During the holidays, it’s always helpful to save a bit of money here and there. Tons of my friends clip coupons and obsessively bargain hunt, especially around Black Friday and nearing Christmas. I can never really get into it due to the amount of effort required, but just the other day I found out about Retale, which may help alleviate some of the pain of bargain hunting.

What does Retale do? Put simply, it aggregates local deals in one place – you can browse weekly ads, find out what’s on sale nearby, check store hours, and more.

For example, I searched for Washington DC on the Retale website and found the following information:

Search Results for Washington DC on Retale.com

From there, I can select the store(s) I’m planning to visit, or just search for the best deal on the items I’m searching for. There’s also the option of using the mobile apps rather than the website. I haven’t used the Android app myself yet, but it looks pretty promising. Here is a short video available to explain more about the Retale app:

Have you used Retale during your holiday shopping? What do you think of the service?

Black Friday

Like many others, I’ll be staying home this Black Friday. However, there are tons of retailers that are posting sales online as well as in the store. If you shop online, you’re missing out on a lot of extra cash if you don’t use BigCrumbs.

I’ve posted about BigCrumbs a few times in the past, and I still love it. I get anywhere from $5-25 per month just by doing my everyday shopping (most recently only my Drugstore.com purchases – haha).

If you’re out and about or shopping at home today, here are some pretty interesting tips from the Wall Street Journal for what not to buy on Black Friday (more info at the link):

  • Toys
  • Winter Apparel
  • Tablet Computers
  • Bed Linens
  • Luxury Goods

If you find any good Black Friday scores, please share! I should be around on Twitter and always happy to hear from you in the comments!

Hi everyone! I know it’s been a while since my last post, but I wanted to let you all know that 1. I’m alive and well, and 2. I’m not abandoning ship (even though it may seem like it!)

To be honest, with my job and wedding planning, as well as preparing my condo for rent, I’ve been super busy! I don’t have a lot of info to share with the ShopHappens group because, well, I haven’t been shopping a whole bunch. And when I do, I don’t have much time to craft a thoughtful review. I promise, I’ll get back in the swing of things come November or so.

What’s coming? I have a few Etsy Spotlight ideas brewing, as well as a few helpful hints for wedding planning and event shopping. Maybe even outfit ideas and shopping guides for bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and rehearsal dinners! In the meantime, if anyone is interested in guest posting, please let me know! I’d love to share your stories and I love spreading the word about other awesome blogs or stores.

I have to run, but I’ll leave you with a funny story. A and I were coming back from Taco Bell last night (I told you we were busy – we’re not even eating healthy!) and as we dug into our meals, he showed me what his fire sauce packet said. I hadn’t looked at mine, so I picked it up and when I read it, I about died! They were so perfect for this moment in our lives:

Taco Bell Prophets

Even better? His next packet said Things just got real.

Til next time, friends!

 

Yesterday, Mashable and Google announced a new feature of YouTube brand channels – “shoppable” gadgets that allow you to view product information and even shop for products featured in videos. The first channel to get this treatment is TRESemmé, a brand of Unilever hair care products.

The YouTube brand page is the first of its kind, and has the potential to impact how shoppers interact with YouTube content in a much broader spectrum of applications.  The Google Retail Blog says:

To shorten the path to purchase and translate video views to sales, today we’re introducing a new channel gadget on YouTube that will enable consumer goods brands to connect consumers directly with retailers throughout the entire YouTube experience. This new channel gadget will enable shoppers to seamlessly move from browsing how-to videos and featured products to finding which retailers carry them, check availability, compare prices and make a purchase, all with fewer clicks than today.

TRESemme YouTube Brand Channel Shoppable Gadget

The TRESemmé channel already featured a ton of helpful how-to videos, which seem to be a perfect fit for distributing product information to consumers. Viewers can search for videos or select a filter to view different types of hairstyles. Each video features a TRESemmé stylist showing how to create the look and what products to use to achieve the style.

When you are on the video page, you can see which products are featured in a sidebar on the right:

TRESemme YouTube Brand Channel Shoppable Gadget

You have a ton of options on the page – view related videos, read through the how-to steps, learn more about products, buy products now, share on social media, launch a web cam viewer so you can style along (only on supported browsers), and even view and add product reviews. I find the reviews to be incredibly helpful, because I have “problem hair” and I always want to know how certain products work on people with similar challenges.

What do you think of the new TRESemmé gadget? Would you like to see other brand channels with this type of feature? 

