Loyalty Cards

I recently joined another supermarket’s loyalty card reward scheme, and when I got the letter and card through the post at first, the promise of a £5 voucher after collecting points sounded good. But after reading how many points I needed to accrue before I got that voucher, I had second thoughts on how rewarding the scheme actually is. I’d have to spend £1000 in store (or more on petrol) to get a £5 voucher. It’s not where I do my usual grocery shopping, and even if I did all my shopping there, it would probably take me a year to get enough points for a £5 voucher that I’d probably squander on chocolate or a cheeky breakfast.

That’s probably the worst offender in my purse. A coffee loyalty card I have allows you to collect points when you spend money in-store. To get my usual coffee for free, I have to spend just over £50. With the traditional paper loyalty cards, where you’d buy 9 and get your 10th free, you wouldn’t have to spend that much and with a paper card, you don’t have to do any online registration, so your inbox stays free of all the emails from shops telling you about their latest products and deals of the week (The Works was particularly bad for spamming my inbox).

 

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Just ten of the many loyalty cards I have in my purse

 

Is it a waste to have all these cards in my purse, when the rewards are not that great and my email inbox is full of offers I don’t need? Not forgetting that ‘we haven’t seen you in a while Leona’ email.

I could cut down the number of loyalty cards to two that I use on a weekly basis, and that I have had some good rewards from. The rest are a bit of an ache to carry around when I know I won’t use them. Maybe it’s time they get relegated to a stay-at-home purse. I mean, when was the last time I had a Subway? I don’t need that card cluttering my purse!

UK deliveries

When you get a delivery of something larger than your letterbox, it’s a pain. Our system is outdated and very inconvenient, as I have found in the past few weeks.

I live in a house that’s divided into 5 separate flats, but the buzzers and doorbells don’t work to any of our flats, so when the postman comes and rings the doorbell, nobody hears it. Sometimes I’ve heard people knocking loudly at the front door, but that’s only if I’ve got no music on and usually they don’t knock, despite all the notes left on the door.

So they can’t make the delivery…I don’t know if it’s a local system, or a general UK one, but our parcels never go to the neighbours house, we always get a red slip through the letterbox, saying our parcel will be ready to collect from the nearest sorting office from the next day.

It happened to me last week that my colleague sent some tickets by guaranteed delivery, I was in all day, and expecting the mail, but didn’t hear the doorbell, when I went to check the post at 12pm, I saw that familiar red card that said the postman had called just 15 mins ago, and I had missed it. Although my tickets were here in Nottingham, I still had to wait another day to go and collect them… to add insult to injury , the delivery office that parcels are sent to is 4 miles away.

Then when you get there, you can’t even collect parcels for other people in the same building…it really is problematic!

Now take China, where online shopping and e-commerce has boomed in the past 3 years. You order something online and most of the time, they won’t even attempt to deliver it to your door. They will leave it in a secure box within 200m of your house, and then text you the password to go and open that box and collect the parcel whenever you’re ready. Or they will leave it at a local store, whether it’s a supermarket, a hairdresser, an electronics store…just whatever is on your road. Again, you’ll get a text telling you where it is, then you go to the place, tell the person your name, phone number’s last 4 digits and address and you can pick up your parcel like that… no ID, no fuss, no driving and you can collect parcels for your friends too.

I much prefer the Chinese system, even if sometimes boxes and parcels are left out on the street, or it takes you 20 mins to decode the text and figure out where your parcel actually is, it’s much more convenient than having to go at a certain time to the office which is miles away the day after you had a failed delivery.

 

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An example of packages arriving and being left on the street before sorting

 

 

Gender Inequality, the shoe’s on the other foot

If you’ve been reading the newspaper columns this year, you’ve bound to have heard how women pay 37% more than men on the high street or are even overcharged everyday on products that are packaged differently but are actually no different from mens – pink razors, pens and deodorant are the most cited examples.

So when I went to treat myself for Chinese New Year, I went straight to the men’s section of my semi-local Decathlon store. I wanted to buy some new running trainers as my current ones are tattered, torn and a bit of old after years of running across, up and down four countries.

