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Habit Forming

7 Aug

Amazon.com recently launched a daily deal fashion site called Myhabit.com. I’m skeptical of daily deal sites, which feel gimmicky, so I am surprised to report that I had a great experience there.

Today is the first time I visited, after my curiosity got the better of me from seeing some cute stuff in their daily email. (You always have to click through to the site to see the prices.)  They had quite a few cute brands on sale  (on the dressier side, probably more for date night than everyday wear). The pricing was very accessible – many dresses under $100, tops in the $30-$50 range, high quality shoes under $100. Let the browsing begin.

For those who have never shopped at a “daily deals” site, here’s how it works – they feature  small lot of merchandise by a handful of brands which change every day or two. Selection is limited – there are usually no more than about 20-30 items per brand – so it’s easy to skim the page and grab something you like. The low prices (and free shipping) make snatching something up that much easier.  They increase the urgency by listing sold-out items on the bottom of the page, encouraging shoppers to buy whatever is left before it’s gone, too. Once the sale is over, the clothes are no longer available.

Even though I am a savvy marketing person by profession, and can see right through the false sense of urgency that is created, the whole experience worked for me. I ended up with a pair of suede Dr. Marten boots for $78. I’ve been wanting a pair of grey suede boots for quite a while, and I have owned Docs before and know they’re comfortable and last years and years. With free 4-day shipping & returns, this was really an easy sell. Here they are (though the link to the sale will stop working after tomorrow when the sale ends).

grey doc marten suede ankle boot USD 78 at daily deal site myhabit.com

Suede Doc Marten boots for $78 – my first purchase from daily deal site MyHabit.com (and Amazon site). This could be seriously habit-forming.

The most amazing thing? From the opening the email to placing an order, the whole transaction took less than 10 minutes. I can really see why these daily deal sites are one of the fastest growing areas of online retail. The feeling that you need to act fast in order to get that “special deal” is irresistible! It’s funny how the thinking part of my brain can see right through it, but the feeling side of my brain loves to declare a “shopping victory”. With a broad selection of brands and something new every day, this site could indeed be very habit-forming.

There are a few things that set MyHabit.com apart from other daily deal sites I’ve come across:

1) They accept returns (within 21 days) on many – though not all – items. (The returns policy is listed clearly on each product page.) I’ve been burned by daily deal sites before, when I purchased a top for my daughter on Zulilly which ended up being way too small (the item was probably on sale due to bad sizing) only to find that it was not returnable. I ended up giving the stuff away to friends with kids…and also vowed never to shop Zulilly again.

2) Free four-day shipping. Zulilly’s stuff took me 2-3 weeks to get – and I think there’s a minimum purchase amount to get free shipping.

3) More stuff I like – the range of brands and styles is broader and somehow more compatible with my tastes. Maybe it’s because Amazon is a west-coast company with a sense of style more compatible to mine. Maybe because they’re the big gorilla in the space and have more clout with vendors. Whatever the reason, I’m pleasantly surprised.

4) A more complete range of sizes. Sometimes daily deal sites just have a limited range of sizes (like the sale rack at the department store at the end of the sale). There’s nothing worse than finding item after item you like only to find that it’s not available in your size. At least for the sales I looked at, many (though not all) of the sizes were still in stock.

5) Nice product pages – for clothing, the model will actually do a full 360 via video for you, so you can see the garment from all sides, and how it drapes. The length of all clothing is listed in inches, so it’s easier to get a sense of how long a dress or a top will be on you, rather than the leggy 5’9″ model.

Bottom line – Bravo! As long as the products themselves deliver as expected, I predict MyHabit.com will kill their daily-deals competitors. So if you’ve got some time to kill at the computer and are looking for a nice new item for going out to dinner (or going to work), check it out for yourself and let me and the other readers here know what you think!

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Making the Most of Online Sales

24 Jul

Ever have the feeling you have 17,000 email messages in your inbox? I actually did – I signed up to receive “marketing communications” from all my favorite online stores, and then fell behind on reading all the messages. After more than a year of neglect, I finally sat down to clear out the backlog, and was amazed at the volume of email urging me to buy, buy, buy… message after message saying “hurry” or “last day” (only to announce another sale a few weeks later).

