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Retailer Tricks; Unnecessary Holiday Gifts; Holiday Control Strategies; Holiday Decorating Accidents; Streaming Media

Aired November 27, 2010 - 09:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, HOST: Well, good morning, everyone.

The holidays are here and believe it or not, it's actually not a bad time for job hunting. How to land your next full-time gig while also celebrating the season.

And deck the halls without the falls, our helpful handyman is here with important holiday safety tips that you can't afford to miss.

And also ahead, what in the world is streaming media? Stick around to find out and you may just be crowned the number one gift giver this year.

YOUR BOTTOM LINE starts right now.

Well, we're in it, the thick of the biggest shopping season of the year. Everywhere we turn, stores are filled with tricks and triggers trying to make us spend some cash. And while we all want to get something nice for the people who matter most to us this holiday season, no one wants to get duped or ripped off.

Britt Beemer is the chairman of America's Research Group. He joins us from Orlando.

Britt, thanks for coming in, I appreciate it.


HARLOW: I want to start first with the promotions. We're all seeing them. They started well before Thanksgiving. A lot of people think, all right, the earlier I shop, the better deal I can get. Is that true?

BEEMER: Well, keep in mind, the early bird specials on Friday morning, which just ended, probably were the best specials of the year because retailers know one thing, if I get a consumer in the front door on Black Friday, there's a 60 percent chance they'll come back and shop me two or three more times during the season. If I don't get them in the store on Black Friday, there's only a 40 percent chance I'll see them at all during the Christmas season. So those early bird specials on Friday morning, which we just saw were incredible, the crowds were there to buy them.

HARLOW: You know, and there's also these you pick the sale day now ,where they say come in and we'll give you x-percent off and you pick the day.

BEEMER: Well, and that's one of the best offers out there, because what happens is, that lets the shopper control the time, not the retailer. And keep in mind, those -- those coupons are really great because if you pick a day when they've already got a sale, you can get another 20 percent off or 15 percent off their sale prices, so they're really good, but what's nice is it lets you control your schedule and if you've got company coming, and you want to take people to shop with you, it's even better yet.

HARLOW: Well, what about stores literally pumping in certain scents, playing specific music. I mean, that's all a tactic to get us to stay in the store longer and spend more, right?

BEEMER: Well, and they do. The aroma research that I've done has shown it doesn't really work that well, but I will tell you something, there are certain Christmas songs that are upbeat that will make somebody stay in a store as long as 20 percent to 30 percent longer. And of course, the longer they're in the store, the more chance is they'll buy something else.

HARLOW: And buy one, get one free, this is -- you know, you see it advertised big whether it's a clothing retailer or an electronic store, but you may not need to or buy one, get one -- second-half off, I mean the point is, you might not need to spend that extra money.

BEEMER: Well, that's true, but what you are seeing now more and more is you're actually seeing neighbors go together and they'll shop together and buy one, get one free and then they'll end up splitting the price. So that's really smart. But keep in mind one thing, you'll buy one, get one free is not really half of unless you need both of them. So keep in mind, you want to be wise when you shop.

HARLOW: And only buy what you need, that's sort of my cardinal rule, although I don't always follow it. Finally, the salespeople in the stores, the door greeters, the salespeople that complement you on different items. They're there also to try to maybe push a little more in terms of how much you buy.

BEEMER: Well, that's true. And that's one reason why I've said for years, you know, retail is really a relationship between a consumer and somebody working in the store. So if you have an employee you trust and they compliment you, that's one thing, but just having somebody at the front door or somebody in the store say that looks great on you, means nothing because, you know, how do you know their opinion is valuable?

HARLOW: This is true, take a photo and send a picture to your friends or family and get an honest opinion, that's right, before you spend the money. Britt Beemer, thanks so much for joining us, today, hope you're well, thanks.

BEEMER: Well, thank you.

HARLOW: All right, so shopping online can mean big savings but also big potential problems, the cardinal rule of thumb -- if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. If you're shopping on an online auction site, like eBay or on craigslist, try to shop locally and try to conduct that transaction in person. And also when you're purchasing items on these types of sites, research the seller extensively, make sure this deal sounds legit, and never ever wire money as a payment.

