Archive of ‘Reviews’ category

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Public Sale Has Started!

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale has officially started! I have noticed that Nordstrom has been trying different things each year to change up the way the sale works. A few years ago they had a bunch of super limited quantity items, this year I didn’t see them label anything as limited quantity, although it seemed like a few things flew off the shelves within the first hours of the sale!

This year it seems like there is less of a focus on luxury items and more of a focus on the midrange price point. I noticed that some of my favorite basic items from years past are either discontinued or not part of the sale, which is a bit disappointing!

In any case, I did get a chance to shop the sale and I have a few favorites to recommend:

 

Clothing

barefoot dreams circle cardigan nsale haul

I bought the Barefoot Dreams Circle Cardigan cocoa/pearl heather which is a great neutral color. I love how cozy it is. I wish they would size these a little smaller though, because the XS/S is still a little long on my shorter frame.

zella high waisted live in leggings nsale haul

I am fairly certain that the Zella High Waist Live In Leggings are the same as in years past. I was really worried that they had changed up my perfect leggings.

caslon knit assymetric jacket nsale haul

I love clothing that has an assymetrical twist. I don’t know why but I do. This Caslon assymetric drape jacket is super cute. Apparently it did come in Petite sizing but I must have missed that.

 

vince camuto prasata bootie nsale haulA friend tipped me off on these Vince Camuto Prasata booties and I think they are so cute. They haven’t arrived yet but I’m hoping they fit well!  The description says that they are true to size or slightly narrow.

 

betsey johnson forever perfect bra nsale haul

The Betsey Johnson Forever Perfect bra fit really well. I have a small band size and I felt that this was true to size even though the description says to go up a cup size. The push up version did not fit me well.

 

A Tale of Two Retailers: My Awesome Home Depot Experience and Awful Gap Experience

Retail is not an easy job to work. While I’ve never done it myself, I can empathize with the long hours on your feet and having to deal with all manner of people day in and day out for a fairly low paying job.  I recently observed the HUGE contrast in how 2 retailers valued me as a customer.

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Gap Stock Price languishing in Blue, Home Depot Stock Price flying high in Red. Is it a coincidence or does great customer service have something to do with it?

Story 1 – Home Depot

We recently had some items stolen out of our garage. We had unfortunately left it open overnight and a burglar entered our garage and stole some brand new tools out of our garage. We had purchased a saw and an air compressor at Home Depot during the Black Friday weekend. My husband got a great price on their Home Depot Rigid brand of tools. He bought them in order to do some projects around the house, but as it was late November when he bought them, he did not get a chance to start using them (or even take them out of the box!) over the winter.

The day we discovered them missing, I went to our nearest Home Depot to inquire if anyone had attempted to return our items without a receipt. They said they didn’t think so, but it would be impossible to tell us since the same people don’t work the returns desk day in and out. I asked if they might be willing to sell us the same tools at the same discount. I still had the receipt and the manager took a look and agreed to do it. It was only $50 off the in store price for the saw, and $30 off the compressor. We ended up spending around $400 right then and there to replace our tools. They weren’t obligated to give us an extra discount, but if they hadn’t, we weren’t sure if we were going to spend the money to replace the tools. Instead, with great customer service, Home Depot made a sale and gained 2 loyal customers.

Story 2 – The Gap

We had received a gift for my son’s birthday that wasn’t the right size, so we took it to the Gap to exchange it. Unfortunately, they didn’t have that same item and I couldn’t find anything else for him, so I ended up just picking out 2 t-shirts for my daughter. Well, after taking them home, she decided she didn’t like 1 of the t-shirts… so I had to go back to the Gap again.

On my second trip, I brought back the 1 shirt she didn’t like, and the associate started the return. Because I had made the original purchase with the returned gift and my credit card, only part of the shirt’s refund would go back to my credit card, and part would go back to a PAPER merchandise credit. (I don’t want to derail this, but it’s 2017… why are they still bothering to use paper and not just refund to a gift card?!)

Here is where this story gets a little silly. The total refund amount was $20.48. The amount going back to my card was $20.29. The amount they wanted to put on the paper merchandise certificate was 19 cents.

I’ve gotten these merchandise certificates before from the Gap and it is just a pain to use. They can only be used in store (not online) and they put my name on the certificate so that only I can use it. Well, for 19 cents, I thought “Surely, they will just cash it out”. Unfortunately, I WAS WRONG!

First, the associate was very condescending and told me that “the system won’t let me do it” and she at first, refused to ask her manager. I didn’t want to make a huge fuss over 19 cents, but I was really annoyed with her treatment of me, so I asked for her manager to come talk to me. When the manager finally arrived, I explained that our state law was that gift certificates under $5 had to be cashed out. The manager said that there was no way for her to cash it out (Hello… you can open the register?) and that because it was a merchandise certificate and not a gift card, she “couldn’t” do it.

This has basically told me 1 thing: Gap values me as a customer, at less than 19 cents.

