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Holiday Shopping in a pandemic

It was a quiet Black Friday. Perhaps this is as it should be, considering the restrictions in so many businesses and recommended restrictions for so much of our personal lifestyle.  As upticks became a red-light concern for Rhode Island, a modified lockdown started to go into effect – holding off for over a week for full implementation until the holiday and the shopping weekend were over. For many businesses, the impact will be dramatic. For many others, especially retail, they have already transitioned to online formats. And the state of RI has helped them to do that.

So – rather than promote a big run out and shop for Black Friday, or even Small Business Saturday, RINewsToday is promoting all the smaller ways we can shop and be safer in doing that.

On Friday night, Governor Raimondo issued a message for shoppers. It is:

“Rhode Island businesses have been hit hard during this pandemic, especially our small businesses. I always ask Rhode Islanders to shop local during Small Business Saturday, but this year I’m also asking you to please shop online. To make it easier than ever for you to support local businesses, we have an online directory that will help you find everything you need. 

This website, which already lists more than 1500 businesses, was created by one of our local companies, Visual Thrive — built for Rhode Islanders by Rhode Islanders. Rhode Island Monthly, the Rhode Island Foundation, and our tourism bureaus are joining forces with us to get the word out. And if you own a local business and want to be a part of this digital directory – visit ShopLocalRhodeIsland.com, and you can sign up for free. 

​Our local small business owners ​have gone above and beyond to keep their customers and employees safe ​during this crisis. ​Let’s show our support and gratitude by shopping local–and online–this holiday season.”

Shipping and Shopping

Shipping has been an increasing challenge over the last few years and this year we are sure it will be an even bigger challenge. Whether it’s ordering our gifts online to be shipped to us – or needing to ship out gifts to family and friends we may not be able to see ourselves this year, this year will be the biggest challenge yet. Not only will the quantity of items increase dramatically, but we don’t know what’s coming down the line. Think about giving gift cards, too, which will ease the package delivery services. Amazon will be maxxed to the extreme, so, again, plan to shop early. We’ve heard that UPS and FedEx will be utilized to ship vaccines. We’ve heard that drivers and delivery services may be impacted themselves by their employees getting COVID. For these reasons, and to ease our stress, we recommend shopping early – and shipping early. Santa will appreciate the lightened load, too.

Discounts & Coupons

Looking for promotional codes and discounts with national vendors is a must if you are doing on-line shopping. Our favorite recommendation is Retail Me Not. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find a promo code or free shipping code for your purchase – https://www.retailmenot.com. One of our colleagues suggests putting your purchase in the shopping cart and leaving it there for a day or so – and seeing if the retailer contacts you offering a new discount code or free shipping as an incentive to return to complete your order.

Nursing Homes, Long Term Care, Congregate Settings

Visitation isn’t going to ease up anytime soon, during the pandemic uptick – so, remember, most facilities will not be allowing you to drop off gifts – but you can order them for direct delivery. Again, order early – avoid shipping delays.

It’s Cyber Monday tomorrow! (and wrap around Black Friday and Small Business Saturday)

Make your list and be ready. There are browser extensions you can download which will tell you if there are cheaper prices for the exact item you are shopping for – consider downloading and getting ready. Some websites may go down or get jammed up – so shop when you think the world isn’t – early, early morning (just like a run on Thanksgiving nights of the past) – try to avoid lunchtime and early evening. Have your credit card(s) ready – and make that list – check it twice. Update your computer or iPhone, clean out open sites – and ready, set, go!

Browser Extensions for Best Discounts

We’ve been told that these are the 3 best browser extensions to add to get the best deals.

1. Rakuten Cash Back Button

The rewards site Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) offers a browser extension for Chrome called the Cash Back Button. It gives you access to cash back and coupon codes at over 2,500 stores.

2. Honey

Of all the money-saving extensions you can add to your browser, none get more rave reviews than Honey. This free add-on saves you money in four different ways: Coupon Codes, Amazon Price Comparison, Cash Back, and Bonuses.

3. Capital One Shopping

The Capital One Shopping add-on is an online shopping assistant that uses real-time data from its millions of users to find you better deals. As more and more people use Capital One Shopping, it gets better and better at finding low prices and coupon codes that work.

Amazon – it’s not the only show in town!

