If You’re Going to Buy a Car

Unless you’re a shark or master negotiator, you’re probably naive when it comes to buying a car. While there must be some honest car dealers, the field is full of scoundrels, who’ll try to get as much as they can out of you by adding on all kinds of ridiculous fees. This video shows you what they are so you’re empowered to Just Say No.

Even though I’m not in the market for a car, I found this video fascinating. It explains how to negotiate when you’re planning to pay cash to buy a car. Kevin Hunter takes you through the process step by step so you don’t waste money.

On Healthcare

It’s a long video, but Dr. Shiva offers a new, effective way to cut healthcare cost by something like 75%. It’s quite a sensible discussion.

No matter whether we keep the current healthcare payment system or change it, we need to find a different approach to the economics of healthcare. Currently, our system is philosophically based on Florence Nightingale’s 19th century findings.

Miniso

miniso

Miniso shops started popping up around Jinan last spring. They have a bright upbeat look that beckoned me inside. At first I just walked around trying to figure out what the store was. They have gadgets for computers like earphones, cleaners, and chargers. They have snack foods, dishes, clocks, toys, make up, skin care products, shoes, socks and more. Best of all most items cost 10 rmb or about $1.60. Plenty of others are 15 or 20 rmb ($2.50 – 3.30 more or less).

The shops look a lot like the Japanese clothing store Uniqlo with their white decor with red signs and their cheerful, multi-lingual announcements. A lot of the packages say “Miniso Japan” so I thought the company was Japanese. I soon became a regular shopper as the quality seemed good and the prices were great. It was a way to reconnect with Japan. Why pay $10 and up for toner when you can get it for $1.60? Why pay $11 for a neck pillow for my flight home when I can get one just as good for $2.50? Why buy a new bag for toiletries for probably $10 when you can get one that’s just as cute and functional for $2.50?

Then my students informed me that Miniso is a Chinese chain that apes a Japanese look, certainly inspired by Uniqlo. Their packaging had Japanese labels with Chinese ones pasted over them just as all imported products do. I felt quite hoodwinked, swindled. How dare you, Miniso. I wanted to make sure so I went to the Miniso website and figured out it is Chinese. They’ve got thousands of shops throughout China and just a couple in Tokyo and no where else in Japan. A Japanese company would certainly have stores in Osaka or Hiroshima before they’d open one in Jinan.

For quite sometime I stopped going to Miniso, but now I have gone back. I won’t by their skincare or food because if they’ll be deceptive with their origins, why wouldn’t they use inferior, untested ingredients in make up or cleansers? I no longer feel as good about shopping at Miniso, which is a shame. It’s rather pathetic that they want to appear as if they’re from Japan. I understand the idea about distancing a brand from China, but isn’t it sad that China has such a reputation for schlock that it has to?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed

a shadowed stupa in Thailand

a shadowed stupa in Thailand

Chinese vessel painted in shadows

Chinese vessel painted in shadows

Shadowed figure in Zibo

Shadowed figure in Zibo

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog <strong>(a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced. 2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. 3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

Weekly Photo Challenge: New

a new Japanese soft drink

a new Japanese soft drink

in New Orleans

in New Orleans

New free wifi service

New free wifi service

1. Each week, we’ll provide a theme for creative inspiration. You take photographs based on your interpretation of the theme, and post them on your blog <strong>(a new post!) anytime before the following Friday when the next photo theme will be announced. 2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos, title your blog post “Weekly Photo Challenge: (theme of the week)” and be sure to use the “postaday″ tag. 3. Follow The Daily Post so that you don’t miss out on weekly challenge announcements, and subscribe to our newsletter – we’ll highlight great photos from each month’s most popular challenge.

Other great photos:

Travel Theme: Merchandise

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Phnom Pehn, Cambodia

Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack offers photographers inspiration each week. This week she gave us the theme Merchandise, which lets me share more market photos! She also shared some apt quotes which I’ve copied below as they always enrich the theme.

