Isn’t That Sweet? Valentine’s Day Spending is Soaring

FWho loves you, baby?

Valentine’s Day spending will reach $18.9 billion this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Gifts run the gamut, but candy takes the cake with consumers.

Here’s an excerpt from an NRF press release, which has the breakdown:

While most (53.2%) plan to buy candy for the sweet holiday, spending a total of $1.7 billion, one in five (21.1%) plans to buy jewelry for a total of $4.8 billion, the highest amount seen since NRF began tracking spending on Valentine’s gifts in 2010.

Additionally 37.8% will buy flowers, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and more than one-third (35.1%) will spend on plans for a special night out, including movies and restaurants, totaling $3.6 billion. Celebrants will also spend nearly $2 billion on clothing and $1.5 billion on the gift that keeps on giving: gift cards.

It turns out that Valentine’s Day isn’t just for lovebirds. Although 91% of those surveyed plan to indulge their significant others/spouses with gifts, 58.7% will dish out an average of $26.26 on other family members and $6.30 on children’s classmates/teachers.

Delectable chocolates, sweet gestures and a hearty economic impact – you’ve got to love it.

Making the ‘Magic’ Happen in Vegas

cDear technology,
I love you. I love you not.

Technology often strikes me as more foe than friend, like when the Internet is down or an automated operator makes me jump through hoops as I try to pay a bill. Still, I can’t help but appreciate – and marvel at – the cutting-edge inventions that are changing life as we know it.

My jaw dropped more than once, for instance, while reading this Time story written during the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a four-day technology extravaganza that wrapped up last week in Las Vegas.

Among the mind-boggling technology zooming our way: self-driving cars!

Audi pulled a stunt in which it got what it calls a “piloted car” (it shies away from “driverless”) from San Francisco to Vegas in time for the show. Mercedes CEO Dietrich Zetsche showed off a bullet-shaped autonomous concept car with a cabin that’s more like a living room than a car. Audi presented a smartwatch app that can signal your car to drive itself out of your garage and come pick you up.

And feast your eyes (or gums) on this gadget:

Some of the most fun stuff at CES is also the downright strangest. Oral-B’s Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush syncs up with a smartwatch app in an effort to help consumers brush better.

Sometimes, fact really is stranger than fiction.

Raising the Woof: Speak Your Dog’s Language, Sort Of

87739557It appears there really is a business idea waiting to happen for just about everything.

When I first got a Shih Tzu puppy, the thought of leaving him alone while I was at work bummed me out – and probably him, too. I turned the radio on in the mornings so he wouldn’t be lonely and even left a message on our answering machine once or twice that first week (something along the lines of “mommy will be home soon!”) Ridiculous or endearing? You decide.

If only there had been a way for him to give me a verbal “paws up” that he was OK.

Now there is.

WÜF, touted as “the world’s smartest dog collar,” offers two-way audio with man’s best friend. The collar sounds pretty cool – it’s waterproof, shockproof and bite-proof. Other features include activity tracking, GPS, feeding recommendations, games and more.

I heard about this device in an Entrepreneur.com story. Here’s an excerpt:

The mutual communication magic happens using a companion app and a microphone-speaker combo embedded in the rugged collar. You’ll receive alerts on a companion app from WÜF whenever your dog is, uh-oh, “barking a lot, crying, whining, growling or whimpering unexpectedly.” And, because it would be torture to listen to all that drooly doggy talk from far away without being able to respond, the app also lets you squawk back.

… the collar monitors your dog’s overall health and activity levels, lets you remotely play with and train your dog using customizable programs and even helps you keep your dog within an invisible “geofence” perimeter around your yard.

Now I don’t have to wonder what my beloved dog does all day – I’ll simply ask him.

Please Don’t Take This Job and Shove It

37193874Everyone talks about making a good first impression in the workplace. But it doesn’t stop there. When you’re ready to move onto a new opportunity, one of the worst things you can do is leave on poor terms.

This Business Insider article offers six tips for gracefully quitting your job and avoiding burning bridges (ruefully, I must admit that for years, I thought the expression was “burning britches.” That would be another unfortunate experience altogether.)

