Fun at the Return Desk

GIFT RETURNThese days, every gift I receive or give at the holidays comes with the tags still on, or accompanied by the receipt in an envelope.  For those who prefer gift-giving, as opposed to gift CARD giving, you have to expect that a trip to the return desk is a distinct possibility.

We know that gift return can be a challenge and a frustration. There always seems to be 30 people waiting in line, with one clerk working. Or – my favorite – there are two clerks working, one who knows what she is doing, and one who doesn’t. The one who doesn’t calls over the one who does, to help solve some problem. Now, you have NOBODY working!

Information is the key, so here are some links that will help guide you through return season 2015.

So, there’s your tour of gift return policies. Remember, gift return is definitely a chore, but it doesn’t have to be torture! How about you? Do have any gift return tales to tell – naughty or nice? Let us know at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Merry Christmas from MindField Online!

christmasHope everybody has a great time with family and friends this Christmas Day. BE SAFE! If you get a chance, join us over at the MindField Facebook page, and tell us about the most meaningful gift you received this year. Not the biggest or most expensive, but the one that touched you most. Take care and Ho Ho Ho!!

Here are some fun Holiday spending statistics (including Hanukkah and Kwanzaa) to quote at the dinner table, as reported by the National Retail Federation. You’re welcome.

  • Total Spending: $804, up 5% from last year
  • Gifts for…Family $460, Friends $80, Co-workers $26, Pets $30
  • Decorations: $54
  • Food: $100
  • Cards: $30
  • Flowers: $20
  • Where we shop: Discount stores 62%, Department stores 60%, Internet 54%, Grocery stores 52%, Catalogs 31%
  • When we started shopping: Before Halloween 40%
  • Average spent when we start early: $636
  • Average spent when we start late: $1074

Last Minute Holiday Shopping

panic shopOur shopping has been done for a while, so I keep getting surprised as we are out and about: I see a million cars in the lot and I say “MAN! What is going on at the mall?! …oh, right. Last minute Christmas shopping.”

If the last minute isn’t here already, it’s close. What does that mean to you? How do you tend to get caught up in the Last Minute? For us, it’s less about putting it off, and more about surprises. We find out that somebody already got the same gift for someone on our list, and somehow it is always more convenient for US to return it and get something else. Or, “I didn’t think her boyfriend would last until Christmas, but he did, and now we have to buy him a present!”

The Last Minute can be stressful, and mistakes can be made. Here are a couple of links to illustrate…

And on a more helpful note:

So, don’t get stressed and don’t feel bad. Look around you – you aren’t alone! In fact, 17% of us waited until the last week! How about you? Is your shopping long done, or are you reading this on your phone while standing in line at Bed & Bath? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!

Star Wars Merch Madness

star wars cover girlChances are, you are reading this on your mobile device as you stand in line for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But probably not.

This is the day fans have been waiting for, and their passion for all things Star Wars reaches well beyond the multiplex. You’ll find star Wars in your breakfast cereal, your video games, your bedsheets…basically everywhere. As Darth Vader once said (sorta) “The branding is strong with this one…”

Here is a collection of some of the more interesting Star Wars items for sale, as compiled by NBC News.

  • CoverGirl’s Star Wars Collection
  • Star Wars Crocs
  • Star Wars Creamers by Coffee-mate
  • HP Star Wars Special Edition Laptop
  • Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner – Star Wars Shapes
  • Star Wars-branded fruit

So, is there a saturation point for this kind of thing? Is there such a thing as the merchandising “going too far”? Maybe. There already seems to be a backlash growing over that last item:

Consumers are rebelling against ‘Star Wars’ branded fruits and vegetables

As Darth Vader might also have said, “I find your lack of faith in Star Wars-branded fruit and vegetables…disturbing.”

How about you? Are you on board with all the Star Wars merch? How much is too much? Me, I’m so disgusted that I will only see the new movie 6 or 7 times in protest!! Have a good weekend – see you in line!

Regifting Do’s and Don’ts


First of all, when did “giving” become “gifting”? And why does that  bother me so much?

Anyway, today’s topic is REgifting. When did that become a thing? When did it become common enough that we feel OK talking about it, and writing an article like this one in Time Magazine telling you when it’s OK to regift, and how to do it without getting caught?

