The great thing about being single during the Christmas season

For many singles, the Christmas season is a rather depressing time. You attend family and social functions and you see many couples seemingly happy together. It dawns on you that something is missing in your life and that sad feeling of loneliness starts to set in. As someone without a significant other at the present time, I full well know the feeling. However, I also look at being single during the holiday season as a break from a major amount of stress that comes from being in a relationship at this time. At least I will not have many sleepless nights trying to decide what to get my gal for Christmas!

If you are in a relationship with someone right now, the most important gift that you will shop for this season will be that one for your special gal or guy. It is not even close! You can strikeout with some family member, but not so much with your sweetheart. She or he might just serve you your walking papers by New Years if you buy some bad gift. I personally know many high maintenance women who will not accept anything less than the best and a lot of the best! I just cannot imagine the stress their poor boyfriends and husbands are going through!

The big question is what and how much to spend on someone with whom you are currently dating. I have always thought that being creative and buying the unexpected gifts is the best way to go. Maybe you remember hearing your gal say that she loves these special type of ornaments during a shopping trip last September. Imagine the surprise that will come across her face as she opens that gift? Remembering those little details can go a long ways in building a great relationship. And you don’t necessarily have to break your banking account to buy a great gift. But it is not a bad idea to splurge a little to show her or him how special they really are.

I know with Christmas just a few weeks away, many couples are wrestling with ideas and I do not envy them at all. Buying that special someone a gift might be the most pressure you will ever feel during the Christmas season. When you are single and unattached, that pressure is completely gone and your Christmas shopping is a relative breeze. But deep down, don’t you miss feeling that pressure? And better yet, the reaction on their face when they receive that perfect gift knowing that you made their Christmas? All that thinking and effort has really paid off!

If you are single this Christmas, don’t despair. Look on the bright side. I think many of your taken friends are jealous of you right now. While you are enjoying a great movie, they are in a frantic state of mind wondering what to buy their significant other. Buying the right gifts for a woman whom I’m dating is not something I miss terribly during the Christmas season. I think most singles would agree with me. Maybe I will experience that pressure again next Christmas, who knows?

 

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Christmas shopping and customer service

For many of us, the next few weeks will be filled with frequent stops to our favorite malls and shopping centers to buy those special Christmas gifts. Our shopping experiences can be greatly affected by the store employees of the places we visit. I have to admit that whether I will shop at a particular place or not is not necessarily dictated by prices or store volume, but rather by how I am treated once I enter the store. Since I live in a big metropolitan area, I have choices and expect the people at these stores that I visit to do their best to make any customer feel valued. A store’s reputation can be made or broken during the Christmas season and customer service has a lot to do with it.

The other day during a shopping trip to the mall, I encountered two different situations which are prime examples of both good and bad customer service. The bad service I received was something as simple as checking out and paying for my purchase. The checkout women had the personality of a telephone pole! She didn’t even bother to say hello to me and had this look on her face that she could hardly wait until her shift was over. After the transaction was complete, she gave me a forced thank you while handing me the receipt. At that moment, I just wanted to get the heck out of the store as fast as possible. I felt very unwelcome and unappreciated. Do stores not train employees who run the cash registers about proper customer etiquette? Is it that hard to teach a person to smile and say hello? The clerks running the cash register are practically ground zero for any store’s customer service. Those individuals who are not pleasant people should not be hired to run the registers period! I personally have avoided a local major retail store because of more incidents like this.

Shortly after I bolted from the store, I went over to another retail store and my experience was a ton better! A young female clerk noticed me walking in and greeted me with a warm hello and smile, then asked me if I needed help. I said I was just looking. She did not pressure me into buying anything; only letting me know that she was available for help. When I did have questions, she was eager to help me and seemed very knowledgeable about the product that I wanted to buy. When it came time to check out, another young salesperson at the cash register was just as friendly and personable. He went out of his way to ask if I found what I was looking for and even pointed out that the product I was buying was on sale and I was saving a certain amount of money. I was totally impressed by the store’s service and their apparent willingness to put the customer first. I look forward to doing more business with them in the future and will greatly recommend them to other people.