They just keep coming...

They just keep coming… over 20 marketing messages received by 10am.

Truth is,  you don’t need to be on a store’s email list to take advantage of the best sales of the year.  They always happen twice a year: after Christmas, and right now – in late July and August, when Fall and Winter clothes begin to arrive in stores. But email marketing offers you the advantage of early access and sometimes an additional discount.

I recently needed a dress to wear to a summer wedding in Sonoma, and I was hoping to land a deal.  So when Boden (one of my favorite online stores) announced their end-of-summer sale, I jumped on the site the same day. I loaded up my cart with 10 “maybe” items, then quickly narrowed down to the best five. I gulped at the total dollar amount and then ordered all five items, knowing I’d be sending half of it back – because in a real store, you take more stuff into the dressing room than you intend to buy. I even paid $15 for express shipping to find out quickly if I had “the right dress” for the occasion. The next day, a large box was on my doorstep!   (It’s my first time using overnight shipping, and I have to say, I could get used to this.)

As it turns out, of the two dresses I ordered, one was a winner. Even with the extra shipping charges, it ended up costing less than $160 – not bad considering I never even had to leave my house. No raking through cluttered clothing racks. I could try it on at home with my own shoes and accessories. As a footnote, less than a week after ordering it, my size is already sold out – so I’m glad I acted quickly.

boden silk petal dress

A recent score from Boden’s online sale – just the dress to wear to a summer wedding.

The unexpected winner from the order was a funky 60’s print tunic – I had my doubts about the crazy retro print, but when I put it on, it felt so good that I decided to keep it. I live in tunic length tops, and the print offers a welcome pop of color.  The fit is great too – flattering neckline, not too tight around the hips, long enough to wear with leggings (or as a super-mini dress if you are feeling daring). $58 is more than I usually spend on tops, but I know it will get plenty of wear.

Boden Fab Jersey Tunic on Sale

The stretchy cotton jersey material was so soft and comfy that I ended up keeping this one.

In a nutshell, here is how I make the most of online sales:

1) Use a separate email account for online shopping. Then, ignore the account unless you’re looking to buy something.

2) Be stingy with your time. Delete all marketing emails older than a week without reading them.

3) If you do intend to buy, respond to online sales early, because popular items can go out of stock in a few days.

4) Order more items than you intend to keep. (You may need to pay for return shipping, but perhaps ordering more means you get free shipping with your order.) Order two sizes of the same item if you have trouble finding your size in a real store.  Yes, you’ll have to float the cost of the additional items until your return is processed, but you’re more likely to end up with something that you’re excited about.

5) Look for coupon codes before you check out  – it only takes a minute and may save you shipping or 20% off with very little effort. My favorite site is Retailmenot.com

6)  Be picky when trying on your clothes at home. Using the best mirror in the house, force yourself to make quick decisions based on gut-level reaction. When in doubt, send it back.

7) Bang out the logistics. To make returns easy, keep your computer connected to a printer for creating return labels, and keep a roll of packing tape in your desk for sealing your package. Fill out the paperwork for the return as soon as you can (to avoid losing it). Find the most convenient place near home or work to drop off UPS packages (using UPS.com). If your package has prepaid postage, don’t stand in line at the post office – walk up to the front of the line, make eye contact with a clerk, and he/she will tell you where to leave it.

8) Log off and get back to real life.  It’s easy to get sucked into hunting for deals online – so I give myself a time limit. If nothing clicks in the first 1 or 2 minutes on a specific site, I ditch out, knowing there will always be a next time.

Do you have another tip to share? Leave it in the comments section below!

Bathing Beauty

16 May

I’m digging through my shoe bin in search of my flip flops. That can only mean one thing – bathing suit season is coming!

Last year, it took me months to find a bathing suit I was truly happy with. I ended up with a Patagonia bikini and swim short which I still like, but this year, I am feeling like I could use a little more coverage in the mid section. So I geared up to search for a bathing suit with a tankini top, or possibly a one-piece. Expecting the search to be long and grueling, I was shocked when I  found a bathing suit that worked for me in the first store I tried.  Great fit – cute print – comfortable – and reasonably priced. Here it is. (Ta da!)

