Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ann Taylor Loft’s Return Policy Sucks

I have been slow to buy new clothes since losing weight last summer. Instead I wear either clothes that are too big or my former skinny clothes that are now over five years old.  I wanted to make sure I could keep the weight off before investing money in a new wardrobe. A couple of days before Easter I decided I needed a pair of pants that actually fit.   I found two pair at Ann Taylor Loft, a store I usually don’t shop at because their styles usually don’t work for me.  (Call me old fashioned, but I prefer Mom Pants) See examples:

One pair I wore to an Easter brunch the other I thought would be perfect for summer.  Last week I was all set to wear my new linen trouser pants to work before taking one last look in the mirror.  Argh! The pants looked terrible on me (to be honest they were a questionable purchase when I tried them on in the store, but I thought with a long linen shirt they would be okay). They were a tad tight showing every bulge. Plus, they really were too long.  Deciding I could not be seen in public wearing them; I returned them to the store. 

Ann Taylor Loft's Return Policy:
Unfortunately Ann Taylor’s return policy sucks. After 60 days they only give you the item’s current selling price either in the form of a merchandise credit or as a merchandise exchange. The good news is the credit never expires. 
Why is that good news?
Since I don’t ever plan on ever shopping at Ann Taylor Loft again I am planning on giving the credit to a friend who loves the store.  She will be able to take her time using the credit.

Lesson learned:
I need to educate myself on return and other company policies before making purchases at stores where I don’t normally shop.  Here is a list of links that will help all of us become more educated consumers:

Top Ten Worst Company Policies To Be Aware Of:
Money Crashers has put together a list of crazy company policies that border on rip-offs.

Gift Return Worst Practices: Retail Return Policies That Lose Customers:
I was aware of Best Buy and Target's return policies, but not Barnes and Noble.  Seriously B and N if we forget to include the packing slip when mailing back our return we forfeit both our refund and our purchase.

The 5 Worst Retailer Return Policies:
20 Something Finance lists 5 of the worst.

Kohl's is my Kryptonite
Kohl's actually has one of the best no hassle return policies out there. I am including this post from Stephanie at Graduated Learning because she does a great job showing us how Kohl's gets us to keep showing up at their store. 
Do you have a bad return experience you would like to share?
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Sunday, June 17, 2012

“Light” Reading

For quite some time now I’ve been reading serious books; business and career-related books, nonfiction books for women and memoirs or biographies.  After my latest read, Anne Kreamer's It's Always Personal: Emotion in the New Workplace (a book I can't seem to motivate myself to review on this blog) I decided to take a break from these types of books.  Its time I read a good story or just be entertained. 

I began with Holes by Louis Sachar:
This YA book was mentioned by Lisa Bloom in her book Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World. Lisa wrote:
Holes by Louis Sachar, allegedly a kids’ book, but honestly, I think that masterpiece was written just for me.
I found this book to be an excellent palate cleanser (a phrase I am borrowing from Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness).  It includes a clever story, interesting relationship dynamics and enough life lessons to keep you thinking about the book for a few days after reading.

My next book was Ruth Reichl’s book Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise:
This book has been on my reading list since I spotted it on OMagazine's list of 4 Funny Books We Love. The list also includes Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail - one of the funniest book I’ve ever read - any book included alongside Bryson's deserves a look.

Here is Doro Hunter, the book’s assistant editor's description of Garlic and Sapphires:
In this voyeuristic journey into the restaurant world, Reichl, the former New York Times food columnist, describes how she wore disguises so servers wouldn’t know that she was a famous critic.
I didn't think Reichl’s book was laugh out loud funny - I thought some of Reichl’s disguises and the personalities she took on were a little sad - but it was certainly an entertaining page-turner.  It was interesting to see how her appearance affected the service she received at some of NYC’s top restaurants.  Reichl’s restaurant reviews and food descriptions are some of the best food writing I’ve ever read, though I did find it surprising the number of restaurants she visited that served fois gras as an appetizer.  She also provides a lesson for those of us who have celebrity aspirations. She receives this warning from a co-worker shortly after becoming the New York Times restaurant critic:
And later when everyone’s telling you how wonderful you are, don’t forget this. Remember that no matter how well you do the job, the power is not yours.  It all, every scrap of it belongs to this institution. You’re just a byline.  Take a good look.  The minute you give up the job, you become a nobody. (Pg. 65)

My next read is going to be Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War:

I know war is not exactly a subject that can be considered light reading, but as an ISFJ even my fiction has to teach me something, which is why I usually prefer historical fiction. Here is the quote from Jaclyn Day’s blog post [Childhood] books that made a difference that makes me want to read this book:

This book also ranks as one of my all-time favorites. My family is probably sick of me talking about it as I often reminisce about how much I love it. I look at this book as the first “adult” book I really read. Emerging from a cloud of young adult fiction, a teacher handed me this and everything changed. This book is not only one of the finest historical novels ever written, but maybe one of the finest books I will ever read…period.
Is there a particular author or book you turn to when you need a little “light” reading?

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Using humor during phone interview
Book doesn't hold interest; realize I am not a foodie
Lisa Bloom Preaches to the Choir

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Unemployment doesn’t have to SUCK! Book Review and Giveaway

I recently had the pleasure of reading Sarah Powers book Unemployment Doesn't have to Suck!: Make it work for you! (I received a review copy). Sarah who was laid off last year wrote this book as a resource for others. At 119-pages it is a quick read, but don’t let the brevity fool you – this book is crammed with useful information.

