Retail Rant | Blogmas 2015

I have been a retail associate for two weeks and seen things that make me ill with disgust.  Now I know why my mom taught me and my brother to be thoughtful shoppers.  Part of my job is keeping the store clean, but that isn’t an excuse for customers to leave a mess.  Don’t leave cutting boards on the sunglasses rack.  Don’t spit out your gum on the floor.  Don’t put candy or toys on the shoe racks.  One purse per hook, not twenty.  When you look at an item and decide not to buy it, please put it back where you found it rather than leaving it on the floor or in a random department.  This is a season for love and joy.  Let us all, myself included, think of the employees giving of their time to help others prepare for Christmas.  Please be a considerate shopper this season and year-round!

Vlogmas – Lauren Michele

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18 days until Christmas…

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Tips For a Better Holiday Shopping Experience

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Happy faces??  I think not!!  I am sure I’m not the only one who hates crowds, especially around Christmastime.  I love shopping, but holiday crowds are in a league of their own.  I want to share the tips I have learned from my experiences in hopes that your stress level will decrease and your holiday spirit increase.  Let us proceed with the merriment!

1.  It is never too early to start Christmas shopping.  Sometimes the best deals show up after Christmas.  Why not get a head start?  The only thing you will have to worry about is a good hiding spot.  ;)

2.  Make a budget.  Know what you have to spend and shop accordingly.  Keep track of your money every step of the way.  Before shopping, I make a list of anticipated prices; I round up each price (e.g. $15.35 would be  $16) and add fifteen dollars for tax and shipping.  Always overestimate and expect the unexpected.  Bonus: It feels good to finish shopping and have money left over.

3.  Have your loved ones write down what they need/want.  A list will eliminate guesswork which takes precious time away from shopping and other holiday tasks.

4.  Adding to #3, make a list of what gift(s) you are getting for each person.  This way, you only have to spend time finding the best deal for specific items instead of wandering the internet with no light at the end of the tunnel.

5.  Do not be afraid of the interweb!  The internet is your best friend if you want to avoid crowds.  Also, you get to shop in pajamas and sip hot chocolate from the comfort of your home.  Nothing wrong with that!

6.  If you are concerned that an online store is sketchy, use a website like scamadviser.com or consumeraffairs.com.  You can also type the name of the business and the term “legitimate” into your web browser’s search engine for results containing reviews.

7.  If you are worried about online shopping costing more due to shipping, fear not!  You will be pleasantly surprised at how many online stores offer low shipping prices or free shipping, especially during the holiday season.

8.  The websites I visit first are Amazon and eBay.  Those are two good places to start if you want to dig and find good deals.

9.  My main tips for handling an eBay auction are as follows: Be online for at least the last five minutes of the auction, continuously refresh the page, wait until the last few seconds to bid, and bid at least one dollar above the price (e.g. if the price is $30, bid $31).  This isn’t a surefire way to win, but you will have a better chance of avoiding being outbid and winning.  And yes, I have won an auction with this plan.

10.  The Google Shopping tab is a good tool to use for finding the lowest prices for products.

11.  If you find coupon codes, use them!  I know this sounds like an obvious tip, but I am 100% certain there are people who have made purchases without realizing that there was a great coupon code available.  Not all coupon codes are valid so some trial and error may be involved, but it is worth it.  At least try!  One way to get coupon codes is to make a free account with the website you are shopping on; most online stores send a discount to new members.  Another way is typing the name of the store and the term “coupon code” into your web browser’s search engine.  The first few results are usually the most reliable (e.g. RetailMeNot or Groupon).

12.  Adding to #11, coupon codes and discounts are great, but make sure you do some math before checking out.  Discounted products could allude to higher tax and shipping cost.  Full price is not always the enemy.

13.  Another good way to compare prices is “checking out.”  Basically, I start to check out on two or more websites with the same item but only go to a certain point.  I do this in an attempt to find out the exact tax and shipping costs and calculate the cheapest total.

14.  I know there is a rush that comes with shopping for loved ones during Christmastime, but be patient.  If you rush, you might miss out on some great deals and/or accidentally go over budget.  Do not give in to impatience and accept the first price you see for the sake of feeding your excitement.

15.  On the flip side, if you find a ridiculous deal and your gut says act fast, do it.  Certain deals come once and only once.  Experience is the best tool for gauging if a deal is good or not.  That’s right!  The more you shop, the more you know.  ;)

16.  When in doubt, remember why you are shopping.  You want to put a smile on the faces of your loved ones and show them how much you care.  That is all the motivation you need to complete your mission shoppers.

