Take it out back

We are a complaining society.

We are a whining, sniveling bunch of crybabies.

There isn’t a day go by that I don’t see #FML (eff my life, for the uninitiated) in my Twitter feed or on Facebook.

I’ve unfollowed or unfriended people for their incessant complaining.

But lately, it seems to be everywhere … even in my most holy of activities, shopping.

I hit Shoppers Drug Mart on Centre Street North a couple of weeks ago, picking up those necessities that make my world go round. While awaiting a prescription, I hovered around the magazine area.

Flipping through the latest edition of whatever I happened to pick up, I started to hear the clarion call of a whiny employee.

“But the schedule is all screwed up. I shouldn’t be working that day.”

‘Up’ was awarded two syllables.

I turned and saw a circle of Shoppers employees, all standing around, bitching and whining about the schedule and how much their jobs suck.

I walked away. I returned to the area five minutes later, hoping they had scattered to their respective corners, stocking shelves or ringing in purchases or — God forbid — helping a customer.

Nope. They were all still there. Nattering on about how terrible the schedule is done and, boy, are they ever going to give the manager a what-for.

I meant to call the store the next day but got caught up in other of life’s great challenges, like finding my own job to one day complain about.

Then the other night, My American and I stopped by our favourite DVD rental and used-book store (I scored three awesome books for 30 bucks!) in Veradale, WA. When we got to the till, two Hastings employees were discussing break times.

“But it’s law! I’m supposed to get a 15-minute break!”

This went on the entire time we waited in line, had our purchases scanned and paid for the items.

Yes, honey, it is law.

Yes, your employer is mandated by the state to provide you with a 15-minute break for every four hours you work.

But no, you shouldn’t be complaining about this in front of customers.

I’ve had jobs at which I was unhappy. I worked at McDonald’s for $3.10 an hour. I hated it. You should hate your job if you work at McDonald’s. It sucks. The pay sucks. And you should want to leave there and do better things with your life.

I complained about it. We all did.

In the break room. Outside while you’re sucking on a cancer stick. At the bar long after your shift is over.

Out of earshot of your customers.

I had unhappy times at other jobs. We all have bad days. We all encounter a tough spot. We all complain.

But we all need to stop doing it in front of the people who make sure our paycheques (erg … I’m currently stateside, so it should be paychecks, right?) get paid.

Because you just don’t know when one of those customers is going to look at your nametag, make a mental note and give your manager a ring the next day.

And then you might not have anything to complain about. Well, at least you won’t have a job to complain about.

Or, in the big picture, maybe I’m worse.

Because I’m whining about whining.

Roaming around

I had to learn my lesson the hard way.

The first time I came to Spokane (yes, I’m here right now), I racked up $1,000 in roaming data charges. I was with Bell, lo, those (almost) three years ago. Bell called me on Monday and said ‘um, hey, do you know what you did?’

My stomach lurched, my heart fell and I may have started crying. Bell said, fear not, we’ll reduce it to a one-time charge of $100 but learn your damn lesson. I did. Every time I went to the States thereafter, I bought their $10 per month data roaming plan, under which you pay $1 for every megabyte used.

Yeah, it’s still a ripoff but a bargain compared to the $6/MB I’d pay if it wasn’t for the plan.

Bell has since changed that plan and it’s one of the reasons I ditched them and went with Virgin last spring (yeah, yeah, I know, Virgin is owned by Bell but at least they have the cheapest data roaming plan).

Even with the deal, I’ve been capable of racking up $150 in charges over a few days. Hey, come on, Twitpicking apparently sucks some major data. And Facebook, too.

But wouldn’t you feel a little lost if you weren’t along on my adventures with me and Shep? I mean, after all, I do this for you!

Now enter Roam Mobility. I read the first story about them on Android Central.

For Canadians traveling into the US sometimes the most expensive part of the trip isn’t the airfare or the hotel but instead the roaming fees associated with their data plans. Gone are the days of ridiculous roaming fees on your current carrier, or trying to find a pre-paid data plan to use for the short time you are in the US, and here is Roam Mobility. The idea behind Roam Mobility is quite simple — they want to provide a painless solution for roaming Canadians that gives them access to a fast, reliable network while in the US.

