We all know there are a lot of things wrong with Valentine’s Day: The undue pressure to be a part of a couple, the society defined definition of romance, the commercialization of love. But there’s one major one that we regularly forget: Valentine’s Day is on a Thursday. And sometimes a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Whose idea was that?
Let me further define the problem. This is a day on which people are expected to exchange gifts, plan elaborate outings and spend romantic quality time with others. And it’s a weekday when we’re also expected to go to work, (school, etc.). Now add to that the fact that we’re constantly in touch with each other thanks to the wonders of modern technology. That means that even when you’re at home, you are expected to be at least a little bit aware of your professional life and when you’re not at home your loved one knows exactly where you are, making it harder to sneak away to prepare surprises.
So now it’s two days until Valentine’s Day and you still don’t have a single idea. Well, here’s one. Instead of letting your technology and a busy schedule work against you, turn it to your advantage! Here are some ideas for the best Valentine’s gifts for the techie in your life.
If your significant other would rather have something thoughtful than something expensive, considering investing some time to find the perfect app to sneak onto their smartphone when they’re not looking. This probably only works if you share funds and your app store accounts. But if those circumstances are right, this is a great choice. It’s cheap (although don’t get a free app), and doesn’t involve an extra errand. Just make sure to spend some time doing research to be sure you’ve really found something perfect. Fortunately, there are tons to choose from. Try to pick something fun that is based on some shared memory, or something that your Valentine enjoys. For example, if you have a favorite game show you like to watch together, look for the smartphone version.
We know that some of you are traditionalists and can’t completely break away from the hearts and roses theme. But there are still plenty of options. Consider a USB drive in the shape of a rose, or a heart shaped headphone splitter. Cell phone cases are easy to find decorated and can even be engraved and customized. If you want to get really original, we’ve found a combination jewelry box and charging station. Necklaces and wires are two things that the modern woman spends a ridiculous amount of time untangling, so there’s no better way to show her that you appreciate both her girly and practical sides.
And of course, if you’re really really stuck you can always just use money to show how much you care. As much as your significant other may appreciate something sweet and sentimental, they may also appreciate a brand new tablet. Just make sure to include a nice card.
For those of you who, like me, have never heard of Giving Tuesday, you just missed it. As a response to the consumerism that is the focus of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a group of organizations got together and declared that the next day was going to be all about giving back. The organizers encouraged businesses, communities and individuals to contribute either time or money to any organization or cause that they like and helped by providing a website with suggestions and guidance.
The idea is to bring back the true meaning of the holiday season, whether that means being thankful for the bounty we have or bringing some light into the lives of people who need it.
The idea of Black Friday is that Thanksgiving is over and it’s now time for people to start thinking about Christmas shopping. But (in theory at least) most of the holiday shopping is for gifts for others or items to help you host family and friends comfortably. If you’re already focused on all that warm-and-fuzzy stuff and have resisted the temptation to take advantage of the sales for your own desires, then you probably don’t need Giving Tuesday to remind you of the meaning of the holiday season. And if you are beating people over the head with a remote control in order to get a slightly cheaper big-screen TV for yourself, then giving to charity the next day might not do the trick but you might need the reminder more than anyone.
So don’t just dash off a check to the first organization that approaches you. If we’re going to take advantage of Giving Tuesday as an antidote to some of the dangerous influences of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, then we have to take our giving just as seriously as we take our consuming. Even though Giving Tuesday is over, spend some time as a family (whether that’s with kids, a significant-other or a few close friends) talking about what charities are the best fit for you.
Often we just give to the biggest names out there, but it can be nicely to donate to something that you feel personally invested in. It’s the charity equivalent of a thoughtful handmade gift over an expensive but impersonal one. Think of an organization that once helped you or a loved one, or finally look into organizations that you pass everyday on your way to work, or find out if there is a professional organization for members of your field that donates their services. If you were buying a gift, once you had some ideas you would do some price comparisons online and again this is a similar process. Once you’ve come up with some ideas, do research on a site like CharityNavigator.com. This site can help you make sure that your donation is being used ethically and efficiently.
Non-profits and charities will be happy to get your help whether or not Giving Tuesday (and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, etc) actually helped to calm down some of the consumerism that can take over all of us at times. But those of us here at Consumer-Rankings like to think of ourselves as having a special set of skills. And Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to make sure that we’re using those skills for good. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.
I don’t know about you but here at Consumer-Rankings we’ve got Olympic fever! But let’s be honest, our expertise lies in the area of product reviews and not sports. Therefore, instead of reviewing the gymnastics routines and judo matches we would like to present you with reviews of some of the least expected Olympic themed products on the market. Although they are presented here in no particular order, some of these make the list because we’re surprised anyone thought of anything so clever and others because we just can’t figure out why someone bothered. Most are official merchandise of Team USA although a few are from the official London Olympic site and are Team Great Britain themed.
1. Wine glasses- I can understand a sports bottle, since an Olympic memento might be just the thing you need to keep up the motivation and inspiration that is going to get us all working out a lot more. Mugs and shot glasses are also pretty standard souvenir items. But a wine glass etched with the Team USA logo is just beyond me. Unless you plan to toast the many gold medals the team will be returning home with.
