Tag Archives: shopping

A Follow-Up on How Zeller’s Sucks

customer service, shopping, consumer affairs, Zellers, department stores

Zellers wins in the worst customer service category. From magnaeframe.com

I received a comment from Chris, who had a lot to say about Zellers. In fact, so much so that the comment was really too long. So I asked Chris if I could use the comment for a guest post. I’ve edited it a bit and toned down the language but here’s my first guest blogger.

I worked in two different Zellers stores from 1991 to 1997 and have always had fairly strong opinions on why the chain would fail. In the early days of my employment I was working in a very recently converted former Towers store. Immediately I was thrust into an environment full of grumpy employees who were taken over as well, who had their wages frozen indefinitely as the pay scales of Zellers were less generous of those at Towers. It is quite possible that some of these folks were just plain overpaid to begin with, and maybe that’s what killed the Towers chain amongst many other things. Anyways, Zellers did not seem to bring any sense of excitement to anyone. Many felt they were a small fish being gobbled up by a whale. I once overheard a former Towers assistant store manager say that the takeover was handled badly, with no regard for the employees. Surprise surprise.

I was hired as a cashier. Before long a full-time position opened up in the Housewares department of the store. I  found myself inheriting a complete disaster. Boxes had been opened, were torn and tattered, merchandise was strewn across the floors, display models were incomplete, missing, or existed for items no longer sold, and items were not where they should have been on the shelves. At first I was shocked, but as time wore on, I realized that I was only expected to have things picked up off the floor and thrown back on the shelf each night, so that the cleaners could mop the floors. This was a far cry from my previous job in a grocery store where we could not leave the store until everything looked good. This included “facing” items on the shelves- retail lingo for bringing things to the front so that merchandise was accessible and made the shelf look full even if it wasn’t. At Zellers the only time this practice was followed was prior to what we called “Royal Visits,” when managers above the district manager level would visit. Why didn’t these people leave the visits unannounced, show up dressed like regular joes, and see what the front lines actually looked like on a normal basis? These guys, and yes, they were ALL mostly grey haired tall men in impeccable suits, wanted everyone to make a huge fuss over them.

The sad part was the way the store and department managers were treated. They were essentially given no budget, yet were expected to have things looking spic and span at all times. Sometimes the upper management guys would force a store manager to clean up a department himself while his shocked employees looked on. It was a real power trip for these bullies.

Oddly enough, I was encouraged to apply for the store management program, and being a high-school educated kid with nothing to lose, I took them up on the offer. In late 1993 I started my first assignment in another store, and for some time was pleased to be amongst employees that seemed more positive. I was told almost immediately that the store I was now working in had not seen the salary cuts of the previous store, but that they were coming. Almost overnight the location went from being a decent place, to the same as the first store. Somehow they thought that less employees would save them enough money to make the store more profitable. I learned many things about how the company operated:

  • Aisles cluttered with junky unappealing items that were old, tattered or had been returned. We were told NOT to reduce these items. The end result is that they never sold and wasted space. The stationery department was one of the worst.

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    At least you know what you're getting with this sign. Creative Commons: amycgx

  • Sale items were never in stock. In fact, the store had stock, but the merchandise was on a pallet deep in the stockroom where no one could get it. The stockroom was tiny, so tiny, in fact, that in stuffing it with more pallets, the aisles between the rows of pallets were eliminated. Essentially we had a block of pallets about 8 across and 10 deep, the only way anyone would find the merchandise would be if they hauled each pallet out and stuck it in the aisles of the store. This, of course, was forbidden.
  • Outdated computerized inventory system. I’m not sure if it was replaced, but up to 1997 the PIMS system was in place. This system, developed in the 70’s, was supposed to automatically re-order items as they got low. Someone had the great idea of building a little caveat into the system. If the number of items went into a negative, the item would not be re-ordered and a problem would be flagged.This kept happening on stuff like sewing items, and since the store didn’t have anyone investigating the problem, entire aisles were full of empty shelves and pegs. Customers came back time and time again asking for items. We essentially looked like idiots when we told them we didn’t know.
  • Poor quality merchandise. The worst by far was the crappy Permatech/Eurotech line of small appliances. Sure they were cheaply priced, but even for $10 I would expect a toaster to work when I plugged it in. We saw the same garbage returned over and over for years, but they kept selling the junk.
  • Credit. These jerks made 30% of their profit on credit. You know, the kind of profit that requires people to be slow on their payments so they can reap huge interest charges. Cashiers were hounded to push this on everyone, to the point that they were giving long spiels to customers, like a Jehovah Witness at your door. Even worse, Zellers willfully declined to use debit machines in their stores for fear that people would stop using their credit cards. They finally made the switch sometime after 1997, likely due to customers leaving merchandise at the register and leaving in a huff.
  • Lack of staff. Did you know that in the 1960’s, American railroad companies tried to save money by deferring maintenance projects? The result was bad track with slow trains, and a mess that ended up costing a fortune to fix, unless of course, they went bankrupt first as customers turned to trucks. Zellers somehow thought they could run stores without those pesky employees gobbling up their profits. A prime example was how they let one employee be in charge of helping customers in a 30,000 square foot area on a Sunday afternoon. Most times there was no one to cover lunches. Other staff had to abandon ship at a second’s notice to open another cash registers to reduce exorbitantly long lineups. Cashiers were getting lunch breaks at 2 and 3 in the afternoon “because it was just too busy”. They were made to feel that they were part of some sort of important struggle to help their comrades survive or something. Customers in the meanwhile were looking for help in the aisles, and nobody was there to give it.
  • Cheesy gimmicks. Zellers was a firm believer in this 1950’s corny style of advertising and promotions. Instead of trying to sell cool stuff, they resorted to silly balloon drops, flashy flyers, Zeddy, and good old “Zellers Radio”. What was Zellers Radio, you ask? A stupid tape message that would play every 10 minutes that usually began with “Shhhhhaaaappers!!” The elevator music was no better. It seemed they did not want to deviate from the practice of appealing to the senior citizen crowd. The TV ads weren’t any better. For the longest time they were a televised version of the weekly flyer. Later on they got some Hillary Duff clothes in their stores and managed to get some decent ads going. This did not last, and an ad campaign was launched with purported Zellers employees saying “we’re getting better and better”. Wow. Talk about admitting you suck.
  • Ridiculous policies for shoppers. Come on, if someone isn’t satisfied, give them their money back. People usually got store credits after getting the runaround and waiting in long lineups. Supervisors would tell their employees to enforce these policies until someone really lost it. What then? Give the customer what they wanted and make the employee look like a complete asshole in front of them. Seems these little Hitlers didn’t have the balls to enforce these policies themselves.
  • Clueless upper management. The only way these morons knew how to react was to fire people. It seemed like management shuffles were happening constantly as someone got the boot for underperforming. And do you know who didn’t get fired? Guys like the Regional Director of Stores who showed up on the front lines during a “Royal Visit” and yelled at people.
  • Panic at the sight of Walmart, but reacting like a deer in the headlights. Instead of trying to figure out what makes Walmart a generally better place to shop, Zellers instead tried to undercut them on many items, and lost an arm and a leg in doing so. Walmart isn’t just about price. It was also about the “shopping experience” that Zellers never seemed to be able to figure out.
  • Morning meetings. The dreaded daily “pep talk” was nothing more than an attempt into performing better OR ELSE. What was discussed? The weeks sales, which didn’t really register in most people’s minds, and a couple of minutes of badgering employees to get more credit card customers, and just generally work harder if sales were supposed to get better. One time our store manager decided to go off on a rant about employee morale and how the employees had only themselves to blame for it. In his mind the skeleton crew often appointed to run the place should work twice as hard to achieve the results of double the people. He couldn’t  understand why people were not motivated to shed blood, sweat and tears at minimum wage.