Also, be on the lookout for phishing e-mails. Don't click on any links or open any attachments until you've confirmed that they are not malicious. So, unknown e-mail addresses, typos and grammatical mistakes, those are very big red flags for these e-mails.

And finally, we all want to give back during the holiday season, but be on the lookout for bogus charitable requests for money. Beware of solicitations from charities that are ill-equipped to carry through on their plans.

But, before you even make a list this holiday season, our Christine Romans says, be sure to think twice.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, what if I told you that $25 billion is estimated to be lost every year in unwanted and unnecessary holiday gifts -- $25 billion. That's bigger than the GDP of some countries. The retail industry can't wait for you to spend your hard-earned or hard-saved cash. So, how do you make sure your friends and family are getting the most bang for your buck?


(voice-over): There's never been a better time to be a cheapskate. The economy gives you cover to pinch your pennies.

(on camera): Let's be serious, there are some people who need to be a cheapskate, they need to prioritize because the same amount of money isn't coming in for a lot of families.

DR. JEFF GARDERE, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Oh, I totally agree and these days being a cheapskate is really a moniker for being a smart shopper and there's nothing wrong with it.

ROMANS (voice-over): But don't tell that to the retailers. There's pressure to spend and spend often, everywhere.

LISA CAVANAUGH, USC MARSHALL SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: The gift recipients, most people are very mindful of the state of the economy and how that might be affecting people's ability or propensity to give.

ROMANS: So, when you choose to spend, choose wisely. By one economist's count, $13 billion is wasted on unwanted gifts each year in the U.S., $25 billion worldwide.

JOEL WALDFOGEL, SCROOGENOMICS: I'm certainly not advocating taking Santa Claus away from children, but I think being aware that the spending often results in things people don't want could give people pause to think of, well, do I really want to buy that? ROMANS: If you have small children and know exactly what they want, go for that great gift. If you want to make the gift for your spouse a stunner, go for it, but don't spend yourself into the poor house everywhere else.

(on camera): How do you make sure that you have psyched yourself up to avoid the guilt of maybe not giving as much this year as you usually do?

GARDERE: I think the answer is actually in the question. Psyching yourself -- in other words, looking at what your mind set is. A lot of us have a lot of values around, if we don't give the way that we feel that we should that we do feel that guilt. A lot of that guilt is self-imposed guilt, because whatever you're giving, most people will appreciate it.


ROMANS: Here's my point, if you spend like a cheapskate where it doesn't matter to you, you can indulge where it does. You can tighten your belt, and we all should, without sacrificing our standard of living. Bottom line, Poppy, and I talk about this in my new book, "Smart is the New Rich," it was spending money we didn't have to buy things we didn't need that got us in the trouble in the first place. There's no need to stress about holiday shopping, you just have to be smart about your spending.

HARLOW: And huge sales and don't buy just to buy. That's one of my rule of thumbs.

ROMANS: Never go to the store without a list and don't buy anything that's not on the list.

HARLOW: I always have a list. Christine, thank you. Great to see you.

ROMANS: Me too.

HARLOW: All right, still ahead, how to find a job while also celebrating the holidays. Yes, it can be done. We're going to show you how, next.


HARLOW: You may not think so, but the holiday season can actually be one of the best times of year to take control of your career and this morning, we're going to show you exactly how to do that. Alexia Vernon is the author of "Awaken Your Careerpreneur: A Holistic Roadmap to Climb from Your Calling to Your Career."

Thanks for being here, appreciate it.


HARLOW: It's interesting, when I was reading about this, you said holiday parties, those are a very good place to talk to people about jobs. I always thought that was sort of not within the etiquette of parties, but you say talk about work, see what's out there.

VERNON: Absolutely. So, 90 percent are achieved through networking. So I think it's really important whether you're socializing with friends, with family, with co-workers, you can use the holidays as a conversation starter with people perhaps you don't know. But you do want to make sure you're segueing gently about what it is you're willing to do professionally and let people know how you can be of service to you, because, the best networking is always mutually beneficial. I also recommend make sure you're asking people how you can help them so that you're also being able to be of service rather than just expecting people to reach out for you.