I looked at some reviews online and decided to try a pair of Kalenji’s, specially designed for long distances. The colour was a nice dark blue, the 40 fitted fine and I was happy to pay the 399块 (about £40). Until I walked past the ladies section, just to see if they had any purple ones. I found the same shoe, in a bright pink, ‘ladies’ version (I measured, the shoes were exactly the same). Besides the colours and the fact that the men’s laces were longer, something else was different…the price.

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Pink or blue?

After all I’ve been reading recently, I assumed there would be no difference in China, and the ladies shoe would be more expensive than the men’s. But to my surprise, the ladies shoe was 29% cheaper, at 299块  (about £30).

I was shocked, outraged and very confused. How could quite clearly the exact same shoe differ so much in price, only due to the colour and it being in the mens/womens section?

663695312069214461In my outrage, I took both sets of shoes to the till to ask if they really were different prices, maybe they’d made a mistake? Maybe my laowai charm would make them scan the pink ones but give me the blue ones? The 服务员 told me that yes, they were different prices. I asked her why, she said ‘different colour, different price’. I pleaded with her “but the blue ones are so nice, why are they 100块 more expensive?”, but she didn’t budge and told me (nicely, not aggressively) “if you want the blue ones, spend another 100”. I sighed, said no, I’m on a student budget.

She told me if I sign up to be a Decathlon member, not only will I get some points, but she would give me a free frisbee. Sold. I spent 10 mins filling in details to become a Decathlon 会员 and walked away with my pink trainers.

But I’m still considering changing them to the blue. What should I do? I really liked the blue ones, but the difference in price just made me so upset and angry, I should probably stick to the pink ones out of principal, and my Dad said they’ll lose their pink shine soon enough anyway.

Internet Shopping in China [2]

I’ve entered the world of online shopping in China and so far, so good! If you remember a couple of weeks ago it was Singles DayMy orders have all arrived and I’m pleased with them all!

I thought that my cheap ugg boots wouldn’t be waterproof at all, but they’ve been tested in one of Jinhua’s downpours and they are definitely waterproof.

Since then, I’ve also ordered some leggings, some funky trousers and three jumpers.

Because I’m living on halls on campus, I order to the university address and the delivery companies deliver it to one of the smaller shops on campus. I’m never sure when my things will actually arrive until I get a text message. It tells me which shop to go to and at what time. Then it’s really simple, I go to the shop, tell them my order number, Chinese name and phone number.

I think online shopping in China so far has been much more convenient than in the UK when somebody has to be at home at a certain time to receive the package and sign for it. The only problem is finding what I want to buy in the first place…

I was looking for a thermal base layer for running in the cold, but after the fifth page of mens thermal boxers, I finally gave up.

Shopping online in China on Singles Day

Today is 11/11, a date I usually see as Remembrance Day, when the UK holds a minute’s peace at 11am each year to commemorate our troops both past and present. But 11/11 is totally different on the other side of the world here in China. It’s called 光棍节 -Singles Day.

Because of all the 1’s, the date looks like single people standing next to each other, and of course if you’re single, looking at all those single one’s next to each other could make you sad…so China’s biggest online retailers Taobao, Tmall, etc took advantage of this to offer customers discount prices on items bought online, kind of like America’s Black Friday, but as it’s in China, it’s much much bigger. China has a population nearing 1.4 billion people and Single’s Day is the biggest shopping day of the year.

Of course, some online retailers rise their ‘standard prices’ in the weeks coming up to 11/11, so for example in October a set of pjs is 40rmb, but in November they raise the price to 95rmb, on Singles Day they have a ‘half price’ offer, making them 47.5rmb, so more expensive than before, but you think you’re getting a bargain if you look at the RRP from the other days in November.

I have a lot of warm clothes to buy, since I didn’t bring a coat or many warm things with me. I also need some more shoes that are suitable for cold and wet weather, as it’s common for it to rain the whole day here.

Because it is really busy today, the internet was slow and I also had to keep entering security information, see below:

Security dinosaur
Security dinosaur protecting the goods on Tmall

I started looking on Tmall, and searched for ‘ladies coat’ [in Chinese of course], I couldn’t see the type of coat I wanted to buy and also didn’t know how to describe it in Chinese, but eventually I found something I liked, that didn’t have a 50 year old lady modelling it.