I left the company fifteen years ago. I had always wondered if things had improved after I left, and after reading other people’s blogs posted since the announcement that Target was acquiring Zellers leases, it was obvious they barely changed at all. It was eerie to read what employees were saying about the company as it was so familiar.

Shame on you, Zellers, and good riddance. It’s sad that the employees of the companies are the ones to suffer, while the upper management folks will all leave with a huge chunk of change. Pathetic.

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How to Wear Skirts and Man-Skirts

The art of wearing a skirt well is not as easy as tossing it on and just walking. In fact, different lengths have different issues.

SHORT SKIRTS

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Be careful of the Bermuda Triangle when you sit in a miniskirt. Creative Commons: Macleans.ca

A short, micro or miniskirt takes a certain degree of elegance if you want to maintain decorum and not look like a tart. Learn how to pick something up from the floor or a table without revealing all of your underpinnings. If you have to pick up something it’s best to bend at the knees and go straight down. Bending at the waist is sure to be revealing. Oh, and wearing underwear is an absolute must with short skirts. Make sure that if a chance unveiling happens that you are okay with what’s revealed, both in flesh and in material.

Some miniskirts are fairly form fitting. If you’re buying one, trying walking around in it first and see if it rides up or pouches at the belly. The other thing to check that not many of us think about is sitting in a skirt. The butt will widen and can cause constrictions or riding up. As well, there is that triangle of revelation between skirt and legs that can introduce any viewer at the same level or lower than you to an eyeful. Think Basic Instinct here. If your skirt is that short, you may have to cross your legs or place your hands or purse in a strategic position to keep the Bermuda Triangle hidden.

Short but full skirts are better at covering the Triangle but have the same problems for bending over. And of course, you have to watch the wind. A Marilyn moment in a short flouncy skirt is going to display more than your thighs. Many women now opt for dark tights with short skirts but that’s not always going to be a choice in the summer. You definitely don’t want to be lifting boxes in this length of skirt.

MID-LENGTH SKIRTS

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These midlength skirts are narrow enough you might need to hitch them to walk up stairs. Creative Commons Marc Jacobs

I consider any skirt from just above the knee to mid-calf to be a mid-length skirt. You don’t have to contend with displaying intimate details as you do with the short skirt but there are other issues. The tube or stovepipe skirt can be so tight that walking becomes an art. If you try to walk or stride you’ll either rip the material or fall over. Many of these skirts have an open slit in the back that facilitates walking, but you many still have to take delicate half-steps. Think of the kimono and how Japanese women mince along on the wooden sandals, called geta. To sit in a skirt this tight (if it is not stretchy material) means you might have to hike it up and you probably don’t want to cross your legs, even if there is room to do so. It would be quite constricting. If your skirt is particularly binding, you might find it difficult to bend your knees enough to mount the stairs. In this case you actually have to hitch your hip up to accommodate, or hike your skirt to give your knees room to bend.