Sarah describes her book as getting down to business quick, telling us she did not write the “bible for unemployment” or a novel.  What she did write was a useful guide packed with valuable information including tips she learned from interviewing Leila Winther a coordinator of a career center. The book really has something for everyone, especially if it has been awhile since you’ve had to search for a new job. There is a refresher on unemployment insurance (don’t forget it is taxable income), information for those returning to school, how to cut expenses, what to include on a resume and more. Most helpful though are the additional resources and website links she provides.

Here is a sampling of the information included in the book:
Did you know there is such a thing as a Lifelong Learning Credit?
This is an academic tax break for those of us who already have a bachelor’s degree. The credit reimburses 20% of qualified education expenses you’ve paid (up to $2000).

Did you know many local scholarship funds simply go untouched because students did not take the time to inquire of apply?
I can attest to this.  I serve on the board of a local charity that awards two scholarships a year.  It is sad to see how few scholarship applications we actually receive.  Leila recommends readers view scholarship opportunities at

To learn more about yourself and match your skills to careers, Leila suggests visiting:

Final Thoughts:
If you’ve recently lost your job, been out of work for a while or are searching for a new career you could benefit from this book. The book’s optimistic message – Unemployment doesn’t have to SUCK! - is one anyone who is out of work needs to hear.

Book Giveaway:
I have one extra copy of Unemployment Doesn't have to Suck!: Make it work for you! I’d like to give away.  To be eligible:

1. Leave a comment below telling me why you would like to receive a copy
2. Include your email address  

Drawing entry will close June 30, 2012

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Sunday, June 03, 2012

Enjoy Mad Men check out Mad Women

I first heard of Jane Maas and her book Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and Beyond when Kim Ukura included it on her list of Nonfiction for the Life and Times of Mad Men on Book Riot. Kim writes:
In this memoir, “real life Peggy Olson” Jane Maas writes about her time as a copywriter the world of advertising in New York. Maas started her career in 1964 at Ogilvy and Mather, eventually becoming the president of an agency in New York. Honestly, who doesn’t want to hear more about what life was like for the Peggy Olsons of the world?
I had recently begun watching Mad Men and was intrigued with show and the character of Peggy Olson. Sex at the office, three-martini lunches, constant cigarette smoking and women treated as second class citizens was this show accurate? Jane Maas using her own experiences along with interviews with her peers provides an insider’s view. I had to read this book.

Is the show accurate?
Mostly yes, though most people Jane knew didn’t drink in the mornings and those who smoke find the smoking on the show phony. Cigarette smokers know that smoking is a habit that smokers aren’t aware of.  The actors on the show make a big production of their smoking.  The details of the sets including the office and apartment furnishings and character attire are right-on except for Peggy; they get an accessory wrong.  I am not going to be a spoiler you will have to read the book to find out what it is.  The show's depiction of sex at the office and women being treated as second class citizens is accurate.

What about Jane? How did her real-life experiences compare with Peggy’s?
Jane confirms women didn’t make the same salary as a man with the same title, didn’t have equal space – the guys got offices with windows, women got cubicles.  There were also accounts women were not allowed to work on such as car advertising. Jane writes: 

Why should men take us seriously as advertising professionals? Women weren’t even taken seriously as consumers. (pg. 55)
Jane did have two advantages over Peggy and most other working women of the time:
She had a supportive, successful well-connected and liberal-minded husband. She also had Mabel her nanny and housekeeper who lived with the family Monday through Friday. Jane admits she would not have been able to devote her life to her career without Mabel who came to the family in 1963 and stayed for thirty-two years.*

Mad Women includes networking and career lessons.  I enjoyed the following:
Sit at the front of the room:
Jane who is short would always sit in the front-row at agency meetings.

It is a huge advantage, because in addition to seeing better, you are also seen. (pg. 35)
Priority setting from Mary Wells, president and founder of Wells Rich Green:
Early on I learned to focus and eliminate from my life anything that didn’t really matter because so much in my life did matter.  I pretty well eliminated a social life except with my clients.  They were as interesting to socialize with as anyone else I knew, so that was easy.  My life was simply my family, Wells Rich Greene, and my clients. (pg. 68)
On the importance of a “network:”
Jane receives an offer from Leona Helmsley, yes “the Queen of Mean” Leona Helmsley of Helmsley Hotels, to market the Helmsley motels. Jane would have her own advertising agency.  Leona offers to help Jane get lots of other clients. 

At home that night Jane asked her husband Michael what he thought.  He said what do you have to lose and she agreed.  End of discussion.  In hindsight:
Few men would make a big decision like changing jobs without checking with their Old Boy network.  Women still don’t have that instinctive reaction, nor do we have as good an Old Girl network.  We’re getting better, but we’re not there yet. (pg. 193)
Bottom Line:
I enjoyed this book especially its author Jane Maas.  Jane is warm, professional and likeable.  She seems honest.  She admits her book Adventures of an Advertising Women was a whitewashed memoir.  As president of a New York advertising agency she wrote the book to help attract new business.  In Mad Women she revisits clients and advertising campaigns mentioned in her previous book writing the truth this time.  She doesn’t come across as bitter even when describing the sexism and challenges she faced. Actually, she says she was having a wonderful time. 
If you watch Mad Men, are interested in advertising, life in the sixties, or successful career women, you may enjoy this book. I’ve left out Jane’s perspective on being a working mother and her take on where women are today, if interested you will have to read the book.

 *This is the third time I’ve read about career women getting help with their housekeeping. First Mary Kay Ash, then Lisa Bloom and now Jane Maas  I am beginning to believe them, a housekeeper is a necessity.