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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Running Holiday Gift Suggestions

How about giving books for the holidays?  I'm a professional librarian.  Books are great gifts and the variety is awesome.  Books are especially nice gifts for children.  New Jersey has many, many local bookstores.  In addition to books, Bogarts Book Store and Cafe in Millville, Cumberland County, has a cafe with coffee, tea and tasty treats -- and they have live music.  The Book Garden in Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, "features strong sections on local lore and history and works by homegrown authors."  Books, Bytes and Beyond, in Glen Rock, Bergen County, specializes in children's literature and author events.  And, there are so many more.  Visit our Directory of Cultural Resources to find more (and we have many more to add).

A very special gift for the family would be to have a family portrait done.  Village Studio of Hunterdon in High Bridge, Hunterdon County, or Joel Gerard, Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, are 2 possibilites to make that happen.

Planning a unique activity, for the kids or as a family outing is another great gift idea.  You might consider The Lakota Wolf Preserve in Knowlton Township, Warren County or Field Station Dinosaurs, Secaucus, Hudson County.  

Or maybe you know someone, adult or child, who has a burning interest and you'd like to give them a gift certificate for a workshop of some kind.  The All Children's Theatre in Parsippanny, Morris County, provides theater camps for kids.  Anne's Artistic Journeys, Lake Hopatcong, Sussex County, has "classical and contemporary instruction in the fine arts  for ages 3 to adult."  

How not to do business

I had a very bad shopping experience this past week.  I'd misplaced my gloves, looked everywhere for them and decided I'd have to replace them; there have been a few cold days recently.  So, my list of errands took me to a nearby department store where I knew I would probably find a pair to my liking.  The list included a new winter cap and an additional pair of jeans, if I was able to find a pair that fit.  

I found acceptable gloves (over priced), a pair of jeans that actually fit and a very cute hat that also fit and stayed on my head.

It wasn't busy so I didn't have to wait for a cashier.  She began ringing up my items as I looked in my purse for my debit card to find my card case missing.  I asked her to stop as I kept looking but she ignored me.  (Nobody was waiting behind me)  I asked her to stop again and told her I must have left my cards home.  I asked her if she could hold the items for me while I went home to get my cards.  She finished ringing up all the items and handed me a slip with some numbers on it and the word suspended.  She asked me if I was coming back and I told her I expected to be back in about half an hour.

When I returned, the cashier who had rung up my items wasn't visible.  I waited a few minutes then asked the next nearest cashier about her and told her what had happened.  She told me to look behind the other cashier's counter.  Really?  I didn't think it was a good idea but I did what she suggested.  I didn't see anything and told her so.  She told me to go round that cashier's station and look from the other side.  That seemed an even worse idea but I did it.  Again,  I didn't see a bag or anything and told her that.  She said she didn't know if that cashier was returning and that I should go to Customer Service and waved her hand toward the other side of the store.  

When I got to that end of the store, there were more cashier stations and some set back but the sign didn't say Customer Service, it said Returns and Checkout.  But, I waiting in line until I was able to tell my situation again to the cashier there and showed her the "suspend" slip.  She said it meant the items weren't rung up - I hadn't paid for them and they had probably been returned to the racks.

I was angry and left.  What I hadn't thought to ask either cashier was why I'd been asked if I was coming back if the items weren't going to be held for me. I went home angry and frustrated and wanted to write to the manager who, as a manager of quite a few large, public institutions, I hold responsible for not having trained store staff and for not setting up procedures and communications methods that benefit customers.

Words mean something; they aren't just sounds that come out of mouths.  I was asked if I was coming back.  I said yes and gave a clear time frame.  I wasn't told where the items might be when I returned and I failed to ask.  When I returned, nobody thought it was important whether or not I was satisfied shopping there or whether or not I got the items I came back for.

As a customer, and someone who has spent most of my adult life working in public service, this is NOT the way to do business.  But, I understand that national chains can afford to be indifferent and cavalier toward their customers which is why shopping at local, independent businesses is a better shopping experience.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Running Holiday Gift Suggestions

Shop at Local Small Businesses for the Holidays.

Find unique local gifts throughout New Jersey.

Help the local economy; avoid "donating" to national corporate coffers.

"For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.  If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 stays here.  Spend it online and nothing comes home." -- The 350 Project

We are so fortunate in New Jersey to have such diversity in our population, in our communities, in our local cultures.  There's so much here to choose from.  We don't have to settle for the plastic, over-abundant, un-interesting array of foreign made products on display in all the large corporate department stores.  Are you bored with seeing the same shops and the same products, mall after mall after mall?  

We'll be offering suggestions for gifts from local artists and shops, of all kinds, from all over New Jersey.  Just keep visiting this blog.

From the Pinelands Folk Music and Basketry Center in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, you can find a variety of acoustic folk instruments like hammered dulcimers, flutes and more; as well as locally handcrafted woven and gourd baskets.

Perhaps there's a special someone you'd like to give a special fragrance.  The Perfume Gift Shop/Historical Fragrances in Hawthorne, Passaic County, handcrafts artisan scents.  Their unique fragrances, for men and women, are combined with the allure of historic figures and events.

Is a gift of jewelry on your mind?  Perhaps a unique item from a local jeweler; something you won't find in a mall:  earrings, a bracelet, a necklace or something else.  Anita DiPeitro of Marlton, Burlington County, designs truly unique jewelry.  Visit her web site to find the best way for you to purchase one of her creations.

Maybe something special to ennhance a relative's home is what you're thinking of.  Designs for Tranquility, in Frenchtown, Hunterdon County, offers a variety of art, decor and more.  

A unique gourmet treat is always nice to receive for a holiday.  Why not take a look at Jams by Kim to see if there's something tasty you can share.  Kim is in Hillsborough, Somerset County but her products are available in various places throughout the state.


Crafts in the Warren Tech is the 4th Annual Juried Craft Show at the Warren County Technical School in Washington, Warren County, Saturday, December 7th.  It's a family event with over 100 crafters, door prizes, caroling and more.

11th Annual Holiday Arts & Crafts Extravaganza in Whippany, Morris County, is the coming Wednesday, December 4th.

We will continue to provide gift ideas and local events information until the 'Night Before Christmas'.

So keep visiting.

We appreciate comments and emails.  Thank you.

AwareNewJersey --

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just stopped by the pottery @ Rocky Hill featuring John Shedd Designs.  I drive by the shop frequently on the way to the supermarket but just haven't taken the time to stop.  I noticed a Help Wanted sign the past week or so and stopped in to see what help they need.  Something I can't do.

I highly recommend that you visit this little shop in lovely Rocky Hill, in Somerset County.  Be prepared to be stunned when you open the shop door.  I'm not going to ruin the surprise for you, you just have to get there and see what I'm alluding to.

John creates beautiful ceramics:  tiles, round and square platters, teapots, cups, treasure boxes, vases, tile paintings; decorative and utilitarian, large and small.  The shop is filled with beautiful things.  He also features stone, pearl and turquoise jewelry designed by friends of his.

It's a great little shop.  A great place to pick up a special gift; Christmas isn't far away.