A full skirt gives you ease of walking, but has other issues. If it’s really full it can tend to gather between your legs until you feel like you’re wearing a diaper, not to mention it doesn’t look that great. One way to deal with this is to gather a little bit in you hands to hold it out. The other is to wear a slip. Not only does this stop the transparent effects of the sun (or particular types of artificial lighting), but it will decrease the gathering of fabric. Slips are rarely as voluminous as a skirt, unless you’re dealing with the full circle where a full and ruffled slip is required to hold it out, which also stops it from going between the legs. And again, the fuller the skirt, the more you have to watch the wind, which really loves to play with fabric. The only thing with sitting that you have to watch with this length and style  is that it doesn’t end up with someone sitting on  part of it. Sometimes wearing a coat over top with a purse can cause a skirt to ride up. You might want to test that because it could show more than you’re anticipating.

FLOOR OR ANKLE-LENGTH SKIRTS

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This length might mean you have to develop the kick-step, depending on fabric and flow. Creative Commons: Michael Kors

Not all of these are evening gowns and I wear some ankle-length skirts from time to time. It’s rare to find fitted ones this long unless there is a slit, but a fishtail or tulip style may be fitted to the knees, then flare out. Again, you’ll probably have to practice walking elegantly. More common will be an A-line or fuller skirt. If the skirt actually touches the floor you’ll have to work out a kick-step that lets you kick the fabric out before stepping forward so you’re not tripping yourself. Going up stairs requires you to gather the fabric in a hand, but you might want to do this going down the stairs as well. Steps are strewn with garbage, or just wet, and a long skirt will trail behind. As well, anyone walking behind you might step on your skirt, resulting in tearing or worse, a fall.

Shoes and long skirts can make a dangerous combination. If you’re wearing heels, watch out. I’ve had my heel catch in the hem of a skirt that had slightly stretchy material and almost topple me down the stairs. If you’re on a chair with roller wheels, be careful that your skirt doesn’t get wound around the wheels. This has happened to me a few times.

MAN-SKIRTS OR KILTS

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Fashion gone wrong. Jean Paul Gaultier’s version of a manly man skirt.

Some men like to wear skirts and they’re not all gay. Others feel more comfortable calling these kilts, and the Utilikilt has gained great popularity amongst the male set. It’s a modern version made of heavyweight canvas and lacking the plaid of yesteryear’s kilt. Whether wearing a skirt or a kilt, men especially need to learn the art of wearing the skirt. Most of these are midlength so walking isn’t an issue but sitting can be a man’s undoing. Men often sit with their legs apart and if you happen to be going regimental (naked) beneath your kilt you better keep an eye on the capricious wind. I’ve had the unfortunate experience of sitting on the ground when I guy in a kilt came up and squatted in front of me. Ding dong, I saw far too much dangling. Guys, anyone at eye level and below can see a lot and it ain’t pretty. So, men, learn to either cross your ankles, close your knees, put your hands in your lap or use a pouch. That’s what the historical sporran was for besides storing valuables; it protected and hid the family jewels.

If you’re not sure how you’re going to look walking or sitting in any skirt or kilt, practice. Get a friend to give you hints but please, keep the treasures buried except for your special someone.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 32-37

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Will I have to eat brains at some point? Creative Commons: geekstir.com

To recap after my first month on the Apocalypse Diet, I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). Since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I can take home the leftovers but this isn’t a stop-gap so no ordering pizza.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will end my experiment.
  5. Someone can give me food, for in the post-apocalyptic world we might want to trade or eat together in safety once in a while.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 32 (Feb. 1):

Since I posted early yesterday I didn’t list that I had a seaweed snack, one of those little packages of salty green weirdness. Then for supper I had the last of some cheese perogies, which I probably had for over a year. I fried them up with onions, garlic and sundried tomatoes. Last night I watched 28 Days Later, a variation on the zombie story where people are infected with rage through highly contagious blood and there are very few people left in Britain. It starts with Cillian Murphy waking up in the hospital, not knowing what has happened. Gee, Walking Dead, wherever did you guys get that idea for your pilot show? Problem was, I had nightmares about zombies and not a restful sleep. Dang.

Breakfast was a watered down glass of pomegranate juice. I have a very large bottle and that stuff just does not go bad. My freezer food, spicy veggie peanut soup was supposed to be lunch but someone made a special Filipino noodle dish for someone else’s birthday (long noodles long life) and I had that instead.

While I was keeping an eye on the green veggies in the fridge I missed the two sweet potatoes taking on a zombie-ish tone and turning mushy. By the time I peeled away the grossness I had about 1.5 sweet potatoes that I cooked with 5 Brussels sprouts, and mixed them in some pesto sauce I found in the cupboard. Not a great meal but okay.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 33 (Feb. 2):

Groundhog day found me eating the groundnut (another name for peanut) spicy soup I should have had yesterday, plus

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Leftovers can get tedious, though I cycle through my frozen foods at any time. Creative Commons: http://www.lastkisscomics.com

some of someone’s nacho chips. Breakfast had been another handful of those peanut snacks and there is only a handful left. And guess what, supper was the rest of the sweet potato with some pesto sauce, plus a can of pop I had in the fridge. Black cherry, a little taste of sugary sunshine.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 34 (Feb. 3):

Lunch was a combo of some of my gumbo, and a few pieces of sushi someone brought in. That held me until later Friday night when I went lazy and cooked up some pasta, with scallops and the pesto sauce. I had some leftover red wine in the fridge so I drank that before it went bad.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 35 (Feb. 4):

Another weird Saturday. The last of the crunchy peanut snacks is gone. I try to update this daily so I don’t forget but I think that might have been all I had until the evening at a friend’s for a light meal. I did have a couple of crackers with a very thin slice of cheese before going to bed. I don’t worry whether cheese will give me weird dreams (as reported by some) because my dreams tend to be rather odd on average.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 36 (Feb. 5):

A small bowl of brown rice with a spoonful of pesto sauce for lunch. I repeated Friday’s dinner by having pasta with the last of the scallops and the pesto sauce. Pesto is so good. Other than that, a snack of the very last slice of cheese and six crackers was my day’s food.