How many of us turn to Amazon to order everything from new appliances to books, clothing, and even kitty litter and toothpaste – it is our go-to and we love it. But don’t forget to buy local if you can at this time of year. Often, you’ll get better deals, you’ll support our friends and neighbors who own businesses – and you’ll ease the shipping crunch, not to mention being more environmentally friendly and avoid the big boxes. Curbside pick-up is a good way to go – avoiding those shipping charges – and some stores are sending out their own elves to deliver right to you, without utilizing shipping services. (PS – see Amazon Smile under Charity, below)

Toys

Toys need to be shopped for early, so talk to your little one – or that teenager – and see what they’re interested in. Remember to be safe and buy name brands, rather than depend on discounted toys that may not have the proper controls over lead in paint, and safety. Every year The Toy Association comes out with their Hot Toys for the Holidays – here are this year’s suggestions: 

And… Here are the Top 10 WORST Toys you should never buy – as published by W.A.T.C. H.: The particular toys nominated for the “10 Worst Toys” list are illustrative of some potential hazards in toys being sold to consumers and should not be considered as the only potentially hazardous toys on the market:

Calico Critters Nursery Friends – by Epoch

Missile Launcher – by Toysmith

Marvel Avengers Vibranium Power FX Claw – by Hasbro

Gloria Owl – by Jellycat

WWE Jumbo Superstar Fists – by Jakks Pacific

Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime – by Alex Brands-Scientific Explorer

The Original Boomerang Interactive Stunt UFO – by Amax Group

Boom City Racers Starter Pack – by Moose Toys

My Sweet Love Lots to Love Babies Minis – by JC Toys Group

Star Wars Mandalorian Darksaber – by Hasbro

More info at: www.toysafety.org

Quarantine Have-to-Have Item?

How often we’ve heard it!  My back is killing me – my wrist hurts – I have to put my computer on stacking books to ZOOM – but that office chair is the #1 item.  Here is a link to C/NET’s review of the best office chairs – invest in a good one, because even after pandemic times lessen, there’s no telling how working from home will be the new normal. Link: https://www.cnet.com/news/best-office-chairs-of-2020/

BOOKS

Each year independent authors would gather at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet where thousands of people came with their shopping bags for their gift shopping. This year the event will be held virtually. Here is the information.  You can get most, if not all of these books at Stillwater Books in Pawtucket.

1-2-3 – SHOP!

Shop Local Rhode Island – Rhode Island has given retailers and associated businesses the opportunity for a free listing on this website, a partnership with Rhode Island Commerce and Visual Thrive, a marketing group that created the site. It has categories to help you find the local business and we recommend this as your first go-to for local shopping. Here is the link: – https://shoplocalrhodeisland.com/ – our favorite category is: “Made and Manufactured in Rhode Island”. A new (to us) site is: https://whereisri.com/collections/all where you can find all kinds of items unique to Rhode Island.

Charity

Don’t forget a charitable year-end gift. Whether it’s swiping that Salvation Army QR Code and making your gift in a contactless way, or giving really locally through a gift to the RI Free Clinic, or our local places of worship, the RI Food Bank, etc. please do remember to make a gift this year. So many are in need. You can also benefit charity when you shop on Amazon. Go to: https://smile.amazon.com where all the charities are listed. They benefit by pennies on your purchases – but those pennies add up to some great support. To support local charities, you can search for Amazon Smile Charities – and then put in the search “Rhode Island” – you’ll find about 20 local charities.

Buy Nothing Day had to be canceled due to the pandemic, but Sen. Dawn Euer, for the RI Senate, has organized a collection through Dec. 4th of coats and other winter essentials. Clean, new or gently used coats, hats, gloves, scarves, boots and blankets can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at the legislators’ entrance at the back of the upper parking lot on Smith Street. Those donating will be allowed to drive into the lot, which is typically closed to the public. Donations of new socks will also be accepted. The items collected will be distributed by advocacy organizations to individuals experiencing homelessness.

More to come:

RINewsToday will be featuring some ways to enjoy Christmas and holiday cheer – next week. There are places to drive-through to see holiday lights, etc. If you know of a place we may not know about, send us the information and we will include it in our list. We hope, together, we can have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Make your holiday shopping enjoyable – and not a chore. Listen to some Christmas tunes with Michael Buble – animated White Christmas

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