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini – the bathing suit that will carry me through summer. (Also comes in solid blue and other patterns)

The cut of the front offers plenty of support and coverage, and the pads add some shape without looking phony. I also love the tie closure in back, which is more comfortable than a halter (those hurt my neck after a while) and easy to adjust. Here’s a view of the back – even though I could tie the closure myself if I had to, it stays put way better than a regular string bikini, so I hardly ever need to. It also comes in a solid blue color.

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini - adjustable back

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini

It must have been a lucky shopping day because on the same trip, I stumbled across this ultra comfortable top to match – I intended it as a coverup to match my bathing suit, but find myself reaching for it for everyday. Paired with a tank top and jeans, it’s the perfect weight for cool and sunny spring days.  I only spent 45 minutes shopping, but felt like I had seriously scored by the end of it.

Stripy Stretch Hoody from Title Nine

If you have a Title Nine store near you, I recommend starting there for your bathing suit shopping. If not, check out their web site or catalog – their returns policy is reasonable and they carry much more online than they do in the store. Their sizing is pretty straightforward (my real life size matches their sizing in bathing suits). Their stuff is geared toward active pursuits like sporting or adventure travel – which I think describes the average day of a mom with young kids. Their prints are fun and colorful, and their fit is made to stay put, which really makes a difference – even if we’re not surfing or playing beach volleyball like the toned and tanned models in the catalog, our bodies are in motion all day long. Whether it’s splashing the kids in the water, bending over to make sand castles, or lugging piles of beach toys to and from the car, we need all the cooperation we can get from our swimwear (even if we can’t get it from our kids).

UPDATE: As of 8/1/12, The items listed above are on sale at Titlenine.com – if you’ve been waiting for the prices to drop, now’s the time to act! (The hoodie is sold out in the color on this post, but there are other colors still available. The tankini comes in two other colors and all are still available.)

Momma, let’s go swimming!

11 Jul

Summer has been my favorite season as long as I can remember – whether it’s for long days with nothing to do, getting wet, or frequent ice cream breaks.  Unfortunately, anyone who puts on their bathing suit after giving birth to a baby will have a reminder of their pregnancy belly staring back at them in the mirror. It’s been six summers since the birth of my first baby, but even though I am happy with my overall weight and fitness level, my fanny still won’t fit into my old bikini bottom.  After five years of searching, though, I think I’ve finally arrived at a reasonable middle ground between showing too much skin and covering up with a sack.

For the first summer post-baby, I got away with wearing my $25 maternity bathing suit from Target- I was just a month or two postpartum and the thought of going bathing suit shopping while breastfeeding seemed very daunting indeed. (It was a great value – I’ll secretly admit that I still wear the bottoms sometimes.)

maternity swimwear by Target

Two summers after giving birth, I was still wearing maternity swimwear to the pool with my toddler.

The following summer, I found myself reaching for my maternity swimsuit, even though my little darling was now walking and talking. I realized it was time to explore some age-appropriate bathing suit styles (which, incidentally, I would not be caught dead in my younger days, when I was hip and hanging out on the beach with my friends).  I tossed my pride aside in an effort to conquer my largest figure challenges – more ample hips and a wider, less firm midsection. I tried a one-piece bathing suit at Lands End which looked cute on the model – it had some shirring and pattern to help define the waistline – however, the bathing suit fit so tightly that it has ended up abandoned on the bottom of the swimwear drawer.  I think my problem may be my long torso, but there’s nothing like trying to squeeze into a bathing suit to make me feel deflated even before stepping foot outdoors.

Lands End One piece

Lands End offers many figure-friendly styles for post-baby bodies. Sadly, I couldn't make the fit work for me.

I also started getting catalogs from Athleta, an activewear company with a broad selection of swimwear. Their models are toned and muscular and look like they’re putting their swimwear to the test- so I finally sprung for a two-piece and swim skirt, on sale. (It’s always easier for me to take a fashion risk when the cost of entry is lower.)