 

Since I spend a lot of time in the States with My American, I was intrigued. I went to their website. They weren’t quite ready for launch, so I signed up for their notification.

It didn’t take long for them to reach the end of labour and give birth. And boy howdy, did they! Anyone who signed up for the notifications got a free SIM card.

That’s right. It pays to be an early adopter.

So there my free SIM card sat for a couple of months. A new job has somewhat hampered my travelling abilities but now it’s Easter weekend and I have a couple of extra days to relax.

And who the heck wants to put anymore money into the Bell/Virgin bank account? Not this sister.

I’ll go with the upstart startup.

I set up an account and ordered my plan in advance. You can choose from talk+text, talk+text+data, or just data. For three days, it cost me $21.22 on my Visa.

Each day — a single day of talk+text+data costs $7.95 and you get bargains for multiple-day purchases — unlimited talk and text within the U.S. and back to Canada, plus 100 MB of data.

Let’s compare that to the Virgin plan for $10 for a month-long charge, you get to pay an additional $1 MB per megabyte. So for a day, that’s 110 bucks right there. Then add on the roaming charges you’ll have to pay for a text ($.60 per if you don’t buy an additional $10/month plan) and for a phone call ($.95 a minute for a local call, $1.45 for long distance, even back to Canada).

I think we have ourselves a winner, folks.

I crossed the border last night and inserted my Roam Mobility SIM card. I had some issues getting started with data but I used their website chat service and reached the lovely Virginia, who walked me through fixing my APN settings, whatever the heck that means.

I won’t have to wait until I find a WiFi hotspot now. Spokane isn’t quite the point yet where everyone has wireless.

It will probably annoy the hell out of My American because he doesn’t much care for me being engaged while we’re together. I try to respect that as much as I can but, for heaven’s sake, sometimes you guys just gotta see what I’m up to.

And since I’m unleashing myself unto the shopping world tomorrow for the first time since October, you might want to follow along for shits and giggles.

You never know what might happen.

What to wear?

I don’t know!

This is the problem.

I don’t even know what not to wear.

I mean, how can I possibly parade myself in front of the fashionable crowd of Calgary without knowing what not to wear.

How could I possibly show up at a Clinton Kelly affair, Styling Your Life, without knowing what to wear.

It’s my first blogging assignment for Downtown Calgary’s site, getdown.ca, and I’m terrified.

I’ve been watching TLC’s What Not to Wear for years … has it been a decade? I should have learned enough by now to strut into my closets and walk out a shining example of fashion.

I should have enough clothes from espy, my favourite Calgary boutique, to be the belle of the ball.

I should have learned enough from Megan and Ashley and former staffers Nicole and Caitlin to put together an outfit that’s understated and yet dazzles.

But my biggest fear is that I’ll walk into the Calgary Telus Convention Centre and look like a total shmuck.

Maybe I’ll be too matchy matchy (Clinton hates that).

Maybe I won’t be matchy enough (Clinton hates that).

Maybe my skirt or shorts will be too short for my (almost) 40-year-old legs (no matter how awesome they are).

Maybe I’ll pick the wrong shoes.

OK, hold the phone. There’s no way in hell I’m picking the wrong shoes and you bloody well know it.

Tomorrow morning, I will agonize as I stand in front of my closet while I’m wearing only my fuzzy red bathrobe.

Oooh … maybe I’ll wear my bathrobe. Or no …

Tomorrow morning, I will pound back three cups of coffee, convinced it will help deal with my stress, only to be elevating my blood pressure.

Tomorrow morning, I will probably go through five or six outfits before I settle on just the right one.

Tomorrow morning, I may collapse into a fit of tears while half the closet lies in a pile on the floor.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll go to espy for the bye bye BLACK SALE, hoping Megan or Ashley are there to either:

A. Make sure I’m dressed well enough

B. Sell me something that will make sure I’m dressed well enough

And when it’s all said and done, I will come home and write about it my agony.

 

Shoepalooza 2011

Oh, calm down. They’re just shoes.

I know, I know. I said that.

