Category Archives: Uncategorized

Made in the USA: Paper towels

This post is one in a series designed to help you buy American products. Today’s topic: paper towels. Here’s a look at some that are manufactured in the United States of America:

Scott® brand paper towels are made in America. The Kimberly-Clark corporation tells me it manufactures them in various facilities across the United States, including sites in Chester, Pennsylvania; Jenks, Oklahoma; and Beech Island, South Carolina.

Bounty paper towels are made in a variety of locations. The manufacturer tells me that these include Mehoopany, Pennsylvania; Albany, Georgia; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Cape Girardeau, Missouri; and Oxnard, California.

CVS Earth Essentials paper towels are made in the USA, according to the CVS website. They are made from 100 percent recycled content.

Viva paper towels come from American plants in locations such as Jenks, Oklahoma; Marinette, Wisconsin; and Beech Island, South Carolina. These locations were provided to me by a company representative.

Sparkle® paper towels are also made in the USA. A company spokesperson tells me they are manufactured in Hey Heather. Sparkle is manufactured at facilities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Oregon.

As I find other brands of paper towels designed for household use that are made in the USA, I will add them here. If you are aware of more, please post a comment. Be sure to check out my previous posts on items made in the USA:


Filed under Uncategorized

Which men’s dress shirts are really wrinkle-free and require no ironing?

I admit it: I hate ironing. I’m not that good at it, and it’s a time-consuming chore that I seem to keep procrastinating about. For this reason, I try to avoid buying clothing that requires ironing.

Since my husband wears dress shirts to work everyday, his attire could quickly add up to a lot of ironing if not carefully selected. Therefore, I try to make sure any new dress shirt he purchases or receives as a gift is a “no-iron” shirt. Many manufacturers label their shirts in this way, but “wrinkle-free” shirts are definitely not created equal. Based on my experience in the laundry room, here are the best wrinkle-free shirts, along with others that don’t live up to the “no-iron” promise.

Best wrinkle-free, non-iron dress shirts

  1. Croft and Barrow “non-iron” dress shirt: Look for the words “non-iron” in the shirt’s tag, along with 100 percent cotton construction. This shirt looks great out of the dryer. We currently own only one, but it has performed well. These typically retail for around $35.
  2. Stafford Performance Super Shirt: This has been the go-to dress shirt brand in our home for several years, and we own several. When they are on sale, you can get one for around $24. These are 55 percent cotton and 45 percent polyester. There are several varieties of Stafford dress shirts; look for “super shirt” on the label.
  3. Staff0rd Signature non-iron dress shirt: We recently took a chance on this product in the Stafford line, and it paid off. This shirt is 100 percent cotton, which some buyers may prefer over the construction of the super shirt. It feels a bit more substantial than the super shirt, but it doesn’t require ironing, either. You can get this one on sale for about $30.
  4. Van Heusen Lux Sateen shirt: There are a variety of Van Heusen shirts; this is the only one I can vouch for as living up to the “wrinkle-free” label. It is 55 percent cotton and 45 percent polyester. These range from $20 to $25 online.
  5. Arrow Premium Collection shirt: I had trouble finding a link to these online, but snatch one up if you find it in a store. This shirt has a nice weight to it and looks great coming out of the dryer. It is 100 percent cotton.

Shirts that don’t measure up

  1. Chaps classic fit shirt: We recently tried some Chaps dress shirts because they offered more patterns and colors than the brands listed above. While they say “wrinkle-free” in the label, these are not no iron-shirts. Technically, they can come out of the dryer with no wrinkles, but the fabric is not smooth and crisp enough to avoid ironing. These are 60 percent cotton and 40 percent polyester. On sale at Kohl’s, they cost about $27.
  2. Van Heusen poplin wrinkle-free shirt: It may have been better for the manufacturer to label this one “wrinkle-resistant. You will not want to wear it in public without ironing it first. I won’t buy this one again. These shirts are 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton. They retail for about $25.
  3. Arrow Classic Fit wrinkle-free shirt: With 65 percent polyester and 35 percent cotton, you would think this (like the Van Heusen shirt above) would come out of the dryer read to wear. Unfortunately, this one requires ironing, too. Also, it is a bit thinner than the Arrow premium shirt I recommended above. There are other Arrow shirts with “classic fit” in the name that have a different fabric blend; those I have not tried. This one was on clearance at Kohl’s for $18 in February 2014.