2. Lip balm- Who wouldn’t want an Olympic logo on their lip balm? This is the top of the list on things that we can’t quite figure out.
3. Tomi the Olympic Gnome- This figurine character is apparently an all-around athlete. You can get him in numerous positions as a hurdler, boxer, gymnast, weightlifter or soccer player.
4. Christmas Tree Ornaments- I think this is a great idea for the winter Olympics. But I think that by the time the Christmas season comes around, my Olympic fever will probably have faded.
5. Welcome mat- There’s something very poignant about this. The Olympics should be about welcome everyone no matter what their background to join together in shared activity. I’m not sure that it necessarily applies to my front door but I like the idea.
6. Temporary tattoos- This actually could come in very handy. If you take your fan-hood seriously but don’t have time to paint your face, then this is a great alternative to wear as you cheer your team on.
7. Garden flag- Since presumably when you’re in a given country everyone around you is cheering for the same country, this may be a bit unnecessary. But it sure looks cool and may get the rest of the neighborhood as excited as you are.
8. Toy bike track- this round track sporting Team Great Britain’s logo is one of the best Olympic toys we’ve seen. It’s got two little electric cyclists that fit into grooves in the track and kids can race them to see which will bring the gold medal home to the toy chest.
9. Rubber ducky- Like Tomi the Olympic Gnome, this duck is multi-talented. You can choose a version wearing a cycling helmet, boxing gear or, very appropriately, swim cap and goggles.
10. “5 Pack of Olympic Racers”- What kind of racers, you may ask. Are these cyclists, sprinters, swimmers, sailors, marathon runners? No, they’re cars. So we’re left wondering what makes them particularly Olympic.
Yes, yes, I know. Father’s Day was yesterday. If you haven’t bought a gift by now then I’m afraid we can’t help you too much. However, with the holiday just gone it’s a good time to check out the trends and get an idea of what gifts were most popular and what that says about how we view our dads.
Mashable.com provided some great information based on web searches in the last month. Even if only one third of shoppers actually buy their gifts online, nearly 70% of them at least do some research online. Judging by that, Mashable found that the most popular gifts vary by state. While golf equipment seem to be popular gifts in sunny Florida, and grill tools are common in Texas, the traditional necktie gets a lot more attention in Minnesota.
It’s worth noting that even though the top gifts may vary from state to state, most of them are standard on any list of suggested father’s day gifts. If you were to judge by said lists, you might come to the conclusion that fathers can be divided into 3 categories:
-Barbeque & Beer Lovers
-Golf Players & Professional Sports Fans
-Hardware & Gadget Junkies
Before I mock the simplicity of this idea, I should admit that my own father fits nicely into the first category. But somehow I have trouble believing that this is a helpful paradigm for most Father’s Day shoppers. Let’s assume that if you’re reading this you are a particularly savvy consumer and choose your purchases carefully. You plan ahead and think carefully about who you’re buying for. That means you won’t be accepting what marketers throw at you, even if it is an NBA branded, barbequing gadget. So what did you get? Did your gift choice fit into these categories or did you find a way to show that the special father in your life breaks the mold?
You put in your name and the name of the recipient and Santa will work in your relationship, location, the recipient’s favorite food, style, nickname and the gift they hope to get. There are plenty of suggestions so that you can quickly put together a very funny phone call.
This in a great add-on to last year’s Santa-tracker using NORAD and Google Maps. This gadget allows you to track Santa’s progress over Christmas Eve on a large Google Map display, and you can zoom in to check out videos as he drops off presents at different locations around the globe. In case kids don’t have a hard enough time getting to bed that night, this instills some idea of when exactly during the night Santa will be getting there. That’s either an excuse to stay up until right before or an encouragement to sneak out of bed, now that you have a better idea of his timing.
And Google’s final contribution to the spirit of the season: The Let It Snow surprise in the Google search window. If you type in the words “let it snow”, snowflakes will begin filling up the browser window until the screen has frosted over and you have to use the curser as a scraper or click the defrost button if you actually want to see anything.
Google has proven time and again that they are a company with a sense of humor and I can appreciate that. It may not be quite the same as getting an iPad in your stocking but I still think that a phone call from Santa is the best holiday tech of the season.
One of my favorite ways to shop for gifts is to figure out the recipient’s favorite book or movie and find themed items online. You’d be amazed on the number of household items that have been designed to look like Star Wars light sabers.
Rovio Mobile, the maker of Angry Birds, has clearly learned my trick in time for the holidays. They have released a cookbook entirely of egg recipes, accompanied by illustrations featuring the popular game’s characters. The book is full of cute puns and includes recipes that run the gamut of difficulty levels.
While this may be a little far off from the mobile game, I have to salute Rovio for sticking with the theme. The games popularity probably would have enabled them to successfully sell War and Peace if it had an angry bird on the cover but this shows some pride in the brand. Rather than just stick their graphics onto an item, they went out of their way to make every piece of the book (the titles, content and illustrations) consistent with the fun theme.