HARLOW: It's an amazing statistic, 90 percent of jobs found through networking. It's important to talk to people, let them know what you're looking for. And also for people looking for work in the holiday season, but they want a secure long-term job, you want to avoid seasonal hiring, retailers et cetera, right?

VERNON: Right. Even if your skill set is in customer service, you want to think about the industries that are really going to be thriving in 2011. So, I recommend health care and information technology, and even jobs in federal government, a lot of jobs that the state and city and county level are still being shed, while those federal jobs are really abundant right now.

HARLOW: And also, take the time, take an afternoon, Sunday afternoon, sit down, write holiday cards, maybe send some gifts, some flowers, wine, that's going to help you?

VERNON: Absolutely. So, it's a great time of year to send some token to be able to stand out. With that said, you want to make sure you're not sending anything that's not going to be received the way that you intend. So I also do a lot of work with human resources departments and I've got some stories of people who are really well- intentioned but sent something that perhaps wasn't easily identified and then security was called in; it was a mess. So people want to keep it simple. If you don't have an established relationship with somebody, avoid the flowers or basket and instead, send a holiday card that's not religiously specific with a nice customized message for the person you're sending it to.

HARLOW: If you take the time to send it, they're going to appreciate that.

VERNON: When you've already done an interviewed for a job and you're calling to follow up, or you want to get in for an interview, you're calling the HR department, it's very hard to get them on the phone sometimes, but you say the last two weeks of December, go ahead and do it or the first two weeks of December, right?

VERNON: Actually you want to do the first two weeks of December, because those folks want to get the heck out by the end of the month to celebrate their own holidays. Right now, though, if you call, you might be surprised you actually get that person on their phone because they're trying to get work accomplished. It's also a great time of year because a lot of job seekers are not looking because they think they'll wait until 2011, so you'll have the competitive edge and be able to stand out much more easily.

HARLOW: Don't wait. Go ahead and call. And finally, when you are preparing your resume, you're going in for an interview, you want to focus on the goals, right? What are these company's goals in 2011? How can I specifically help match those?

VERNON: Absolutely. That is the single most important thing that job seekers can do is really make sure before they ever have any contact with human resources or with the hiring manager, with their future supervisor that they've taken the time to get really clear on what those goals are.

HARLOW: And how would they find that out?

VERNON: Absolutely, so they want to take a look at what's the company done in the last year. Go online and make sure they're reading how they're being identified in the press in terms of the work that they're doing, talk to people who are in the company. And then they want to make sure that everything they put in their resume and their cover letter, that they say in their interviewing, shows how they're specifically and uniquely poised to be able to provide those solutions that that company's looking for.

HARLOW: You have to tailor your resume. You can't just send out a form resume to everyone. Thank you so much, Alexia.

VERNON: My pleasure.

HARLOW: Thanks for coming in.

All right, Thanksgiving has come and it has gone, and that means it's time to break out those holiday decorations, but before you go rummaging through the attic or the basement, we're going to show you how to stay safe while decking the halls.


HARLOW: So get this, an estimated 5,800 people are treated in the ER each year due to falls while decorating for the holidays. Yikes.

So, before you start climbing to hang all those decorations this holiday season, you're going to want to listen to our good friend, Lou Manfredini, he's Ace Hardware's the home expert and here with literally a holiday wonderland of helpful safety tips and gadgets.

LOU MANFREDINI, HOME EXPERT, ACE HARDWARE: Look how pretty this looks.

Like a ho, ho, whoa! Right? I mean, you got to be careful. I mean, all you want to have fun around the holidays.

HARLOW: I just want to take it all home so I don't have to decorate.

MANFREDINI: Absolutely. We'll box it up when we're done.

HARLOW: Thank you, for myself. Let's start out with this timer, here. This is really going to help you with lighting so you don't waste energy.

MANFREDINI: Well, and also, I don't -- while it's nice to have the lights on when you're away, it's just not that smart.

HARLOW: Not practical.

MANFREDINI: And so, you can buy a few of these timers, they're very inexpensive. Any holiday lighting around your home, whether it's indoors or out, they make versions for both inside and out. You can plug in and set and forget about it. So, you're going to be safer and you're also going to save energy.