Altheta's Swim Skirt provides extra coverage for modesty and ease of movement

Much to my surprise, the swim skirt was cute and didn’t make me feel like I was headed to the geriatric water walking class at the YMCA. Not that I don’t love active grandmas – I’m just not ready to be counted among them.

Now that my hips were covered, I still had my top half to contend with. (I’m going to leave aside the topic of my sinking bust for now – I think that deserves its own post on another day when I’ve had a bit more to drink with dinner.)  So there I was, looking for some extra coverage for my belly. As someone who spent their childhood summers at the beach, wearing a bikini felt very natural. However, the woman looking back at me in the mirror didn’t correspond to my self-image, which was formed when I was buying junior size clothes. And that’s how I came to love the tankini.

Carve Designs tankini

The tankini was a great compromise for my desire to wear a two-piece with the reality of a post-baby figure.

The tankini is a two-piece bathing suit with a long tank top that skims or covers the midsection. Because the pieces are often sold separately, it’s easy to fit a post-baby body. (For example, my first tankini purchase consisted of a size Small top and a size Medium bottom.) The coverage is reassuring, but it’s still more youthful and fun than that one-piece with a tummy tamer which makes me feel like an old person.

My other genius swimwear discovery – swim shorts – happened quite by accident. It’s not a secret among women who surf, paddle or play beach volleyball – but I’m hardly living the life of those Altheta models! (Though it does look nice. Surf in the morning, bike downtown for an organic salad for lunch, a centering yoga session in the afternoon.)

Athleta Model

Even though I don't live the life on an Athleta model, it's nice to know they design clothes for an active lifestyle.

Before kids, my husband and I liked to go snorkeling in tropical places. After coming home with a sunburned rear end one too many times, I finally purchased a pair of swim shorts to protect myself from the sun.  I generally reserved them for long days in the tropics, but one day at home while I was headed out to the pool with my toddler, I realized that I had – um – not made myself presentable for bikini bottoms so I threw on the swim shorts over my bathing suit.  Instant freedom! I could move and bend easily while carrying a baby and our loads of towels and pool gear, and although it wasn’t a huge fashion statement, the board shorts style had its own casual surfer-inspired relaxed cool.

I didn’t rush out to buy more swim shorts – instead, I got back on a regular exercise routine, determined to maybe fit into my old bathing suits before too long. Then I got pregnant again, delivered a second child, and continued to work out twice a week until I got back to a pants size that I could live with.

One day, I ended up at a Patagonia store and discovered a swim short that is now my staple swim wardrobe item – the Meridian Board Short. It’s stretchy, flattering, easy to get on and off, and very functional. The length is perfect, providing enough coverage while keeping a feminine silhouette. It dries quickly and is wearing great, it still looks like new one busy swim season later.

Patagonia Meridian Board Shorts

You don't have to be a surfer to wear these shorts - and they look cute in or out of the water.

I liked my Patagonia swim short so much, I went back to Title Nine to see if they may have something similar. Their shorts don’t have the same fit, either too tight or too loose, but I did find a great swimsuit brand that seems to fit better than all the rest – Carve Designs. I bought a great tankini top in a fun pattern and comfortable cut on sale, which I have been living in all summer. I only wish Carve Designs were more widely available in retail stores so I could add to my collection. Meanwhile, I will have to continue to ogle their online offerings – which are a bit cumbersome to browse, but for well-fitting tops and bottoms, it may be worth the effort (and they offer a reasonable return policy).

Patagonia shortie boardie

Shorter and sweet - Patagonia's Shortie Boardie is another option for extra coverage in the water

Incidentally, after falling in love with the Patagonia swim shorts, I went by the store to see if I could pick up another color. They sent me two different pairs in the same size which fit as though they were a size smaller – a good reminder that even a high-quality clothing manufacturer like Patagonia has to contend with inconsistencies in production.  This year, I sprang for a shorter, patterned swim short which I was terrified would be too short, but ended up being surprisingly flattering as well: TheShortie Boardie.

I even sprang for a matching bikini (I recommend wearing bikini bottoms under swim shorts for comfort and modesty).

Patagonia's Kupala top

The Kupala top stays put thanks to adjustable ties that cross in the back.