OK, OK, how about ‘it’s just a shoe sale.’

No, that didn’t sound right either.

So about this: Girls, it’s time for the freaking Army & Navy Annual Shoe Blowout.

Panic, drop everything, stand in line, beat each other up and, for God’s sakes, BUY SHOES.

Shoes

No, seriously.

Don’t drop everything. Er … I mean don’t beat each other up.

But this is a great opportunity to stock up on shoes … boots, sandals, flats and heels. The array is lovingly (I use the term loosely) stocked on the shelves of the Calgary Army & Navy, tucked away in the northeast at 1107 33 St.

Oh, you shudder. Stop it. I live in the northeast. I love it here.

I did my first Shoe Blowout last year. And I learned a few things.

Since I’m destined for Spokane for nine days on Friday, I’ll be missing the first five days of Shoepalooza 2011. Yes, that means I’m leaving the ripe pickings for the rest of you but it’s OK, considering I will have a DSW, a Famous Footwear and a Nordstrom Rack at my disposal.

I figured, however, I would leave you with a few tips. First, we’ll look at your overall approach to Shoepalooza, where it looks like you’ll be feasting on Steve Madden, Guess, Naughty Monkey, Calvin Klein, BCBG and more.

Take my ‘don’t panic’ advice seriously. As much as you want, there’s no need to break your neck to get there for door opening at 8 a.m. on April 28.

You want to think the stock is limited. That you’re getting the cream of the crop by being their first.

You’re not.

Tip No. 1: The Shoe Blowout lasts for, I think, a week. Even with up to 80 per cent off on designer labels, Army & Navy receives enough shoes to stock the shelves for the duration of the sale.

Tip No. 2 and more important than any tip I could possibly give you: Army & Navy starts restocking the shelves in the early evening, about an hour or so before closing at 9 p.m. every night (well, 6 p.m. from Saturday to Tuesday). If you go just before closing, you get the benefit of being there first thing in the morning, without dealing with all the crazy bitches who think they have to be there first.

I scored five pairs of babies — including two pairs of Naughty Monkeys, my favourite brand — on the opening morning of Shoepalooza 2010 but on my way out, the camping gear caught my eye. I made a mental note to return on payday, two days later, to pick up a few things for the summer. While there, I meandered upstairs to the shoe section and discovered the heaven of the restocked shelves (and one very weary Army & Navy employee who could barely form the words ‘we’re closing soon.’)

Tip No. 3: Army & Navy actually keeps awesome shoes or mid- to high-level brands and designers at reasonable prices throughout the year. If you miss Shoepalooza, you can still catch a bargain on Diesel, Buffalo and Rocket Dog the other 51 weeks of the year.

Now, should you choose to brave opening morning … or any of the other door-opening mornings, here are a few more tips.

1. Book the morning off from work. It takes time to find and try on 10 awesome pairs of shoes. Your boss will understand. I swear it.
2. Grab a basket. This is a far better plan than juggling six pairs in your arms while trying to Tweet about the awesome shoes you just grabbed out of the mitts of some leopard-spandex sporting cougar.
3. Skirt the room, eyeing it for the exact location of the crazies and where you can dominate the more vulnerable, less suspecting and possible Shoepalooze newbies.
4. Map out a game plan. Maybe you want to check out the back aisle first, the boots or the sandals … keep an eye out for espadrilles, they’re a hot-ticket item this summer.
5. Walk slowly, scanning your eyes on each side of the aisle at the same time (it helps to be cross-eyed).
6. Walk purposefully. You don’t want anyone to think they can snag a pair of those Naughty Monkeys out of your basket.
7. Explore the entire inventory, filling your basket if necessary, and then find a spot to squat and try on your discoveries.
8. Consider a purchase carefully if you see someone your mother’s age trying on a pair of shoes you’ve selected. I rejected a pair of Diesel cage heels last year for this very reason. Gah!
9. Ensure you are doubly positive about your rejects before you set them on the floor. There are others waiting for your castoffs … sometimes salivating.
10. On your way to the cash register, check out the camping gear. Seriously.

And, if all else fails, remember the Gordie Howe game plan.

