Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Superstores Versus Neighborhood Supermarkets

I've wanted to know how much grocery shoppers save at WalMart compared to their neighborhood supermarket. Or is there a difference?

Apples to Apples
I randomly picked and then made a list of a dozen grocery items to compare. Three were in the produce departments: apples, spring mixed salad greens, and slicing tomatoes. I was surprised to see two United Foods employees checking produce prices. “We do this every week,” one told me.

I'll come out ahead at WalMart I thought, especially when I noticed apples for 99¢ per pound. Wrong. Later at home, comparing pound for pound and package for package, United’s produce cost 3¢ less than Walmart’s.

Who has the crème de la crème?
United also undercut WalMart on Plains Dairy whipping cream by 9¢. But it wasn't easy to compare other whipping cream brands. WalMart handles Gandy’s, while United Foods stocks Red River Farm’s whipping cream at 2¢ more per 8-ounce carton.

Two cents makes little difference between products, but quality does. I recently bought a carton of Red River Farm’s whipping cream, and had to use scissors to open it. How annoying when trying to make supper in a hurry. It’s also potentially dangerous. A person using a knife to pry the spout open could slit a hand open instead. In reporting the defective packaging problem on United’s Website, a glitch prevented my sending the message. More time wasted. I phoned. United’s phone rep apologized, but 
didn't ask for product identification or batch numbers. Strange.

What is Service Worth?
On the other hand, United Food’s store employees make up for the unprofessional telephone worker. They excel in service. And what’s that worth? A panhandler approached me in WallMart’s parking lot today. With a strong employee presence at a United Foods facility, would that man have been so brazen?  

All in All
Differences between the two store’s grocery prices balanced. I purchased a number of generic products and plan taste tests. That may be the subject of another blog.

© 2013, Bernice Simpson

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Exactly What We Needed

Why do you write? For me it’s such fun to be curious about everything, and satisfy that curiosity while actually working. For example, I learned Chris Stewart, who spoke at the Panhandle Professional Writers’ (PPW) meeting yesterday, is a member of the Order of the Coif*. What’s that? The question nagged me until I looked it up.

Despite all the information offered by the World Wide Web, I've frequently had questions which remained unanswered although I typed query after query into internet search boxes. If you follow my blog, you know about one dilemma I faced when I wanted to share the humorous “A Jolly Good Dime” with you. I couldn't find the author.

Thanks to Chris Stewart, the roomful of writers who attended PPW’s meeting yesterday have guidelines for the attribution of “orphaned” work and a lot more.

Chris directed his message to those who post messages and pictures on the internet, writing hobbyists, and authors who write for financial gain. As always, he peppered his information (he’s a living glossary of publication terms) and cogent advice (“Read contracts carefully.” “Know your rights.”) with entertaining anecdotes. If you want a taste of his humor, read Tootsie Rolls and Cockroaches on his blog:

While you’re at his website, look over the list of presentations he’s made. If your organization or enterprise blogs, has a website, sends out a newsletter or e-zine  call Chris Stewart. He’s not a pep rally-type speaker full of enthusiasm, but void of substance. But your audience will have fun while they gain useful information.

 *The Order of the Coif is… Well, why don’t I avoid copyright infringement, and let you look it up.

©2013 Bernice W. Simpson

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Opinions Wanted

If you've been accused of being opinionated, writers want to hear from you. Tell us what you like, and/or what you don't like about our blogs or website content. If you find an error in our work, please let us know so that we can correct it.

But it's better to say nothing than to pan books in print. One reason--why waste your time reading a bad book? Cecil Murphey (of 90 Minutes in Heaven and many more) said once the book is bound, no matter who messed up--the writer, editor, or printer, it's too late to change it. 

If you enjoy a book, send the author a note. Better still, tell the world about it. Writing is a tough business, and writers truly appreciate your help. I found Dianne G. Sagan's "how to" advice on her blog, and have copied it with her permission. 

Dianne, known for her well-researched historical Christian fiction, writes on numerous subjects, and presents workshops on writing and other topics.


How to Write a Book Review

Do you ever wonder what the best way is to support your favorite authors? Of course, purchasing books, reading their books, and telling your friends about them is the best way of getting the word out.
Another way of showing your support is reviewing the books you read. When you purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Nobel online there is a place for you to write a short review. also provides a place for reviews. Most readers don’t leave one because it intimidates them. People think that there are certain requirements you must have to be a book reviewer. Not true any more.                        animated woman typing
I’d like to give you some tips on how to write a simple, short review that is easy and only take a few minutes of your time. You can read the book in print form and put a review online whether you bought it online or not. Fear keeps us from doing a lot of things. Don’t be scared of writing a review.
Some suggestions:
  • The theme represents …
  • I enjoyed the story because …
  • The relationships between characters demonstrated …
  • It is well written …
  • My favorite character …
  • The story is well researched …
  • Read some of the reviews posted for examples and write one in your own words.
  • A review does not have to be only positive statements, but can include points that you feel are negative. Just be sure that you stick to the subject and the writing, do not get personal about the author.
  • If the writing is not professional, then it is alright to say that.
  • If the research in a historical novel is obviously well done, then mention it.
  • It can be a great story that isn’t told very well.
  • Tell whether you like the book or not.
  • Would you recommend it to others?
I hope this helps take some of the anxiety out of writing a review. I am sure your favorite authors will appreciate your support.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Animal Stories


Blue Mountain Lake in Arkansas is a place to relax, take long walks, and read. While my husband fished, I read three books last month—all relating to animals.