Stylish White Coat
Stylish White Coat

This is the coat I decided to buy, it looks quite puffy, which is what I wanted and the description said that it was suited to women aged 25-29, so maybe a bit too old for me, but I couldn’t be bothered to look any more and just wanted to see if I could actually buy something online in China.

The picture that persuaded me to buy the coat in black was the one below, just look how cool this model is, laughing into her coffee cup!

Anyway, I started the payment process and was quite terrified as I didn’t get any error messages, was I doing this all right, by myself? I probably should have tried to order something smaller for my first transaction, but I need a coat pretty fast.

I entered all my details, my address, my card details and was pretty scared that I was going to transfer too much money for this, but I continued. I finally pressed ‘submit’ and had another cute little animated person appear on my screen, with the words ‘currently paying, please wait patiently’, although I was so scared I’d done something wrong, I wasn’t very patient.

Patiently waiting to pay
Patiently waiting to pay

So now the process is over, I got a text from my bank saying the money had gone through and I’m waiting for my coat to arrive. I still don’t believe that it will actually work until I get my new coat…but I am hopeful. In the meantime, I’m going to continue looking online for shoes, jumpers, thermals, slippers, books etc…

I am going to be as cool as this girl when I get my coat
I am going to be as cool as this girl when I get my coat

Time to #VetYourClothes

This summer, I have been volunteering at the PDSA charity shop in my local area. I wanted to do some regular volunteering to keep me busy and to give something back (even if I’m not the biggest fan of animals!). I volunteer twice a week on the shop floor taking payments, tidying the rails, restocking items and (my favourite task of all) putting the books in alphabetic order. For those who are unaware of the work that PDSA does, we provide free veterinary care for the pets of people in need, as well as wellbeing checks for dogs and an education programme with plenty of resources to educate the public about how to care for their pets to prevent illnesses and promote the welfare needs of pets.

But to do all of this, we need money as vets, equipment, medicines, collars, printing and shop costs like electricity and rent all costs money ££££. Along with other charity shops, at PDSA we rely on donations from the public to make money in our shops and we are always accepting donations (Mon – Sat 9am – 5pm – please don’t leave bags outside stores). Through donations from people like you, yes you, we can help to generate more income to help pets and their owners live happily together.

Vet Your Clothes
Vet Your Clothes

Our stores accept a range of items that fit into our departments – Womenswear, Menswear, Kidswear, Shoes & Accessories, CDs, DVDs & Books, Toys & Games, Bric-a-brac, Linen and also small pieces of furniture such as small cupboards, hamper baskets and photo frames. As long as it’s in good condition and suitable for someone to use again, we’ll aim to get it out on the shop floor. Right now, we have a Vet Your Clothes campaign, as research has shown that 56% of Brits have bought clothes in the past 12 months that we’ve never worn. So if a year has passed and you haven’t worn it, it’s unlikely that you will.

Charity Shop Top
Charity Shop Top

Before working at PDSA, I didn’t think clothes would sell well in a charity shop, but most of the sales I make are second hand clothes. I’ve also bought several tops myself from PDSA – working hazard – including this one I wore out for dinner with my friends last night.

Our menswear sections is very small and many men are disappointed to see such a small section, so if you have any mens trousers, shorts, belts, ties or tops that you don’t wear any more because you’ve changed shape, you don’t like the colour or whatever reason – please donate them. Summer dresses are selling well at the moment as well as children’s toys and games as the summer holidays have just started.

As well as donating, you can help charities by shopping in charity shops. We sell all sorts and you’d be surprised at what you can find. In the PDSA Walsgave store, we’ve currently got acrylic paints, Elvis salt and pepper shakers and books on Wizardology and Dragonology just to name a few off the top of my head.

Our stock is rotated on a fortnightly basis, so items don’t get donated and left to gather dust. We bring out new items each day.

But as some of the customers have said to me, you can’t just have it one way. If you bring in a bag of donations, stop for a quick browse to see if there’s anything that catches your eye. Many of our regular customers already do, but in order to carry on providing the services we do, we need new donations, new volunteers and new customers.

