Hallmark Keepsake Christmas Ornaments & Website Issues

I have been a Hallmark Keepsake Christmas Ornament fan since the late 1980’s when we discovered them. I was in Jr high at the time and the thought that a Christmas tree ornament could commemorate anything you want it to was liberating and fun. We ended up buying several ornaments each year until we had a full Christmas tree of just Hallmark Ornaments and white lights. We still buy hallmark keepsake ornaments every Christmas if they continue the series that we like. The classic cars, classic trucks and classic historic airplanes are three that my brother collects. He is determined to have a transportation only tree at some point, and after 15 years he is getting close to that. My mom and I prefer more winter and holiday themed ornaments and have bought some of the light and magic hallmark Christmas ornaments over the years.

This year might be the one exception to the rule, and it is mostly Hallmark’s fault. For some reason they don’t carry hallmark Christmas ornaments at Jewel food stores anymore. Maybe they aren’t as popular anymore? Maybe people have gotten tired of collecting them? Anyway there are also no Hallmark stores in downtown Chicago where I work and none in Oak Park where I live. So, trekking out to get these is getting more complicated. I wanted to order them on the Hallmark Website and in addition to the site being horribly organized and impossible to finding things THEY DON”T EVEN SELL THEM ONLINE!!! (what kind of organization system classifies ornaments by which series is starting and ending when everyone else just knows them by the cars theme? or their subject matter)  WTF? Why wouldn’t a site like Hallmark have an ecommerce site? After all they have done to promote their brand they use the website just to drive people to an offline store? Have they learned nothing about the Internet since 1996??

I am an internet marketer so this is my business to know how people use the internet and what they want, and I can tell you for sure they do not want to have to shut off the computer, find their car keys and drive an hour to a flipping store. It is called point and click buying and last year more than 31 BILLION dollars were projected to get exchanged for goods online at Christmas. Why would Hallmark not want a piece of the pie? I think old people making risk averse decisions like this for a large company (who don’t know how or want to spend money to develop a website) end up screwing the company in the long run as they totally alienate the younger demographic. I can’t see the myspace or facebook generation being lured to a store to buy something when they twitter that they have to go to the bathroom online. I wish Hallmark would wake up and smell the propane and get with the way real people do business and shopping online.

What did you spend your economic stimulus rebate check on?

I have not yet received my rebate check from the US government for economic stimulus purposes. I have read though that people are planning on saving it, paying down debts or using it for necessities like food and gas. All very good things. I think the people who will loose out will be the ones that think it is good for another fancy handbag or 100th pair of red shoes.  I think some Americans are coming to the conclusion that you are not what you own and that a simpler lifestyle has less financial risk in these uncertain times.

I have lived on both sides of the fence, a child of a uber-frugal dad and a spendy mom. I currently feel the urge to get a pair of dark jeans trouser pants even though I have plenty of pants. I feel the urge to pay extra principle on my mortgage every month even though I probably won’t be living there in 20 or 30 years. I feel the need to buy a car that gets 35 mpg or better AND has leather heated seats AND an automatic transmission AND costs less than $20K (used). Why do none exist? I guess I am a paradox that car makers don’t accommodate.

I am not suprised at the high cost of gasoline right now and fully expect it to get higher. (it’s not that they don’t want to increase oil production, it’s that they can’t because there isn’t more to be tapped) That said, it is scary that I spent $120.00 in May on Gas and I only drive on Weekends since I take the train and walk to work. If I was still driving every day to and from work that would be about double at $240.00. A full tank just cost me $65.oo and I have a 16 gallon tank.

What I didn’t see coming is the rising cost of food. Everything is not only going up in price at the grocery store, there is a difference in the regular prices of food depending on where you buy it in Chicagoland. I have started shopping at the super target in far west suburbia where Steve lives rather than pay about 10% more in Oak Park. And that doesn’t even include the difference in sales taxes by county.

I think people’s budgets will be pushed even further to the edge and breaking point in the rest of 2008 and that it will be a lean Christmas because the high cost of basic necessities will make it hard to afford non-necessity gifts. I would say that a good place for the rebate check would be an ING savings account and hopefully it will generate some interest before it becomes a Christmas gift fund.

Holiday Movie Guide 2007 – Top Movies to see this Christmas

I have been looking at the New Movies being released in the next month and it looks like there will be a lot to see over the christmas holiday break. A lot of big blockbuster movies will be out and hopefully everyone will have more free time around the holidays to go out and see them at the theaters. (or at least kids and teenagers will, adults may still be working) Some of the movies I think look good are:

1. Sweeny Todd (the demon barber of fleet street)- This is an adaptation with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter from a musical. So expect singing, but also expect something unique and dark that only Johnny Depp and Tim Burton could bring you. I wouldn’t expect gore here, but I would expect the odd take on the world that seems to be their specialty and expect some humor too.