Apparently, the answer is NOW.  Back in the 1970’s, not so much. One Monday in December was the third grade class Christmas party and gift exchange. By Sunday afternoon, either I had forgotten to tell my mother, or she had put it off (or both), but I had no gift to give. We had to rush out to the store but, before we could go, it snowed. Real hard. No trip to the store, and I had to wrap a used gift. I knew it was a bad idea, but I wrapped the used race car. The next day, the paper wasn’t even completely off before the kid yelled “Gross! A USED gift?” Children can be so kind.

So, this article tells you how to avoid scenes like this when regifting.

  • Regift strategically (Who and When)
  • Completely repackage the gift
  • Regift only good gifts

And it also suggests the kind of items that might make suitable regifts. Here are the bullets…

  1. Gift cards for stores you don’t like
  2. Food or treat gift baskets: Store bought and shrink wrapped only
  3. Flowers or décor arrangements
  4. Toys your kids won’t play with: If nothing else, donate them
  5. Neutral accessories:neutral being the key – no nutty colors or patterns
  6. Bath products
  7. Coffee and mug sets: the kind you always see at discount stores
  8. Gifts you don’t love and can return for store credit: turning unwanted items into gift cards
  9. Books you won’t read
  10. Entertaining items:I have regifted barbecue tool sets a couple of times

For all the details, read “How to Regift Without Getting Caught.” So, how about you? IS it OK to regift? How and when? Have you done it? How did it turn out? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!


Twelve Days of Spending

partridgeEvery year they take that old carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and determine how much all of the items listed would cost, and compare it to last year. It’s goofy fun, but it also helps paint a picture of the overall economy.

This year’s picture is not so merry, sadly.  Sure, the cost of 10 Lords Leaping is up 3% over last year. Partridges and turtle doves are up, too, due to rising feed prices. Otherwise, this year’s total is pretty flat, and that supposedly points to a “bah, humbug” economy.

So how will Gold Rings, French Hens and Pipers Piping hit your budget this year? The PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index has it all figured out! Let’s take a look!

  • Partridge, $25; up $5
  • Pear tree, $190; up $2
  • Two turtle doves, $290; up $30
  • Three French hens, $182; same
  • Four calling birds (canaries), $600; same
  • Five golden rings, $750; same
  • Six geese-a-laying, $360; same
  • Seven swans a-swimming, $13,125; same
  • Eight maids a-milking, $58; same
  • Nine ladies dancing, $7,553; same
  • Ten lords a-leaping, $5,508; up $160
  • 11 pipers piping, $2,635; same
  • 12 drummers drumming, $2,855; same

To see how they came up with these numbers, be sure to check out the original article. So, what do you think? Unless you’re buying the same stuf this holiday season as you did last year, it’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison. But, do you FEEL like you are spending more, less or the same? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great second-to-last shopping weekend!

The Gift of Dining

dining gift cardsDining gift cards… meaningful gift or not? It depends on the recipient. My mother LOVES to go to lunch with her friends. So a dining gift card makes a lot of sense. Used for lunch on Senior Discount Day, even a $25 card can go a long way.

But during the holidays, a dining gift card can go even further. Many restaurants offer bonuses during this time of year, along the lines of “Buy a $50 card, get $10 extra for free.” MoneyTalksNews has compiled a list of several of these deals. Here are the bullets…

  • Bakers Square Restaurant & Bakery: Buy $25 gift card, get $5 bonus card
  • California Pizza Kitchen: Buy $50, get $10 promotional card
  • Cheesecake Factory: Buy $25, get one slice of cheesecake or layer cake
  • Del Taco: Buy $30, get one small-size combo meal OR Buy $100 in gift cards, get four small-size combo meals
  • IHOP: Buy $25, get $5 coupon
  • Olive Garden: Buy $50, get $10 bonus offer
  • Outback Steakhouse: Buy $50, get $10 bonus card
  • Papa John’s: Buy $25 e-gift card, get one-topping large pizza
  • Pei Wei Asian Diner: Buy $25, get $5 bonus card
  • P.F. Chang’s China Bistro: Buy $100, $20 bonus card
  • Romano’s Macaroni Grill: Buy $25, get $5 grazie gift bonus
  • Ruby Tuesday: Buy $50, get $15 bonus card OR buy $25 and get $5 bonus card
  • Souper Salad: Buy $25, get $5 gift card
  • Souplantation & Sweet Tomatoes: Buy $50, get meal pass valid on your next visit
  • T.G.I. Friday’s: Buy $25, get $5 Bonus Bite card

Who’s hungry? Now, almost all of these bonus deals have expiration dates, so be sure to go to MoneyTalksNews to get the details on that, as well as how to purchase the gift cards.