If you want some more information about PDSA and to find your nearest store to donate your unwanted clothes to, see our official website or to see some cute pictures and stories of animals we’ve helped on the road to recovery, check out and ‘like’ our Facebook page. You can also send me an email and I’d be happy to give you more information about what it’s like as a volunteer or ways to help.

When shopping gets complicated

I like shopping for clothes, on and offline. I love browsing dresses, skirts, patterns and colours. But yesterday, it was just so complicated buying clothes! I have a slim, athletic figure yet it’s often difficult finding sizes that fit well. It becomes difficult when shops have so many types of sizing available now, besides regular clothes sizes 8-10-12 etc, there are also petite lines, S-M-L and occasionally, child sizes too.

I don’t understand why sizing isn’t standardised everywhere. In theory, if a woman is a size 10, she’s bound to have some pieces that are size 8s or 12s, because shops have their different ways of measuring and sometimes the styles mean you need a smaller or a bigger style.

That’s all very well, but it frustrates me when I’m four different sizes within the same shop! I went to a high street store yesterday, as it was offering 20% discount to students and I wanted an outfit for my friend’s birthday on Friday night. I saw a couple of nice tops that could go with some shorts I’ve already got, so picked sizes 8 and 10 to try on.

hmprodI tried them on and they were too big, so went back and got the 6, which was a better fit. Then I saw a really pretty dress. Black and white, Aztec style. As I just got a size 6 top, I thought I would fit in to a size 10 dress…I was wrong. In the changing rooms, it just would not fit over my shoulders, so I got a 12 which is still pretty tight, but looks great (check the snapchats on Friday night to see it).

I also found a nice patterned crop top, which was in S-M-L sizes, so chose the medium so it would go over my shoulders and I found a black skater skirt to go with it which I also got in medium because in this same store, I’ve had to get a size 14 skirt before, to fit my shape.

The store was closing, so I didn’t have time to try the skirt on, but when I got home, it was too big. I needed a small after all.

Does anybody else think it’s ridiculous that in one single shop my sizes are so different and that for shirts and dresses I’m 3 sizes apart, yet my body is the same? In some shops my dress and shirt size is the same, so it’s not a general thing, it’s just this shop it seems!

Problems with shopping in China

When I arrived to China I was quite prepared with winter clothes but obviously as the weeks passed by the weather got warmer and I was getting bored of the same outfits…time to hit the shops! But clothes shopping is not all so straight forward in China as I’ve found out.

Markets
The good thing about shopping in markets, 台东 for example, is that you can get really good bargains if you haggle with the stallholders over the price, especially if you buy more than one item. However sometimes because I’m a foreigner, the price starts much higher than it should do. In some cases I’ve known a skirt should cost 30快 max but the starting price was 100. So haggling it down to 30 takes a while and you have to go through the whole palava of saying you’re a student so have no money, then telling them you’ve seen it somewhere else for cheaper, then you have to pretend to walk away with your back turned until they shout a reasonable price at you. Only then can you go back and buy the skirt, it takes determination if you don’t want to be ripped off.

Many clothes in the market are one size fits all, sometimes they fit me fine but often they’re a little small for my dimensions. When shopping in the market there’s often no chance to try it on so I get home only to find it doesn’t fit! This has happened twice to me as my thighs and bum are bigger than Chinese girls’. I couldn’t exactly take it back so once I paid another lady 50p to fix a pair of shorts and another time I gave the skirt away to one of my skinny Thai friends.

Shops
You’d think shopping in actual shops would be less hassle but not necessarily. Every time you walk into a Chinese shop or a mini shop in a department store or even walk past a shop there’s a lady at the door saying 欢迎光临 (welcome patron) to you. Sometimes they shout it right in your face and I don’t know if you’re meant to reply to them or just to gracefully accept being welcomed into their shop.

When you get inside the sales assistants will come over and try to help you, you say you’re just looking but they will still hover around you or follow you around the shop. Do they think I’m going to steal something or do they want to be right there in case I have a question? It’s annoying and sometimes I feel really uncomfortable.