If you want to join in with your own interpretation of this week’s theme (everyone’s welcome!) Here’s what to do:

  1. Create your own post and title it Travel theme: Merchandise
  2. Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
  3. Get your post in by next Thursday, as the new travel theme comes out on Friday
  4. Don’t forget to subscribe to keep up to date on the latest weekly travel themes. Sign up via the email subscription link in the sidebar or RSS!
  5. You know the value of every article of merchandise, but if you don’t know the value of your own soul, it’s all foolishness. – Rumi

    Junk is the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. – William S. Burroughs

Service Safaris

My homework this week was to do two “service safaris,” i.e. field trips in which we observe how the service of a business or organization is. I had thought of doing one on a special library, like the Chicago History Museum’s, but the CTA has started a new payment service and getting a card for that added a level of hassle that a holiday schedule couldn’t handle. So I wrote about a new grocery story in the Chicago area and a museum I’ve seen but never went into.

Introduction

For my service safari I first chose to visit Mariano’s a new grocery store chain that’s replaced a Chicago icon, Dominicks. I’d been told that Mariano’s is an elegant place to shop with lower prices than Whole Foods.

My second safari was to the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian, a small museum that focuses on the history and culture of indigenous North Americans.

Mariano’s

  • What was my goal of Mariano’s and was it met? My goal was to get some ingredients for a holiday party and to view this new curiosity. I did get my groceries, but I could have done so at other stores, I hoped for good service and that was delivered.
  • What was good about the service? When I entered the store, which is the size of a typical American city grocery store, I saw numerous employees dressed in white shirts with black ties and black pants. They looked “smart” and worked like busy bees stocking shelves while chatting with shoppers. I liked that the friendliness didn’t seem artificial.For example, one employee was adding organic blueberries to a display I was looking at, he naturally smiled and added how he really likes blueberries. It wasn’t hard sell or stilted the way exchanges at places like Bennigan’s usually were.Later I saw a man I took for a manager assisting a woman in a wheelchair who needed to get through an aisle.Like Whole Foods there were several places to get samples, and here often the staff as eager to chat. I got a sample of watermelon salad and was reading the recipe that was placed beside the little cups. The employee at this station quickly offered me a copy in anticipation of what I was thinking.When I got a cappuccino as I left I noticed that they also provide ice water with cucumbers or with lemon for their customers. What a nice touch!
  • What detracted from the experience? I had no complaints.
  • With whom did you interact? I spoke with a friendly employee stocking berries, an employee at a salad counter, one distributing fresh orange juice samples, a check out employee, who’s service was fine, but nothing special, and a barista when I got a cappuccino. I did have to wait a while for my coffee, but it was understandable because one person seemed to be on break and there was someone in front of me. My barista did clearly answer my question about obtaining a loyalty card.
  • Were you confused at any time during the experience? Finding the kiosk to input my loyalty card information was a little confusing. I’d suggest this be moved as when you come into the store it doesn’t face you, so shoppers will walk right by it. More stations or better signage can help.
  • Describe the physical space. The store is lit artistically rather than with the old fluorescent lighting. Thus atmosphere is created. The produce had a colorful, fresh vibe and the corner with flowers was kitty-corner from the entrance I used so it’s easily seen.  The floral department suggests a European style.The aisles are wide so there wasn’t much trouble moving the huge carts, which have spaces for two cup holders,  past other shoppers.The deli/bakery area looks very much like Whole Foods with central displays of food-to-go, baked goods, and cheeses. There seem to be twice as many employees as you’d find in Whole Foods.Outside the carts were stored under a metal “tent” that must protect them from the elements a bit.They had wine and spirits on shelves and a special glassed off wine cellar sort of room that seemed elitist. I figured the wine there would be too expensive for me.
  • Describe the customer service. As my previous comments state, I found Mariano’s hit the right note with friendly, yet not overbearing staff. Their wearing the white shirts and ties identified them and expressed professionalism. While I’m a big Trader Joe’s fan and like the Hawai’ian shirts, I didn’t find these uniforms made the staff seem snooty. To me it showed that the store owner wants to elevate grocery shopping a bit.