Patagonia Sunamee Bottoms

Judging by the fact that more swim shorts are in the stores than ever before, it seems that I’m not the only woman (mother or not) who appreciates the benefits of swim shorts.

Now, when I’m putting on my swim clothes, I refuse to curse the figure flaws of my post-baby self.  Yes, I still tend to suck in my tummy when I look in the mirror, but only for  a second – then I get on with my day, and have fun in the pool with my kids. My bathing suit stands up to two active kids hanging on me in the pool, but years from now, we won’t remember what I was wearing – we’ll remember the carefree, bright and easy feeling of summer.

Flip Flop Fantastic

29 Jun

Flip flops, how I love thee- let me count the ways…

1) You slide on my feet without complaint

2) You don’t trap sand and wood chips from the playground

3) You look cute with anything, from pants to skirts

4) You feel good on my feet all day long, even in the hottest weather

5) You don’t mind getting wet

6) You’re affordable, so I can have a polygamous love affair with several of you

Nothing says “summer” on your feet quite like flip flops – they take me from the grocery store to watering flowers in the garden without a hiccup. I never have to think about matching with an outfit – the right flip flops will go with everything.

After a year of test-driving, here are my motherhood-compatible favorites:

Teva Mandalyn Ola Wedge

Teva Mandalyn Ola Wedge: why buy just one pair when a two-pack sells for $56?

The Teva Mandalyn Wedge Ola, which looks dressy (for a flip flop) thanks to the higher heel and thin, decorative straps, but does not compromise walkability and comfort. It hugs my foot with two straps on either side, and the footbed is cushy. It costs about $30 a pair (you can even buy them in 2-packs for $56 at Zappos with free shipping!) They come in many cute color combinations, but I forced myself to stop at two – the basic black and the brown – and between them, I have just about every outfit covered.

Mandalyn Wedge Side View

The heel on the Mandalyn Wedge strikes the perfect balance between style and comfort

Note that Teva also makes a Mandalyn flip flop with a standard heel, but if the product name doesn’t say “wedge” then the heel is flat. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the two if viewed from above.

Speedo Womens Pool Thong

The Speedo Womens Pool Thong for poolside and beyond

The Speedo swim flip flop, the all-plastic & foam materials are highly water compatible but super cushy. It’s intended to be worn after getting out the pool but I find myself slipping it on to wear around the house (or in the garden when the hose comes on) because the straps and footbed cradle my foot in a lightweight pillow of foamy comfort.

Havaianas silver flip flop

The hip and ubiquitous Havaianas flip flop from Brazil - catchy, but worth $30?

It’s hard to miss the latest trend in flip flops, the Havaianas brand flip flop from Brazil. They’re on shoe racks and young feet everywhere. I can’t help but wonder how this company somehow manages to charge $30 for a pair of plastic flip flops that otherwise costs $5 at Old Navy. Is it pure cachet associated with the brand prominently displayed across the strap?  Its devotees swear they are the most comfortable flip flop in existence. I remain skeptical but must admit, after visiting their web site, the huge range of color options does appeal to me – as does the understated styling.  If there’s a color combination you can’t seem to find in the stores, you can even make your own and have it sent to you!

The Havaianas espadrille for $38 might well be my next shoe purchase.

One other style that caught my eye on Havaianas web store was their espadrilles for $38- they have taken the traditional cloth shoe upper and sewn it on their foam sole.  Sounds like a pretty cushy ride. Since I have otherwise not been able to find an espadrille under $80 (which I find to be an obscene price for a shoe made of straw and cloth), I might end up springing for a pair of these to wear in a summery color like red or aqua blue.

However, it’s going to be hard to resist ordering a pair of flip flops for my daughter, who adores them almost as much as I do. The heel strap on the “baby” styles makes the shoe more compatible with the littlest walkers. These shoes are yet another reason why it’s often more fun to shop for my kids than for myself. I wouldn’t choose a gold flip flop for myself, but somehow, I know my 2 year old daughter could pull these off with style points to spare.