Then if you do have a question – do you have this shoe in sizes 39 and 40? for example they will look at my feet and say woaaaah are your feet really that big? Yes they are…don’t answer my question with a question please. This lady told me to try on the one in my hand (a size 37) just to check because the 37 might fit me…surprise surprise it didn’t, that is why I asked for a 39 and a 40.

When she came back with the shoes, the assistant kneeled down in front of me and insisted on doing the buckles up for me. It was totally unnecessary and I told her not to but she was straight in there doing the buckle for me, poor girl. When I stood up I was showered with compliments – they look so beautiful, the colour is great for your skin, they look very comfortable, those shoes really are amazing, you’re so beautiful, I really like your eyes. I felt like screaming shut up and let me find a mirror to see the shoes!

This is also a problem with shopping in China, the shop assistants put you off and are clearly only interested in the sale. They forget to tell you that the strap doesn’t fit too well, that after a week the colour fades and that they’re not actually real leather. I feel that in the UK assistants will do as you ask them, bring you the size you want and that’s it, whereas in Spain the service doesn’t exist at all. There is no need to flatter the customer with compliments just to get a sale.

Then there’s the confusing prices…in China the discount is backwards, so if a label says 90 discount, you pay 90% of the price, so 10% off in total.

False hope

The label probably says in small character print somewhere that the price has already been discounted but if I see a 80快 top that says 80 discount I think wow, 20% off but the 20% will have already been taken off.

Because there a lot of people in China, the changing room queues are also always really long, making shopping a bit of a 麻烦. It doesn’t stop me from shopping though!

Home Comforts – Shops I Miss

When living abroad, despite the obvious things you miss – family, friends, TV, food etc there are also some novelties that you find yourself craving, here is a list of the shops I miss from the UK.

Poundland/ Poundworld/ 99p Stores

As a student, the pound shops in the UK are a Godsend; knowing that you can stock up on sweets, buy stationary, a bottle of shower gel, fancy dress, tins of food, cleaning products and more under one roof is amazing. Even more so when every product is only a pound! Here in the Canary islands no such place exists and the pound shops back at home are perfect when you run out of pens or need a sugar rush.

If I could buy three items from Poundland now they would be: a four pack of KitKat chunkies, a bottle of Orange and Pineapple Robinsons squash and a nice smelling Radox shower gel.

Boots

I never appreciated Boots until now, it is a fantastic shop consisting of a pharmacy, make up counters, perfume shop, photo shop, sandwich kiosk and all the rest under one roof. In Spain each of these departments is a separate shop and you’d be lucky to find a street that has a winning combination of one of each of those shops, never mind everything in one store. The Advantage Card offers and points are great and don’t get me started on the meal deal! Their range of products is great too with eco friendly items and many specialist ranges for different types of people.

If I could buy three items from Boots now they would be: a decent concealer, Olay Gentle Face Wash and a meal deal (this definitely counts as one product) of a Southern Fried Chicken Wrap, a big bar of Galaxy Cookie Crumble and an Innocent Smoothie. 

Deichmann

This shoe shop is my favourite as I find it has the largest collection of half-sized shoes for halfies like me. The prices are also very good and their sales make the shoes even cheaper. I know that in Deichmann I will find a pair of shoes that fit me well and won’t cause blisters, shoe shopping in Spain has been more problematic (especially when people don’t serve you, see my previous post https://leonahinds.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/can-i-be-of-service/).

If I could buy three items from Deichmann now they would be: a pair of smart black flats, a pair of ankle high wedged boots for rainy days and another pair of my famous plastic shoes, in red.

Greggs

Spanish people don’t seem to be big on savoury pastries, there are bakeries around including in the supermarkets but I find that the produce doesn’t seem very fresh and nothing is warm and served by a friendly lady in a hair net. I do love to eat a good snack from Greggs whilst window shopping and sometimes when I’m walking around the city centre here I want something similar but there is nada!

If I could have three items from Greggs right now, they would be a standard sausage roll, a vegetable pasty and some kind of Halloween biscuit which I’m sure is on the menu right now (if not then I choose a gingerbread man).