Friday, December 5, 2008

A Holiday Shopping Spree While Wearing Pajamas? You Bet!

Not a JCPenney Store in Sight? No Problem!

I don't get out much. It's a 10 mile drive to the nearest gas station and the post office where we pick up our mail (because they won't deliver it out to the farm). We're 17 miles from a small town with a bank and a little hardware store, 40 miles from a supermarket that sells fresh parsley, and 140 miles from a mall.

So last week when Farmgirl Fare sponsors BlogHer and JCPenney asked if I'd be interested in going on a $300 holiday shopping spree at JCPenney and then writing about my experience, my first thought was, How cool! and my second thought was, Too bad I can't do it. The closest JCPenney store is about 90 miles away, and there was no way I could schedule a trip up there in time.

Behold the Internet. It turned out that shopping at was allowed, so I decided to go take a peek.

Naturally I started poking around the kitchen section, which is organized in such a way that you can even shop by brand, like KitchenAid or Cuisinart. Very handy. After a couple of clicks, I discovered that JCPenney sells Fiesta ware. Jackpot! Why? Because my mother is the most impossible person on the planet to find a gift for. She doesn't really need anything, doesn't really want anything, and doesn't usually like anything you pick out for her anyway.

Years ago I pretty much gave up trying to buy for her, and instead each December I send her a homemade holiday goodie box that always includes a large tin of her favorite chocolate and nut covered toffee, along with all sorts of cute little cookies she can stash in the freezer and savor for months to come. But my mother collects Fiesta.

I have one or two pieces of vintage Fiestaware—which was manufactured in the USA by Homer Laughlin from 1936 to 1973—from when I used to buy and sell antiques, and I've been eating off of yellow, white, and turquoise "reissue" Fiesta dishes for the past 18 years. But I haven't kept up with things and had no idea there were so many colors and items available. There's even a gorgeous new line of bakeware.

There are 13 colors of Fiesta available, and what's neat is that if you're shopping online you can click and change the colors of the photos of each item. My mom has a mix of colors, including most of my turquoise pieces that she's reappropriated during visits to the farm. I chose a set of four fruit bowls in sunflower for $19.99 and the 3-piece serving set in shamrock for $44.99, and it's all being shipped directly to her for free. I'm thrilled, and I think she will be, too. Of course I'll still have to make her the toffee—and probably some of the little cookies as well.

Next I went shopping for my hunky farmguy Joe and scored again. I wanted to buy him a new Levi's jean jacket, but for some reason JCPenney doesn't sell them, or at least they're not available online (still trying to figure that one out). I did, however, find something even better. This Levi's trucker's jacket (regularly $88, on sale for $69.99) is a classic Levi's denim jacket with a sherpa lining—and very similar to the jacket Joe and I have been fighting over every winter since I moved in with him 8 years ago. Now that he'll have a nice new one, I'll finally be able to claim the now ratty old one for myself—at least until he breaks in the new one for me.

Speaking of claiming things, I also ordered him his very own 16-piece set of Lock & Lock airtight plastic storage containers (originally $39.99, now $19.99) to use in his workshop because he's been showing way too much interest in mine. These airtight, stackable, multi-purpose containers are awesome, especially during our ridiculously humid springs and summers.

In the interest of further home life harmony, I bought a rice cooker (originally $79.99, now $39.99). Here's the deal. Joe has a signature, foolproof way of cooking rice that he's perfected over the years. Unfortunately when we went from buying his 20-pound bags of plain rice to my smaller bags of organic basmati, jasmine, and brown rice, his technique didn't always translate. And I've never been very good at cooking rice—probably because for years I used a rice cooker.

So now dinner often ends up being delayed because the rice isn't quite done, and a lot of times it doesn't come out exactly right. No more. Sometimes a girl's gotta step in and take control, and this was one of those times. We don't eat rice all that often, but it's nice to have it actually be edible when we do. Joe isn't going to embrace the new rice cooker right away, but I'm sure he'll eventually come to love it.

Then things got even more personal. Never one to pass up a chance to check out good looking guys in their underwear (I told you I don't get out much), I decided to peruse the mens' unmentionables and found some practical-yet-sexy Jockeys. (Sorry, no link, since I doubt my hunky farmguy wants everybody knowing exactly what he's wearing under his Levi's.) And while I passed on the gold metallic thong, it was nice to know that I could have anonymously ordered one online if I'd wanted to!

Since the only thing I loathe more than clothes shopping is bra shopping, I figured I'd take a look at what was available in that department, and I found a bunch of nice bras on sale. This was obviously a gift for me, but one can argue that lingerie is always a gift for your sweetheart, too.

I had a good time on my JCPenney shopping spree. Overall it was a very positive experience, and I thank BlogHer and JCPenney for this fun opportunity. I'll end this with some pros and a few minor cons:

—JCPenney is always having big in-store and online sales.
—They often offer free shipping (if not advertised, check for a current savings code).
—The site is easy to navigate, the search feature works well, and the 'You might also like. . .' links let you discover items you wouldn't have found otherwise (and didn't know you desperately needed—though maybe that should be a con).
—The customer reviews can be very helpful, especially for things like bras.
—You can return items you buy online to any of the 1,500 JCPenney stores or jcp.comcatalog desks up to 90 days after purchasing it.

—If you read the fine print, many big sales (such as "20% Off Regular and Sale Priced Items") exclude a lot of things, like all Levi's merchandise and the entire housewares department.
—You can't see what the backs of the bras look like online (or the backs of the mens' briefs!)
—Some merchandise isn't carried in the stores (like the Levi's trucker's jacket, a lot of the bras, and the Fiesta ware), so although you can return anything to a store, exchanges for any of those items must be done by mail—or you could return something to the store and then repurchase the replacement item online.
—Most items ship within a few days, but I didn't learn until I actually put the Fiesta ware items in my shopping bag that they would come directly from the manufacturer and wouldn't ship for two weeks. Update: the Fiesta arrived at my mom's door one week after I placed my order—and she loves it.

Shopping online definitely isn't the same experience as being able to browse all around a department store, but sometimes it's exactly what you need—and of course there's the added benefit that you can do it in your pajamas.

Would you like to go on your own JCPenney shopping spree? BlogHer and JCPenney are giving away a $300 gift card each week for five weeks. Good luck and happy holiday shopping!


Melissa said...

Susan, how cool! It sounds like you got some pretty awesome wares. Did you ever imagine all the awesome opportunities that would come your way just from blogging?!

Jess said...

Thanks for the free shipping link. I had never know about that site before.