Havaianas baby flip flop

Havaianas Baby flip flop in Butterfly

The T-Shirt Upgrade

6 Apr

Moms know there’s nothing more easy and comfortable than pulling on a t-shirt in the morning. Yet t-shirt dressing can sometimes make me feel like I am dressing for college finals and not for an adult existence. After all, how many fashionable possibilities can the t-shirt possibly offer? Add to that the fact that most of my t-shirts are either black or white, and I suddenly feel like I am in a fashion rut.

Unwilling to give up the ease and comfort of t-shirt dressing, I recently undertook an ambitious search for great t-shirts. After some hits and many misses, shopping online and in retail stores, I have decided that the key for looking great in a t-shirt is:

* flattering shape and fit,

* comfy and easy to wear,

* a color or pattern that makes me happy.

I recently discovered my new favorite t-shirt in a store at Title Nine. I have to confess I bought it on impulse – I was running late to my exercise class and realized halfway there that I had forgotten a gym shirt. I decided that a quick trip to the store to buy a fun new shirt sounded more appealing than ducking home to my toddler and babysitter – coming home and going again is somehow never a quick proposition. Just when I think I’m out the door again, my daughter wants *mommy* to take her to the potty/put on her shoes/give her the “lellow” spoon and not the pink spoon that the babysitter is offering her.

So, I popped into Palo Alto’s Title Nine store, and in no time, this t-shirt practically jumped into my arms. A quick trial in the dressing room sealed the deal. It wasn’t cheap, but I already know this is one I am going to wear all summer long, and beyond.

Ojai Clothing t-shirt at Title Nine

Pretty, comfortable and flattering - this top upgrades t-shirt dressing!

After a few weeks of wearing (and loving) this t-shirt, I returned to the web site of the manufacturer, Ojai Clothing. Browsing the web site made me glad I discovered my t-shirt in a store, because I am pretty sure I would not have shelled out almost $50 for a t-shirt based on just a photo. It’s hard to convey the softness and delicate texture of the fabric in a picture.  I was pleased to find more options on their web site – though just as with many other online shopping experiences, sometimes too many options lead to indecision, and not buying anything at all.

Ojai Clothing T-Shirts, Spring 2011

I have also been pleased with the shirred scoop neck 3/4 sleeve tees from Garnet Hill, a catalog company. I appreciate the way they fit – enough length to graze the waist and hip, and a pretty neckline which takes t-shirt dressing up a notch. I own two colors, white and coral, and reach for them regularly. They are some kind of synthetic blend, and to avoid fading and pilling, I always put them on a hanger to dry them. After a year of regular wear, they are still looking great. Sadly, they appear to be “so last season” because  they no longer appear on their web site.

I did, however, find the top below, which has the potential to serve the same purpose – to take the comfort of a t-shirt but offer the visual appeal of a blouse.

Garnet Hill Pima Cotton T-Shirt Blouse

This t-shirt by Garnet Hill may offer the comfort of a t-shirt but the appeal of a blouse. At $36, the price isn't bad, either!

Having acquired some good new t-shirts, I forced myself to give away some of the old t-shirts that I never wore anymore. The least flattering t-shirts were boxy in fit and had a high crew neck. I think I wore them when I didn’t really pay any attention to fit, but in retrospect, few necklines are less flattering than a high crew neck, which makes my long torso look even more square and shortens my neck. And pretending like I don’t have a waistline does nothing to make me feel pretty or feminine. T-shirts don’t have to be skin-tight, but some definition of the upper body is the norm these days, and that’s a good thing.

T-shirts are also an inexpensive way to add a pop of trendy color to an outfit. And, it turns out, giving some thought to color is the starting to point to a real outfit! We’re not talking about being a slave to matching colors in everything I wear, but staring with a fun t-shirt color is a mood-enhancer. My current favorites are lavender and any shade of aqua blue.  When I go shopping, I pay attention to colors that make me happy, and avoid the urge to rule them out for being “not my color” before trying on. After all, sometimes colors can surprise you.

When I have an extra half a minute to consider what I am wearing in the morning, I can turn a well-fitting t-shirt into an outfit with just one strategic accessory – whether it’s a necklace that complements the neckline, pretty earrings, or even a light scarf for those cool spring mornings. I hang my scarves right next to my tops in my closet so that combining them is a breeze. I also keep my favorite earrings and necklaces in one drawer of my jewelry box, and reach for them even on days that just include a trip to the playground and grocery store.  It makes an ordinary day feel more special somehow.  (I still face the challenge of organizing my jewelry collection, and most of it sits languishing in a fishing tackle box on my bathroom counter, but that’s a topic for another post.)