No dress shirt will ever look as good out of the dryer as one that you’ve had pressed professionally or that you’ve ironed yourself, but the options above are the best I’ve found to-date. I’ve also found that minimizing the amount of other laundry that is in the dryer with the dress shirts reduces wrinkles. For example, I no longer dryer heavier fabrics or a lot of other clothes with my dress shirts. Use caution, however, when using dryer sheets with small loads of dress shirts, as they can leave oily looking stains on the fabrics that are difficult to remove. I recently started using laundry balls as an alternative. You could also try using just 1/4 of a dryer sheet.

I’ve given you my opinions, but I would love to learn from you: what is your go-to make and model for wrinkle-free dress shirts, and which ones do you avoid? What laundry secrets have you discovered to minimize wrinkles in this type of clothing?

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Drug lockbox: a convenient way to keep medications out of children’s reach

My husband and I are licensed foster parents, and one of the safety requirements we must meet is that all of our prescription and over-the counter medications must be kept locked up at all times, along with all of our vitamins. So, we can’t keep medications in an unlocked kitchen cabinet, in a dresser drawer or even on a high shelf.  We tried keeping them in a locked linen closet, but this proved inconvenient, so I set out in search of a better solution.

Finding a medication lock box on the Internet sounds simple enough, but I struggled to find a solution that met our family’s criteria. I wanted something large enough to keep all our medications and vitamins in one place, but I didn’t want to spend more than $30 on it. I found locking personal safes, train cases for makeup and cash boxes, among other potential solutions. Then, I discovered the LockMed website.

LockMed offers several types of medication lockboxes, as well as locking bags suitable for securing your medication while traveling. I debated between the medium-sized drug box and the large one, which comes in two varieties: one with a combination lock and one with a key lock. At $24.99, the large Lockmed box was only $2 more than the medium one, so I chose the bigger size. Shipping was a bit steep at $8.50, pushing my purchase a bit over my $30 goal.

LockMed shipped my medication storage box quickly. It arrived promptly and was well-packaged. I was pleasantly surprised at how well-made it is. I felt like I took a risk ordering from a company I had never heard of, so I was relieved that the product was what I expected. It has a sturdy metal exterior that is easy to wipe clean, and a nice velvet interior to keep medications from sliding around.

Warning: As the LockMed website notes, this is not an indestructable box. Someone determined to access your medications could probably find a way to break into it or any similar box. I will be using the box with infants and toddlers and storing it out of their reach; so, it is a suitable solution for me.  If you are worried about medication theft by older children or adults, you may wish to consider other solutions and read LockMed’s tips for keeping your medications safe.

LockMed is not the only medication lockbox on the market. After my initial search, I discovered additional products online. Amazon offers a medication case for $24.95 with free shipping, but it is considerably smaller than the LockMed box. A larger box sold on Amazon costs more than the one I bought from LockMed and is still smaller than mine. Another website offers a small box for just $8, but charges $13 to ship it, making it a poor value. Sears sells a medication wall safe that may offer more security than any of these lockboxes, but it only holds seven bottles up to 4 inches tall, and it costs $60.

In the end, there may be no solution that keeps a determined thief from accessing your medications. For me, the LockMed box offers an affordable solution for a home with young children, since it will be stored out of their reach.

How do you keep your medications secure?

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer service, Product recommendations, Uncategorized

Getting the most out of online product reviews

When you’re shopping for a particular item, online reviews can be a valuable tool in helping you select the best brand or model, even if you’re going to buy it in a local store instead of on the Web. However, not all reviews are created equal, and a product’s overall star rating may not tell the whole story. Consider these tips to help you weigh reviews appropriately.

Look for reviews from verified purchasers. Many websites allow anyone to post a review, whether they bought the product from that website or not. The danger with this is that there are some people who get paid to post positive or negative reviews on behalf of certain companies. By seeking out verified reviews, you can be sure the person praising or criticizing a product actually bought it. For example, on the Best Buy website, look for the “verified purchaser” graphic beside a review. You’ll see the term “Amazon verified purchase” on Amazon’s website. Photo and video store B&H uses a “verified buyer” graphic.