I was already thinking how I hardly shop at the Gap anymore, and poor customer service is a big reason why. Blaming the computer system is a poor excuse by the Gap employees.  To boot, I re-read the relevant state statutes and while I am not a lawyer, my read is that merchandise certificates/store credits should be covered under this statute and I should have been entitled to having it redeemed for cash.

gap merchandise credit voucher

Gap Values Me As A Customer At Less Than 19 cents

 

How To Keep Your Digital Photos Safe

Soon after my daughter was born, we booked a newborn shoot which yielded some amazing photos that I will cherish forever. I also took massive amounts of photos of my new little one with my own camera. I wanted to make sure that these photos would be safe and protected from various threats and disasters. Hard drive failure is one of the most common things to happen to a computer. I also worried that someone may break into my home and steal my computer.

Cloud Backup for Photos

To mitigate these threats, I started looking into a cloud based backup service. I wanted to find a solution which was:

  1. Affordable
  2. Dependable
  3. Secure
  4. Provided automated backups
  5. Provided an easy way to retrieve data

The solution I found that met all of my criteria was CrashPlan!  I love the service so much I’ve recommended it lots of times to friends and family

CrashPlan Best Cloud Backup For PhotosCrashPlan offers a free and paid version of their service. The free service will backup to other computers, and to the CrashPlan servers, but files will only remain there for 30 days.  The paid service will back up your data from 1-10 computers (1 computer is an Individual account, 2-10 requires a Family account) to CrashPlan in the cloud. Backups stay on their servers as long as you have an active subscription, and they will also keep multiple versions if the file has changed.

To get started, you download the CrashPlan desktop client and start configuring it. After that, it starts the process of uploading your data to their servers. The application will monitor your hard drive for new files and changed files and upload to the CrashPlan servers (labeled below as CrashPlan Central). It is also nice to see how much data will be uploaded and how long it will take. I also receive an email on a weekly basis telling me how many files/how much data has changed.

CrashPlanClient

CrashPlan encrypts your data before uploading, so even if their servers are attacked, your data won’t be exposed. You can restore your data via any browser or the CrashPlan desktop client.

An Individual account is very affordable, at only $59.99 per year. This really gives me peace of mind that my photos and data are safe.

Multiple friends recommended Dropbox. While I do love Dropbox, it didn’t meet all of my criteria. Dropbox Pro only provides up to 1TB of storage and is $9.99/month (or $99/year). I have a massive collection of photos and video that I wanted backed up, so Dropbox was out.

Holiday Cards Review – Amazon Prints vs. Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints!

I managed to be on top of getting a family photo this year for our Christmas card and I’ve already ordered our Christmas cards for this year.  Woohoo!  There are so many amazing new options this year I couldn’t pick just one… so I ordered a bunch of different ones!  So that means friends and family… you may get a different card from one another! Haha!

Given that I ordered a bunch of cards, I thought I’d write a review on the various cards. I previously wrote a review comparing Shutterfly vs Tiny Prints cards.

Photo Card Comparison - Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints vs. Amazon

Photo Card Comparison – Shutterfly vs. Tiny Prints vs. Amazon

Amazon Prints

Amazon is a new entrant to the custom photo printing business. New as in… just started last month! In my opinion, the software is still a bit clunky and the experience is not as easy as it was with Shutterfly and Tiny Prints, which makes sense since those companies have been doing this forever.

It took me a few tries to figure out how to get my photos uploaded and then imported to my card project. It turns out, you need to first upload the photos to Amazon Cloud Drive. I couldn’t find a way to upload the photos from the card project page.

Amazon cards are a true 5×7 card. While all 3 of the card companies advertise the cards being 5×7, only Amazon’s measured 5×7. Shutterfly and Tiny Prints had the same size, coming in at 4.875 x 6.75″. It isn’t a huge deal, but I thought I’d mention it.

Photo Card Size Comparison

Tiny Prints card on top, Amazon card on bottom

 

I couldn’t find any promos when I ordered, so I paid full price for my set of cards.  However, there is currently an offer for 50% off cards when you use the code HOLIDAYCARDS50. Cards are sold in sets of 25 and are 75 cents each, making the pack $18.75. Shipping is free which is such a relief! I honestly hate paying the inflated Shutterfly/Tiny Prints charges, so this makes me very happy. I was quoted 8-12 business days for the free shipping options (there are also expedited options, 4-6 business days for $13 or 5-7 business days for $7). I ordered late on October 27th, I got confirmation the order shipped 3 days later and they arrived on my doorstep via UPS Ground exactly 1 week from my order date. So they completely exceeded my expectations on the arrival date!

Pros: no company mark on the card, can resize photo boxes on back (what about front?), very affordable 75 cents per card

Cons: software is clunky, limited options for designs & embellishments, only a single paper option, no trim options (e.g. square corners only), promised shipping option was slow (but they exceeded expectations!)

Quality: I am really happy with the quality of the cards. The paper had a slight pearlescent sheen and was a thick quality card stock.  The only knock is a I really like a more textured paper, and they use a smooth card stock with no other options to choose from. Color rendition was very good as well. I felt that out of the 3 companies, the color rendition was my favorite.