I watched The Invasion today with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, about an invading and alien virus, which takes over people and reprograms them. It had enough tension that I was on the edge of my seat for part of it. It’s another possibility of how supply lines would be upset. While the human bodies would still need the food, in this time of transition stores are empty and Nicole gets to drain a lot of pop and eat nuts to get by.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 37 (Feb. 6):

This morning I had a rice cake with almond butter, and a sprinkle of dark chocolate chips (doing it the Dutch way). Lunch was a bowl of avgolemono soup. I’m not a big eater normally and yes, I am eating a bit less. I have noticed I’ve lost a few pounds but nothing truly significant. So consider, I’m in month two of my Apocalypse Diet and I’m not really scrimping a lot.

 

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 20-24

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One way to solve the post-apocalyptic food shortage. From thinkgeek.com

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 20:

I had Chinese food leftovers again today. And somehow this last week had a lot of dining out in it, which isn’t that common for me. Dinner consisted of a half a flour tortilla with two slices of diminishing cheese, some sundried tomatoes and garlic. Later on, dinner consisted of calamari at the restaurant. And wine; did I forget to mention the wine? It helps the zombies go down.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 21:

Saturday; I almost cheated today. I was out so late last night, and ended up in complete lazy mode. I didn’t do much but watch movies. I even forewent eating until the evening. Then I thought, oh how easy it would be to order a pizza (I eat pizza about three or four times a year). But then I remembered I’d been out Friday, and I was going to Gibson’s Landing tomorrow, which would be more money and more eating out. So I made a stir fry with the last of the baby bok choy, carrots, onion, garlic, some slowly wilting chive tops, shrimp, jalapeno, fish and soy sauce. Notice that the range of vegetables is going down. Normally I would have had more greens in there like broccoli and green beans, plus mushrooms. I did use the last of the lotus root which is a fun, wheel-shaped vegetable. I think I’m not cooking it right though because the texture is like potato and maybe it should be fried crispy. That was served on red and brown rice.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 22:

I didn’t eat at home today at all since we were up early and off to catch the ferry to Gibson’s Landing. So breakfast was a bagel, lunch consisted of sharing nachos, and dinner was prawns in garlic butter. Oh, and with a lot of wine. I had a hangover by the time we got home at 8:00. This trip was to receive the nominee’s pin for the Aurora Awards. Last year, my poem was nominated. Tarol Hunt also won the Aurora in the graphic novel category for his book Goblins. It was pretty rainy in Gibson’s. We looked through a few shops, and chatted with people so it was a nice day trip. Gibson’s seems to have fewer zombies. I get the sense that they stumble up to the piers and fall into the water, becoming food for desperate fishes.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 23:

Breakfast of champions; some leftover rice with heated almond butter and a tablespoon of dark chocolate chips. Lunch was some spicy peanut soup that I had frozen. And guess what I found in the cupboard? Kraft Dinner in all its orange fakey cheesery goodness. Unlike many, I didn’t grow up with this rather bizarre food, since my mother didn’t do a lot of prepackaged stuff. So I cooked it up and mixed the powder of doom with water and margarine, then added in some stir fried broccoli, onion, sun-dried tomato and garlic.

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There won't be any fresh food at the end of the world. http://www.apocalypse2011.com

I decided to make chocolate chip cookies tonight. I have a lot of eggs and don’t really eat them. I hadenough flour but when it got to the sugar I was short that half cup. I ended up crushing sugar cubes with a rolling pin to get the rest of the sugar. Now there is no more sugar (except cubes) but if I’m frugal I might get two weeks out of the cookies. I misjudged on my chocolate and I ran out, in January. Oh chocoholism, what shall we do now?

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 24:

Today’s breakfast was (cough) two cookies. Lunch was the other night’s stir fry. The not too exciting midweek crunch. Dinner was the left over Kraft dinner but I was still hungry. So I popped up the last minibag of microwave popcorn, and burned a third of it. And I was still hungry, so I had this (very) mini bag of Prez, a type of pretzel stick. Then I had some nuts I found, cracking about five hazelnuts and one walnut. And I had this Knudsen’s boysenberry soda. I really don’ t like sodas (or pop) that much and it didn’t really appeal. But it was one of those nights of bits and pieces.

Boredom with all that one has is still a strong factor. Going into the local co-op to buy toothpaste had me eying cactus pears lasciviously, giving broccoli the once over, running my fingers along the curved sides of tomatoes. But no, I’ve still resisted the buying temptation. I look at all those foods like a brain starved zombie but I shall prevail (and I still have a lot of food).

For those just popping in, the apocalypse happened on January, 1, 2012, just in time for people to freak out about the Mayan calendar. Of course, since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I will not be going out for dinner often.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will call my experiment  ended.
  5. I believe I’ll be able to eat relatively healthy at least until March.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 16-19

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What would a zombie restaurant serve? Creative Commons geekstir.com

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 16:

Starting the third week of the Apocalypse Diet and indeed I have not bought any food so far for 2012. I’m also not allowed to buy alcohol for home consumption but if I’m going out I’m allowed. I rarely drink much at home alone so this isn’t a big deal. As far as fresh vegetables go I still have brussel sprouts, garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, beets, turnip, bok choy and gai lan. But the last of the mushrooms went yesterday. Goodbye, mushrooms! I’ll miss you. I figure I’ll be able to make it through the next two weeks on the fresh veggies but then it will be a little more creative. I have limited fruit, some pomegranate juice and frozen berries, which will come out when everything else is gone. Hmm, there are some old frozen bananas so I could make banana bread if I have enough flour.