I realize that the Christmas season is rough on those people who work retail. I used to work retail as well early in my college days so I know the feeling many of those poor people have after dealing with customers for hours. Some customers treat the store employees like dirt and that is very unfortunate. There is very little that can be done to satisfy those jerks. However, being a good customer service person is really just a matter of knowing who your real boss is, the customer. A majority of people including myself, appreciate someone who is willing to go that extra mile and not treat us like just another person who walks through the door. We are the people who make or break your store. A lot of stores like to advertise specials during this time of the year in an effort to get bring people into their stores. Specials and sales are fine, but if a store has poor customer service or a bad website for its customers, what good is that? In this day of social media, stories of bad customer service can spread like wildfire. It can greatly affect any business and their bottom line. On the other hand, a store with a reputation of good customer service is where I want to spend my hard-earned money.

The smallest gifts are sometimes the best

A couple of years ago, a young woman, who I was dating at the time, sent me a beautiful post card in the mail. On the back of the card, she wrote some very nice and romantic things that made me feel extremely warm inside. The card was probably only a couple of bucks but her words and the beauty of the picture on the card made it seem like a 100 dollars. It is one of my favorite gifts ever and just shows how small gifts can mean a whole lot to a person.

There is always a lot of commercials at this time of the year for Christmas gifts. You know the ones where the recipient of the gift is escorted out to the driveway and there sits a shiny new car with a large bow on top. Yeah, like I have $40,000 in my Christmas budget to spend on a new Lexus!! Or the countless ads for smart phones, ipads or other new high tech gadgets. Of course, you always have those ads for flat screen televisions. It all about getting people out to spend some serious during this season and boost our sluggish economy. Very seldom do you see cheap products advertised for under 10 bucks; it is always the more expensive gifts that most people simply cannot afford.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get some fancy, expensive gadget for Christmas. But would it touch my soul like that postcard? Not even close!! I am perfectly happy with a small gift that has some meaning behind it. It could be a simple wall picture of my favorite wilderness location or a fancy ornament for my kitchen. Heck, I would even be thrilled to get some 7 dollar nature calender as a gift. It is sad but our society seems to put so much emphasis on material things for Christmas such as getting that new fancy car or piece of jewelry.

There are many people who probably do not have a lot of money to spend on Christmas gifts this year. There are many good, small, inexpensive items that can be bought as gifts. Just knowing the person you are buying for is so important. I am an avid golfer so it should not be hard to get me something for under 10 dollars. I once got a really cool looking golf mug for Christmas. It was only about 5 dollars. Perhaps that hard to buy for mother of yours, like mine, would love a new picture of her grandchildren in a frame. It just takes a little imagine and thought, but you would be surprised at how many inexpensive gifts you can buy for people that will really puts a smile on their faces.

Bigger is not always better when buying gifts. Those high priced, expensive gifts never seem to live up to their hype. There is always some technical issue with the smart phones and in a few years, a bigger better version will come out. Then it is time to get a new one. I was very happy a few years ago when I purchased a new camera with some of my Christmas money. Well now, the camera is about 40 percent of what the cost was 2 years ago. Small gifts with some meaning behind them do not have those problems. Gifts that touch the heart are priceless and last forever. They can come in in the smallest packages.

 

 

 

 

 

The horrors and joys of Christmas shopping

Today is Black Friday and the so-called unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season. Many die-hard shoppers across the country are flooding to the shopping malls and retail stores in search of that special deal on a particular item whether it be on a flat screen television or simply a toy for that child on their shopping list. A lot of people are those hard-core shoppers; they feel the need the show up at some store in the wee hours of the morning, stand in line for hours in freezing temperatures until the store opens their doors. I have to tip my cap to those individuals although I think they may be a bit crazy! You would never catch me doing that! But anyways, Christmas shopping can be a great experience for many people or a real pain in the you know what. As a guy, I think it has many pros and cons but for most of the time, it is something that I dread, like going to the dentist.

Quite frankly, I think most guys feel the same way that I do. I mean isn’t shopping, especially Christmas shopping suppose to be a chick thing? Us guys would rather lay on the couch, relax and watch football all day. Hanging around at some crowded mall with a bunch of rude people is not our idea of fun and excitement. Women are born to like shopping. It is in their DNA.

The problem that I have with Christmas shopping starts even before I enter a store or mall area. Arriving and trying to park my car can be a frustrating adventure in itself. Fighting for a good parking spot can be a major challenge. Some folks circle the lot forever so they can save walking about 50 yards, unbelievable!! All they do is slow up traffic. You also have to be heads up for those drivers who do not believe in looking before they back out of their parking spots and those who whip around the corners. Your attention span has to be on high alert before you even enter the store. You may have success in parking but you still run the risk of getting hit by a vehicle while walking to the front door.

