Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where Do You Shop?

     You'd have to have your head buried deep in the sand not to have heard all about Black Friday (so-called because that's supposedly the day when American retailers start making money, when they go in the black) and how this year American shoppers set some new sales records. That's good for the economy. Good for retirees who want a part-time job at the mall. Good for a lot of people -- although the sight of 20-somethings lined up around the corner at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, waiting for Best Buy to open at midnight so they can buy a big-screen TV at $500 off the regular price, somehow seems a little crass and shallow and materialistic.

      Anyway, I did not go out shopping on Black Friday, although some family members did brave the crowds. ("It's like a party," they said. "No, thank you," I replied.) I did not participate in Cyber Monday, either -- the Monday after Thanksgiving when, presumably, everyone goes back to work and spends their time shopping on the Internet instead of doing their job.

     Yet, I admit I'm not completely free of crass materialism myself. Nor am I entirely exempt from the commercialism of Christmas. I like to see piles of presents under the tree. It's fun to sit around the living room with your family on Christmas morning and rip open the wrapping to find what Santa has brought. And if you're lucky, Santa brings you gifts right off your Christmas list.

     So I can't help but wonder, where do Baby Boomers and other elders like to do their Christmas shopping? Certainly not Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale or Hot Topic.

     I heard some commentators on CNBC remark that nobody goes to Sears anymore. The stores are old and boring, they said. The segment was in connection with the recent financial report of Sears Holdings (which comprises Sears and Kmart) showing that revenues were down in the most recent quarter, marking almost five straight years of declining sales.

My new laptop
     But I can attest to the fact that someone goes to Sears. Because I do. Whenever I go to the mall, I park at the entrance to Sears. There are plenty of parking spaces at the Sears end of the mall, so you can park close to the door. And once in a great while, I actually stop to buy something. Two weeks ago I scored a deal on socks -- buy one three-pack at the regular price and get another three-pack for half off.

     But I can tell you, unequivocally, that the most popular place at the mall is the Apple store. I was recently in the market for a laptop (my first one!). We have a local computer store, called Silicon Valley, where until now I've taken most of my computer needs. I checked out their laptops. They seemed okay. But I had to go take a look at the Apple version. You know ... I really do want to be cool.

     So on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago I showed up at the mall at 10:05 a.m., five minutes after the mall opened. I parked at Sears, right next to the door. I walked through the mall and saw hardly anyone. After all, the place had only been open for five minutes. When I got to the food court I found a scattering of early shoppers getting coffee at Dunkin' Donuts and picking up Egg McMuffins at McDonalds. But as I walked around the next curve, I unexpectedly ran into a line. A line at 10:05 in the morning! It was outside the Apple store. They were waiting to buy an iPhone 4s.

     Since I wasn't buying a phone, I didn't have to wait in line. I entered the store through the big glass doors. The place was already crowded. I found a greeter who agreed to put me on a list to link up with a salesperson. While I waited I perused the Apple offerings. I already knew, from doing some homework online, that I wanted a MacBook Pro. Now, after surveying the options, I landed on the 15-inch version. Then I looked around for a salesperson. They were all busy. I fiddled around with a couple of keyboards, tried out a few functions. I looked around again; the salespeople were still busy.

     Eventually I got a salesperson who seemed very nice, but who couldn't bear to give me her full attention. The whole time she was explaining the benefits of the MacBook, and trying to upsell me to buy more Apple products, she was also checking her iPhone, texting someone, and basically annoying the hell out of me.

No sale
     I didn't get a MacBook. I instead went back to Silicon Valley and bought an Asus laptop, for just about half the price of the MacBook. It doesn't have quite as much power or memory, but it has more than I will ever need.

     The fact is, I try to buy local when I can. A small business in your community might not have quite the charisma of the national brand. But it typically offers better service and prices that are at least competitive, if not better than national chains.