HARLOW: And it was always in my household, who turned the lights off? The Christmas lights outside.

MANFREDINI: Exactly, and then you're away and you're like now I'm nervous and I'm worried, so this is a simple thing, inexpensive to do.

HARLOW: And the Christmas tree we have right here. That has LED lights on it, as well, that save an enormous amount of energy and especially if you have a real tree, they will not, not heat up and catch fire.

MANFREDINI: Absolutely. This is the future not only in holiday lighting, but residential lighting, as well. They use 2/3 less, the color temperature has gotten so much better. In the past, people said I don't like the color, it's too bright, too blue, but I don't know if the camera does it justice, but they look very traditional, and they don't get hot, they don't use a lot of electricity, they're pretty and you don't have the problem like, honey, the strand is off, you need to fix it or change it.

HARLOW: Or buy new ones.

MANFREDINI: I don't want to call you "honey," but that's...

HARLOW: All right, this ladder, all right, instead of using a traditional ladder, this might be the way to go?

MANFREDINI: Well indoors and out, this is a nice one. This step one, this four-foot aluminum ladder. Not expensive, it gives you a nice handle on the top to use. Don't overreach when you're decorating. This is a problem when you talk about all those accidents, they're really directly related to ladder usage, both inside and out, so you always want to make sure you have a ladder in good repair and it's on a firm footing.

HARLOW: And if you can, to have someone sort of spot you and hold that. MANFREDINI: Always. Absolutely.

HARLOW: And we should note, all of these items are very affordable.

MANFREDINI: Yes, we're not talking about spending a lot of money.

HARLOW: No going to break the bank. OK, I love this one. This is the light kit. I mean, this is going to, goes almost to the ceiling of the studio.

MANFREDINI: It's a telescoping pole. What's great about this is for people that aren't -- I'm going to keep going up. I don't know how high the camera will go. But this thing gets to a height of 10 feet, so you can stay on the ground if you're not comfortable on ladders it's got a little hook on the top. Let me see if I can lower that so you can get in the light. There's a little hook on the top that allows you to reach up high and grab onto the wires or the clips, whatever it is, so that you can pull them down, stay firmly on the ground and don't have to worry about falling.

HARLOW: Very, very smart. Again, not very expensive.


HARLOW: This is beautiful. We used to have the lights in our house, but you had to plug them in and they were wired. This is battery powered, and these are lights that go in your windows at home, et cetera.

MANFREDINI: They're fantastic. They come in threes, they come in twos. You put some AA batteries, actually, I think they might C batteries. Who uses C batteries anymore?

HARLOW: I don't know.

MANFREDINI: And you put your hand over there, because it gets dark, it turns on. It is a beautiful warm light in the windows, you don't have to worry about turning them off, and at the end of the season, you take the batteries out, pack them away, and they're ready for next season, as well.

HARLOW: OK, so this is battery powered, it lasts a long time. Great tips, five things that are going to keep us safer and also not break the bank.

MANFREDINI: Happy holidays.

HARLOW: Thank you. Happy holidays. Enjoy.

All right, you've probably heard about Apple TV, but what about some other streaming media alternatives? The best bang for your buck for what many say is the future of television, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARLOW: All right, so streaming media might not be something that you're familiar with, at least not yet, but learn this term, it could make you the best gift giver this holiday season. Tech expert Daniel Seibert is here to walk us through all of the devices I know nothing about.

But as you say, the TV revolution will not technically be televised anymore, right?

DANIEL SEIBERT, TECH EXPERT: We're talking about content from the Internet to your TV screen. This is not familiar to most people. Web TV, though, did come around two years ago. It faded away, but today we're seeing this perfect storm, people have flat screens in their home, they've got a high speed connection or wireless in their home, as well, so you can stream the content easier.

HARLOW: You can already with the cable hook up your laptop to your television, but this takes it one step further. We see first here is Koku, this one of the devices you can buy, why would people want this? What does it do?

