Tag Archive 'Reflection Blog'

Apr 02 2012

A Year Without ‘Made in China’

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This book was really interesting to read. The idea of how regularly Americans consume Chinese goods is no secret to anyone, and there are plenty of people out there who do try to only buy American made goods, at least when it’s convenient. You can find their websites or their bumper stickers quite easily. There are also ‘Made in the USA’ stores, I believe there is one in downtown Fredericksburg, where you can spend all the money you like on good old fashioned American (novelty) goods.
In the book, Bongiorni doesn’t rule out all products that aren’t American, just ones from China. At the beginning of the project I don’t think she had a realistic idea of what that meant, as she comes to realize when she gets gifts from friends and family that are made in China, and has to succumb to using some products with parts from China that were ‘made’ in the USA. I think the book really proves that it’s nearly impossible to live without products from China in this country, as illustrated by the husband’s subversive shopping techniques and even the author’s exploiting of the idea of ‘gifts’, for example when she asks her sister in law to buy her husband an inflatable pool for his birthday. She is purposely obtaining products from China, and she knows it — just not buying it herself. I do give the author credit for trying the boycott, and for documenting the struggles her family went through and all of the research that went into the book that made it interesting and educational. I also think that a middle class American family on a moderate budget could not afford to live without ‘Made in China.’ I personally can live without Wal-Mart and K-Mart, but I could never like the idea of buying a four year old $70 shoes that they will tear up within months, or give up my collection of cheap sunglasses. There are just too many things that I refuse to spend too much money on, and Chinese products make it easy for me to be that way.

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Mar 11 2012

Wal-Mart

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Wal-Mart is a big business that started out as a ‘hometown’ business. By drawing their capital from local ‘partners’ and family members, Walton was able to gather support in just the place where many other large businesses had met fierce opposition. He knew that he had to represent the small town American Dream, not the big city ways, in order to make it. The evolution of Wal-Mart is truly an interesting story that kept my attention from the beginning to end of the book. I’ve never considered how many political, economical, and religious factors go into running a company and how many are influenced by a large company. The comparison of Wal-Mart to a church at one point in the book is interesting to me because the huge following that Wal-Mart has can definitely fit into a standard definition of religion. I have never had any experience working at Wal-Mart, but in my experiences shopping there, I observed that the ‘associates’ usually did not enjoy their time there, and were often grumpy or distracted from what they should be focused on, pleasing the customers. The book explains that Wal-Mart’s vision and mission is quite the opposite of this, and maybe it is exemplified in some stores, but certainly not any that I’ve seen.

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Feb 28 2012

I Still Have a Dumb Phone – Reflections on Beck

This article was not exactly what I expected. It didn’t really seem to focus on mobile shopping aid apps as much as I expected it to. After the first couple of paragraphs, it seemed to wander quickly away from that discussion. I am aware of the type of mobile applications that the article mentioned briefly, and I assure you, when I upgrade my phone over spring break, I’ll soon invest in that sort of technology. It is certainly the sort of competitive shopping edge I would take advantage of. The phone I have right now provides me some degree of mobile research ability, but it’s a really old Blackberry, so it’s only slightly above average as far as phone intelligence goes.

I will focus on a few things that popped out at me as I read this article.

Presearch. I hadn’t heard that term before, but it is DEFINITELY something I do. I presearch not only for price and availability, but also to help me make my choices. I subscribe to Consumer Reports online services and this provides me a good deal of valuable information when it comes to major purchases. I also refer frequently to other customers’ comments on sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I have, however, learned to read between the lines. Many of the customers post with bias or with unrealistic expectations. Reading the text of their comments carefully, it’s generally pretty easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Heck, I even shop for my college professors using the same ideology using RateMyProfessor. I don’t have time to pick a dud!)

Koa quotes a Newsweek article that says if current employment trends continue, “the average woman will make more than the average man by 2024.” Yeah. Right. Girl power. I am woman. Bottom line? I won’t hold my breath.

I was a little surprised to learn that a number of retailers still completely separate their web operations from their brick and mortar stores. Though I suppose I am vaguely aware that this is the case, I just can’t imagine how that is a good idea. I would not purchase a product from the website of a store with a brick and mortar counterpart unless I had the option of returning the item to the store. It’s just bad form and it would put me off of a store.

I do find myself particularly annoyed with stores that don’t offer web-enabled POS assistance. I recently found myself trying to buy a large quantity of wall plates (for sockets and light switches) from Lowe’s. Apparently, everyone in the *world* wanted these things. I could only order online those products that weren’t carried in the store. Products carried in the store, I could order for pick up at a store, but no store near me had them in stock. It would not allow me to search in concentrically larger circles until I could find a store that had them. The only way to do that was to go into Lowe’s and have their customer service reps locate them for me. Even then, it was a cumbersome process. With the amount of money I spent on those stupid things, Lowe’s should have been standing on their heads to help me find them.