This weekend was the start of working on the frozen repeats so today’s lunch was my semi-successful clam chowder made with almond milk. It’s semi successful because I can’t make it thick and creamy like real chowder but better than my first try. However, freezing it separates out the “milk” and flour.

Dinner was pasta with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, last of the zucchini, shrimp, sunflower seeds, garlic, onion on rotini pasta. It was okay but the vinegar aspect of the artichokes made it a bit tart and I had a reaction (as I often do to vinegars).

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 17:

Crackers for lunch! It wasn’t meant to be this way but I left the cheese sitting on the counter. Crackers, mmmm. I had a meeting this evening where sushi was supplied so that counteracted the hunger but I started yawning a lot, probably because of no food and then the sugar spike from the white rice. Hot cocoa with marshmallows was my pre-bed drink. I don’t really like warm drinks but it’s so cold outside that even the zombies have frozen up. And really, the only good use of a marshmallow is in hot chocolate or rice krispie squares. The premix hot chocolate is too sweet so I tossed in a couple of spoonfuls of dark cocoa, and then had to add a lump of sugar because it was too bitter.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 18:

I entered the land of zombies today, foregoing my car for the possible bad snow conditions. One inch of snow can be very terrible in Vancouver and cause a lot of problems. People in Port Moody, Abbotsford, Langley and Chiliwack had a lot of snow and very icy conditions so indeed traffic was snarled. I looked around on the SkyTrain but ran into someone I knew so we ignored the zombies. And yes they were there. You have to wonder how long some of them have sat on the trains, going round and round and round.

My lunch was leftover sushi and veggie teriyaki dinner. Tasty enough. Dinner was the leftover  pasta from the other night. I’ve got to finish up the baby bok choy in the next few days as it’s turning, but consider, it’s been in my fridge a month.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 19:

Somehow, this has ended up as a week of eating out. With work, if someone else shares I would consider them or the restaurants) just being generous souls with sharing. So we had Chinese food for lunch. Dinner was out with friends to Les Faux Bourgeoiswhere I had a green salad, with beets, goat cheese and walnuts. It was large but nothing unusual.

From: doesnttaztelikechicken.com

The Fruits de Mer a la Provencale was a dish containing clams, mussels, prawns, scallops in a provencale sauce which is made of tomatoes, capers, onions and garlic. It came with a small cake of saffron fondant potato. I have to say that I dislike saffron. It’s musky, overly pungent and not that pleasant. My friend described it as bitter, which is not what I’ve ever experienced. But this was the first time that the saffron was done with a delicate enough hand that it blended inwell even if I did have saffron burps afterward. The meal was delicious, and recommended should it survive the zombie manifestation. The waiter, too animated to be a zombie, had the cutest French accent.

For those just popping in, the apocalypse happened on January, 1, 2012, just in time for people to freak out about the Mayan calendar. Of course, since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I will not be going out for dinner often.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will call my experiment  ended.
  5. I believe I’ll be able to eat relatively healthy at least until March.

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Apocalypse Diet Summary: Days 8-11

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 8:

It’s Sunday today and I worked out, finding few zombies on the streets. Perhaps they gorged themselves on downtown club goers last night. At least the workout was relatively safe. Then I came home and had leftover turkey curry. And of course, the now ubiquitous chocolates. I wonder, if I run out of vegetables and proteins, can I count chocolate as both? The amount of veg curry with maybe 2 oz. of turkey was about two cups worth. I made it fairly low on fats, just the 2 tbsp. of margarine and that’s it for three servings. It should hold me till later.

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La Costena's mole sauce. Enough for a whole chicken.

I have two whole chickens in the freezer. I thawed one and with a jar of mole sauce that’s been in the cupboard for a long long time, I tossed it in the slow cooker with an onion, garlic, two carrots and celery and several cups of water. That should be ready tomorrow and good for quite a few days if I cook up some rice or quinoa with it.

The freezer is actually well-stocked but I had to make room so I can actually use some of the stocks to make more soups. This will tide me over between the meals. To tell the truth, if this was a real apocalypse I would probably be eating half of what I am. I have to go and take some rosemary from my neighbor’s bush. This would be allowed because no one could take all of it and it would exist, come contagion or zombies.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 9:

Lunch was, yes, leftover veggie-turkey curry. I could barely sleep due to the slow cooker wafting out aromas of pollo en mole. Mole is a chocolate and chile based sauce but not sweet. It seems my slow cooker worked over time and the chicken fell off the bone. In fact it was nearly so overcooked that the bones were soft and the cartilage bits very jellylike (yuck!). Always, when I cook a chicken or a turkey, I make soup stock of the bones. These bones were sucked pretty clean of all nutrients so no soup stock.

The mole was okay. When I’ve made it in the past I’ve used the store-bought La Costena sauce as a base and added extra pasilla and ancho chiles and other spices. In this case I added a few red pepper flakes and one dried habanero, making it slightly hot (in my books). I cooked up some red and brown rice and had it for dinner. There was a natural carbonated juice drink thing in the fridge (left behind during the holidays) so, while I don’t like carbonated drinks in general, I drank this mango fizz for the fruitiness.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 10:

Mexican dishes often have sauces and that’s what mole (mo lay) means. Because I cooked the chicken in it, it’s more of a stew. I had the same for lunch today and then packed away containers of the mole with rice and some just of the sauce. There’s quite a bit and it’s fairly filling so now my freezer is very very full. The next while will be alternating this frozen food with the hardier vegetables still in the fridge.