Mitchell’s Museum of the American Indian

  • What was the goal of this service and was it met? The mission of Mitchell’s Museum of the American Indian is to:introduce visitors from throughout the Chicago region to the cultures of American Indians. The Mitchell Museum’s mission is to promote and share a deeper understanding of Native American peoples through the collection, preservation, and interpretation of their traditional and contemporary art and material culture.I would say this small museum succeeds. I like museums, large and small, and see the place for smaller museums that don’t take a whole day to view. Like libraries in small towns, I don’t compare them to a big city’s library, but go in ready to experience some charm and a good collection. I come with an understanding that this institution doesn’t have lots of money.

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Sepia Saturday

open sepai

This week’s Sepia Saturday is an open theme. It’ll force me to post some Mr Selfridge photos I haven’t had time to upload. These are from Selfridge Archives and WTTW’s Ask Jeffrey segment on Harry Selfridge.

harry-selfridge-rosalie

Harry Selfridge (r) with daughter Rosalie

Rosalie and Violette Selfridge

Rosalie and Violette Selfridge

Selfridges_heritage_1885-1890

Marshall Fields where he innovated shopping

Marshall Fields where he innovated shopping

Older Harry on top of his store

Older Harry on top of his store

Oxford St. Selfridges in 1909

Oxford St. Selfridges in 1909

Recap & Comments: Mr Selfridge Finale, Part 2

Victor and Agnes resign

Victor and Agnes resign

The second part of the finale in the US (or episode 10 in Britain) begins with lively conversation at the Selfridge dinner table and Rose asking everyone to count on a traditional family dinner for Thanksgiving. The girls and Harry’s mother are back and the mood is elated. Then the mopey musician, Florian, knocks on Miss Mardle’s door. He asks about why she’s ending their affair and she explains it’s age. Really, I just don’t see this earnest violist as making anyone all that happy. It seems a matter of convenience. Whoever the agency would have sent would eventually have wooed Miss Mardle.

Harry has quite a morning. First Henri learns the charges in the U.S. are all dropped so he’ll sign up to go off to war for the French. Given what he knows about how the war is really going, I’d expect Harry to sit his friend down and try to talk him out of fighting. A little later both Agnes and Victor resign as they’re getting married while George is on leave. Like last season’s finale, Harry loses a lot of those he counts on at once. He did offer Agnes the chance to stay on, which she refused. Big mistake Agnes. Though the real Selfridge seemed more conservative and didn’t hire or promote as many women as we see on the show, this chance to bend the British rules of not letting married women work should have been considered.

The Palm Court looks elegant and I wish department stores had such lovely restaurants, not only food courts. Henri goes to Victor to apologize for speaking out of turn about Agnes’ belief in George’s well being when he was missing. He also mentioned that he’s signing up for the army. I did notice that Victor didn’t apologize for grabbing Henri’s arm and almost coming to blows. This is one reason I’ve wanted Agnes to choose Henri. She was upset to learn that Henri’s off to fight. She does care.

Rose's doctor

Rose’s doctor

The saddest thread of the story is Rose’s diagnosis. Her doctor tells her her condition is fatal. We don’t get all the details. We just get stunned as she does. The scene in the doctor’s office is short and well done. Just enough to convey the severity and provide tension.

George is overwhelmed by his colleagues as the flock around him when he visits the store. They mean well, but a mob is not what he needs. Gordon saves George saying that he should go talk with his father. I wish Henri and Gordon, who’s so keen to serve, sat in on this talk. George describes refers to the horrors of war. News and letters are censored so the public’s in the dark about the truth. It’s still a bit oblique. I wish he’d gone into more detail since we don’t see actual battle scenes. That could have been more powerful. By the end, George has inspired the store’s new displays “The Comforts of Home” about all the things that keep the soldiers going. Agnes’ swan song.

vlcsnap-2014-05-28-06h40m50s180

The best image in the episode, I think, was of Rose letting the water in the fountain go over her hand when she’s at home. What a beautiful way to depict how she’s needing soothing after hearing her doctor’s diagnosis. Mr Frasier, the butler, enters and asks if all’s well. Stoically, Rose says it is and mentions that she needs to discuss Thanksgiving with him. She needs this holiday more than ever.