     For that very reason, I try to patronize my local hardware store, which I do on occasion. But I must admit I do hear the siren call of the big box stores. I sometimes go to Lowes, but more often find myself at Home Depot. I love wandering up and down the aisles, picking out a few odds and ends for the house and getting ideas for home improvements we might make -- new flooring, perhaps, or a new bathroom, or some plants to improve our landscaping.

     For clothes I go to Macy's. They seem to offer reasonably good brands at almost-bargain prices. You can get Dockers. You can get Ralph Lauren. Izod. Tommy Hilfiger. Michael Kors. Kenneth Cole. Calvin Klein. Nautica. And a host of others. So on the one hand, why spend more for Bloomingdale's or Nordstrom's; on the other, why trade down to JCPenney or Kohl's?

     I heard B recently comment that she, too, shops at Macy's. "Why would you need to go anywhere else?" she asked rhetorically. I realized she was being rhetorical, because I happen to know she also goes to Talbots; and one time at the mall I saw her slipping sheepishly out of Saks. But she also goes to Target and Marshall's; and we've bought a few things for the house at Home Goods.

     I used to joke that my favorite store was 7-Eleven. Or Wawa, when we're in New Jersey or around Philly. It's got good coffee and cheap gas. What more could you ask for?

     But now I favor Costco. In fact, just last week I bought a copy of the new Steve Jobs book there, as a Christmas present for B's younger son. It was marked down from $35 to $19. Costco sells good meat, good fish, cheap cereal. They have clothes, electronics, everything. I also bought a big bottle of 500 vitamin tablets, for $14. How can you beat that?

     Gee, I wonder if vitamins are on B's Christmas list. Or ... I just saw online, Wawa offers a gift card. What'd'ya think?


Roberta said...

I mainly shop online. When I shop at all that is. I live in the city and it is much too hard to get out to the burbs.

Oh and I love my Macbook Pro. Too bad you had a bad experience at the Apple Store. We have a big one downtown and I do enjoy going there to play on all the newest machines with my grandson.

Mac n' Janet said...

I mainly shop online, do lots of comparison shopping and often end up buying from Amazon, I'm a prime member so I get free shipping and frequently no tax. I also shop online at Macy's, I know my sizes there and don't have to try things on. Love shopping at Etsy online too. Hate malls!
Love my Mac, we once bought a different brand and regretted it, so Macs only, but do it online so I don't have to deal with children disguised as sales personnel.

Linda Myers said...

I usually shop online because it's convenient, but I know I ought to shop locally because then the sales tax goes into my community.

The night before last I shopped for two books: Cutting for Stone and Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed. Amazon had them cheaper than my local Barnes & Noble, but I went to the brick-and-mortar place instead. I felt more like a good citizen, and I got to start reading the book right away.

rosaria said...

Shopping used to be a big deal before we retired. Now, we need few things, and we try to get them at Costco in bulk packages, repack in small versions, freeze or display in our walk in pantry so we know what we have.
For Christmas, our children and grandchild will get something they need or crave, replacement stuff such as towels or sheets. I add a piece of jewelry for the girls, or a collectible for the boys, stuff that was going to them after we die anyway, and wrap these up with the story of how that piece was collected or acquired, and voila', our shopping is complete.

I do miss the days when everyone gathered and shared presents all beautifully wrapped under the tree, but the work that went into such productions.
And no, neither Hubby or I went shopping on Black Friday. Never.

MerCyn said...

I recently bought a MacBook Pro and love it. You are so right - the local Apple store is always busy, but I find the employees always helpful and knowledgeable (and SO young...). I like to shop locally whenever possible. As for Wawa, an advantage of stopping by is that their ATM machines do not charge a fee. (You still might be hit with a charge from your bank.)

Janette said...

Apple had 10% on line sale on Monday!

I shop at the military store and Walmart on Black Friday--but at about 9 in the morning. Too late for the best deals- but still plenty to enjoy. I shop at my flower store on line Cyber Monday. I love to send my sister flowers (she is a widow). Getting 10% AND free shipping only happens once a year.