I was at a friend’s tonight so it was a hearty vegetable soup, with a piece of bread, some humous and chips, and a couple of chocolatey biscuits. And a bit of wine.

Apocalypse Diet (AD) Day 11:

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What would you eat at the end of the world? Creative Commons: sheetalmalik.blogspot.com

The zombies were knocking about the other night, some trying to claw their way in but can anyone explain why a moldering undead thing should have a superior sense of smell, according to Walking Dead, when parts of them seem to be rotting? In any case, it’s cool enough that the sweatiness of humans isn’t drawing them quickly.

Today’s lunch was canned tuna, with some of the leftover curry sauce, and half a flour tortilla. My cat loves it when I have tuna. I also grabbed the last of the peppery Chinese leaf vegetable as it’s starting to turn.

Tonight’s unevent (I was supposed to go for dinner with a friend) will be the last of the unfrozen mole, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and with quinoa and extra hot sauce. Yeah yeah, and a couple of chocolates. My intake in that department is about 100 calories a day.

This is getting long so I’m stopping it here.

For those just popping in, the apocalypse happened on January, 1, 2012, just in time for people to freak out about the Mayan calendar. Of course, since the Mayan calendar actually shows the ending of one age and the beginning of another, maybe it’s now the Zombie Age (we’ve already had the consumer age).

I’m pretending that an apocalypse takes place (maybe it’s a supervirus, massive alien abductions or an evil plot), which stops the supply lines (but for the sake of staying healthy and clean, the hydro-electric power and water are still working). I am documenting how long I can live on the food in my place, without shopping. Here are my rules:

  1. I cannot buy any food at all.
  2. If going out for dinner, it’s a bubble outside of the experiment. I will not be going out for dinner often.
  3. When I start to run out of proper nutritionally balanced foods I will take vitamins.
  4. When I become bored or am on to only condiments and alcohol, I will call my experiment  ended.
  5. I believe I’ll be able to eat relatively healthy at least until March.

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A Holt Renfrew Girl on a Wal-Mart Budget

Creative Commons: Avon Lady by theotherwayworks flickr

The heading is just a bit off. I don’t really shop at Wal-Mart nor at Holt Renfrew, though I once did buy my winter coat there. I don’t shop Wal-Mart (or Zellers) because the clothing is generic and, while cheap, not made that well, nor that exciting for styles. Holt Renfrew, on the other hand, might have more fashionable outfits but with highly inflated prices.

For basics, sure you can buy some of those things in the cheaper stores, but if you want something made well that will last, you have to go to a store that’s more specific, as in a clothing store for clothes or a shoe store for shoes, not always a department store. But that’s just a general thing. Many clothing stores have cheaply made clothes where the buttons are stitched on with the least amount of thread and will fall off after one wearing. Or after one washing the seams will separate so it takes a judicious eye to spot the good over the bad.

I’ve always loved clothes and jewelery and I guess I’m a typical girl that way. I wouldn’t say I’m a slave to fashion, because those people change their clothes every season depending on what the new style is. I’m more of a fashion horse, in that I have a lot of clothes, I like to buy unique items but I keep them for more than a season. So my style is individualistic and eclectic.

I don’t want to look like everyone else and I want clothes that fit well and flatter my body, so some fashions don’t work well on me. Because I don’t have the funds to buy designer clothing I tend to shop around a lot. I go into various stores and little shops and don’t frequent the chains as much because in a chain store everyone wears the same. I also wait for sales because most clothing prices are beyond the worth. I have also found good clothes in stores like Wal-Mart, (Army & Navy) but not often and again looking carefully.

This weekend I decided to shop for a new purse. Purses are like other fashions; sometimes they’re in style and sometimes the styles change but in purses (like other clothing) there is quite a range. I have a couple of purses that I use year in year out; your basic black for one. But I wanted a lighter color, for spring and summer. As I started to wander through the stores I notice that The Bay in an attempt to pop themselves up to a Holt Renfrew level of chi-chi have renovated to shiny and marble with lots of space a few stands and handbags displayed airily. Of course I could not believe the prices: $185, $395, $240. For a purse! The most expensive I’ve seen in prvious years was $120 and that was very high.

I have to say I sneered and wandered off to other stores to see similar prices. I just wanted a little purse, to bop around summer with, to

Creative Commons: Rene Ehrhardt via flickr

store a few things. Yes, most of these purses were leather but even in Sears, considered not as high-end purses were topping $100-$200, though some were in the $60-$85 range. But of course those were vinyl or some other pseudo plastic. You do sometimes get what you pay for but expensive poly plastics still tend to tear and rip faster and sometimes you pay for name (I refuse to advertise for a company so never buy anything with a very conspicuous brand labeled across the clothes). I did eventually find a purse on sale for about $40. It’s not completely ideal but it’s better than even the Winners purses that were coming in at $200.

If I won the lottery tomorrow I’m afraid I would still not be a full Holt Renfrew girl. I don’t think $400 for a blouse is reasonable, unless it was made by gnomes during the full moon and sewn with spider silk. A lot of fashion pricing is a big gouge and I just can’t participate in it when money could go to better causes. On my moderate budget that counts as rent and food. If I had my millionaire’s budget that extra money would go to charitable causes, not $500 purses.