It doesn’t end there however. Last week, CMO of Rovio, Peter Versterbacka , and his wife Teija attended an event celebrating Finland’s independence at the Finish Presidential Palace. And Teija stuck with the theme. Don’t worry, she didn’t dress up as an angry bird, but you’re close. Her evening gown did show a discrete but clearly visible picture of one.
I’m far from a fashion expert and I’m sure that my readers with more informed taste will take exception to this, but I thought the dress actually looked very elegant. The red off the shoulder number was bright and bold, while still being very tasteful. If the red angry bird icon was less recognizable, it could have been taken for simply abstract blocks of color.
I’m not a huge fan of merchandising and this may not have been the time or place, but once again I have to salute Rovio and Teija Vesterbacka’s designers. If you’ve got a theme, stick with it to the end.
Only a few weeks left of the big shopping season and I have successfully avoided malls since October. And apparently, I’m not the only one. Although the numbers aren’t in for this year yet, last year the number of online purchases during the holiday season rose by 83%.
Despite the total rise, the average order size fell making it seem that online shoppers who used to buy all their gifts in one place are now breaking them up between multiple online retailers. It could be that the extra year gave people time to gain trust in a larger number of ecommerce sites. Or it could be that we planned ahead, instead of being forced to order the same sweater in six different sizes at the last minute.
Whatever the reason, I’m a big fan of the trend. Here are some tips for how to take advantage of gift shopping online:
- Plan Ahead- Just like regular shopping, it’s easy to get caught by impulse items or to spend more than you planned. Make a list of who you need to buy gifts for and how much you want to spend. Jot down a few ideas for each person and try to stick to your list.
- Compare prices- this is one of the beauties of shopping online. Instead of spending hours walking from store to store, just open a new window and check similar items in similar stores. There are also sites that will allow you to compare prices on searched products and even set up alerts to notify you when prices drop for your favorite items.
- Avoid clothing but not clothing stores- Even in a brick and mortar store it’s hard to judge someone else’s size. Online, it’s even harder to be sure of color, look and fabric. But don’t forget that most of the major clothing outlets also sell great accessories like bags, jewelry, hats and scarves. They’re stylish and there’s no risk of offending anyone by misjudging their size.
- Know who you’re buying for- Instead of trying to find something your friends and family will use, think of their favorite movie, band, hobby or even a private joke between you. Remember, you can find anything on the internet. Even if they never use the item, a t-shirt, poster, or mug with a picture from their favorite 80’s cult classic will show that you were listening and thinking of what makes them happy.
- Personalize your gifts- I hate to sound cynical, but any gift looks sweet and thoughtful if you print a picture on it. Pillows, towels, calendars, date-books, candles, t-shirts, cake: if you can name it, you can probably find a place that will print on it and ship it to your friends and family. A lot of sites allow you to quickly and easily design the items yourself, so that with a little bit of creativity, your gift will actually be sweet and thoughtful and not just give the illusion of it.
Let this be the season when we stay within our budgets, don’t drive ourselves crazy and remember that it’s the thought that counts!
It’s bound to happen that you’ll need to get gifts for someone…whether it’s a coworker, a relative, a partner or even a holiday gift for yourmailman. And, while you will always be safe with flowers, gifts that are a bit more personal always make a much nicer statement. The question is, how can you get gifts for someone you don’t know well? Equally importantly, how can you get a truly great gift for an acquaintance?
Here are 5 ways to make a thoughtful gift selection for anyone, for any occasion. Want to share your gift-giving secrets? We’d love to hear (and share) them!
- Choose something popular. You don’t need to get an iPhone for everyone that you owe a gift to, but getting something that is popular in the moment is always a safe bet. Ask your mailman if he has a Wii or Xbox, and consider getting him the latest game. Or, if he has a Kindle, a new download would be a considerate gesture. A Snuggie may also be a good bet this winter. Look around, see what’s popular (and in your price range), and don’t be afraid to get something trendy.
- Go classic. A gift certificate is always a safe bet when looking to get great gifts for anyone. Who doesn’t love a free dinner, or even a few free cups of coffee at the local gourmet café? Just make sure that the amount of the gift certificate is enough to get a good dinner, without the recipient having to add for things like a drink or dessert.
- Do your research. There’s nothing worse than receiving a gift that is thoughtful but not well researched…an online movie subscription, for example, that doesn’t deliver to the recipient’s area, or an mp3 player that won’t last for more than a month. Take a few minutes to read reviews about the item you’re buying so that you know it will be enjoyed for a long time.
- Give a gift receipt. Unfortunately, even the best intentions aren’t always perfect, and even things that you think are great gifts may not be appreciated entirely by the recipient. Gifts that can be returned or exchanged are always appreciated (and, as an added bonus, they prove that you purchased the gift expressly for the recipient, and were not regifting something that you rejected).
- Purchase off a registry. If you’re looking for great gift ideas for weddings or births, ask the recipient if he or she has registered anywhere. A gift registry can save you a lot of time and stress as you know that your gift selection will be well-received.