Once instead the store or mall, the adventure really begins. Trying to get from store A to store B always poses difficulties. I like to walk fast and there is always some fat person or persons who waddle in front of me, just taking their sweet old time. Sometimes they even stop and look around without realizing what they are doing. I often feel like an NFL running back in those situations. I look for the nearest gap to escape and go forward. If it is not those slow walkers, it is the idiots who decide to park their shopping carts in the middle of the aisle! What are those people thinking?!! And last but not least, let’s not forget those folks who like to talk loudly on their cell phones, a very annoying social behavior of many people.

After dodging people and getting my items, the next challenge is the checkout line. I am like many people, I hate waiting in line to get checked out. I am famous for picking the line that has a price check or some slow cashier that may be in training. Also, is it not such a big deal for the cashier to give me a nice greeting? I have seen too many cashiers who have the personality of a telephone pool. A warm greeting can really add to the shopping experience.

Finally, I am done with my shopping and  can go home, right? Well not so fast! Oh where did I park my car? Believe me, I have had many occurrences where I forgot my parking spot in either the lot or ramp and wasted needless time searching for my car. Maybe it is just old age!! And once again, you have to be heads up for those ding bat drivers.

Having said all those things, there are times when I actually enjoy doing some shopping. There is nothing that puts me in the mood for Christmas more than going to a shopping mall or store during the holiday season. The lights, decorations, music and Christmas trees really puts you in the spirit. I usually go the Mall of America a few times before Christmas. They have a couple of the world biggest Christmas trees near the main entrance. A must see for any holiday shopper.

The real joy of Christmas is getting that gift that you know will really please someone. All of those hassles are really worth it when you finally find that special gift. On Christmas, you witness the joy on their faces when they open the gift and it makes you feel very warm inside as well. You may have stood outside some store in freezing temperatures on Black Friday just so you could be first in line to buy that special toy for your son or daughter. Seeing them scream with excitement after they open your gift along with a nice, long hug makes that sacrifice all the worth it. It is always better to give than receive.

Sure there is internet shopping but that has some drawbacks as well. The shipping charges are absolutely crazy on most products. Why should I pay a 10 dollars shipping charge on a 50 dollar item? But shopping online in the comforts and privacy of your own home is a very good alternative to fighting the crowds at the malls.

I hope everyone has a very successful time shopping during this holiday season. There are many drawbacks and annoyances in going to those crowded shopping malls but nothing puts you in a better mood for Christmas. You just might want to go back again for one last trip before the big day. Even this male blogger might be tempted to get off the couch and go shopping.

10 great Christmas gifts for a guy

Last week, I wrote a blog about 10 Christmas gifts for guys that should be avoided at all costs. This week, I’m going to change things up and talk about some great gift ideas for that male on your shopping list. Of course, every guy including myself would love to get one of those nice cars that are endlessly being advertised during this time of the year. Imagine opening the door and seeing a nice new ride with a bow on top parked in your driveway. That would be totally sweet!! But in the meantime, let’s get back to reality and here are some great gifts for any guy.

1. Ipod touch.  One of the best new gadgets on earth. Most electronic gadgets are a good buy for a guy. We love our little electronic devices. I get an uncontrollable drooling sensation when I walk into an electronic store such as Best Buy.

2. Tickets to a pro or college sporting event. Guys love their sports and attending a game in person is a great experience. It is much better than watching a game on television. I would go more often if I had the money.

3.  Apparel of his favorite team. I am not talking about some cheap 20 dollar t-shirt. How about a nice polo shirt or better yet, a sweater or sweatshirt with his favorite team’s colors and logo? It is not always a good idea to buy clothing for someone but this is an exception especially if he is a big fan of a team.

4.  A car phone charger. One of the best little and practical gifts that I have ever gotten.  Occasionally, I go on long road trips and that type of charger is a must!!

5.  A gift card to a nice restaurant. Do you have any good steak houses in town? Fast food places do not count!!!

6.  A collection of CD’s or  movie DVD’s. Every guy likes movies and most have some sort of favorite music that they enjoy listening too. You cannot go wrong with either. They are great simple ideas.

7.  A fancy coffee or beer mug. For instance, a personalized coffee mug with his name or of his favorite team. The more outrageous, the better.