Sort the reviews by newest first. Some websites, like Amazon, feature at the top of a product page the reviews that have received the most “votes” for being helpful. In some cases, these reviews may be several years old. Look for a tool that allows you to sort reviews to show the newest ones first, and start reading there. Why? Product suppliers and manufacturing processes may change over time, so a product everyone loved a few years ago may be going downhill today.

Read more than one page of reviews. If this is a product you will be spending a considerable amount of money on, you want to make a wise decision. I recommend reading at least 25 reviews total from at least three websites to make sure you are gathering enough data on the product. This can be especially important if the sites you visit do not have verified reviews. If you have a limited amount of time, read mainly negative reviews to identify the potential downsides of the product.

Look for trends across websites. Even in the positive reviews, you may find some negative comments. If you see the same comment repeatedly, this can alert you to a potential flaw in the product. Assume what the reviewers are saying is true, and ask yourself if you can live with the flaw.

I’m convinced online reviews have saved me hundreds of dollars and many headaches by steering me away from products that looked great but weren’t. Which website do you find has the most helpful reviews?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Amazon’s amazing customer service

Amazon has received accolades in recent years for its customer service, including awards from J.D. Power and Associates, the National Retail Federation Foundation and The Temkin Group, a research and consulting firm focused on customer experience. This week, I got to see firsthand why Amazon earned these high ratings.

I recently purchased a mop cover from Amazon. I took a risk when I bought it, because it was difficult to tell from the online listing whether it was the right one for my mop. I decided to take the $7 plunge and purchase it, figuring I could return it and get some of my money back if it was not the right fit.

Unfortunately, the mop cover was too small for my mop. I went into my Amazon account to initiate a return, but the only return shipping method offered was the United Parcel Service (UPS). The cost of sending it back via UPS would have taken a big chunk out of my refund amount. I emailed Amazon on Monday afternoon to ask if the company could add the postal service as a return option, so I could reduce my shipping costs.

I received a reply to my message within an hour. The customer service representative told me, “Because the cost of returning this item would be prohibitively expensive, there’s no need to return it. You’re welcome to keep, donate or dispose of the item –whichever option is most appropriate and convenient for you. To help you with this, I’ve requested a full refund in the amount of $7.47 to your original payment method.”

I was very pleasantly surprised. I expected Amazon to tell me UPS was my only option. Instead, the company gave me all my money back, without putting me to the trouble of returning the item. This is excellent customer service.

I realize Amazon is a huge company that can afford to eat $7.47, and I may not get a refund in similar circumstances in the future. But the company did not have to give me a refund at all. I’m the one who ordered the wrong product, and the responsibility to return it was mine.

Amazon’s gracious response in circumstances like these is sure to enhance customer loyalty and keep it high in the rankings of class-leading customer service experiences.

Have you had a great customer service experience recently? Please share it here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Customer service is slipping at Kohl’s

In a previous post, I commended Kohl’s for making things right when a Christmas shipping snafu led to the delayed arrival of my sister’s Christmas gift. Unfortunately, it seems that snafu was the start of a trend for Kohl’s. Since then, two more orders I’ve placed have not gone well, either.

On Dec. 21, I placed an order for three sweaters and a tank top, taking advantage of some great pre-Christmas prices. According to the Kohl’s order status system, my order should have arrived by January 6. On January 7, I clicked the “tracking” link in my order status, and it showed Fedex had received shipping information for these items on Dec. 27, but the log reflected no other activity. Kohl’s simply showed the order as “shipped.”

I called Kohl’s on January 7 to inquire as to whether the items had truly shipped. This was my first experience using Kohl’s telephone-based customer service. My call was answered promptly by a pleasant customer service representative, and I explained the situation. She asked if I had contacted Fedex about the order, and I said “no.” I told her if I called Fedex, they’d probably tell me what I could see on the screen: that the company received shipment information for the order but apparently never picked it up. She offered to cancel the order, issue a refund and then reorder for me at the same price any items that were still available from my order. Two of the items were still available, and one sweater showed online availability in a different color. Unfortunately, while I could see the sweater online in a different color, the representative’s system did not reflect this availability. So, I was only able to reorder two of the items. Ironically, I had applied to this order my $25 Kohl’s credit from its Christmas-time apology to me; I was told this amount would be credited to my credit card.