SEIBERT: Well, OK, so a lot of these companies people haven't heard of, either. Roku, one of these companies, it's a little bit below people's radar screen, but they've been around for awhile. This device would hook up to the Internet, again, wireless or wired, you've got a remote, here, and this is a menu screen that comes up. And you can see the different choices you've got. Now, the idea is you're getting content from a bunch of different sources, so you've got Netflix, you've got Amazon video, Hulu, a number of different places that would, again, come into your TV screen through this box. Now this only goes for about $100.

HARLOW: OK. Any monthly charges?

SEIBERT: Depending on what you get through these content providers, so this isn't free necessarily. I mean, there's a channel store here where you can get certain things, Pandora, you can screen Pandora radio onto here, this is the lower end at $100 and does give you HD quality, though, if you're coming out of this box.

HARLOW: And then Google, obviously, is playing big time in this arena, Google working with Logitech, here, also with Sony. A little bit more expensive, right?

SEIBERT: A little bit more expensive. This one's going to go for about $300.

HARLOW: And is it that much more advanced?

SEIBERT: It is a little more advanced. Well, I'll tell you what, you can start by seeing the different in the remotes. OK, I mean, this is the remote for the Roku. This is the remote for Google TV. I mean, this is a keyboard, right? It's a wireless keyboard, It allows you to type in through the Google Chrome browser, it's what's going to come up on your TV screen. HARLOW: But we should note, Google has been running into some problems dealing with broadcasters who don't really want their content to be played with Google ads.

SEIBERT: Right, because you can think of one of the things you'd want to do with this -- this is the receiver box here -- is maybe you go to one of your networks, favorite shows, you want to stream that show from your site. Well, these broadcasters aren't aren't so sure how the ad revenue is going to shake up with Google, so they've blocked certain shows. So, it's not as convenient as you'd want. That said, you can still pull up a menu, you can still search, as you would think with Google, you call search all of your content, it will tell you what's on, you can partner it with DVR, so you can get that content through your TV, but it's like you're using a browser. I mean, this is the experience.

HARLOW: And you could have pop-up ads in the middle of your television show?

SEIBERT: That's right. I mean, a funny story, I was using this at one point and a huge pop-up ad came and filled up the whole screen and I couldn't figure out how to get rid of it.

HARLOW: That's not annoying at all.

SEIBERT: Not at all. We've all sort of forgotten about pop-ups, but they may creep back in with this. There's other things with this, you can get a picture in picture so you can be watching TV while you're surfing the Web, send Twitter messages while you're watching TV. So it's sort of merging all of these things together.

HARLOW: And what about this company, actually it's called Boxee.


HARLOW: And it started in Brooklyn as an under the radar tech startup.

SEIBERT: Yes. Silicon Valley is on the other side of the country, but in this case, this company is really working out of New York and Brooklyn. Boxee started as a software that you would use to stream content from your PC or your laptop to your television. Now they've come out with the Boxee box, and you can see it's got a fairly cubist, sort of unusual design, a bunch of different inputs on the back. And the idea with this -- this goes for about $200.

HARLOW: So, right in middle of the road.

SEIBERT: Yes, right in the middle of the road. And the remote is interestingly sort of in the middle of the road, too, because you've got a qwerty-style keypad input on the back of this, so you can set up a browser, you can type in different commands and you can get all that access onto your TV and they're partnering with some of the same people like Hulu, Netflix, Pandora and that kind of thing.

HARLOW: You want to make sure when you're purchasing one of these, you know who their content providing partners are.

SEIBERT: Absolutely, because, let's say Sports could be of interest to people. You can get out of market games, so you can get major league baseball games or NHL games from another city, but you're also going to have to pay for some of that content. The idea though is that you're bringing all of the infinite amount of content from the Internet, any site you can think of into your television.

HARLOW: And is it worth it, bottom line? Is this a good gift?

SEIBERT: As a gift, yes, absolutely, because this has a lot of potential and it's the kind of thing once you get familiar with the concept of streaming this to your television, you know, it opens up a whole new world for people, so definitely worth think being.

HARLOW: All right, thanks so much, Daniel. Appreciate it.

That's going to wrap things up for us this morning, but don't miss a special edition of "YOUR MONEY: SMART IS THE NEW RICH," today at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

But now, time for a check of your top stories, this morning. "CNN SATURDAY MORNING" continues, right now.