, kitchen, terrace, back yard. If you’re totally out of ideas, these might inspire you to refresh or replace weathered, broken or out-of-date items.

3) Give gifts of your time and talents: babysitting, dog-walking, tutoring, knitting, cooking, home repairs, snow shoveling. The best gifts are about love and attention to someone’s needs, not just their material cravings.

4) If you ask a retail associate for help, be nice! Yes, it’s their job to know their stock, but demanding “Would he like this?” when you have no idea of the recipient’s size, age or tastes is absurd.

5) Stores run out of things. Do not snap at the associates if this happens because it is management’s decisions that have created this siutation — and, just because the associates are standing before you and physically available to take the brunt of  your rage, it is not their fault. We ran out of gift boxes yesterday morning for a few hours and women in their 50s stood there, paralyzed with disappointment and disbelief, for many long minutes, sighing and moaning “What will I do without a box?” Get a grip.

6) Call ahead. Our phones are ringing off the hook as people ask for specific sizes, colors and items that we place on hold for them. This saves everyone time, energy and frustration.

Best/Worst Presents Ever — And A Few Ideas

In business, Money, Style on November 24, 2009 at 9:54 pm
Presents Under the Tree

Image by di_the_huntress via Flickr

As most of us, eagerly or reluctantly — (I love buying presents!) — start holiday shopping, if you work retail you can feel the gift anxiety level rising, like a low-grade hum in the background.

In my part-time retail job, I see this panicked insanity launch like some toxic stink bomb on Black Friday. By Christmas Eve, the last refuge of the utterly disorganized or desperate, people are almost vibrating with stress over whether their presents will find favor. I literally had a guy come in last year, Greenwich-elegant, and start pawing through the racks in a fugue state of frustration. “Can I help?” I asked.

“I need a present for a pain in the ass!” he spat. Poor bugger. I calmed him down, found him something and watched his shoulders drop with profound relief.

Some people, sadly, are almost impossible to buy for: fussy, spoiled, eccentric, unfocused tastes, already have everything. Which is why so many of us love to give, and get, cash.

The secret to the absolutely best gifts — within reasonable range (i.e. not a Mercedes) — is finding out what your recipient is utterly passionate about, no matter how obscure. What color(s) do they love or hate? Allergic to wool? A huge fan of motets or Chinese calligraphy? People who know me well know I am mad for Paris, so almost anything with a French or Parisian theme would be welcome. Ditto lush cashmere.

A lukewarm gift radiates blah, boring, I-couldn’t-be-bothered. Avoid whenever possible. Few gifts are as precious as someone paying careful attention to what you most crave and maybe can’t even say out loud. (Maybe, for a worn-out new Mom or Dad, a months’ worth of free babysitting or housecleaning services, from you or a service.) The very best presents often don’t come from any store or wrapped in a box.

Here are (I think) a few fail-safes for many adults, all available through on-line resources:

gorgeous soap (Roger & Gallet, Fresh, Lafco); thick towels (Williams-Sonoma), lovely linen or cotton napkins (Pottery Barn, Anthropologie and Sferra always have good options); fantastic cheese/condiments/chocolates/cookies (Crate & Barrel’s peppermint bark); a fabulous cookbook or coffee table book on a topic they adore; really good wool or cashmere socks.

My go-to bargain choice? Buy a bag of lavender ($10 or so), some vintage or antique fabric and a needle and thread — whip up some home-made sachets people can tuck in their linen closets, suitcases or drawers. But I’m obsessive enough I already have those things in my home, ready to go.

Here’s are some presents that, over the years, truly gladdened my heart:

Best

An antique Japanese chest with mirror, gray pearl earrings, Times Atlas of The World, skis, boots, poles, a new toaster and colander when I was really broke, a fuchsia leather Filofax (still going strong after 10 years), a gift certificate for Sephora, gift certificate for Saks, gift certificate for Barnes & Noble and one for Posman Books (a great New York city independent bookstore.)

Worst

Anything that said “not for individual resale”, books clearly off the remainder table, snowshoes (perfect for someone else, I know.)

What’s the loveliest or most thoughtful gift you ever received? Or gave? The worst?

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