Monday, 29 December 2014

Celebrity Endorsements

Advertisements can often be controversial, but I do despair at the amount of celebrity appearances and voiceovers in TV commercials, which must cost a fair whack, money probably better spent on the products themselves – or reducing their prices!

I’ve touched on this subject before, see good ads, but I’m becoming increasingly irritated by the cheesiness and pointlessness of these so-called celeb endorsements. Do I care what Cheryl is (supposedly) using on her hair, which yogurt Nicole Scherzinger (allegedly) prefers or that Victoria Wood appears to extol the virtues of a Dyson? Does it make me more likely to buy these products? Actually, no.

In fact the insincerity of some of the celebrity ads makes the products appear less credible to me. Their only use is to play a game of “Name That Celebrity” – can you recognise that famous voice in the background?

Random kittens in blog,
Much like random celebs in ads
I mean, do we really imagine that Peter AndrĂ© regularly pushes a trolley around his local branch of Iceland and that Mel Giedroyc really believes that “You’re better off at Asda”? The amount of different Asda ads featuring our Mel’s voice in the course of one week probably earns her enough to be far more extravagant with her weekly shop!

Personally, I’d prefer more ads featuring ‘real people’, which would be more cost-effective to make and more believable. It’s not really the TV advertising that encourages me to buy a product or visit a certain shop anyway, but introductory offers for products and loyalty incentives in the shops.

The odd advert can be quite entertaining, with some of the recent Christmas ones certainly worthy of a mention. I loved the Waitrose ad with its traumatic tale of the girl preparing the gingerbread stall and the John Lewis commercial with the lad and his penguins. But whilst the Sainsburys’ World War One ad was a poignant piece of film, I rather wish it hadn’t been an advert at all, just a short film to make us all think.

So does seeing or hearing a celebrity on a TV ad make you more likely to buy a product, or do you think there presence is just a total waste of money?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Open All Hours

It’s been reported that a record number of convenience stores will be opening their doors on Christmas Day this year. OK, so technically the word ‘convenience’ implies that they’re there for you, but surely there has to be a time when even these shops close for a well-earned break.

The thought of all shops being closed on December 25th appears to horrify some customers. “What if we suddenly discover we’ve forgotten the brandy butter or batteries?” they despair. So what? You carry on without them just like we did in the days when shops not only closed for the one big day, but several others too. If Christmas Day and Boxing Day fell at the weekend, Monday and Tuesday were declared Bank Holidays, with shops shutting for the full four days! And this in the days before a lot of homes featured a freezer!

Celebrate don't shop!
Another argument for allowing shops to open on this date is that not all religions celebrate Christmas, so should be allowed to do as they please on this day. Fair enough up to a point. However, I see no harm in declaring December 25th a National Kinship Day, where people have the day off (with the exception of those providing vital services, of course) to celebrate family and friendship. Sometimes we all need a bit of time out of our busy schedules to appreciate those around us, unwind and be grateful for our lives. Whatever your beliefs this is a concept that we can share.

So personally, whatever I find that I’ve neglected to buy on Christmas morning, I will definitely not be venturing out to the shops to track down. Nor will I be scuttling out come Boxing Day to attack the sales. This time of year, I’m quite happy for shopping to take a back seat.

Sadly with our 24/7 culture many people want everything permanently on tap. But here’s a thought, you can survive when the shops are shut!

Monday, 15 December 2014

A Year In Supermarkets

With only weeks left of the present year, I thought it was time that I started looking back at some of my shopping experiences for the year, and in particular, what has been happening with the supermarkets.

Tesco were in the news this year for dodgy accounting, which has resulted in a criminal investigation. Now whilst this is serious stuff, and we should theoretically be concerned, as a shopper, I’m more interested in what is actually happening at ‘ground level’ so to speak. All the while I can go into a Tesco store, find what I want at a reasonable price, get good service from the staff and earn valuable Clubcard points I will continue to shop with the chain. They certainly operate the best loyalty scheme around, with points amounting to four times their value when exchanged for days out and Clubcard send out a regular supply of relevant money-off and extra points vouchers too.

Sainsbury’s, on the other hand, announced that they are set to cut the number of Nectar points that you earn on your weekly shop. (Loyalty cards) With their loyalty scheme already offering a poorer deal than the likes of Tesco I don’t think this is a very clever move. They are, however, pledging to cut more prices, so we’ll have to see how all this works out in practice.

Morrisons launched their new ‘Match & More’ card this year, (I want more) an interesting twist on a loyalty card, whereby you earn points on items that you would have been able to buy cheaper elsewhere – a price comparison that includes the likes of Aldi and Lidl as well as the other major supermarkets. What pleased me about this card was that Morrisons offered three options when it came to registering the card – online, by post or in store – a refreshing change from companies that expect you to do everything online!

Asda has never been one of my favourite supermarkets, but they’ve certainly put themselves in the doghouse recently. My daughter placed an online grocery order with them, but the goods never actually materialised (Oh dear Asda) and despite phone calls, completion of an online form, a blog post and a Twitter conversation (which reaps results in most cases) the company failed to properly apologise for the inconvenience, or offer any explanation as to what went wrong. Needless to say it’s not an experience she has rushed to repeat. In fact, my prize for “The Worst Customer Service of 2014” is hereby awarded to Asda. Perhaps they’d care to take note!

Whilst I continue to give Aldi a wide berth, having rated previous shopping experiences with them at 2/10, I have become a bit of a fan of Lidl. For me, Lidl have been one of the great emerging retailers of 2014. Most recently I’ve found them a great place to stock up with Christmas spirits – port, cream liqueur and cherry brandy all costing around the £5 mark, and tasting delicious – and I love their Stilton too! I’m sure that I’ll have much more to say about them in 2015.

So wherever you shop, I hope you’ve had good experiences this year – if not, let me know, I’m always keen to hear your shopping stories too!

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Memories At Manston

It’s been a while since we’ve had a family day out, what with trying to arrange our new home into something vaguely liveable (read more at ruraljoy to throw some light on this one) and the weather becoming chillier and gloomier. So when a Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, it seemed a good time to take my son out on a quest for material for his art project on ‘conflict”.

We trawled the Internet to find somewhere in our home county of Kent that would make for an interesting visit, whilst fulfilling the brief, so to speak, choosing the Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Museum at Manston.

Situated on the old airfield site, the museum is easy to find and both parking and entrance are free, although there is a donation box, which merits your attention! You can also purchase items at the shop (I bought an interesting wartime-related cookbook) and enjoy a cuppa or a meal at the Merlin Cafeteria attached to the museum.

Although small, the museum does have rather a ‘wow’ factor, displaying one of the few surviving Spitfires and a famous Hawker Hurricane, each housed in their own room surrounded by interesting and diverse memorabilia. Indeed, there are some very poignant displays, telling the stories of the men involved in air combat in WWII. There are also examples of everyday items from the World War II era, giving more depth and understanding of the time.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and my son was able to get some great photos to help with his art.

On leaving the museum we noticed another building opposite, which turned out to be the RAF Manston History Museum – another little gem, so we discovered. With admission costing just £1.50 for adults and 50p for children, this contains items representing the history of the airfield between 1916 until the present day, with examples of both military and civil aircraft.

Displays include a section of a wartime street (my son found this particularly interesting), film footage of the bouncing bomb, aircraft of various types and ages and military vehicles. There is even a doodlebug!

We found the two museums very informative and enjoyable and I can definitely recommend a visit to them both, as they each have much to offer visitors – an enlightening experience!