Disclosure: The company who produced this technology, Gloto, is my regular day job. I don’t know if I’m required to tell you that, but figured it couldn’t hurt 🙂 Side note – it was awesome working on this project. I’ve learned how to do twists and buns so far. Still working on braids.

 

When I started using eBay, it was all so new and different, like an online yard sale. I can’t remember what my first purchases was, but after that initial transaction, I was hooked.

I bought. I sold. I loved it. That was 15 years ago. Today, I’ll never shop or sell there again.

I have a weakness: handbags. I love them. I buy them new, use them for a few years (or a few months), and sell them on eBay. I take meticulous care of my bags, which I change with each outfit I wear. Some, I only use a handful of times. All are babied: dust bags, leather conditioner, etc.

I’ve had over 65 transactions on eBay, both buying and selling. In all that time, I’ve never had a bad experience. I follow the rules, and it always seemed to work. Until it didn’t.

Two weeks ago, I set up 25 or so auctions for my pre-owned handbags. It was hard letting go of my babies, but I had my sights set higher. I wanted a Prada. So, I created auctions for my collection of Coach and Dooney handbags.  I took two photos of each bag but offered to provide more upon request. I also wrote in each auction that bidders should absolutely ask questions before bidding because I would not accept returns. What a joke that was.

Almost immediately, my bags started selling via eBay’s handy Buy It Now feature. As soon as one sold, I’d box it up and ship it right out. On the final day of the auctions, I was a boxing maniac. My entire dining room looked like a Coach stockroom. But I boxed up each one, lovingly said goodbye, and sent them to their new homes.

eBay runs on feedback. Next to each Member ID are a number and a percentage. The number shows how much feedback the member has; the percentage shows how much of that feedback is positive. Members are also encouraged to leave comments about the transaction.

My feedback is 100% positive. Some of the comments include:

“Wow i got two beautiful bags from this seller, love them both, excellent service!” – Buyer: Member id dcs1964937

“Love it! Perfect experience. Great seller. 5 stars! Thanks!” – Buyer: Member id havetohavenow

“Fabulous bag just as described, super fast shipN2! Seller highly recommended :)” – Buyer: Member id koolbree

I could go on, but that would be bragging. The bottom line is that I’m a kick-@ss seller. I set my prices low and let the bidding take over.

On Saturday morning, I received notification that a member had created a “Resolution Center” case against me. Since I can’t do her communications justice, I’ve included them:

“ok i got the bag and it was not all decribed has tears and stains all over the place! i want the price reduced!”

Right away, I was pissed off. Not only for her inaccurate description of the item, but also for her “I want” comment. It reminded me of a four-year-old. Moreover, her abuse of the English language was enough to send me over the edge. I responded with:

“This bag had absolutely NO tears or stains when it was shipped. I do not provide inaccurate descriptions of my items for sale, as evidenced by my 100% positive feedback. The photograph in the listing (not the stock photo, but the one of the actual handbag) clearly shows the excellent condition. I also offered to provide additional photos, upon request. I purchased this bag for $358.00 and used it approximately three times. At $105.00, you got an amazing deal for a beautiful bag.”

I hoped this was the end of it, but alas, I was disappointed. She fired back with:

“ok yes it did even in your pics u can see all the stains, you know it and i know it.. it has 2 scapes on the back/.. this is bs and im mad cuz u said nothign was wrong with it!”

I bumped my age estimate down to three-years-old instead of four. But, calmly, I replied:

“I know no such thing. I as wrote in my previous message, there were no stains or scrapes (or tears) when the bag left my home. Moreover:

1. If you can see stains in my photo (which clearly you can’t because there are none), why did you bid?

2. I find it interesting that in your nine transactions on eBay, two have been negative. I’ve been on this site for 15 years, and I’ve had zero negative feedback in over 65 transactions.

3. Even if there were stains and tears “all over the place” as you wrote (which there aren’t – you know it and I know it), I sold this bag as used, not new. Now, this is a matter of principle.

I will NOT issue a refund or “discount” as you demanded. I clearly wrote in the auction, NO RETURNS. If you are unhappy with that, I suggest you escalate this to eBay Customer Support for resolution.”

She just had to get one more in:

“I will cause you’re a dam liar who can’ the am truth.. I hve taken pics of all of it and contacted you right away when I recieved the bag. it’s a pity and u got to lie and cheat to get some $$$.. so bag must of got dirty it self.. yes u can see the stains in your pics. I will be getting my money back.”

But she didn’t escalate the case. Oh, and what I didn’t mention was that as soon as she opened the case, the funds that paid for the bag were placed “on hold” in PayPal. That’s right, she has the bag, but I can’t access the money.

