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Holiday Help Part 4: Gift Wrapping and Presentation

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Hard to believe but we’ve been working on our plan for a calmer holiday season since September.  Are you more in control, more intentional?

Now is NOT the time to panic but rather to look back and see how well you’ve thought through your gifting and budget and consider how you’ve managed time and holiday stress.  If you’re not as ‘together’ as you’d like to be, don’t beat yourself up.  Life gets in the way of our neat, clinical plans and we just adjust as we go.  I personally strive to live in a state of continuous improvement in every aspect of life – never really disappointed but never completely meeting all those idealistic goals.  And, if you’re more ‘together’ than ever, give yourself some well-earned credit.   After all, next year is yet another opportunity to become that the fine tuned organization maverick you’ve always wanted to be!

This month we’re going to tackle what can be the least favorite part of gifting – wrapping and presenting those special items.  Unfortunately, this is also often a source of cost over-runs.  The tips I share here are intended to get your packages wrapped in an attractive, cost and time effective manner.  This post will not land you a spot on your local morning news show as a ‘gifted wrapper’; best to you if that’s the notoriety you seek and please share your tips with our readers if that’s where your skill level lies, we’d love to hear from you.

Color Scheme

Save money by purchasing two large rolls of  sturdy weight, coordinating reversible paper.  I use rolls of Hallmark paper available at Sam’s Club.  Don’t be lured by multiple roll boxes of paper at low prices.  Often these are thin papers which easily tear and many only contain enough paper to wrap one-two boxes each.

Keep in mind the individuals whose gifts you’re wrapping as you’re selecting paper – are you wrapping children’s packages? men’s? co-workers?

Add variety to your packages by selecting two or three different rolls of ribbons that work with your reversible papers.  Again, Sam’s Club is a great source of ribbon at Christmas time.  Their rolls are well-priced, 50 yards and available in many coordinating patterns.  Plus most are wire-edged making it easier to tie a pretty bow and making the 50 yard roll a good investment as bows can be re-shaped and re-used for a couple years if properly stored.  But at the price of Sam’s Club ribbons, I don’t feel bad throwing them out each year when the unwrapping is done.

Will you need tissue paper?  For the inside of garment boxes? Or, to wrap around those odd-shaped gifts that are ‘un-boxable’?  If so, select a sufficent size package of a color that coordinates with those reversible rolls.

Tools Needed

In addition to the paper and ribbon, you will want boxes, tape, scissors and a large flat surface at a comfortable height such as kitchen table or counter.  An often forgotten wrapping space is the folding table/counter in the laundry room. A bed can also serve as a good surface if you first place a large cardboard box on top of it.

Appropriate boxes are available at dollar stores, drugstores and big box stores in a wide variety of size combinations.

Neatness Counts

The simplest step to achieving stunning packages is to be neat – cut straight lines, fold and crease paper; use small, strategically placed pieces of invisible tape.

I recommend you also keep your wrapping space neat so you don’t spend time searching for the tape, scissors, gift tags, etc.

Strategy

Some like to wrap as they buy gifts.  To me this means repeatedlygetting all the supplies out and cleaning up, having to remember what’s inside each box (this dilemma can be solved by writing the package contents on a post it note and attaching the note to the box).

I prefer to do as much wrapping at one time as possible by grouping each person’s gifts together.  I take a moment to assess how I’m going to use those two rolls of reversible paper and colored ribbons to create a wrapping ‘style’ for each person.  Sometimes I wrap all of one individual’s gifts in the same print; sometimes I use all the patterns.  My favorite way to personalize a set of packages for one person is to create a tower.  I affix the components of the tower with two pieces of tape rolled into continuous pieces so as to form two-side tape without the expense. I then tie a pretty ribbon around the tower with the bow at the very top.

A good solution for several smaller items is to wrap each in tissue paper and put them all in one box for final wrapping.  Makes a fun gift for the recipient to unwrap as well.

Ribbons and Bows

Tie ribbons and bows as you’re comfortable.  If you’re seeking a higher level of ‘bow-dom’ consider the tips  in this bow making video. The demonstrated bow making technique can be used with any width ribbon as you most likely won’t want the size bow make in the video.

If this wrapping stuff is not for you or there’s just no time this year, don’t hesitate to find a teen-ager or gift shop that will be happy to do your wrapping for you.  Teens generally work for gas money or rides; gift shops generally charge anywhere from $3 to $9 depending on package size and complexity.

When the wrapping is done regardless of who does it, be sure to take a well-earned break and kick back knowing you’re ready for Santa’s arrival! Have a Merry Christmas!

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Holiday Help Part 3: Shipping and Packing

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blog-imageSo far you are ahead of your schedule and within your budget!  Congratulations!  But now it’s time to pack and ship those gifts either across town or across the country or across the pond. For many this is a stressful and financially unpredictable time.

At Gifts To Go it is our ardent wish to eradicate this stress and we’re starting with this post.  In the spirit of continuous improvement and community involvement, we look forward to your comments.

The Box

Aside from sturdy and clean, choose a box that allows space inside to appropriately cushion for the contents.  If re-using a box choose one that provides a clear space for the addresses and remember it will be weakened the more times it is used.   Avoid boxes that have lots of text or product pictures as it will make it harder for the delivery personnel to find and read the address. Do not re-use bleach or alcohol boxes such as the kind used at Sam’s Club or Costco. Draw several lines through any earlier barcodes.  Your role as the box packer is to make it as easy as possible for everyone who touches your box along the way to handle it properly. Keep in mind, many people and many cold-hearted, rough and tumble machines will handle your envelopes and packages.  And, those machines don’t know what treasures you’ve included.

Gifts To Go sells a small selection of new sturdy boxes ranging in price from $1.25 (6″ x 6″ x 6″) to $4.50 (15″ x 15″ x 15″).  The postage on these boxes will be based on the package’s weight and the distance it is being sent in conjunction with the speed of delivery.

USPS offers and Gifts To Go stocks several Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes for free.  Regardless of the shipment’s weight or US delivery location, the postage of these items is standardized and ranges from $5.75 to $44.95.  See the details below. Pricing is for US destinations but Flat Rate Priority and Flat Rate Priority Express boxes and envelopes can be used internationally.  Global rates apply.  Also, the top loading large Flat Rate Priority box postage is discounted $2 when sent to US military service personnel.

A Word About USPS Delivery Services

USPS offers three delivery services for items weighing 13+ ounces:  Retail Ground (less expensive but slower  includes package tracking online), Priority (2-4 day delivery speed in US, more expensive, includes package tracking online and $50 insurance) and Priority Express (generally overnight delivery in US, most expensive, includes packing tracking online and $100 insurance).

While boxes of all shapes are acceptable for USPS shipping, the measurement of the length of the box plus the measurement around the widest portion of the box must be less than a total of 130″; for Priority or Priority Express shipment the total of length plus widest portion must be less than 108″.  The weight limit of all parcels is 70 pounds.

Prepping Box Content

Keep in mind that alcohol or anything that contains alcohol such as perfumes or bug sprays cannot be shipped as alcohol is flammable.  Liquids can be sent but should be wrapped in plastic in case they leak and then cushioned. To the extent possible distribute the contents’ weight evenly as this will help reduce the number of times the box is dropped or mishandled. Cushion all contents and remove empty space with extra filler.  Generally rolling soft items is a more efficient packing strategy over flat folding.

Place a piece of paper with the sender’s and recipient’s addresses inside the box in the unlikely event the outer address is damaged beyond recognition.

Sealing The Box

Use tape that is at least 2″ wide and either clear or brown.  Avoid using duct tape which can become sticky.  Do not use string or twine which can become stuck in post office sorting equipment.  Keep in mind that tape will add weight that you’ll pay postage for so use only as much tape as needed to close the box.

Addressing The Box

Both the sender’s and recipient’s addresses should be legible and complete with full name, house number and street name (or PO Box number), city, state and zip code.  The sender’s return address is placed to the upper left side of the recipient’s address. Make sure the text is appropriate to the size of the box.  Either write directly on the box or affix a label.  If using a label secure all edges of the label so it cannot be torn off.  It’s a good idea to place a piece of tape across the address portions not just the edges of the label.

A Word About International Shipments

The above guidelines are appropriate for international shipments.  Bear in mind that the number of persons who will handle your package before it is delivered is greatly increased given the greater distances so sturdy box, weight balancing, sealing and addressing are even more important.

Packages sent outside of the US must be accompanied by a US Customs Form.  There are two different forms; one for packages under 4 pounds and the other for heavier boxes.  At federal post offices, the USPS postal clerk will key in information based on a paper form that you complete and sign.  At Gifts To Go’s Contract Postal Unit we are operating with the newest USPS deployed system and do not have the ability to key in data.  We will direct you to a dedicated laptop where you will input the required information, including weight, value and a description of the contents.  We will be available to assist you with this process which will generate a paper customs form with a bar code specific to your package.

Each country has specific prohibitions, restrictions and limitations as to the type and quantities of materials that are acceptable for delivery.  Before preparing any international shipment, be sure to check the requirements of the country to which you are sending.

We look forward to a season of stress free shipping and are happy to help with your questions or concerns.  We are increasing our daily supply of flat rate boxes and envelopes so come by for yours at your convenience.  We are open Monday – Saturday 9a – 5p; will be open on November 11, 2016 which is a USPS holiday.  We will extend our days of service after Thanksgiving by including a few Sunday hours through Christmas.

A Gift Shop Dog Day Summer Saturday

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I realize I’m far more interested in USPS stamp releases than the vast majority so I’d committed awhile back not to write about new postage stamp art (much).  It’s been some time so please indulge me for this post.

Earlier this month the USPS made available the following booklet of 20 Pets stamps.PetsThis morning, one of the two local writers groups we host every other Saturday is busily working on their critiques of one another’s work and I’m feverishly trying to plan our end of year book signings. (Why? Because the best gift is always a book and our great local writers get booked early during the holiday season.)

Because I’ve fallen prey to the ‘you must multi task in order to succeed’ mantra, my thoughts jump to my next to-do on my dog-day-summer Saturday list.  It is to review our favorite local publishers’ lists of children’s books because I know there are new goodies that we’re not stocking. I’ve already had shoppers looking for their grandson’s or granddaughter’s favorite author’s newest book.  (Yes, it’s mid-August and people are already talking Christmas gift giving.)

Those jumbled thoughts lead me to acknowledge that one of the Pets stamps is a hermit crab  which has been written about by two of my favorite locals (Anita Elco and Katherine Stelmach)  in Who’s in That Shell? for kids.  One of the other Pets is a corn snake which reminds me of Conrad Storad’s Rattlesnake Rules, another kid favorite.  Plus, parakeets and parrots are featured stamps, reminiscent of a book for the youngest readers that we love, GQ, GQ Where Are You? by Sharon I Ritt.

Dang it,  those multi-tasking “skills” have resulted in one more item on my Saturday work list:  identify additional children’s books about featured Pets written by Arizonans.  If you are aware of any candidates especially books about dogs, cats, horses, fish, mice, gerbils, please share and lighten my dog-day-summer-Saturday to-do list. In turn, I’ll happily  add to my end of year book-signing schedule to promRattote new local writers. Enjoy the weekend!

Can’t Thank Our Clients Enough!

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We are honored to have been voted one of  five Local Favorite Retailers in the City of Surprise and want to thank our shoppers and shippers for having faith in us and returning time and time again to purchase our products, use our services and to share life’s ups and downs in a friendly environment.  In our mind, that’s what being a local gift shop and post office is all about.

We accept this honor humbly along with what we both hope for and fear will be increased scrutiny and raised expectations.  Gifts To Go has intentionally developed slowly so as to get to know our patrons and to evaluate each step toward our ultimate goal of offering a comfortable, convenient gathering spot where life’s joys and sorrows are embraced within the context of local retail establishment.  So, while we’re proud today we’re also buckling down for the next steps along the development.  Thank you for your recognition and please continue to tell when we’re putting smiles on faces and if we should misstep along the way.

 

 

 

 

Letter To Satin Ribbon

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May 23, 2016

Dear Single and Double Faced Ribbon,

It is with heavy heart that I advise I will not be using you in my bow-dacious bows.

