Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Shopping

Voting Against Premature Christmas Music

I just finished voting, and what a relief – not that I’m done with making important candidate and constitutional decisions that will affect policies for years to come, but that I live in Oregon and we have mail-in ballots.

Unlike most of you reading this, I don’t have to wait in a long line, produce some kind of photo ID, or even go out in the rain. I can sit in my nice comfy home and mail in my ballot or jump in my car and drop it off at drive-up boxes all over Portland. Think what you want about rainy Oregon, our voting process tips the happiness scale a whole bunch in this state’s favor.

You might say, “But can’t people cheat easier if they don’t have to show up at the polls?” And I’d have to answer that I guess there are plenty of ways for people to cheat while voting, no matter how they do it. Creative connivers will always dream up schemes to circumvent decency and get what they want. But do you seriously think those states requiring photo IDs will not end up getting people with forged or illegal ID’s? Cheating will occur there as well.

All in all, though, I believe the ability to vote is a very lucky thing. Even if we vote for the wrong person, even if some of the people cheat, even if people are too lazy or disillusioned to vote, at least we all have the choice.

One thing we don’t have any choice about, though, is having to listen to Christmas music in stores on election day. It’s criminal!!! Does a home improvement store really need to blast out Christmas music as early as Election Day, which is November 2nd for all my foreign readers? Are we really going to forget that we have to buy holiday lights and tree stands and decorations? We haven’t even dragged the decorations out of the attic yet, so how do we know if we need new strings of lights? Well, we WILL, of course, because those strings of lights only last a season before a section of them goes out. But still, I’m capable of knowing I need to buy this stuff without holiday music blaring while I’m still shopping for grass fertilizer. I hate being put out of the Christmas mood two months ahead of time.

I think I’m going to gather signatures for a petition to outlaw Christmas music in all public and private buildings until the day after Thanksgiving. I bet every shopper in Oregon will sign it. I’d love to have that in Oregon’s constitution because, honestly, there really ought to be a law against it.

Artistic Observations

I recently attended Art in the Pearl, the annual display of very talented artisans in downtown Portland held Labor Day weekend. Their work is stunning. So creative, so detailed, so expensive. You can tell by looking at the finely crafted wood furniture and cleverly unique artwork that you can’t afford to have any of it in your own home.

One artist didn’t have prices on any of his work. He had these incredible martini glasses with drops of water on them that looked like a photograph. He explained that there were NOT photographs, and that’s why they cost $3,000, because they were hand painted.

Everything we saw was gorgeous and intriguing – artwork that you’d enjoy and that would also impress your friends.

Contrast these with the artwork I saw at a street fair a couple of weeks ago. Most of that art looked like psychedelics were involved. Bright colors swirled over canvases like a hurricane had blown through the artist’s studio. Most were made with “hard” colors – I don’t know how else to describe them. Reds and yellows and royal blues fighting for real estate on the canvas. They looked like children had been instructed to use as many colors as they could as long as they had absolutely no subject. The odd thing was that booth after booth had these kinds of paintings, as if the whole street had sent their kids to a “street fair” art class.

There were others with hateful looking demons or weird creatures painted with blacks and touches of red. Who is going to buy such a thing besides Satan? They were totally creepy. If I had one of those things in my house and woke up and saw it in the eerie glow of a nightlight, I’d never get back to sleep.

The main difference between these two approaches to art boiled down to time invested. The artists at the Pearl looked like their work took hours and hours and hours to do. At Alberta Street, their work looked like it took seconds.

Another difference was price. Most everything at the Pearl appealed to me but was too expensive. Much at the street fair was unappealing but quite affordable.

Anyone young and/or on drugs is going to take offense at what I’m saying here. They will say it’s a matter of taste, and I should be open to people’s artistic expression, and they’re absolutely right. It is true that my particular taste runs to things that would look good anywhere as opposed to things that would only look appropriate in a third-world insane asylum.

But I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I will end with the observation that I very much enjoyed looking at the artwork at the street fair and jabbing my husband in the ribs when I saw something particularly eye-wrenching, er, I mean eye-catching. This is one thing I like about Portland. You can find something for everyone around here – from the strictly upper crust to the lowly heel coated in fuzzy blue mold.

And if you have a taste for the bizarre – you’re in luck! You can pick up artwork for cheap – in many instances two for one, 35% off today only, or at a “street fair” special. And if you have some pot on you, you could probably get an even better deal than that.

Unrewarding Rewards

I don’t know about how they do things in your neck of the woods, but here in the Northwest every store has started trying to get you to sign up for their rewards cards. I guess it’s a smart marketing tool to build customer loyalty, but why do they have to give you all those plastic cards or things to hang off your key chain? I have about six of those things to every key on my key chain, and it takes me a very long time to find the right one at the cash register, and then both I and the cashier have to contort ourselves to get the scanner to read it while piles of people stack up in the line behind me.

Some stores give you immediate discounts. At Safeway you can see your $100 grocery bill whittled down to $96 right before your eyes, which I find very satisfying. But Fred Meyer’s sends you discount coupons in the mail. This is a win-win for them, but a pain in the neck for me. To use the coupons, I have to go back to Fred’s and shcp, so I end up buying impulse items like Pepperidge Farms Mint Milano cookies. Also, chances are good I’ll lose the coupons when they get buried in all those wads of plastic in my purse and expire before I excavate them.

I can’t go into any store at all without being given a sales pitch about why I need to join the store’s rewards program.

“Ma’am, would you like to sign up for our triple star rewards program where you’ll earn triple points today?”

“I’m just here to buy a washer for my faucet.”

“That’s okay, you’ll be able to save 10% off your purchase today and earn points you can redeem later.”

“But I never come in here. And B, how much is 10% off of 39 cents?”

“Well, it may not seem like much, but it really adds up, especially in these hard economic times.”

“Okay, go ahead and sign me up.”

“Oh, good. This will only take a few minutes once the computer comes back up….”

I signed up for Macy’s rewards and get 20% discount cards all the time in the mail. It was pretty exciting until I went to try and use one.

“I’m so sorry, but this discount doesn’t apply to these items,” the clerk said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“It’s right there on the back of the card,” she said.

I looked at the card and saw something that I thought was part of the design – little squiggly lines. “Here, use my glasses,” she said. I put her glasses on and could tell the lines were writing, but couldn’t make out the words. “Here, use this magnifying glass.” With it I could see that there was a very long list of items that did not qualify for the discount – namely every regular priced, sale, or clearance item of every brand name in the store. “Is there anything I can actually purchase to get the discount?” I asked. “Not that I know of,” she said brightly. “Will that be cash or credit?”

I think this whole loyalty thing would work better if everyone wasn’t doing it. I have cards at Albertsons, Safeway, and Fred Meyer. I just go to the store that’s on my way without a thought about their rewards. I’ve signed up for Nordstrom, Macy’s, and American Eagle rewards, among others, but I buy different things in these stores. I don’t buy anything for myself in a couple of them, only stuff for my daughter. Toting these rewards cards around has not increased my loyalty, and it ticks me off that I’m probably paying MORE than I did before because these stores are making all those plastic cards and sending coupons in the mail and I’m footing the bill for it.

I just hoping they get rid of them and lower prices across the board before I have to bump up to a larger purse to accommodate my colossal key chain.

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen