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In my line of work one of the most frequently asked questions from friends and acquaintances is “How much discount do you get?”  They may not remember my name, they sure don’t have the faintest idea (or intention to learn) of what I do in the company, but they will always remember to raise this question – sometimes – more than once.

I actually don’t mind since I would do exactly the same if I’m in the others’ shoes.  Everyone loves bargains, and if these bargains apply to the brands we carry, you can expect to see mini-riots around our neighborhood.  Depending on the rules of the specific brands, getting the entry tickets is a skillful art itself.  What they have to understand, however, is that staff sales are not to be taken for granted, even for us.

Being a pseudo-ambassador for the brands I’d always keep an eye on items that suit my close friends.  For others, they will just have to trust my taste, particularly on sales that ban all guests, and yes, even my own cellphone.

So you get the drill.  For these so-called maximum security sales, you feed me with your likes, dislikes and budget, and you have to depend on my judgement.  If you don’t trust me, I will not be bothered.  I have no idea what merchandise is available, and if you decide to be a pain in the ass, you will be better off without me.

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And here you go.  Top facts about staff sales.  (These facts will self-destruct in 10 seconds)

  1. Only staff employed by the brands directly have ongoing purchase discounts.  Group staff are invited to off-season sales only with leftover stock.  Discounts of the former is lower.  For the latter, it can range from 80 to 90% off.  Sample sales are often only in model sizes and may be worn / used / photographed so the bargains are always bigger.  Be selective in queuing for sample sales.  The good stuff is always grabbed by the brand staff in advance unless you believe you have a model figure which outshines everyone.
  2. Hierarchy always exists.  The order always goes like this: Brand Senior Management – Brand Management – Brand Everyone Else – Business Unit Everyone – Group Senior Management – Group Management – Group Everyone Else.
  3. What about guests you ask?  Well it depends on who you know in the hierarchy in the above, and it very much depends on the policies of specific brands.
  4. You have no idea what’s on offer in off-season sales, until you set foot in one.  Asking “what’s available” is just dumb.
  5. No pain no gain.  The queues are endlessly long, and the sales are always in office hours.  I have seen one time 4 more queues once you thought you have passed through registration.  It is far from a luxury shopping experience.  If you can’t at least take a day off, don’t ask your friends to bring you in as guest.
  6. Simple because number of guests invited per staff is limited.
  7. Certain maximum-security sales are for staff only.  No cellphones, no messages, no pictures, nothing.  Limited time, locked environment.  And yes, there is a limit of how many items we can buy as well.
  8. No returns, no gift wrapping, no warranty, no repairs, no alteration, nothing (even for watches & jewelry).  Some items are marked and some packaging is removed to avoid reselling.  Buy at your own risk.
  9. Some sales will slash prices further on their second or third day.  Prices, sizes or availability, your decision.  Stop whining, you cannot win all.
  10. It’s a benefit, not a right.  Be grateful.  No complaints.  Remember, brands can always shred their items.  Cash versus prestige, they will always pick the latter.

Happy shopping!

Time and time again when people asked me about the recipe of my daily smoothies, I have always been telling everyone that it’s entirely up to your taste and the season.  There is so much variety when it comes to fruits and vegetables, and there isn’t one formula that fits everyone especially when taste is concerned.   Nevertheless, my daily recipe is listed below merely as a reference to what I like, particularly from my principle of diversity and balance of nutrients. 

If you want to know what this is and why I’m doing it in the first place, check out my previous blog post here.

Blend of Goodness

My daily smoothie recipe (2-Litre size)

One carrot

One tomato

Ginger (ample quantity; unpeeled)

One half cucumber

One apple (unpeeled; unseeded)

One pear (unpeeled; unseeded)

Grapes

One grapefruit (peeled)

One kiwi (peeled)

One half beet root (peeled)

One fourth cabbage; or One half broccoli

Black sesame (a dash)

Flaxseeds (a dash)

Dried wolfberries (a dash)

Water (650cc)

There you have it.  All ingredients are sliced for ease of blending.  Again, I have to stress that this only works with an industrial strength blender (as detailed in my earlier post).  Throw this recipe in the trash if you are using anything else.

Have fun and share with me what works for you!

Blend of Goodness 1

Yes, maybe it’s age.  These days when I travel, particularly when it’s traveling for business, I hardly go for the popular tourist attractions or sites anymore.  I try my hardest to stay away from the crowds, chaos, traffic, lines, and the so-called “must-sees” and “must-dos”.  The setbacks of not having a “I’ve been here too” photo are well compensated by my own itinerary that is catered for my preferences, and pace.

When you travel for business, you usually only get a few hours in the evening, or if you’re lucky, half of a weekend before business commences.  A further half of that time is usually spent on socializing or dining with local friends and colleagues.  With the valuable time that remains, I am not prepared to stand in lines for the tourist attractions, only to mingle with visitors but the locals.

Trying to get a feel of the local culture and pulse is a must.  It can be felt on the streets, in the local eateries, subway trains, neighborhood markets, grocery stores, or even convenience stores around every corner.  Take a step back, suck in the air, the sounds, and the sights on the streets, can be different enough.  The key is maintaining an inquisitive mind at all times, and you will be nicely rewarded.

The reason I mentioned age is because younger folks generally have a lot more energy to fill up their itineraries by visiting a dozen landmarks a day.  Either I am too lazy, or simply I don’t have as much energy as them these days, especially when I see crowds and lines of people everywhere.  Instead, I gave myself much less aggressive targets by taking light strolls on the streets, sitting down for coffee or tea, taking my time at the park, and to find my bearings using guide books and the all so convenient iPhone apps.

The only complaint I have when traveling for business is the absence of dining companions other than work colleagues.  There are times when you just don’t want to talk about business anymore, and you know how inevitable it is even if you are already seeing your colleagues 12 hours a day.   My dining options are largely restricted if I haven’t had the luxury to make advance appointments with my local friends.  This is when local food courts usually come to my rescue.

Last month in Shanghai I discovered a newly opened food court right next to my hotel.  To my surprise, the establishment was invested by Taiwanese and hence the entire mall is inhabited by licensed Taiwanese eateries.

But then again, why would I go for Taiwanese food when I am in Shanghai?

Shanghai Food Court

Haven’t you had the experience finding yourself cursing at the end of reading an article or commentary on the paper, only to find nothing more than a literal description of commonly known facts or events?  I am experiencing that again today.  The newspaper column describes the pitfalls of checking into private hospitals in town, resulting in gigantic hospital bills due to the recommendation of private rooms by the medical staff.  The bills are seldom adequately covered by medical insurance and more and more patients end up having a second heart attack the moment they take a glimpse of the six-figures screaming at them.

So I was captivated by this very real and relevant topic and read on.  The article quickly ended advising patients to watch out for such occurrences.  That’s it.  No advice, no suggestions, and no tips for further information.  What’s the big idea of pointing out some commonly known facts and nothing else?

This is robbery, since I think the columnist is paid a fixed fee for regular posts on the paper, and she needs to keep writing to earn her paycheck.  I know it’s a short column, and I shouldn’t be expecting investigative journalism on a paper that is aimed for a 15-minute consumption during subway rides.  Yet, I still want better standards.

I always think there can be various angles to write.  You can offer help, advice and solutions, or if that is too heavy for the lifestyle and entertainment section, write with a viewpoint, or simply, an emotion.  Let the readers understand you.  Let the readers feel for you.  Not everyone will care about it, but at least you are writing something, or some emotional reaction, that is one of a kind.  If I don’t find material, at least I want to see some authenticity.

The best columnists that I have come across offers sincerity, humor, wit, and the willingness to open up for those who enjoy some emotional stimulation through reading.  That takes some skills and practice, but more than anything, the confidence and also the humility to share one’s true viewpoints.  It’s harder than you think.  Expressing coherently a relatable thought on a short column proves to be a lot more challenging than it seems.  No wonder I’m seeing so many ridiculous columns by pseudo-reporters, instead of the true columnists that I have expected them to be.

Not everyone may agree with me of course, but I’ll admit that I’m looking for passion when I read.  It may not exactly be chicken soup, but at least it can be a small piece of chocolate, for the soul.

Writing

I never understand why we place such a big deal on birthdays.  Yes it’s our special day and yes the time and date we were born probably helps determine what our inborn character traits are, depending on what you believe in terms of horoscopes and animal signs.  But then again, it’s just about a 24-hour period, and we are celebrating the day with millions of others who were also born within this period, all over the world.  I just don’t believe I am cloned with this million others whom I hardly know, or care to celebrate with.

Cat's Wedding

Perhaps, we all need to be at the center of attention for a change.  It certainly feels good when you are asked out for dinners, parties, and in the presence of birthday cakes and presents from friends and relatives.  You are supposed to receive undivided attention, and you feel important and treasured that friends gather around just for you despite their hectic schedules.  You are touched by partners making painstaking plans months in advance, friends moving their flights, dressing up, buying classy or tacky gifts, and perhaps the abundance of alcohol and food in fancy restaurants and clubs.  Better yet, you feel pampered being treated a home-cooked meal from someone who add love and kisses as the secret ingredient.

