Pouch obsession can pose dangers for toddlers.

Sometimes a key insight smacks you like cold water in the face.

I had the honor of watching my 21 month old grandchild in my home last week. Believe me,  I got plenty of water in my face as she showed me her swimming kicks at every bath!

But I also realized that anything in a pouch type package goes directly in the mouth, which I witnessed in horror as she grabbed and sucked on an open sample pouch of organic baby shampoo her Mom left for us to use.

Given the surge in Mommy using pouch packed foods as convenient nutrition, even this “real-foods” based girl has had pouch foods for on-the-go nutrition. So we’d been at Harris Teeter earlier that day to grab two Plum Organic pouches of airplane-ready travel food for the trip home later in the week.  I quickly stashed it out of sight, but all day she pestered me to “hold it” or “have pouch” or “eat pouch”, all of which I successfully dodged.

Later in the bath, she saw and immediately grabbed the shampoo pouch, gleefully exclaiming “Maren do it” and into the mouth it went. You can imagine the ruckus that began when I snatched it out of her slippery little hand. This girl modeled her objection after Adele. Full-bodied, loud and long.

The insight hit me again the next day when we tried to apply sunscreen from, yes, you guessed it, a pouch-like container. I got the full blown “Maren do it” and had to act lightning fast to avoid another episode.

I bring this up not as a new “so-what” but as a “do-what” for anyone who looks after a child. An insight is only useful if applied. Realize these things:

  • the associations made in the toddler brain can’t discern the difference between good or bad things in pouch packaging
  • the toddleer sucking for nutrition and satisfaction instinct is still very strong
  • the inherent default for a toddler is “I do it” and they get great satisfaction and praise from others for just about any accomplishment
  • when “they do it”  – they get a dopamine shot in the brain and then they crave it again and again
  • no amount of  logical conversation with a toddler changes this.

Pouched nutrition is a convenient way to accomplish feeding young ones. But we must all be aware that the dangers of “pouch obsession” translating to ingesting very bad substances are very real and must be managed with great care by parents and childcare professionals alike.

No Excuses for Expired POS Sale Signage

Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!

Stein Mart has ranked high on shopper’s “favorite”  lists for years. Personally, I think it’s a better men’s store than women’s, which is why my husband and I typically shop there for him. (always together; alas, he is color-blind)

Recently, we were on a golf mission trip, starting at Dicks. Despite the BOGO sale on shirts, we left with only a desire to check out the more stylish shirt selection at Stein Mart.

The golf section was alive with prominent, but expired Sale signage, with extra 20% off coupons laid out on nicely stacked tables of new merchandise. Twenty minutes later we’re at the checkout line, only to be told the sale was over, and that the tiny print on the coupon said the 20% didn’t apply to the “fabulous finds” shirt we selected from the table with coupons placed directly next the shirt.

The register clerk said they hadn’t had time to remove all the POS. Nor had they posted any coupon-exempt “fabulous finds” signs on the golf shirts. But, clearly they had taken time to refold and re-stack all the table displays, given how neat the department was.

Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!
Honor all discounts on display or remove on time!

Is refusal to honor posted deals the first sin of retail?  Misleading the customer and not honoring all posted offer is, IMHO, the number one mistake in customer experience.  And the “we’re too busy or short-staffed” chatter at the register about outdated POS is not an acceptable excuse.

We bought the merchandise and promptly asked to see the store manager. I introduced myself and asked her to walk through my shopping experience with me, pointing out the mis-cues and lack of pertinent information I might have used to figure out that I’d be paying full price. I positioned myself as the giver of “free expert advice” on how to eliminate a misleading experience for her shoppers.  When she too gave me the short-staffed excuse, I pressed for a reason she was in the back room (unpacking new merchandise) instead of removing old the POS herself.

She wanted me to leave the store happy, and insisted  on giving us a refund of $16.00 ( 20% off). I let her know that what would make me happy enough to come back was for her to take immediate action to remove the misleading and outdated signage. I’d have gladly donated the $16.00 to cover her time.

Packaging Notes – Squeeze Only Once!

In every aspect of marketing, a good plan is essential but implementation is what makes all the difference.

Case in point. The upside down condiment bottle has worked pretty well for ketchup and salad dressings. So when we saw that same packaging on Heinz mustard at Harris Teeter, we assumed it would be just as functional. Wrong.