8.  A gift card to a men’s clothing store. Instead of buying that new tie for your guy, let him pick it out. Or that dress shirt and pants.

9.  A scenic wall picture. A co-worker of mine has a wall picture of Pebble Beach in his cubicle.  It is so amazing!!! Maybe your guy is into fishing. A large picture of a fishing spot in Colorado would be a great idea.

10.  A magazine subscription.  Most guys have hobbies that we are passionate about and there are so many magazines that cover all sorts of interests. I personally think Men’s Health magazine is one of the best ones. It covers so many topics that men deal with.

These are just a few of many good gifts for guys. Being creative and knowing your guy is half the battle. Just stay away from the knitted slippers and underwear gifts and you should be fine.

10 bad Christmas gifts for a guy

The days leading up to Christmas can be a very stressful time for many people especially for those looking to buy a great gift for that special guy. Maybe it is your boyfriend or husband and you want to really impress him. Or maybe it is your father who has everything and you have no idea what to get him. Perhaps you are in some sort of Secret Santa thing at work and you have to buy something for that male co-worker and you barely know him.  Trying to satisfy a guy with a good gift can be difficult and requires some research but I do know of certain items that myself and most guys would like to see banned from any consideration.

1.  A scarf.  A lot of guys have a hard time with simply wearing gloves. A scarf? Some guys might mistake it for an oil rag. Macho guys do not wear scarfs.

2.  Over the calf tube socks.  I thought those socks went out in the late 70’s. Unfortunately, many retail stores still carry them and I do not understand why. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them even on the basketball court. A bad fashion statement!!

3. A gift certificate for a pedicure.  Yes, guys do tend to have rough feet but how many guys would want to be seen in one of those spas? Or even have their picture taken while getting a pedicure?

4. Cologne.  I’m not really big on cologne and here is why, most soaps, body washes and deodorants have a great smell so why add more scent? Plus most guys do not apply cologne properly and tend to wear too much.

5.  A Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift cd.  If any of my buddies ever discovered those cd’s in my possession, they would have me arrested immediately for being a girly man.

6.  Sweaters or dress shirts.  Not a bad gift thought, however, many guys like myself are very picky with the right color, style and fit. I still have nightmares over a reindeer sweater that I once got for a present.

7.  Ties.  Same reason as #6. And please, no polka dot ties!!

8.  A silly golf gadget.  As an avid golfer, I am interested in only two golf related gifts, a nice new driver or a new supply of golf balls. Forget the silly things such as a pond ball retriever or a cute club cover.

9.  Hanes, tidey whitey underwear.  That might be the worst gift ever!!

10.  A framed picture of his mother-in-law.  That might come in a close second!!

Using some common sense and understanding your guy will go a long way in ensuring that he will not give you that fake thank you when he opens his present.  When all else fails and you cannot decide, remember that gift cards are a great option. I would love to receive a gift card from an electronic, sporting goods or even retail store. Just do not attached a package of tidey whiteys with it!

 

 

 

 

Gift cards and money as a gift

Studies have shown that this is a very stressful time of the year. So how can that be? Isn’t the Christmas season suppose to be a time of joy, peace and happiness? Well, tell that to the many millions of people who spend many sleepless nights agonizing over, you guessed it, what to buy for a particular person for Christmas. We all have those people in our lives. It could be a family member who has everything. Or maybe you are involved in a Secret Santa thing  at work and drew the name of someone you barely talk to or hardly know anything about.

Some people feel that it is the easy way out to give a gift card to someone but I totally disagree.  Unless the person I am buying a gift for is specific, I will just give them a gift card or maybe money as a gift. Now that person has so many more options. He or she may walk into that store with the gift card and find something that they really, really need.  For example, I hate when people buy me clothing items. I’m very picky in what I want especially the color. A gift card from a clothing store will really help me in that respect. By the way, for those women out there, buying clothes for men is not always the best idea. Let the guy pick out what he wants!

My main goal when buying a gift for someone is to make them as happy as possible.  I would rather give than receive. Giving a nice gift to someone and seeing the happiness on their face really makes my day.  Sometimes a small little piece of plastic can do the same trick for those hard to buy for people. Like myself!! There is nothing wrong with buying someone a gift card for Christmas. They will probably love it and you will not have to deal with the anxiety of figuring out what to buy.  And you will have not have to deal with all that wrapping.