My 2015 budget was $266, and I had three people to shop for.  I bought my first two presents and felt pretty good about where my budget was at.  Then, a shopper’s worst nightmare came true for me: I realized that I had accounted for $40 I did not have.  DUN DUN DUUUN!!!  That number may seem insignificant, but when your piggy bank is a source of income and a budget your lifeline, $40 is a make or break amount.  I had a complete meltdown: tears, screaming, the works.  After my less than stellar adult moment, I regained composure, put on my thinking cap, and did some more research.  Currently I have all but one gift purchased and am well under budget.  A Christmas miracle in November!!  Once I purchase my last gift, I will have spent $194 total for six gifts, received $80 for outside contribution, and be $152 under budget.  Keep in mind that the six gifts I bought for three people could easily be six gifts for six people.  I hope this gives you a visual of how the 16 tips listed above are effective, especially when money is tight.  Also, they are functional year-round.  Happy shopping!

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– Lauren Michele <3

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May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

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I spent the last month applying for jobs and finally landed an interview this week, which went really well.  Even though I have only experienced two job interviews in my lifetime, I want to share advice from my experiences in hopes that it will be beneficial to you.  Please keep in mind that these tips worked for me, but you have to decide what will work for you.

1.  Apply apply apply!!!  I started out slow, but my mom encouraged me to keep applying because not all jobs will contact you if you aren’t chosen.  You could be waiting forever!!  My strategy was filling out two or three applications, waiting one week for an answer, and repeating the process.

2.  Carefully consider your skill set and comfort level.  Apply for jobs only if you feel confident in your ability to meet the requirements.  I would also recommend applying for jobs that make you feel comfortable.  For example my focus was retail, and I applied at stores I shop at; I trust their policies and merchandise therefore I can work without hindrance.

3.  This is advice my mom gave to me: Everyone has to start at the bottom before they can reach the top.  You may not like where you start, but don’t let that discourage you.

4.  Some people prefer applying online, and others prefer applying in person.  I have only applied online, and it worked for me.  There is a possibility that it won’t work so I would suggest that, after a month or longer of zero response, you start applying in person.

5.  If you are unsure whether or not a website is legitimate, use ScamAdviser.com.  I applied for jobs using Indeed.com and SnagAJob.com and did not have problems with either.

6.  Have your resume put together and ready before applying.  Sometimes you upload a resume, and other times you fill out the information.  Either way, if your resume is already completed, the information is in one place and ready to be uploaded or copied and pasted.

7.  Not all applications require a cover letter but have one prepared just in case.  This cover letter is a great example: http://kohlsitup.weebly.com/cover-letters.html

8.  If a business does not contact you within one week, don’t give up yet.  The first job I applied for in October did not contact me after one week so I assumed I did’t get the job.  I received a call two weeks later and was interviewed four days after that.

9.  Don’t get discouraged by rejection because it happens to everybody.  If you don’t get the job, it wasn’t the right fit.  Get back out there and continue to look for the job meant for you.

10.  When you get a call to set up an interview, don’t jump the gun and tell the world you got a job.  You are building expectations in your head that will make potential rejection harder to handle.

11.  Use a “Cheat Sheet.”  I used this method in school for exams, and it was 100% effective.  First, write out information about the business you are applying for: the name, when and where it was founded, the number of locations, what company it is owned by, and the names of other stores owned by the same company.  Second, visit websites such as GlassDoor.com and write down questions previously given to interviewees by your potential employer.  Next to each question, write your answer; use keywords instead of full sentences to make the answers easier to study and remember.  Third, study the “Cheat Sheet” forward and backward; read it quietly, read it out loud, and recite it from memory.  You should never go into an interview unprepared for the questions.  Consider that the interviewer has work to do; you don’t want to take up too much time with a lengthy thought process.  Also, preparedness is a good skill to showcase.

12.  Going along with #11, it is good to be prepared, but keep in mind that your answers should sound natural and not rehearsed.  Avoid a rapid speaking pace and throw in some short pauses.  ;)

13.  You don’t have to look like a supermodel, but your appearance should be pleasant to look at and put-together from head to toe.  If you don’t put in effort getting ready, will you put in effort working?  The outside should reflect the inside.

14. Sometimes you have to fill out another application at the interview.  Make sure you have previous job experience (Company, Supervisor, Address, Email, Phone Number, List of Duties, Dates of Employment) and professional reference (Name, Title, Email, Phone Number) information with you.

15.  Bring at least 2 copies of your cover letter and resume.  The information is good to have, and the interviewer might ask you for a copy of one or both.  Why two copies of each?  Always have a backup plan for the unexpected!

16.  Bring a pen and notebook in case you need to take notes.  You could use your phone, but a notebook doesn’t have any distractions on it.  :)

17.  Job interviews are nerve-wracking, but don’t let those nerves get the best of you.  Have confidence!  If you don’t believe you can do the job, why should the company hire you?

18.  Going along with #17, sit up straight, look the interviewer in the eye, and enunciate your words.  Make the interview worth the interviewer’s time by being professional and showing respect.  Basically, have good manners.

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– Lauren Michele <3

48 Days Until Christmas

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