Bottom line, I didn’t get a whole lot out of this article, but it did make me think about the features that important to me in an online shopping experience.

– Sara

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Feb 28 2012

Men and Women’s shopping habits

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The Wall Street Journal article reminds me of myself more than any guys I know. I’ve never heard of the high end fashion websites or ‘flash sale’ websites that were mentioned, and I consider myself to be pretty internet and shopping savvy! I would probably rattle off the list that they collected of men’s most likely places to shop online if I was asked the same question. It would be something like Amazon, Ebay, Target, Best Buy, etc. I do have some friends who use those specialty clothing stores online such as Modcloth, etc, but I (as the article states is common) never buy clothes without trying them on. For me, it’s not because trying on clothes is a fun experience, so I completely disagree with the article on that note, but it’s because returning clothes is a hassle, so I’d rather get the right thing the first time.
As for the article on mobile shopping, the part that struck me as interesting is that we, the consumers, are in control. In a sense, this is true, but I think brand loyalty plays into this as well. I like shopping at Target, so I do most of my shopping there, even though I could do price comparisons and get things cheaper at other stores at times. I also like shopping at Macy’s, and if I find something I like, I’m not likely to get onto my phone (which for some reason has no service in any Macy’s stores I’ve ever been to… Conspiracy?) and find it cheaper someone else. I usually will just buy it there. I do agree with the article that a kind of ‘pre shopping’ is becoming a trend. Women can spend short amounts of time during their day or over a period of weeks and plan an entire shopping trip, getting in and out of the store faster and avoiding add ons and impulse buys, making it harder for the brick and mortar stores to compete.

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Feb 28 2012

Looking For a Few Good Men – Reflections on Smith

I found Ray Smith’s Wall Street Journal article interesting for a few reasons. First of all, I do *a lot* of internet shopping and I hadn’t ever heard of any of the sites he mentioned in the first 4 paragraphs of his article. Interestingly, I had heard of all of the same sites mentioned by the men. Maybe it’s that fashion thing again. Oddly, as technologically stubborn as my spouse is (he’s 54 years old), he does shop online. I started thinking about the things he buys online and how he shops. I even asked him a few questions about his online shopping. He *detests* the physical act of going shopping, so online shopping is quite ideal for him. He is also possibly the stingiest man on earth, so he’s always looking for stuff to be really cheap. He only shops on a handful of websites, though. He shops on REI, 1-800-FLOWERS, L.A. Police Gear (he buys clothes there, khaki pants and polo shirts, but also knives and other manly things) and he shops on eBay. Most of his eBay shopping is window shopping (haha – no pun intended), but as eBay collects his clicking habits, they send him targeted emails. Those emails took him to two different eBay “storefronts” at Christmas this year off of which he purchased an expensive recurve bow for my oldest son and a .22 rifle for my youngest son.

I’ll be very interested to see what happens with the next generation of adult males, though. Both of my sons (18 and 12) head *straight* to the internet when they want something. They are already both relatively savvy online shoppers and don’t hesitate when it comes to online purchases (except when it comes to the actual buying part, because I still have to do that for them!) They also do a lot of window shopping on the internet on sites like ThinkGeek and Maker Shed and other sites for nerdy kids. My artsy-fartsy older son likes to browse sites like Etsy and Threadless and TeeFury where he can see other artists’ and craftsmen’s work.

I can’t imagine my sons will ever turn into the consummate internet fashion shoppers that this article seemed to focus on trying to create, but I suspect as adult men with their own disposable income, quite a bit of their money will vanish into ethereal cash registers in the sky.

– Sara

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Feb 26 2012

Polyvore, meet Pinterest – Reflections on Jacobs

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The Polyvore article was interesting, but the whole time I was reading, I couldn’t help asking myself, “What am I supposed to be getting out of this?” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be considering how women use the site, how the site’s parent company and advertisers utilize the activities of the site’s users, or something else entirely. I found the whole concept a little bizarre because I’m not a slave to fashion. Even watching Today show segments or makeover shows on TLC, I find myself aghast at the thought of paying $80 for jeans, much less several hundred dollars. I’m a practical kind of girl when it comes to clothes, so much of the site’s draw would be completely lost on me.  I kept comparing the site to the little bit that I know about Pinterest. Everyone I know right now is totally into “pinning”. I thought it was amazing that a site like Polyvore that is focused solely on fashion wasn’t using the same sorts of technology as Pinterest when it comes to marketing. In a several-page (click-wise) article I found about sites like Polyvore, I read this nugget about Pinterest: “While curation not consumption is its strength, the site outdid Google+, Linked In, and YouTube combined in leading shoppers to retailers last month, according to Shareaholic.” I found this particularly interesting because Pinterest topics (at least from my understanding) are limited only by the users’ imaginations and range from funny kid and pet pictures, to recipes, to fashion and exercise where as Polyvore is focused solely on fashion. Mostly, knowing how easily distractible I am, it’s incredibly fortunate that I have not fallen prey to the lure of either of these time-wasters. I was probably too busy shooting at colored bubbles and “liking” stuff on Facebook!