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How Zellers Sucks

Zellers is in the realm of K-Marts, Targets and Walmarts and other low-cost stores of cheap stuff. They carry some clothing, some shoes, some pharmacy, some every day living stuff, some food. They’re okay but not high on my list of places to shop. If I need a pair of cheap socks or stockings or a few cans of cat food I’ll stop in and buy them on my way home. But the biggest thing that deters me from Zellers is the service. I’ll go to the comparable London Drugs over Zellers even though I’ve noticed their prices are not that cheap anymore.

Kevin Yarr/CBC

I have never yet found a Zellers that has a fast checkout. I don’t know if this is the way the cashiers have to scan things (with a scangun as opposed to a scanning plate like grocery stores have) or the way the cash register seems to need five steps to get to a receipt, and heaven help you if the cashier’s been told to get people to fill out a credit form. But I do know the combination of these things with the stupidest cashiers in existence makes the checkout a tedious  and frustrating experience that would never have me shop there even if the quality was great and the prices low. Swimming through quicksand would be faster.

Here are some examples of the idiocy I’ve encountered. If I bought 10 tins of Yummy Salmon cat food, the cashier cannot run one through the scanner and then hit the “X10” buttons but must scan each one individually. Imagine if you have many multiple items. Sometimes they have trouble scanning an item because it’s not reading. If you have a multiple item, they never think of scanning another of the same to see if it goes through but will punch the number in and usually incorrectly at least once.

I tend to bring my own bag, to save all those plastic trees, but if you tell the cashier you have your own bag, she will not bother to put the items in the bag but just leave them on the counter. WTF? Having your own bag dictates less service? Or perhaps their little brains cannot fathom that a bag comes in other than Zellers logos.

Yesterday, this was my latest experience. I was buying two items total but wanted to pay for them separately because one was for work. I tell the woman this. She says, which one? I say, both but I’m paying separately for them. But which one, she asks. And I say, it doesn’t matter because I’m buying both. Choose one. And of course she cannot place these two items into my bag, slowing everything down because as I’m getting my money the items are still sitting out and then I must take more time to put them in the bag before having my hand free to take the cash, causing everything to slooooooow down. I give her exact change for one item: four quarters, a nickel and a penny. She gives me back a quarter and says, it’s American. I say, you can take this. It’s the same amount. Oh. Arrgghh! This exchange for buying two simple items took about five minutes. Of course there’s a line-up.

None of the cashiers I’ve ever seen at Zellers can do a multiple scan, grab items quickly, bag immediately, figure out simple math, let alone complicated math, or use a full brain. Zellers must pay so badly that only rotting zombie brains turning to sludge in the gene pool will apply. Or there is some ephemeral honey that attracts dumb bees. I don’t know but I tend to think people are more intelligent than maybe they are. But even if they’re not, what ever happened to common sense? Maybe Zellers should sell it on the shelves.

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The Wacky World of Bras

Statistics are showing that women shop for lingerie (bras, panties, etc.) more than any other type of clothes and at least five times a year. So much so that Mark’s (once Mark’s Work Wearhouse) plans to add lingerie to their line so that they can draw more women into their stores. And to guys bras and bra buying are a mystery.

Some young men work on their technique of undoing a bra one handed and others are befuddled by the fasteners, especially if they’re front fastening. Maybe this is why so many guys go into engineering. Of all garments of clothing a brassiere is the only piece that a man doesn’t wear or have an equivalent garment. Even skirts are simulated in kilts and Uitilikilts. As well a skirt covers the same part of the torso as shorts or pants, and a shirt or blouse cover the upper torso but men don’t wear bras…usually.

So this piece of apparel and women’s propensity for it is hard to fathom for many men. As one male friend told me, “I buy ten pairs of socks and ten pairs of underwear all the same and when they wear out I get more. But women may have from one to twenty bras and matching underwear. Because of the way our tops, blouses and shirts fit with scoops, V-necks, boat necks, square, low or high, it means that sometimes the bra might show and if the color blends it’s better. And if you’re wearing a form-fitting top you don’t want the stippling or seams to show through so you need a smooth cup but if you want something a little sexy (the only aspect of a bra that men might truly understand), you might want lace or ruffled edges.

Then there are sports bras, ones that will hold everything in place when you’re jogging, and strapless bras so you still have support and form even under an evening gown without the gauchness of showing the straps, or bras with crossed straps or thin straps for various styles of top. There are molded bras and ones with removable padding (especially helpful should a woman have breasts of uneven size and we all do to some extent). There are push-up bras and unlined bras, super support for the big busted gals and demi bras for those low-cut tops. So, it makes sense that in fact women don’t just have five white bras but a host of colors and styles and materials.

The opposite side is the women that do only have one or two bras that are older than their college aged children. The purpose of a brassiere is support and cover, as well as fashion and shaping. When I’m at the gym there are often these middle aged to elderly women wearing bras that sag more than their breasts. At that point, they may as well toss them. Their bathing suits often match in the baggy  department. It defeats the purpose on all fronts of having a bra if it’s old and doesn’t fit.

Bras are probably one of the most synthetic pieces of clothing that we wear. There are cotton bras but they’re often padded with something synthetic. You can get shirts, pants, skirts and dresses that are all natural fibers but you’ll be hard pressed to find a bra that is and they have all the forms to shape us and make us more than we are. And as it turns out, 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong size; usually too large a band size (the strap that encircles you) and too small a cup size. I can say from experience that I was doing the same thing.