Your silky sheen will no longer adorn my baskets or gift wrapping.  I’ve not mastered your use despite your simplicity and beauty.  I’ve given you my best efforts and countless hours all  for years for naught.

I’m not a quitter but I’ve discovered the versatility and ease of use of wired ribbons which were previously only available in limited colors, fabrics and patterns and always costly.  With time all things change and the selections are vast and pricing much improved.  Perhaps supply and demand has created this solution because maybe people than I have called it quits with you.

When I’m not using wired ribbons, I find my go-to choices are vibrant grosgrains.

Wishing you all the best in the pile of no-longer-trendy gift embellishments.

Sincerely,

Tammy at Gifts To Go

The Gift of Writing Spaces

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The Gift of Writing Spaces

Summers in the Valley of the Sun (metro Phoenix) mean slower sales and less foot traffic for retail establishments.  Our winter visitors have left us  and our residents manage their days around the heat and in accordance with available air conditioning. Most tasks are accomplished in the early morning when it’s the coolest and nearly everyone is indoors during the 4pm – 6pm time slot when it is often the hottest.

This is the season I then clean up, re-organize and evaluate the winter season in terms of processes and products.  It  is also the time I gear up for the next winter season by selecting new products for the shop and for our custom gift baskets.  I also determine what additional equipment we need. As an aside, this year I anticipate we’ll be added a ribbon printer and another portable register.

I’m also ramping up our online presence (social media, website and blog) to be more responsive to our current and future shoppers and shippers.  This effort includes participating in a 20 part Everyday Inspiration Challenge from the WordPress folks.

Today’s challenge is to write about our favorite writing space; I have two.  I am most productive at the kitchen counter perched on a bar stool with an afghan under me (I’m just 5’4″ and like to peer down the laptop).  My alternate space is a handy pull out writing desk tray that husband Scott added to our gift shop register table a few years back.  I use that particular space nearly all day but generally for gift shop immediate tasks such as getting online orders, answering emails, working in QuickBooks, tracking and  crunching sales numbers and for placing supplier orders.

The kitchen counter space is my preferred writing space because it is generally free from distractions.  I keep either the television news or music on at a low volume for some constant level of background noise but never really focus on it.  The fact that I am out of the shop and post office also reduces distractions as I can’t glance at a post office trash can that needs emptying or a gift shop shelf that needs dusting or re-stocking.  It’s just me and my afghan booster seat, the laptop and my phone for time-blocking each writing task. Again, as an aside, that time-blocking thing doesn’t generally work as planned but it does stop me from wandering down different rabbit holes – especially when I’m doing anything in Facebook!

We will be given a follow-up task in a few days regarding our writing space(s); I look forward to seeing what that challenge holds.  Until then, happy gifting and happy writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift Giving Quote for the Day and Beyond

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We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” ~Winston Churchill

If you’ve visited Gifts To Go you know I intend to make a living helping people give; by helping them find the exact right sentiment to express what they want to say about a particular human situation.   I then help them prep the gift for presentation with wrappings, bows and bags and all the things that agitated The Grinch.

Sometimes the gift-giver can put the exact sentiment into words and we just look for a something to express the feeling.  Many times the giver arrives looking for a something that will give them words to express the sentiment once they’ve uncovered the item that calls to them.

Neither approach is unusual.  Our lives are not defined by the one gift or even the something that represents the sentiment.  Our lives are defined by the series of interactions we’ve had with other individuals.  A single gift will never significantly alter the recipient’s response to a set of human interactions whether that’s during a lifetime or a short relationship.

This approach is especially relevant as we enter summer graduation and wedding season. Those events are generally the kick offs in a life long game of gift-giving. As you ponder your upcoming gift challenges, I wish you good choices but also acceptance of what you select and no regrets in terms of your budget or (lack of) timeliness.  After all, as we say, gifts are all about putting smiles of faces and I’m sure that’s what yours will do.

 

If you’re ever in our neighborhood, please stop in to introduce yourself.  We’re at 11340 W Bell Road, Suite 128, Surprise, AZ and can be reached at 602 403 0646.  And if you’re looking for a gift basket please check out the Gallery on our site.