Many months later, when the bottle wasn’t full any longer, a squeeze of the package  revealed the major implementation fail. The flex of the ketchup bottle was missing! Try as we might, we could not restore the package to its original shape.

Frustrated, we threw it out, but not before @ShopperAnnie got the photo that proves the devil is always in the details.

No squeezing!
No squeezing!


The big mess at Macy’s shakes my faith.

Shopping is a visceral and emotional experience, fulfilling deep-set gathering and social needs. So returning a gift and choosing another should be at least somewhat satisfying, right?

Not so much. Last week at a big Macy’s store at upscale Somerset Mall in Troy, Michigan, my deep-seated sense of the pleasure from the art of shopping in real life got a big fat negative jolt. Now I realize things get busy and therefore messy in retail at the holidays, but never have I seen store departments look like they looked on this trip.

My friend and I browsed the crowded store on December 29th.  In coats, one entire wall of jackets was blocked by hundreds of returned coats piled on the floor. I asked why, was told “no room in the back” to put them. Really? The pile was up to my knees.  My visceral nerves were on edge already.

Then we cruised quickly through kids apparel, and although we are both grandmothers, we quickly decided the crowds and very messy fixtures were a huge deterrent to the joy we might have in finding something adorable for our precious ones.  This decision prompted an emotional response of resentment of the mess, since I’ve loved shopping baby clothes bargains for 16 months now. When pleasure shopping is spoiled, resentment will linger on.

The most appalling mess was in pajamas and intimates,  The piles of returns on the floors were bad enough, but the associates were engulfed by merchandise strewn all over the counters. Other fixtures laden with new inventory looked as if the department had been recently ransacked. By now, I was really on edge, but was stuck in a long line as my friend was buying something.

Macys3 Macys Messmacys2


I know retailers have procedures and processes for managing the future status of returned merchandise, and this does take time, but never in my shopping life have I seen this kind of poor handling of returned merchandise. Or should I say mishandling of the shopper. I felt that I didn’t want to touch one thing in this department. These images will be seen by my mind’s eye for a long time, and while it will be a while before I visit another Macy’s, one thing I did learn is this:

If you don’t know what your loved one really wants for Christmas, go with a gift card. Then perhaps post-holiday shopping can return to a bit less chaos.

A new view on spending in December!

This is the first year I’ve used up all my healthcare pre-tax savings account. To be completely transparent, it was gone in August. And now it’s December. And I’m still spending!

I’m spending on healthcare this month like it was all I wanted for Christmas!

One might surmise that I’m not feeling well, or that I have some disease, but that’s not it. I’ve spent most of my money on wellness procedures to get some nagging aches and pains under control. And that worked. (insert smiley face here).

The new view on December spending is frankly this: I’ve met my deductible and can finally tap into my insurance.

Now I get why all the docs are so jammed in December. And I’m glad I had appointments booked in advance.

On my spending list this month is some shoulder therapy, which has helped my golf swing and is also prep work for a January trip that includes white water rafting and zip-line fun in Costa Rica. Today I go to pick out and pay for new glasses, that’s always an expensive treat given I’m now up to three layers of vision in the lenses!

And Monday the hubby and I are both off to the lab to prove to our interinst that our “number” are better and our health efforts have been worth it.

Too bad, Walmart, Target and the mall stores. Too bad Amazon Prime.  Our gift budgets are gone. But we’re making the best choices we can, given what our premiums and deductibles will be come January. Taking the long view has changed our December spending, but we are feeling like Santa came early!

Falling out of like with online shopping


Two weeks ago, I ordered an outdoor rug for my back deck from you.  I was so pleased to find the selection you offerred, and did a bit of exploring on your site to determine the size and style I wanted. I love that my chosen rug was a good price, the shipping date was very reasonable, and in less than three days the rug was on the deck, under the new table. Imagine how happy I was to have my neighbors over for dinner, collecting compliments on my style of outdoor entertaining.

So, why oh why, Overstock, do you continue to show up in my Facebook feed as a sponsored post with views and ads of all the other rugs I looked at but did not order???

Come on now, you know I bought one of the 5 styles I was looking at. Why do you now haunt (read as annoy) me with the other 4?

This the is most shopper-annoying part of technology.