Part of the problem is, as Wikipedia lays it out, there is no standardization between one brand and another nor on how they size bras. Some companies just add 4 or 5  inches to the band size to make the cup size. Some pad their numbers so that women think they’re buying a smaller band size. The bras of yesteryear, from the 50s and 60s were holdovers from the war era when rubber (and therefore elastic) was rationed. The bras didn’t fit that well. Torpedo bras rarely matched the human form. Sure the nipple might be pointed, sort of, but we don’t tend to have cone-shaped breasts.

With more elastic, polyester and other synthetic materials, bras took on many shapes with pad, water filled pouches and other ways to enhance the female form. Where Playtex bras of the 60s advertised “lift and separate” today’s bras are all about push together and up. Of course our shapes have changed, not because we’re evolving but because we’re having silicon and water and other odd chemicals injected or implanted into our bodies. Breasts are not torpedo cones, nor are they a melon cut in half and placed on the chest.

So, if men are baffled by women’s bras, considered that women have man shapes and sizes of breasts. Some are perky, some flattened by offspring sucking the dry, some lopsided, some full, some pendulous. And breasts change as we age, as we gain or lose weight, as we exercise and during the month. I tend to have different sizes/types depending on whether I’m ovulating or not. As long as bra sizes tend to be arbitrary wish fulfillment on the part of manufacturers women will continue to shop for lingerie most of all, because it really is a guessing game on finding the right fit.

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The Disposable Society

Imagine a time when you either wove your own fabric from skeins of wool or cotton, maybe even carding and spinning the wool. Or perhaps you bought the bolt of cloth and made your own garments by hand, or were lucky enough to have a foot treadle sewing machine. If you could you might have bought one fine dress and it was your Sunday dress or suit, worn for years until it wore out. Any garment you had would be recycled as it fell apart, the usable pieces cut out and either made into something else or used to patch a new garment. Nothing was wasted. You wore your shoes until they fell off of you, probably having been repaired and patched as many times as possible.

If you bought (or even if you butchered yourself) part of a cow, you would use every scrap possibly, make soup from bones. Even slight old vegetables or meat that was still good would be cooked or preserved in some way as soup, stews or pickled. Dish water might be reused several times or people would bathe in the same water. Everything was used until it could not be used anymore. Baskets or carts were taken to market laden with goods, and brought back again with different items.

Just think, only one hundred years ago, this was the norm for the average person. Before the age of industrialization it was very much the way and life consisted of one of existence and keeping a roof over your head and feeding you and your loved ones. Communities worked together and spare time was time to socialize because it was rare but everyone needed some fun and leisure.

Once industrialization began, machines could make things faster and cheaper, cutting down on labor (which caused its own problems in labor of course) and soon most people did not need to know how to sew or mend, could own a couple of pairs of shoes and could buy various items easily. As we progressed past the war years, we started to enter the disposable society. Imagine the rationing of World War II when everything from food to rubber was rationed so that the front lines had enough and that equipment could be made towards the war. This would never happen today because there are numerous supply lines from various countries and shipping through various forms of transportation.

You would have an outhouse and if lucky, perhaps a newspaper or magazine, that once read from cover to cover, would be used as toilet paper. If no newspaper, you probably had buckets of leaves. Water was gathered from a pump or a well and heated on a wood stove, the wood which you chopped yourself. You would probably grow many of your own vegetables, raise a few chickens for eggs and if on a farm, you’d be butchering your own meat. Bread was made from scratch as was everything else. What surplus you had was sold for items such as plows, hoes, shoes, ribbons, fabric, treats or other food that you didn’t have, candles, lamp oil, axes, horses, cows, chickens, maybe a book if you were learned and could afford a bit extra.

If you look at your life in contrast to someone’s of a hundred years ago you will have numerous clothes, good and casual, several pairs of shoes or more, and coats for several seasons. You live in a place with many books (if you’re into books) or magazines or newspapers. You have a TV, a computer, a land or cell phone (or both) and a host of other electronic devices that make eating, sleeping, working and leisure time easier. You don’t have to make all your food from scratch or even have a garden. Vegetables and fruit are available year-long, plus exotic foods that only the elite once ate. We throw out clothes when they go out of fashion or get a bit worn. We can buy new clothes for as little as a few bucks.

Most of us don’t even need to take our basket or cart to market, though more and more people are using cloth bags. And this in itself has generated an industry of plastics so cheap that you get a bag with every purchase. The bags are disposable, like the clothes, the slightly worn shoes, a computer three years old, a car that is five years old, a book, jewellery or food in such abundance that we let it go bad. But is it truly disposable? We throw or give these things away and once out of sight, out of mind. But many of these items end up in landfills or garbage heaps or somewhere where they will take a thousand years or more to decompose.

Imagine, in a thousand years we went from the Byzantine Empire to today. Religions were born, societies fell, cultures changed. And now, we constantly waste, all of us. There are countries in the world that are too poor to waste anything, but anyone in western culture, Europe or North America wastes, no matter how good we are at recycling. So that means we all have room to improve. And if we really want to take a look at the popular carbon footprint, then it does not just mean taking the bus instead of driving, or not flying. It means buying foods that are made locally, or grown yourself. These aspects we know, but where do our clothes and our shoes, our computers and iPods come from? How much carbon is used in the manufacture of these items and the shipping of them?

I believe every person could try harder to be less wasteful, which would preserve our resources longer, and really think about that carbon footprint. Money and resources flow through us as if the sluice gates were wide open.  The carbon footprint is everywhere, not just in food or transportation. It’s not an easy solution, nor a fast one and will take years of us looking differently at everything, but maybe we can change our society from being one of disposable and consumeristic to being one of conserving and re-using.

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