I wish I had read this earlier – I always get my mom a Red Lobster/Olive Garden card. Of course, I bought it at the kiosk at CVS Pharmacy, so no bonus for me! Maybe next year…

How about you? Are you a dining gift card giver? Do any of these sound like good deals? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!


app shopping Stuart Miles/ imagerymajestic

When we first did a piece on Holiday shopping apps – about 4 years ago – the “gee-whiz” developments were apps that helped you remember where you parked your car, or ones that had detailed maps of malls across America.

They have gotten smarter since then. Some of this year’s highlights (and no, these are not endorsements) include the following:

  • BuyVia: Price comparisons, mobile couponing, price alerts and product reviews — along with secure online shopping.
  • Clutch: Store all your coupons, as well as loyalty and gift-card data with this app.
  • Favado: Cut your bills by comparing real-time sale data from more than 65,000 supermarket and drug stores nationwide.
  • Goodzer: Compares prices on products ranging from deodorant to little black dresses carried by stores in your neighborhood.
  • Ibotta: Receive cash rebates for everyday purchases in over 80 stores.
  • Pounce: See a product you’ve been looking for advertised in a circular or catalog at a great price? Snap a photo of it with your iPhone and this tool lets you buy it directly from the retailer in two clicks.
  • PriceGrabber: Scan products’ barcodes while shopping to see whether other retailers offer lower prices.
  • PriceJump: Scan bar codes and compare prices from stores near them and at more than 5,000 online vendors.
  • RedLaser: Scan an item’s bar code to compare prices at thousands of online retailers and local walk-in stores.
  • RetailMeNot: Collects coupon codes and sale information from a range of retailers and lets you bookmark your favorite stores so that you can check for discounts while you’re shopping.
  • ShopAdvisor: Search for your desired item (or scan its barcode), save it to your shopping list, and wait. The app will alert you when its price drops at any store.
  • Shopkick: earn rewards simply for browsing — no purchase required.


Download Smart!

A final note – wherever you choose to download your new apps, there should be a rating/review system to give you an idea if this app is worth it, and if it is “safe” to download. Always check the ratings and reviews!

Holiday Shopping App Links:

Have you downloaded any exciting shopping apps for the Holiday Season? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page, and have a great weekend!

Cyber Monday On the Rise

cyber mondayWe have heard a lot of noise about the “Death of Black Friday” this year. Is that true?

I think it’s all relative. It’s still a huge shopping day, but maybe not as big as in the past. Why? I think shoppers are tiring of the hassle, and retailers are tiring of the negative headlines. Stores have taken steps to spread out the deals over a number of days (opening on Thanksgiving has taken a toll), and limit the doorbusters – often flashpoints for inter-shopper conflict.

One thing we can say for sure is that, this year, Cyber Monday has edged out Black Friday for the first time. Apparently, as NBC News cleverly put it: “We would rather be Online than stand IN line!”…

  • 151 million of us went shopping in total this past weekend
  • 103 million of us shopped online,
  • 102 million went to the physical stores
  • 94 million of us didn’t shop at all (including ME.)
  • We spent an average of $299 this past weekend, 2/3 of that on gifts
  • We spent $1.8 billion on Thanksgiving Day
  • We spent another $10.4 billion on Black Friday
  • Sales were down 1.5% in stores
  • Spending per shopper was down 1.4%
  • We spent $3 billion on line on Cyber Monday
  • That’s an increase of 12%
  • This year’s Gotta Have item: big screen TVs!

Read more fun facts here! Personally, I can see the benefits of the Cyber Monday thing. I have participated in the past, but never in gift-giving mode. Typically, I have been needing a new laptop for 3 or 4 months, and Cyber Monday is when I pull the trigger. I have saved hundreds of bucks, for sure, and all from the comfort of home.

How about you? Are your holiday shopping habits changing? Is Black Friday still fun, or is it losing its charm? Are you steering more toward Cyber Monday these days? Let us know over at the MindField Online Facebook page!