My shopping is done. Now, on to the wrapping, We are flying Southwest this year. I always wrap if I am checking bags:>)

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

Where you shop probably depends on your income. Once upon a time I traveled to NYC to buy all my clothes. This was the 1980s when women were just entering the workforce and you couldn't find anything down here in DC.

These days, I buy clothes from LLBean or Lands End on the web. I don't dress the way I did when I worked for a large corporation. My relaxed attire started when I was working at the Census Bureau and every day was "dress down Firday."

I buy almost everthing online, especially from Amazon. I even found my last two dogs and two parrots online.

Otherwise, I go to specialty shops. I never stand in line for anything. Dianne

Anonymous said...

I buy all my Apple products online. Same with iTunes....I buy all my music as a download from there.

I do most of my shopping online. I do most everything online come to think about it. I found it to be even cheaper shopping at times for vacuum bags from Amazon (even including shipping) or dishwasher parts also!

If I have to go to a brick & mortar store it's usually for food and supplies. I shop first at the Dollar Store, then a Wal Mart superstore and then a local Hudson Valley gourmet market for local produce, chickens, cheeses and eggs.

You may regret your PC laptop purchase. Too bad. I just go to an Apple store to visually see the product, then go back home and order it online. As an ex-owner of an Apple Retail store, it's the best way. Take it from me.

Douglas said...

You made me think... and it's way too early in the week for me to do any thinking. No, I didn't jump on he Black Friday bandwagon, never do. I do try the local shops for things but most have nothing other than what the chains have and at about the same prices. It's a pity... they used to have unique items that couldn't be found elsewhere, sometimes even locally made. Now, they deal with wholesalers who get the goods from China. It's a matter of economics, I suppose.

So far, I have done no shopping. We don't do much of the Christmas thing anymore, the families are far away (Arizona, California, and Georgia) so the get togethers are rare. Don't even put up a tree now.

Stephen Hayes said...

I don't buy anything online, and few gifts the old fashioned way. Most of the people I know, including me, have everything they need, even more, so it's only one or two small token items. Two years ago we had a blizzard here in Oregon and we had to buy all of our gifts at the nearby Rite-Aid store, the only place we could crawl to. We had a great Christmas!

June said...

It's open 24 hours and I don't have to get dressed.

Olga said...

I mostly shop at the grocery store. We had a lot of fun hitting the Florida consignment and thrift shops to get our winter home furnished with small stuff. Otherwise we have to get rid of stuff, not buy. My husband sells stuff on eBay...if you ever feel the need to purchase antique American motorcycle memorabilia

#1Nana said...

I shop them all. I love a bargain and I'm always on the lookout for a good deal.

Jono said...

I also do most of my shopping online because it's 120 miles to the nearest shopping place/mall. That said the "local" camera shop is in that same area and their prices are competitive and service is terrific. Since researching cameras online I am bombarded with ads for them, but I will wait to go to the "local" shop for that. Just much nicer to deal with and extremely knowledgeable.

Knatolee said...

I hate shopping and buy just aobut all my presents on etsy.com All handmade and wonderful!

Dick Klade said...

I'm a bit surprised that so many shop so often online. Good question for another post might be, "Have you ever been taken by an online merchant?"

I shop a bit online, but mostly go for items I want to see and feel. Those I buy locally whenever possible.

Knatolee said...

I live in a farm in the back of beyond and have to drive an hour to get to any decent places to shop. Never had a problem shopping online! :) I also buy local whenever I can, and we get a lot of our food from local farmers through a co-op.

JHawk23 said...

I feel fortunate that in Arlington (VA) we still have a lot of small businesses; my shopping in the past week has included a neighborhood hardware store, a wine shop/deli, a local florist, and even a small independent bookstore that optimistically opened its doors just a few months ago.
In many smaller towns (e.g. my wife's hometown in Illinois) these smaller stores no longer exist, pushed out by the big boxes nearer the interstate.