Not liking the idea of being held hostage by a bratty buyer, I called eBay. I had every confidence that based on my feedback, length of time on the site, and the integrity of the auction’s listing, they’d decide in my favor. It was a no-brainer, right? Wrong.

Unwilling to “take sides,” eBay’s policy is to have the buyer return the item and issue her a refund. End of story. It doesn’t matter that she’s got two negative comments in her feedback. It doesn’t matter that the auction was accurate. It doesn’t matter that I’ve got 65+ other happy customers. Their policy is to protect the buyer not the seller.

I was, frankly, shocked that I would lose this battle. She can return the bag damaged, and I can’t do a thing about it. Oh, and did I mention that I lose the shipping costs, too? Yep, she gets a refund of her purchase price and shipping costs. I get screwed.

So, after a 15-year affair, I’m dumping eBay. After nearly 70 transactions, it’s over. I hope they enjoy their new relationship with their young, immature, irresponsible buyer. I hope it was worth losing a loyal, respected, and devoted member.

Today’s Etsy Spotlight post features Dvora from Dvora Schleffer Designs. This Etsy store is a great find for petite and plus sized women everywhere, because everything is designed with you in mind. That said, these designs are near and dear to my heart because I’m a fairly small person myself, and it’s always been difficult to find jewelry that really fits well.  (My fiance can attest to that – my size 3 engagement ring was a surprise to us both!)

As a special gift for ShopHappens readers, Dvora has graciously provided a discount code. Use code shophappens at checkout to save 15% on your order of $20 or more!

How long have you been selling on Etsy? How did you become interested in creating your own handmade products?

I’ve been creating jewelry ever since I can remember myself. When I was a teenager I found a box of tools and some supplies that were left from a jewelry course my mom once took. I started playing with that and never stopped. Later I took classes, read books and also learned a lot by experimenting and trying out ideas.

Twig ring, Sterling silver branch ring, Unique silver ring, nature inspired twig jewelry

Twig ring, Sterling silver branch ring, Unique silver ring, nature inspired twig jewelry by Dvora Schleffer Designs

When I decided to turn my hobby into a full time thing I tried a lot of venues. I did craft shows, sold to stores and even had my own store for 3 years. Then I discovered the wonderful world of online selling and especially Etsy. This was perfect for me. I love the direct contact with my clients. I also love that I can work in my small studio and sell my jewelry all over the world. I have been doing this for a couple of years now and It’s just perfect for me.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by everything around me. Places I visit, other art forms, people I meet. But the greatest inspiration for me is nature with it’s endless possibilities of color, shape, texture etc. For the past 5 years I’ve been living in a beautiful village in the north of Israel. There’s a big olive orchard right in front of my house and a lot of other beautiful nature spots all around me. So it’s impossible not to be inspired from all this.

What are some of your favorite colors/patterns/design aesthetics? How do you incorporate them into your work?

My favorite colors are purple and green. My design aesthetic is very delicate, modern and subtle. I think this also describes my work. My own designs are also very delicate, small jewelry that add a touch to your look but don’t take over it. This is why my jewelry are perfect for every day or for work. As for color, I use gemstones to add colors to my designs. Amethyst is my favorite stone.

Delicate filigree dangle earrings with an Aqua Blue briolette stone, birthday gift for mom, sister, girlfriend, wife

Delicate filigree dangle earrings with an Aqua Blue briolette stone, birthday gift for mom, sister, girlfriend, wife, by Dvora Schleffer Designs

Who are some of your favorite celebrities? Whose style would match up with what’s available in your store?

I don’t have a favorite celebrity. If I had to think of a celebrity who I think my jewelry would fit, I’d go with, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow.

What is your workroom like? What conditions lead you to create the best work?

I have a small studio located inside my house. The studio has several working areas, each for a different type of work (a desk for drawing designs, a jewelers bench for making the designs, etc). There are also several storage units for all the supplies. I am always trying to organize better and throw away things I don’t need, but it’s a work in progress.

I actually don’t need any special conditions to create. I just need to have some quiet time to think and try out my sketches and ideas. I do find that a vacation always re-charges my energy and creative juices. So a lot of times new collections are born after I’ve been traveling to some nice place.

Stacking bangle bracelet, Silver jewelry, Thin dragonfly stackable bangle in sterling silver

Stacking bangle bracelet, Silver jewelry, Thin dragonfly stackable bangle in sterling silver by Dvora Schleffer Designs

How long does it take to design and create each piece?