One piece of advice that stands out is to tell your boss in person. In my opinion, revealing the news via email is akin to breaking up with someone in a text.

Another word of caution: Stay positive. You’re moving on (to another job), right? So, move on – don’t grumble about things that frustrated you along the way.

Check out the story. Let us know if you agree or disagree with the suggestions, or share your own!

Have a Taste for Culinary Careers?

23064608Every weekend, I reach for a spoon – a big one – and dig into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. Delectable chocolate chunks. Crunchy walnuts mixed with bananas. It’s one of my favorite indulgences. But that doesn’t mean I want to be a primal ice cream therapist.

Haven’t heard of it? Neither had I until I saw Delish’s list of the 10 coolest food jobs (no pun intended)!

Check out this description:

Ben & Jerry’s Primal ice cream therapist (yes, that’s his real title!), Peter Lind, consumes four to five pints of ice cream in an average week (roughly 15 to 25 flavors per day). The purpose of this madness? To assure Ben & Jerry’s delivers the best-tasting product possible. Peter and his team dream up, then sample and adjust flavors over and over until they are completely satisfied. “You could make a chipotle ice cream, but exactly how hot should it be?” That’s the kind of creamy conundrum the gurus must figure out.

Crave adventure? Become a chocolate explorer:

Biting into a bar of chocolate, it’s hard to comprehend the journey those cocoa beans travel to get to your taste buds. Meet Ray Major, Scharffen Berger’s resident “cacao hunter.” It’s his job to source the best possible cacao for the company’s artisan chocolates. His work has taken him around the world to Nicaragua, Belgium, Ghana, Mexico, Brazil, Bolivia, Guatemala … the list goes on. On these adventures, Major and his team visit plantations to evaluate the trees, discuss the crops, sample the pulp and study the quality of beans.

Food lovers also may enjoy careers as celeb chef assistants, restaurant publicists, gourmet food buyers or beekeepers – just to name a few. And getting paid for what you love to do? That’s icing on the cake.

Performance Reviews: Why the Compliment Sandwich Isn’t So Delicious

16248269Hooray! It’s time for a performance review.

Chances are, your team won’t have this reaction. At many organizations, annual evaluations create anxiety among employees. But what about supervisors? Many of them are nervous, too – especially when they need to broach uncomfortable topics.

According to a World of Business Ideas story, one of the worst things bosses can do to soften the blow of criticism is to serve a “compliment sandwich.” Here’s an excerpt:

What is a Compliment Sandwich? Well, beyond being one of the worst management techniques ever invented, it’s a way of trying to give critical feedback to somebody without making them feel bad. Basically, you give somebody a compliment, then you layer in a criticism, then you complete the sandwich with another compliment.

Don’t make the common mistake of trying to squeeze a negative performance critique or correction between layers of positive reinforcement. Imagine you’re Frank and your boss has just called you in for a little feedback. “Frank, you’re a world-class programmer, the absolute best. You’re probably the smartest guy in the department. You’ve been pretty nasty during our weekly meetings and it’s causing some hurt feelings. But I’m saying all this because you’re just so darn talented. I really just want to see you flourish.”

If I’m Frank, I just heard: “I’m great. I’m smart. Waa waa waa. I’m great. I’m smart.” Frank heard some compliments, then the sliding trombone sound of Charlie Brown’s teacher, then some more compliments. But he certainly didn’t hear anything about his job being in jeopardy or even that his performance is anything other than great.

Interesting. This amusing video starring “Puppet Mike” and colleagues shows the compliment sandwich in action.

Toy With Me: Holiday Toy Crazes are Gone but Not Forgotten

TWhat was your favorite childhood toy?

Mine was the Barbie doll. For hours at a time, I transformed my bedroom into an imaginary world. Strategically placed atop my carpet were Barbie’s favorite hangouts such as the beachside hot dog stand, ice cream shop, pool and glamourous dream house.