Elbows up.

Happy shopping!

It’s a dude’s life

This is an important lesson.

Just because something is free, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

Take today, for example.

A couple of weeks ago, I won tickets to the Holt Renfrew spring fashion show. I took my fashionista friend Chelsea, we got all dolled up and we had a great dream, watching in wonder as the models ascended and descended the escalators in delicate froufrou we can’t afford.

Oh, but how exciting! There was a swag bag at the end of the night. Each one held an Anzie bracelet, valued at $175 and specially designed for this very evening, and two tiny little boxes, each containing two tiny little samples of Hermes perfume.

SCORE!

Hermes perfume? Now there’s something I’d never have in my collection but for getting it free somehow.

And this morning, I decided to bellow out ‘screw you, Mother Nature’ and put a little spring in my step (get it? spring? ha!) with heels, instead of boots to navigate the icy roads and parking lots.

What would be the perfect touch? A rare spritz of Hermes parfum.

I immediately think ‘hmm, that’s nice,’ but it’s a little … ah … musky.

My curiosity is piqued by the time I get to the office, wondering if maybe, just maybe, this may not be the right choice for me.

I load up the Hermes website and, sure enough, the Terre d’Hermes is a ‘journey through the elements: earth, air and water, a woody, vegetal and mineral eau de toilette.’

And meant for dudes.

The Caleche? The  Eau de Merveilles? The Amazone? All for women.

But I picked up the one designed for men.

Next time, I’ll do my research.

Today, however, I’ll sit here smelling like a guy.

I have to admit, though, I’m a little bit hot for me right now.

Shopping socially

An interesting phenomenon is sweeping across Calgary.

I suppose some might call it social shopping. The trouble is, some people aren’t being very social about it.

A number of cost-savings opportunities are cropping up, from Living Social to Groupon and the Canadian-operated Steal the Deal. Others exist, I just can’t remember their names.

I’ve partaken in several of these deals since they started, mostly massages and facials. A day at the spa isn’t something I’m normally inclined to spend $200 on, but if it’s knocked down to 49 bucks … sure, what the hell?

You can pick up on hot deals on ski passes, candle shops, hair cuts, food and more. Some of the offers are pretty basic … get 20 bucks worth of whatever for $5. Some are more high-end, like the aforementioned spa trip which I have yet to book.

I call these ‘social’ shopping because they employ the internet as their main vehicle of advertising. They use Twitter, Facebook and email — all the hot tools for social networking.

Along my journey on the social shopping trail, I ask how the whole dealio is working out for the business in question.

I have learned that a lot of you are cheap sunsabitches.

You don’t tip. You’re rude. You’re there to get the biggest bang for your buck and you really don’t care much for the trail of distaste you leave in your wake.

Folks, we have to remember that even though we’re getting a discount on a service, we still have to act like civilized, social beings … no matter how much we’re saving.

Sure, these deals might expose some of us to experiences we might not otherwise be able to afford.

And we aren’t the only ones investing in these deals. Sometimes, these deals can attract hundreds of shoppers.

So don’t be surprised when you call to book your appointment and you can’t get in for a few weeks.

And for heaven’s sakes, tip.

Trust me, your facialist will understand if you say ‘I’m sorry, I would give you more but this is all I have right now’ and promise to spread the word about the good service you received.

But when you need to pay the GST on the service, it amounts to $1.75, you flip a twoonie onto the counter and demand your quarter back … well …

I’ve only been disappointed once using one of these services. I sat through a three-and-a-half-hour cut-and-colour at a salon. Three and a half hours. For a cut and colour. The guy kept bouncing around and doing other stuff at the salon.

They had my email address and a couple months later, I received a notice saying the salon was shutting down.

Colour me surprised. And that colour didn’t take twice as long as it should.

At the same time, let’s remember that these businesses are putting these deals out to get new traffic through the door.

They want your business. They want to serve you and they want to serve you well.

And they want you to come back.

Thus far, I have found myself a new massage therapist and a new esthetician.

I encourage you to take advantage of the deals you can get from Groupon or Living Social or whatever.

But don’t take advantage of the people serving you.