Each piece is different. Some designs can come to me quickly and be ready on the same day I thought of them. Other designs might take longer. I basically have a little notebook where I sketch my ideas. Later I start working on these ideas in metal. Some may turn out exactly like the drawing, others will change and evolve along the way and there are also some that are “cancelled” because I’m not happy with the result. Occasionally I can get back to a “cancelled” design in a later date and think of a way to make it work.

What is your favorite product so far?

That is a difficult question. It changes all the time, as I make new designs I fall in love with new things I’ve created. If I had to choose I’d go with my black rose ring. I just love flowers and roses in particular and I find this ring to be timeless and so versatile. I have people buying it as an engagement ring as well for everyday use.

Rose engagement ring, Black rose ring in sterling silver, stackable ring,

Rose engagement ring, Black rose ring in sterling silver, stackable ring, by Dvora Schleffer Designs

What is the most interesting request you’ve received from a customer?

Customer requests are a sort of dialogue where I can learn what they need and think of a way to make that happen, so I’m always happy to hear from people. For example, during the holiday season I had a lot of people who wanted to buy rings as a gift for someone but did not know the size that person wears. So at first I just gave suggestion on how they can find out the size, but than I thought I should also offer a solution for cases where it wasn’t possible. I had a very popular ring at the time, the leaf ring, and I simply designed a new ring that was open and adjustable with a leaf at each end. Today this is one of my most popular rings that is constantly selling out. I just love how a customer request can set me on to something I just didn’t think of so that I can improve and offer a better product for them.

What makes your Etsy store different from others?

leaf hoop earrings, Sterling Silver leaf earrings, nature inspired jewelry

leaf hoop earrings, Sterling Silver leaf earrings, nature inspired jewelry by Dvora Schleffer Designs

My focus is perfect fit jewelry. As I hand make my jewelry, I am able to adjust and customize my designs to my buyers’ exact needs. So if someone is looking for a ring, I don’t just offer a selection of sizes, I offer any size, half size and even quarter size you want. Same with bracelets, necklaces etc. No compromises, you can get exactly the jewelry that is perfect for you.

This is why a lot of my clients are plus size or petite who have a hard time finding jewelry that fits them.

Also, my designs are very dainty and classic so you can wear them every day and for many years since they don’t go out of style.

Thank you so much Dvora for the interview! Please follow Dvora on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and on her blog! (And of course don’t forget to use code shophappens for all purchases over $20 to save 15%!!)

As you can probably tell, I’m in the midst of planning my wedding.  I still have a few months to go, but I wanted to share some of the resources that have been really helpful for me so far. Please feel free to chime in with your recommendations as well! I’d love to hear about your experiences!

1. Pinterest

I have a special account set up for JUST wedding stuff. This helps me to cut the clutter from my personal account (which is also chock full of awesome, just not relevant to weddings). Pinterest allows you to easily organize helpful photos or articles that you find online. I’d recommend setting up several detailed boards so that you can keep everything very organized.

Pinterest Boards for Weddings

Just a few of the boards I’ve set up on Pinterest

2. Wedding Wire

When you’re starting to look at vendors, ceremony sites, or reception venues, you should definitely take a look at Wedding Wire. I have found myself searching Google for “Wedding Wire [vendorname]” more often than I care to discuss… but it’s so helpful! Wedding Wire is a review site for everything nuptial-related. If you’re unsure about which florist to pick, I highly recommend checking out their reviews. Former brides share experiences, photos, and an overall rating, which could help you make your final decision on which vendor to go with.

3. Wedding Mags

Martha Stewart Weddings - Spring 2013

Martha Stewart Weddings – Spring 2013

I know… magazines are an old school version of Pinterest, but I find them really relaxing to page through. My favorite is actually Martha Stewart Weddings, which is surprising since I am so non-domestic. Her magazine features beautiful photography and lots of helpful hints that other magazines tend to gloss over.

4. Friends and Family

I am placing my wedding planner in this bucket as well, since she has been really helpful with providing references and setting up appointments for me. I know that many brides plan their own wedding without much help from others, but I’ve found that relying on friends and family (even if it’s just to vent about prices or gush about finding the dress) has been really helpful just to keep my peace of mind. Planning a wedding is super stressful – you want it to be perfect, and sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the details. Friends and family can be really great in bringing you back down to earth and keeping your stress level lower. Just try not to be a bridezilla… no one likes that!

Do you have any other resources for weddings? Disagree with something I’ve said? Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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