It makes me want to delete my Overstock.com account. Instead of helping me, you are interrupting my life while I am trying to enjoy what I bought from you already.


I;m falling out of like with you.


Bye, Bye Kiwi

Kiwi, you’ve been replaced by a banana. A peel of a banana, no less!

I recently read (in the AARP magazine, OMG did I just admit that?) that you can use a banana peel (the inside part) to polish leather shoes. Smear it on and buff it out after one minute with a soft cloth. A weird smell, banana on leather, but not as toxic as a whiff of chemical-laden polish out of that metal container.

As a marketer of consumer brands I feel somewhat guilty when I find a sure-fire organic no-cost solution to a problem. In this case, it means I will stop buying shoe polish, at least in brown.

As a consumer it’s frankly odd to rub banana peels on your $200 boots. But my last date with Kiwi ended badly when the color of an expensive and favorite pair of Ralph Lauren loafers turned into a blotchy mess of brown awfulness.

My boots look amazing, so do the ten year old Paul Green loafers I still love after all these years.  Oh what one banana peel can do!

And guess what else? The banana itself was a tasty treat in my greek yogurt smoothie! Now all I need is a white fruit option for my golf shoes!

High on Monster High

It’s hard to stay up on all the trends I need to know in retail, shopper marketing, culture…engagement, advocacy…you name it…I’m supposed to know about it.  Honey Boo Boo? Really? We’re over your gross lack of manners. Gangnam Style? Whatever…

My new curiosity is Monster High. I’m looking for a couple of ten year olds to play with. I’ll invest in the dolls and  sets of accessories to go with.  Really, I will. I also want to play dolls with all the moms. This is fertile ground for woman culture.

Just look at the branding. Is this the next gen Hello Kitty or what?

Branding at its finest!!

Be Yourself. Be Unique. Be A Monster.

Just ask my husband. I can be all of the above on any given day. And then I can go play with my dolls. Acting out stories. Like a ten year old.

Monsters? Or Zombies? Connections to apps with big glitzy keys on the packages…..


Clawdeen – the best seller

What ARE the stories the dolls act out for ten year olds today?Is Monster High a next-gen storyboard? Could it be a comic book reality show? Is it individually crafted visual story telling, or script some marketer is pushing?

Is this toy story, next chapter? Let’s play.

What’s the story behind this?


Branding at its finest!!

Retail Fitness? Off the scale……

My son, 23, can not afford a fancy gym membership, but he does pay for a basic workout membership at a local franchised Planet Fitness.

In the club, there’s a separate area with tanning beds, massage tables… you know…the spa side. It’s usually not very busy.

So, when he inquired about the option for a per-use visit fee, seeking to book a massage, he was told that basic members cannot buy services in the mostly empty spa side on a one-off basis.


“Because it’s too confusing for the employees.”

You tell me why “retail” is so unfit today!


The Maxxinista in Me

If you are female, you have it in your DNA. If you are male and have it too, shopping is never a drudgery. We, the shoppers, create our own fun and games in the stores, especially when we’re on adventure mission mode for a bargain.

Enter the Maxxinista. She reads the September issues. If  you have to ask, stop now and thanks for stopping by.

She seeks silhouettes, colors, fabrics. This is not about brands, it’s all about style, tempered by what you can get away with for dates, work, conferences, you know…the cleavage factor…a.k.a. how short IS that skirt.

In a lot of high end retail, the selection is curated and adapted from the runway collections. In TJ Maxx, it’s great knock offs and prizes galore. At half the price or less. Mastering the experience is part of the empowerment, right?

This retailer knows their shopper psyche, enhancing the experience with better merchandising, nicer dressing rooms with a limit of TEN garments, not 6, and don’t forget they have year-round layaway!

Only yesterday, which was Labor Day, I overhead a well-heeled woman in a very busy TJ’s store exclaiming delight at finding current Nordstrom dresses at half the price. She was beaming, I might add.

Those Ellen Tracy “Spartan Green” skinny jeans for $39.99?  Those Vince Camuto slim fit spot-on trendy blue ankle pants for $24.99? Searching and finding trendy Michael Kors key pieces that fit?

What’s not to love? Half off. What’s not to inspire more shopping?

Now stop and think about the 60% of the population that hasn’t had a raise effectively since Lyndon Johnson was President. Welcome to the largest shopper segment in America.

What’s your strategy to win her over?