Each Christmas, I eagerly (and sometimes not so patiently) anticipated which coveted Barbie toys I would receive as gifts. During Christmas 1983, I added another item to my wish list: a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. That was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze. Parents braved crowded department stores – and brawls even ensued – as the supply dwindled. My mom was at a department store and had just picked up a doll when a man reached down and literally grabbed it out of her hands. The nerve! I hope Santa left him coal in his stocking. Every year, there’s a holiday craze that defines a generation.

Check out this photo gallery, which illustrates 12 must-have toys over the past 80 years. What did the popular Shirley Temple doll cost in 1934? How much is Teddy Ruxpin, a huge hit in 1985, worth today? Channel your inner child and find out!

Will the Real ‘Rosie the Riveter’ Please Stand Up?

pGrowing up, I loved visiting my grandmother Dorothy’s house (we affectionately called her Dot – not grandma! She said it made her feel old).

Not long before she passed away, I noticed a picture of Rosie the Riveter in her living room. I don’t know why I hadn’t observed it before. It was so fitting.

She was one of the six million women Rosie represents who joined the workforce during World War II to replace American men who had enlisted. She was tough. She was patriotic. And she exemplified Rosie’s mantra that “We Can Do It.”

If Rosie had been a real person, the two would have undoubtedly shared a kinship.

Wait! Rosie the Riveter was a fictional character?

Well, yes and no … but mainly yes.

This fascinating History Channel video tells Rosie’s story.

A few fun facts:

  • Between 1940 and 1945, the female demographic in the United States workforce jumped from 27% to 37%. Half of those women held jobs in the defense industry.
  • The original depiction of Rosie was painted by Norman Rockwell and appeared in the 1943 Memorial Day issue of the Saturday Evening Post. His inspiration? A dental hygienist named Mary Keefe.

It’s a Dog’s Life at West Baden Springs Hotel

You’ve ordered room service and your beloved pet is looking at you with irresistible puppy dog eyes. But wait! As you bend down and pat his head, his tail begins to wag happily as he realizes the delectable meal is for him.

Bon appétit!

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort offers 15 pet-friendly rooms throughout its 243 luxury guest rooms and suites. The upscale destination recently introduced in-room doggie dining.

If your canine has a taste for the finer things in life, order him (or her) high-end entrées such as Chicken à la Pooch, Moses’ Meatloaf (named after a regular four-legged guest, it’s served with ground turkey, red rice, peas and carrots) and Applewood Smoked Bacon.

As we speak, my Shih Tzu, Seymour, is probably seated at my home laptop booking a reservation.

Read more about the doggie dining menu and the guests who inspired it.

Turning to the ‘Dark’ Side Pays Off at Work

I’m not trying to compare successful business leaders’ climb up the corporate ladder to Anakin Skywalker’s epic descent into evil, but the title of my blog is fitting, according to a recent Wall Street Journal story.

Let me start by saying that my first reaction to this article is a bit – not indignant, but defiant. While I concede that the author’s contentions are dead-on in many cases, they are broad generalizations. That said, it’s an intriguing piece.

Read this excerpt and ask yourself if you know anyone with these “dark” personality traits:

… co-workers may possess a dose of one of the personality traits that psychologists call the “dark triad”: manipulativeness, a tendency to influence others for selfish gain; narcissism, a profound self-centeredness; or an antisocial personality, lacking in empathy or concern for others.

These traits are well known for the bad behavior that they can cause when dominant in people’s personalities. At milder levels, however, they can actually foster skills that can help people rise through the ranks.

For instance, people with narcissism, who want to be the center of attention, often make a good first impression on clients and bosses, says a 2014 review of more than 140 studies on people with mild, or “subclinical” levels of dark personality traits. They also can be persuasive when pitching their own ideas.

Manipulators influence others for their own gain, using flattery or deceit if necessary. But these personalities – also called Machiavellians – can also be charismatic leaders and forceful negotiators, says the study, in the Journal of Organizational Behavior. And while antisocial personalities lack empathy or concern for others, they can be creative because they often enjoy testing limits.

Does the story resonate with you or get under your skin? Chime in!