Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's wrong with this picture?

I had been looking forward to this thing that was being advertised called Small Business Saturday. Yourself?

On Friday, I bought tickets at the local Playhouse and then on Saturday I spent money in six different local businesses. I would have done it anyway, but this advertising campaign got me thinking of getting the job done and doing it all on (mostly) one day.

Small Business Saturday has a Facebook page and so I went to look at the comments of thousands of people who participated in this campaign.

Some businesses decried it saying they didn't have any extra business or that business was really slow. One of those businesses was a repair shop, which I'm not thinking would necessarily have extra business on a Saturday in November unless everyone's lawn mower/snow blower/automobile happened to break down on Small Business Saturday.

Remember in Andy Griffith, Bewitched and shows of that age when there were repair shops for radios and televisions? How quaint that seems now. I have a little wind up alarm clock from high school that I just love and for two decades now I can't find one person willing to fix it. They all say it will cost more to fix than repair.

They're not getting my point about loving the alarm clock. But obviously I've gotten off track.

Apparently SBS, as Imma call it now because Small Business Saturday is too long to keep typing, was designated by the U.S. Senate for November 26. That's just this year, so I don't know what the Senate is doing getting involved, but last year AMEX offered a $25 credit to a limited number of participants who spent at least $25 at a qualified small business. That's nice of them. That's putting their money where their mouth is.

There are, as in most nice stories, a few villains. Who you think the villains are may depend on your political or social leanings.

The media references I've seen have said that AMEX was offered the $25 credit to their cardholders. According to the ungrateful grousing on Facebook, it was to a limited number of registered participants. I think that's fair. AMEX isn't a charity. They want something for their money. They already know who you are, but now they've gotten some extra information about you or whatever they wanted. But they wanted you to register. They're not stupid, either. If they limited the number of participants, that was wise on their part. Shut up and follow the rules is what I'm saying. But then you've probably figured out my political leanings, so this attitude shouldn't surprise you.

Then there are the folks who got the wrong end of the stick, in my humble but accurate opinion. There were people on Facebook who said they went to ONE STORE and spent $25.50 just to claim their $25 credit from AMEX. I'm just disappointed in the Americans who did it only for their own gain.

Now if you really couldn't afford to spend more than $25.50, I think it's nice that you went out and spent the limit and you got something for free. I totally get that and good on you for shopping local to do it. But naturally not the majority in this case and forgive my old-school perspective, but if you have an AMEX card, why can't you shop at more than one store or drop more than 25 bucks during the biggest shopping season of the year?

There were a few folks who complained because the lousy small business they decided to shop at didn't take AMEX. Um...this may be another reason why AMEX is getting behind this project.

Anyone remember when you couldn't use a DISCOVER card anywhere but Sears? Anyone?

Do your homework. Call first. Or how about you go to another store? Sheeple! I declare some people need others to do their thinking.

Then there was the rant from someone who thought the whole thing was about corporate greed.

At any rate, we've all survived the big kickoff to consumerism. Did you shop? Do you have any Black Friday or SBS stories? Is your shopping done?

Friday, November 11, 2011

The four corners of the world on Veteran's Day 2011

Anyone who thinks Iowa isn't culturally diverse should have been at Aaron's middle school assembly this morning with me. I wonder how many different countries unite in the student population there. I saw Burundi, Burma, Liberia, Sudan, Bosnia...I'm sure I couldn't guess as to the others.

The school had a really nice Veteran's Day assembly that began with the presentation of the colors by a group of Boy Scouts. Veterans were asked to stand and be recognized. The National Anthem was sung and they did a bang-up job doing it. The 7th and 8th grade chorus sang the songs of each branch of service: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force in that order.

There were several student recitations, which mostly I looked on as an excellent opportunity for public speaking, which is a chore so many hate. But for those of us who learn to do it, and even love it, it creates confidence and can open doors of opportunity later in life. (I'm convinced of this, although no one has ever beaten down my door begging me to go on a speaking circuit, so maybe I'm wrong) As I'm listening to the recitations about the flag, the bald eagle and the Statue of Liberty, I'm admiring these kids.

Particularly keeping in mind they're standing in front of middle school peers. What a nightmare. 

When it came time for the last recitation, this Army brat perked up. A young man named Dalton had written about his father, who is currently the Middle East.

I've often thought there should be a little something for the military dependents of the world. If your parent was career military, you know a thing or two about military life and sacrifice. For instance, when they ask veterans to stand while their service's song is played, I think maybe we should be allowed to stand up as well.

No, the children didn't put their lives on the line, but they let mom or dad (mostly dads when you're my age) go away and these days even young children seem to know the parent may not return. I also think widows (or widowers) should be recognized.

No man is an island and all that, you know? It takes a family to send a soldier to war.

Dalton, a military kid in a completely civilian world, stood on the stage this morning and spoke proudly of his father's many deployments, his achievements and goals and his safety. He said, "My dad is in a secure location, so I don't worry so much about his safety." It's also the first time his dad has been away from home for Christmas.

At first, I thought, "Oh, please let his dad be here to surprise him." But then he said this time his dad has only been gone for a month so far.

I have so much respect for the children of the military these days. My dad was career Army, but we were civilians for a period of my childhood. My dad was never deployed into combat. So many kids today are surrounded by civilians while I was fortunate to be surrounded by military kids and families. I knew in the back of my mind that something could happen to my father or the other dads I knew. The Cold War was always a little threatening, but I didn't have to face an actual war.

Find some veterans today and thank them for their service, then remember to thank their family. After that, go find someone who let their mom or dad fight for their country and give the kid a big thank you!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Christmas Happy Campaign

Family economics being what they are today in the world, I want to campaign on behalf of a charming, slightly old-fashioned thing that you can do to bring smiles and happiness to the faces and hearts of friends and family far and wide. 

Send Christmas cards! 

If you aren't into Christmas, send New Years' greetings. 

Even now when the mail is full of bills and advertisements, who doesn't still hope to see a letter or a card in the mail? The way the world works, it's pretty rare for most of us to see anything personal and maybe you've given up looking. 

But you know you used to. And I bet you loved the cards and letters. Email isn't the same thing. Sure, it's "free" but you can't hold it, open it, slide the card out, smile and laugh, display the card and read the note over and over again. No, all you can do is click, click, click.

You will smile and then you'll move on and it will be forgotten. 

Be remembered this year for something special. 

I know on the whole sending Christmas cards looks expensive, but considering the cost per smile, it's really a delightful tradition that costs less than a pack of gum. 

The cards don't have to be expensive. Good luck finding cards at a mass retailer that actually say Merry Christmas (don't shop at Target! I had a big fit last year trying to find fun cards that didn't say happy holidays. I finally settled on a card that said Merry christmas (sic) and I threw them away. I was so mad.), but if you get the most inexpensive cards you can find or make, you can send a moment of shiny, glittering happiness to a friend or loved one for less than a dollar. 

If you already send Christmas cards, send a few more. 

When you consider what the U.S. Postal Service can do for less than 50 cents, I say it's a bargain we've all forgotten about. So put on some Christmas music, pull out the stamps and pen, brew a cup of tea or chocolate and treat yourself to spreading holiday cheer. 

That's my campaign for the year: Spreading happiness one envelope at a time. 

Do you like getting personal mail in the mailbox? Do you display Christmas cards during the season? What do you think?