– Sara

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Feb 24 2012

“Yeah, that’s great. But what about now?” Reflections on Gladwell

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This article by Malcolm Gladwell was very interesting. I do wish it had been written a little more recently. More accurately, I wish another article had been written since. I’d love to know what has changed and what innovations have occurred in the last 12 years.

Although I’m a huge internet shopper, I miss the days of the paper Sears and JCPenney catalogs. I really enjoy browsing through catalogs. I do think they are an effective way of promoting particular merchandise. Though Gladwell’s article explained that with an internet site, a company can display all of their merchandise, whereas with an article, they must pick and choose, realistically, how many customers actually click through every single page of a company’s website and view all of the merchandise? The paper catalog still serves to promote items and spark my interest in items of which I may be unaware, while the company’s website serves to complement that interest.

I also think that a lot of recent developments in internet commerce, like customer reviews on websites and independent consumer survey organizations may have eliminated some of the need for customer service. I think a lot of savvy customers do a lot of their research independently of a company’s customer service representatives. I’m certainly not suggesting that the company’s customer service departments are going the way of the dinosaur, but I would be interested to know how things have developed over the last 12 years as the internet has evolved.

– Sara

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Feb 19 2012

Downtown American Part 2

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In this part of the book, we start off with the desegregation of downtown. Shop owners believed that if there was a non white and poor population presence in their area the property value would go down, because less (supposedly rich) white people would want to shop there. There is evidence of this sort of segregation still going on today. People have said that it was building the Target in Springfield Mall that attracted undesirable customers and led to the mall’s steady decline. There was much talk about putting a metro station in Georgetown a few years ago, and people were concerned that the predominantly middle-upper class shopping areas would be dominated by poor / undesirable loiterers and teenagers instead of serious shoppers if it was easily accessible by public transportation. Though “downtown” and shopping centers are usually regarded as public places, it seems that still today not everyone is welcome.

The rebuilding/refurbishing/renovation/etc. of downtown is something I’ve seen in many places. There are streets where I grew up in Iowa and Illinois that are regulated just the same way as downtown Fredericksburg and Alexandria are. The buildings are for the most part original, and any structure on that ‘main street’ that is going to be altered has to be approved by a council. This keeps the nostalgia of downtown, which as discussed in the book, people seem to love, because they keep flocking to the areas day and night.

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Feb 17 2012

“The Bulldozer of Progress” – Reflections on John Sprinkle

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I really enjoyed listening to John Sprinkle last night. I already knew quite a bit about the particulars of Executive Order 11593 from my time in HISP 101 last summer, but it certainly was interesting to hear more layers of detail about the whys, the hows and the whats that happened as those processes unfolded. I had never heard of the phenomenon of the “Old St. Louis Post Office Problem” before but I was forcefully reminded of the untimely and tragic demise of New York’s original Penn Station. I truly believe that sometimes, it *is* important to save a building just because it’s old – especially when it demonstrates the splendor of American architecture. I truly appreciate when old buildings are preserved, restored and repurposed. Outside of the preservation of my old hometown, Savannah, GA, one of my favorite stories of preservation and reuse is “The Commodore Theater” in Portsmouth, VA. I especially like that The Commodore proudly advertises the theater’s history throughout the building and in a full-page insert in the theater menu. Old theaters are super cool and deserve restoration! Apparently, I’m a closeted Historic Preservation major! Maybe I’ll do that one after English!

– Sara G.

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Feb 13 2012

Petula Clark Said It Best: “Downtown – Everything’s Waiting For You” – Reflections on Isenberg, Part I

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Downtown America has been interesting, thus far. First of all, having already looked at the shift from the “downtown” environment to shopping malls several decades later, it was interesting to look at the evolution of downtown already knowing the reasons for the ultimate declination and shift to suburbia. The section of the pictorial beautification (where downtown areas cleaned up their visual presentation for post postcards and publications) was interesting. This trend demonstrated that not only is it important to advertise the merchandise when attempting to attract and establish a clientele – it’s also important to “advertise”, or otherwise promote the value of the space. I’m really looking forward to the second half of this book.

– Sara

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