Shutterfly

Shutterfly has been my go to company for holiday cards for a few years. Shutterfly offers the most flexible software for card creation. You can pick from dozens of designs, which themselves have lots of options for # of photos, text boxes, etc.

This year they’ve added a few new premium options for cards, including glitter and pop out cards. I ordered 2 cards for my review, a glitter card and a standard card to compare with and I am really impressed with the glitter card!  The glitter DOES NOT come off the card, meaning it isn’t messy and your friends won’t hate you for sending them a glitter card :-)

Shutterfly Glitter Holiday Photo Card Detail

Shutterfly Glitter Holiday Photo Card Detail

Pros: Over 800+ designs which means you are bound to find something that works for your photo, # of pictures, etc. Lots of sub options within most designs allowing you to choose between 1-3+ photos depending on what would work for your family and pictures! I also love that for some of the card designs, you can choose exactly how many cards you need — you don’t need to order in multiples of 5. However, not all of the cards allow you to do this.

Cons: Shutterfly always imprints their mark on the back of each photo with no way to get rid of it. Shipping is always a complaint of mine: both the cost and the amount of time it takes. This year, I ordered early, and it took 8 days from order date to receiving the cards.

Quality: Shutterfly has been consistently meeting my expectations for years now, which is why I keep ordering from them year after year. I am LOVING the glitter cards. I am really happy with the paper quality — it is a nice, textured card stock. The color rendition skews a little red, and between the 2 cards I ordered, isn’t quite the same.

Tiny Prints

Tiny Prints and Shutterfly are both owned by the same company, but Tiny Prints is the higher end offering from the company. I noticed that Tiny Prints also has some new premium card offerings this year. They are offering glitter cards, laser cut and custom foil embossing.

I just ordered a standard card to review this year. Cards must be ordered in multiples of 5, with 10 being the minimum order. I wish they allowed any quantity to be specified. On the other hand, there are tons of different trim options and paper options, and you can even choose square or rectangular shaped for almost every design. I love that you can really customize the card to your preferences!

Pros: Lots of gorgeous designs, particularly in the premium options. I am really tempted to order some glitter cards to see how they compare to the Shutterfly ones. Tons of options for trim and paper.

Cons: Tiny Prints imprints their mark on the back of the card, just like Shutterfly. Also like Shutterfly, their shipping costs and lead time are terrible. Shipping starts at $4.95 for standard cards, but shipping for premium cards is $8.95. This year, from order date until shipment, it took 2 days. The cards arrived via USPS 4 days later.

Quality: The paper quality is great. It feels like the same textured card stock that Shutterfly has been using. I wasn’t happy with the color rendition though. I see a grey cast on the photo making us all look a little pallid. While I am sure nobody will look that carefully at the photo, it is still disappointing since Tiny Prints brands themselves as a premium card company.

Hopefully this review helps you with your holiday card shopping! What company will you be using this year? 

The 2016 Anniversary Sale is Live!

Its here!!! The 2016 Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is live! Were you up at midnight pacific time to shop? They did things a little differently this year with no downtime to the website like in previous years. There were also none of the anniversary items loaded in advance (at least none reported!) Several people including me had trouble with the site. I had the same dress added to my cart 18 times as I clicked through various pages.

I went to the store and here’s some of the highlights and misses.

Designer

The Alexander Wang Darcy Hobo sold out super fast. If you are still lusting over it, you need to be online at the stroke of midnight when the public sale opens. I think that is your best shot at scoring one of those. I talked to a sales associate at the store today and the beet color sold out to Level 4 customers yesterday within the first hour!  Wow!  I saw the bag online at midnight but only in 2 of the 3 colors (black and latte), so I think that is probably why–all of the hobos in beet were already gone!

The 3.1 Phillip Lim Quill bags were also sold very quickly. As of right now, the mini Soleil chain bag is still for sale on the website in Cherry.

I saw the Yigal Azrouel sweater in store and it is so soft. The Burberry Brit Craysmore cropped peacoat was super cute, but that style just doesn’t work for me so I didn’t try it on. The material felt very nice though.

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There were some Missoni scarves that I hadn’t heard anyone talk about. They were gorgeous!

Missoni Scarves - Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Missoni Scarves – Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

 

Handbags

The new Marc Jacobs bags were all very nice. I really like the grey leather that they use and the gold hardware. I have this combo in the form of a Classic Q Natasha in the old Marc by Marc Jacobs line. The hobo was very large.  I think the tote shown here was nicer.

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There was a pink Coach Crosby 24 bag that I thought was very cute. Love this shade of pink!

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Shoes

The shoe tent is always a zoo so I didn’t stay too long. I checked out the AGLs this year and thought that the AGL Blakely studded flats were cute, but the Kristin Block heel was a pass for me. The AGL Frankie Tall Wedge was amazing and SO SO LIGHT.  All 3 of these AGLs are Made in Italy.

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There was a La Canadienne boot and Blondo boot that I also liked.

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The Tory Burch flats looked cute but I didn’t try on. I liked the pewter snake (the shiny one) color a lot.

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