Sounds a bit cliché yet?  Well, this is happening with someone everyday, and chances are, you get invited to such celebrations almost every week, on average, whether you are truly excited about it or not.

No, in case you are wondering, I have been holding this belief even when I was much younger.

So instead of celebrating the same day over and over again, why don’t we be more milestone specific?  There has to be at least one thing worth advertising and celebrating for in a year.  It will be easier to plan themed parties that way, let alone gift ideas.  Aren’t you tired with all the “it’s better to be over the hill than buried under it” theme year after year?

Birthday

It’s that time of the year again. The year when the world is supposed to end, and the day when billions of population around the globe celebrate for its passing in anticipation of seemingly better fortune, solely by the stroke of midnight. No matter how skeptic I am over the significance of this symbolic date, I’ve decided that this is a good time for me to wrap up all the things that I am thankful for in the past year.  No, this list will go beyond the obvious blessings in life like love, health, family, friendships and fortune, since the so-called little things, still count.

Thankful

  1. I’m thankful for the 2 cases of champagne I have stocked up at home.  If the world is indeed ending, I’d be living on my Ruinart, Krug and Dom Perignon like there is no tomorrow – literally.  Otherwise, they will be handy for those who are fortunate enough to be my house guests for whatever excuse one needs.  The fact of the matter is, one needs no excuses to get drunk.  Or at least, happily drunk.
  2. I’m thankful for the 7 staff sales in the last 3 months, for spending tens of thousands of my hard-earned cash on Dior Homme, Kenzo, Celine, Marc Jacobs etc..  I guess my employer at LVMH has the last laugh, as always.
  3. I’m thankful for my airline miles.  Because of spending patterns evidenced by point 2 above, my miles accrued have gotten me to Paris, Budapest, Singapore and Taipei repeated times within the year.  And also as per point 2 above, I’m sure year 2013 will be another year for me to hop on more weekend getaway excursions.  Who isn’t thankful for award travel?
  4. I’m thankful for the internet.  Yes I know it’s a cliché, but my life will almost come to a complete halt without it.  All of my communications, correspondences, work, entertainment, and finances revolve around the internet.  I am thankful for it, but I’m also in awe of its necessity and overreaching power.  I guess I should be rather fearful instead.
  5. I’m thankful for my daily fruit smoothies.  Yes I know.  Those of you who know me well must be rolling your eyes big time.  For that, I won’t preach to the choir twice.
  6. I’m thankful for my THANN aromatherapy oils, especially for those nights when I’m desperately in need of soothing comforts in my own home.
  7. I’m thankful for my huge King’s sized bed, for there is nothing better than cuddling under my 850-thread count Thai silk duvet, and a smile on my face every time I open my eyes.

Do I wish for world peace, human rights and a green environment?  Sure I do.  But for this last day of 2012, allow me to be a tiny bit self-centered, for once.

Charming

This colloquial phrase is widely used, perhaps not always in the most flattering way.  You charm someone’s socks off in getting them to do things your way, or you are in need of a favor.  If you successfully charmed someone in a date or hanging out with someone over time, congratulations for a job well done.

That brings to the obvious question which has been bugging me for some time.  What is charming?  I’m told it clearly isn’t just about outlook and appearances, but having a magnetic and chiseled face does not hurt (as always).  It’s the personality, the aura, the demeanor, and most importantly, the substance.  Yes, these are all very open and vague descriptions, but as I’m told, that is exactly why a charming person is so not easy to find.

I’m sure there is no one definition, as charming means different things to different people.  I have come across an article online which lists out the 11 ways to be charming.  Obviously, I’m sure there are hundreds more ideas or criteria in your own minds, but it never hurts to get inspired by the list, before making your own conclusion.

How To Be Charming

  1. Be genuinely interested in people.
  2. Remember people’s names when you meet them for the first time.
  3. Assume rapport
  4. Smile with your eyes
  5. Take into account topics that interest those around you, even if you’re not so keen on them
  6. Control your tone of voice
  7. Watch the way you phrase things
  8. Issue compliments generously; this especially raises others’ self esteem
  9. Be gracious in accepting compliments
  10. Praise others instead of gossiping
  11. Sometimes being charming is about simply being a good listener

For the full narrative including additional tips, check out this link.

One word of advice however, when you decide to charm someone else’s socks off, be prepared of the consequences (provided you have done a good job of it).  That could be the subject of another blog post in the making.

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