Orphan by Harry Haines, a fellow club member of Panhandle Professional Writers, has been on my reading list for five years. One aspect I found fascinating was how Harry intertwined local history and the business of quarterhorse racing into his novel’s plot. Author Diane Mowery, who homeschooled her youngsters, mentioned a fact not often included in book reviews: although the book is targeted to an adult audience, she can recommend it to teenagers. Here’s a suspense novel free of vulgarity and expressions that offend readers with religious values.

When our precious KittyCat died, my friend Suzi gave me and my husband Aubrey a copy of the book, Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. That same day I gave Aubrey Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die by Jon Katz.

I can’t say Going Home met expectations. It has not lifted the grief that has lingered for more than three months. But at least now I understand it.
You may have heard of Dewey, the library cat. Although he died in 2006, Dewey’s fame continues to flourish through his image on postcards, jigsaw puzzles, and especially sales and circulation of the book, Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. It’s a moving story about a bedraggled kitten, rescued by librarian, Vicki Myron, after being left in the book drop of her town’s library.

Spencer, Iowa, was in the throes of an economic downturn when Dewey, almost dead, arrived on its library scene. Beginning with newspaper coverage of the contest that gave the kitten his official name--Dewey Readmore Books—the orange tabby garnered publicity.

As Dewey’s popularity increased among library patrons, the library evolved from a book warehouse to a community’s gathering place. His entertaining personality helped to revive the spirits of area residents fighting for survival in hard times. Stories about Dewey spread, at first from library newsletters to newspapers to national and then international media.

As an international celebrity, Dewey proved to be an economic asset as well. “When Dewey died in 2006 at the age of 19, his obituary appeared in over 250 newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today and the Des Moines Register, and was announced on the national television evening news.”—

“We still have 3 people (Kim, Joy and Paula) that worked at the library when Dewey was here. I was actually here the day he came,” said Kim Peterson in an email.

The sale of bookbags and other “Dewey” merchandize helps support library programs. Spencer’s adorable library cat continues to draw interest—daily emails, said Ms. Peterson, and “a few phone calls a month.”

Beach reading season is almost here. You can purchase the books through most book sellers or borrow them from many public libraries. All three books are available for loan from Amarillo’s public library system. Dewey (I give it two thumbs up) is also on a CD. 

© 2013, Bernice W. Simpson

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Simply Satisfied: How to Resolve Simple Consumer Complaints


Pure serendipity. That’s the only way I can explain finding A Jolly Good Dime last week when I intended to write “How to Write a Complaint Letter,” but had only a disorganized outline for the subject. And that’s still the case. Hopefully next month ....

For now, let’s start with the simple complaint like finding a dime in a package of frozen green beans. When Pat Edwards wrote A Jolly Good Dime, most complaints sent out of town were delivered by the postal service. Unlike 1978, companies today encourage consumers to call their toll-free numbers.   

Since I've actually been paid to make complaints on behalf of others, I feel comfortable coaching you on the subject. And learning to make an effective verbal complaint is good practice in learning the basics of a written one.


Have paper and pencil ready before you dial the number. Since the number is often hard to see, write the company’s phone number on your paper. If calling about a packaged product, note the product’s identification number—the tiny digits under the bar code.

If you have the receipt, clip it to the note, and highlight information company reps often ask for—date purchased, price, store name and location.

If you are angry, cool off first so that your attitude is professional. If diplomacy is not your forte, check a thesaurus to help you find appropriate words or phrases to express the problem. If the smell of a can of soup told you it was not safe to eat, there’s no need to say it smelled like an outhouse or wet stray dog. “Unpleasant odor” will do.

Be ready to describe your complaint. Did you try something for the first time, and simply experienced dissatisfaction? What did you expect from your purchase? What exactly displeased you about it?  

Did foreign matter in a food product alarm you? Be sure to keep anything like that, even if it’s made more gross by spitting half chewed contents of your mouth into a plastic bag. The company may want their lab to examine it.

Its often helpful to peruse a company’s website before calling them.

Know what you want in the form of a resolution. A simple thank you for contacting or an apology? Product replacement? You may be happy with a coupon for one of their other products.

The telephone call

If the laws in your locale permit it, record the call. As a communicator, it’s good to have recordings for self-critique. Also if you ever need it, you have the word-for-word conversation with voices as well as proof of any long, annoying waiting times.

If an actual person answers the phone, and especially if done in a timely manner, express your appreciation for telephone courtesy. 

Briefly say you have a comment about their product, and want to speak to someone in quality control. You may need to answer questions in order to be connected to the correct person or department. Be sure to follow your answers with queries as to who your call is being transferred to, correct spelling of that person’s name, and extension number. This will save you time should a disconnect occur.

Introduce yourself, and get the name and position of the new person you are speaking with.

Begin with a positive. Things you might mention: how long you've used a product or items in that company’s product line, the easy navigation of their website, the courtesy of the receptionist.

State the purpose of your call—your product expectations and in what way they were not met. Do not exaggerate.


Typically companies will thank you for your business, and offer to send you coupons to replace the defective product.


The handling of more complicated complaints will be the subject of a future blog.

(c) 2013, Bernice W. Simpson