There’s a flurry of activity at the store as all departments prepare for the Comforts of Home campaign. A good series of scenes showing how creative and cooperative everyone is and how well Harry knows his business. At home, Rose shows the same vigor and finesse in planning Thanksgiving. Announcing that she’ll make her own pecan pies, Rose amazes Mae, who’s still staying with them. Lois, Harry’s mother, senses that something’s awry with Rose. This holiday’s getting more than the usual attention. At Victor’s Agnes, Victor and Franco plan for the wedding as a quiet George looks on. Agnes suggest putting pine needles on the floor to give the space aroma. It sounds splendid, but everyone–Victor, George and Agnes — is distracted and in their own world keeping their concerns and worries to themselves, which made for a good scene.

Following Miss Calthorpe’s advice to take action, Miss Mardle arranged for Florian to audition with an orchestra up north. He’s ticked off. He’d rather sit and brood in his room. How attractive. He sends her out of his room. It wouldn’t be the least bit hard for him to take action and contact his agency to get moved. Again, I feel there’s got to be someone better for her, someone with a pulse.

 

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Mr Selfridge Finale, Part 1

vlcsnap-2014-05-22-07h45m44s18

I wanted to see more, but also dreaded the end of this season of Mr Selfridge, probably my favorite new show hands down. Miss Mardle and Florian are together in bed at the start of the show. Newspapers still won’t print Harry’s side of the procurement scandal, though they do print that Mae has left Lord Loxley. Agnes waits for news from George, but there is none. Rose convinces Harry to hear Mae out, perhaps she should be forgiven for vouching for her evil husband. Here we see Rose and Harry’s marriage it all it’s glory.

Mr Groves sees Florian and Miss Mardle together and thinks it’s untoward. Kissing goodbye on the street. Really! Also, Miss Mardle, who’s way too maternal towards Florian for my tastes, gives him lunch money as he heads off to his factory job. I’d like her to find a nice widower. It’s not just that Florian’s younger, but that he’s got so little personality. He’s part ESL student, part son, part lover. You can do better, Josie. Mr Groves agrees, this relationship isn’t right for her, but he’s far less tactful. He later calls Miss Mardle to his office and scolds her for impropriety and insults her calling her an “old fool.” For the chief of staff, Groves isn’t very good with people.

Winifred Black, journalist

Winifred Black, journalist

To help the store out of its slump, Delphine proposes bringing the spirit of her nightclub to Selfridge’s. Mr Crabb is skeptical, with good cause. Henri doesn’t say either way, but offers a different proposal, which one could take as skepticism about “The Spirit of Delphine’s at Selfridge.”  Still Harry goes with it and soon Delphine’s busy giving the Palm Court an Arabian makeover. Meanwhile Henri proposes asking journalist Winifred Black Bonfils to do an article on Selfridge’s. Since she wants carte blanche and has a huge following, it’s risky, but Harry doesn’t flinch from risk. Thackeray and Delphine expect to dazzle Winifred, but neither succeed. Instead Winifred writes about Agnes, her gumption, determination and rise through the ranks at Selfridges. The story’s a hit connecting with readers who identify with a young woman getting successful through creativity, determination and pluck. Thackeray’s envy is sure to have a long shelf life. He’s not the sort to forget a slight.

Kitty convinces Frank to investigate Loxley. Finally, it dawns on Frank that perhaps Loxley used him. Indeed, Frank. Perhaps Kitty should take your job and you could sell perfume. His editor refuses to look into another side of the story, so Frank quits. Frank and Mae team up to root out the truth.

The most ominous scenes in the show were with Rose at the doctors. Anyone who’s read Wikipedia or Lindy Woodhouse’s  Shopping, Seduction  and Mr Selfridge  knows that Rose dies in 1918. I didn’t expect to get hints of this in 1914. She’s become one of my favorite characters. Harry’s not an easy man to be married to and Rose isn’t a real assertive woman, but she isn’t a doormat either. It’s a complex, fascinating and loving relationship. Rose has gotten more involved in the store and surprised us with her shooting skill, her good decision making, and her leadership when Harry was gone. I realize she wouldn’t be in Season 4, but I hope she’s alive throughout most of Season 3. At least give us that.

When Delphine learns that Rose has a congestive problem she encourages Rose to go off to the country (so she can seduce him). Rose, you need better friends, dear.

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