To complete my t-shirt roundup, one dud I will report is a v-neck t-shirt from Eddie Bauer. The ribbing around the neckline lost its shape after just two washes, and I was not able to repair it. In my mind, there is no excuse for charging good money for a poorly made and simply knit t-shirt, so have decided to avoid Eddie Bauer, at least until a more positive experience with them turns me back around.

Shopping online without a computer

17 Feb

Several weeks ago, I wondered if it was possible to shop from a mobile device during those precious moments when I have a few minutes of downtime. In addition to the smartphone, which has real, but still mostly unmet potential as a shopping platform, I am also intrigued by the “tablet” – the handheld, wirelessly connected computer, of which Apple’s iPad is the best example today. I don’t own one, but I can’t help but think that the larger screen makes it a superior format for browsing images of online stores in greater detail. Every night, I sit idly in the bathroom for 15 minutes while my kids splash in the tub. Sometimes I check email on my smartphone, but by the end of the day I am ready to relax and put work aside. I find myself wishing I had a tablet on my lap so I can surf the web or look at my friend’s new photos on Facebook. So far, I have been unwilling to shell out $500 for yet another device which is at risk for being dropped in the toilet or stepped on by my toddler; but if this article is correct, we may have several less expensive options in the not-too-distant future.

iPad image by San Jose Mercury News

A tablet computer with a large touch-screen, connected to the Internet anywhere, could make online shopping easier for busy moms on the go.

Right now Apple’s iPad may own the market, but a slew of new devices running Google’s Android are reportedly coming soon – even though Apple has a considerable head start, it’s going to have to contend with competition from Google and Hewlett Packard that will bring prices down, which is good news no matter which device you choose. Time to start making your Christmas wish list for 2011!

And let’s not forget about the smartphone, which seems to be getting smarter all the time, thanks to higher processing power and an expanded data capacity on mobile networks which is being called “4G”. It’s prettier too – screens are getting larger and more detailed.  The phone’s capabilities are increasing as more applications are being written to run on mobile platforms. That means web surfing is getting faster and easier every day.  Call me a technophile, or maybe just an optimist, but I believe a large part of my online shopping for Christmas 2011 is going to happen on a smartphone.

That means I better hurry up and decide between the iPhone, finally available on Verizon’s mobile network, and a phone running Google’s Android OS. I am not even considering the also-rans Palm and Microsoft, which have dramatically lost market share to Apple and Google over the past year, to the point where it’s hard to imagine they can ever catch up.  But why should I care, as long as the products left standing make it possible to buy a pair of pants on sale while waiting for my kids to get out of class?  We moms and nannies are already standing in the school hallways and the grocery checkout lines reading emails and text messages. We may as well browse an online jeans sale every now and then.

Being permanently connected to the Internet may not be what the world needs more of, but personally, I would rather have more options of when and how to connect, rather than less.

The Very Lonely Firefly book by Eric Carle

I couldn't find replacement batteries for this light-up book at any of my local drugstores, so I finally ordered them on Amazon.

I am sure the citizens of Egypt would agree – I am lucky that my online to-do list contains buying replacement batteries for board books that light up, and not organizing the downfall of a dictatorial government using Twitter and Facebook. Believe me, I appreciate that more than most people around here – my parents (and I briefly, too) lived under communism in Eastern Europe before the iron curtain fell. The Internet certainly has many more politically and socially significant powers than delivering me the perfect pair of boots from Zappos. But after the television coverage shifts from the jubilation in Egypt’s Tahrir square to yet another Republican-Democrat dogfight about how to reduce the national debt, I can’t help but turn to my own private affairs – and that’s how I get to Zappos.com. After all, what woman doesn’t have some kind of private love affair with shoes?

But that’s a subject for another post.

Tahrir Square on the eve of Mubarak's resignation, photo by NYT

On the Internet, I somehow go from this...

 

...to this...

...to this.

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