2. I Am Ledgend– People are excited about seeing Will Smith in a movie again since this is supposed to be a movie adapted from a graphic novel. That seems to be the golden ticket with the teens and 20’s people of today. Nothing is hotter underground than the comic culture except maybe zombies and vampires and this has those too. It’s scifi genre with a killer virus. Scifi is a genre that Will Smith does well so maybe this will be a sneak attack because people have been kind of bored with Will Smith lately. But I am not so sure about those vampires. I think that’s where this one falls off the edge of believability.

3. Kite Runner – a movie that is small and independent and features cultural differences between the west and the middle east. I think this is a contemporary and relevant story right now and people appreciate the truth in stories that entertain and educate at the same time. We can all relate here.

Online Christmas Shopping Coupons

I have gotten most of my Christmas shopping done even though it is not even December yet. I was smart and got online and got things bought the easy way. (without standing in long lines and driving all over the place) I do like shopping online more that shopping in malls this time of year and it’s much more productive. Luckily there are also great sales online and coupon codes for even better deals. Coupon Chief has been a site I have used before that I like because it has coupon codes to stores I actually shop at. One I shop at for myself more than others is Old Navy. They have great deals to begin with and then with a discount it’s almost like you’re getting stuff for free. I also shop a lot at Target for gifts because they have something for everyone. I have been able to find sports stuff for my brother, small kitchen appliances for my mom and well my dad is impossible to shop for. Check them out if you are stuck for what to get your family and friends this Christmas. They might give you some good ideas.

WalMart Black Friday Sales & Cyber Monday Deals

walmart, sale, onlineI am starting to get more impressed with WalMart’s ability to change when they are under fire. They have a big article in TIME Magazine this week about revamping their stores and getting the selection tailored to the needs of each community and now I also read that they will be announcing all their sale items online for the Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday sales. (the day after thanksgiving is called black friday because retail stores’ P&L statements go from red to black for the year at that day with the burst of new shopping done. The next monday at work is also a popular day to buy online and it’s called Cyber Monday)

Also new this year is text updates on your cell phone. From mediapost: The site will reveal new items daily. Before the secret items become available, consumers who opt-in by texting the keyword “save” to 96278 (WMart) will get a text message back when Walmart.com reveals the product information on the site. Consumers will find Apple’s iPods and digital cameras from Casio, Cannon and Sony. Microsoft’s Xbox 360, Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, along with an assortment of games, are expected to sell well. There are big-ticket electronics, too, such as LCD TVs from Sony and Samsung and pocket-sized global positioning systems (GPS) from Garmin, Magellan, and tomtom.

This much online presence and change for customers and employees would have been unthinkable a few years ago. It was always the our way or the highway game with them. It is good to see that they will have more flexibility with people’s needs and maybe win some customers back. But now we have to get them to chat with us about that whole import everything from China where there aren’t the same saftey regulations as in the US thing.

Greeting Cards Contest – Art Students

If you are a weekend artist or you have always wanted to work for Hallmark or Martha Stewart this might be for you. When I was a kid I did a lot of drawing, I don’t anymore but it is still something a lot of people go to school to learn and keep active with throughout their lives. I ran across a contest and wanted to blog about it because it offers a $10,000.00 prize for the winner and you get your design published on a greeting or on corporate christmas cards as well. It is a great stepping stone into that profession of graphic design for cards and paper products that a lot of people want to get into. Here are some of the rules to enter the greeting cards scholarship contest:

You have to be over the age of 14

You must be a student enrolled in high school or college

You must be a legal US resident

Only one application entry is allowed per person

The submitted artwork or photos must be your own original work 

The contest ends January 15, 2008

If you submit it they own it and can use it as they like even if you don’t win which could still be a stepping stone fr your career even if you aren’t the big winner.

Safe Christmas Gifts for Kids

With all the toys from China coming over with lead these days, parents and relatives are looking for safe alternatives this Christmas instead of the usual dolls, action figures, cars and other plastic toys that are popular. This Christmas the gifts under the tree are going to look a little different. They will be a mix of college savings bonds, computer software, board games (scrabble and others if not plastic) , clothing, books and anything else not plastic that parents can think of. One  good idea is learning related materials, books, games and software are good because they are fun and functional. If you are researching some new ones and want a free educational software trial this one may be of interest to you if you have kids between the age of 2 and 10. (yes kids use the computer at age 2, they may think its a toy but they use it) CD Earth’s Fun with Learning Volume 1 is an educational software CD packed with 70 learning activities for kids ages 2-10. The CD has 70 engaging, educational activities and games. They cover topics including math, reading, typing, science, computer literacy, geography, art & music. Each activity has several levels that automatically adjust to a child’s growing abilities to help them get ahead. It sounds better than guessing about what has lead and what doesn’t and getting the kids to play educational games is always a good thing.

free educational software trial