During that same phone call, I brought up a problem with an order I’d placed on Dec. 26. This order contained a pair of shoes and a pair of pants. I had received the pants, but not the shoes. On Dec. 29, Kohl’s sent me an email indicating it had cancelled the shoes from my order, but the order status on Kohl’ showed as “partially shipped,” making me thing maybe the company intended to send the shoes when they were back in stock. The representative confirmed the shoes had been cancelled automatically by the ordering system because they were no longer available. It is frustrating that the system did not know at the time of my order that the shoes were not available. Then, I could have spent those 11 days between the order date and the day I confirmed the order status looking for a replacement pair of shoes.

Overall, I had a good experience with the Kohl’s customer service representative who assisted me with these two problems. The call took 20 minutes, and the representative was very polite throughout the experience.

I hope my three most recent Kohl’s orders are not a sign of things to come and only represent a string of bad luck for Kohl’s. The company should improve its ordering system to prevent orders for out-of-stock merchandise and to alert customer service staff when an order is scheduled for shipment but never shipped.

What have your recent shopping experiences at Kohl’s been like?

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer service, Uncategorized

Home Depot online appliance purchase: a smooth experience delivered

After 11 years of faithful service, my washing machine bit the dust last weekend. A few hours of online research and some feedback from friends led me to choose a traditional-style machine with an agitator as its replacement. There aren’t a lot of models to choose from in this category, since most new washers are high-efficiency. Given my limited number of choices, I felt comfortable buying a washing machine online without seeing it in person, something I’ve never done.

I typically purchase appliances at Lowe’s, but Lowe’s couldn’t deliver the model I wanted until 9 days after my purchase, so I chose to purchase the same appliance at Home Depot. In a 2012 blog post, I explained what a ridiculous experience I had trying to buy an appliance online from Lowe’s. Thankfully, the Home Depot ordering process was 1,000 times easier. I started my shopping at, so I could earn 3% cash back on my purchase. After clicking the Ebates link to the Home Depot website, I added the appliance to my virtual cart. The only downside of the Home Depot appliance ordering process is that the company requires you to purchase new washing machine hoses, as it refuses to install your new washer with old hoses. I was planning to do this anyway, but it may be frustrating for others. I don’t believe you have to purchase the hoses from Home Depot, but you must have new hoses on hand. You can read about all the Home Depot’s appliance delivery requirements online.

During checkout, I was shown a calendar of available delivery dates and selected the one I wanted. An online notice (and follow-up email) from Home Depot informed me that I would receive a phone call the day before the delivery date and be given a delivery window. After that, I successfully completed my online purchase.

Sure enough, someone called me on Tuesday to let me know what time on Wednesday the washing machine would be delivered. The next day, the delivery driver called in advance of the delivery and even asked if he could come early. From the time the truck arrived to the time the delivery crew left with my old washing machine, only 20 minutes elapsed! I immediately washed a couple of loads of laundry and confirmed everything worked properly. The delivery drivers were courteous, and nothing was damaged during the delivery.

The Home Depot offers free appliance delivery and removal of your old appliance, while competitors like H.H. Gregg and Sears do not. Plus, Home Depot’s regular price is the same as Lowe’s for the washing machine I purchased. As I write this, it’s actually $45 less, because Home Depot is offering 10% off all appliance purchases of $397 or more.

Overall, my online appliance-buying experience was much better at Home Depot than at Lowe’s, and the delivery was icing on the cake. I will definitely consider Home Depot when another appliance needs replacement.

Where’s your favorite place to purchase appliances and why?

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer service, Shopping tips, Uncategorized

Buying a new car in 2013? Check out these top safety picks

If you’re starting the new year by shopping for a new vehicle, I highly encourage you to examine safety ratings before you fall in love with a “dream car” (see my previous post for details). New selections from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offer a good starting point for your vehicle hunt. The IIHS announced the following mid-size vehicles as winners of its 2013 “Top Safety Pick +” awards; most are moderately priced, while the last two are more on the “luxury” side of things:

The IIHS evaluates vehicles for five criteria. To be a Top Safety + pick, vehicles must earn the highest possible score in four of those five evaluations. In the fifth, they must earn at least an “acceptable,” which is the second-highest rating available.

Leave a comment

Filed under Buying a new or used car, Product recommendations, Shopping tips, Uncategorized

Made in the USA: Dishes, dinnerware and serving pieces

When my  husband and I moved halfway across the country last year, we decided to leave our old dishes behind and buy new ones. It was important to me to buy lead-free dinnerware made in the USA. The shopping process proved harder than I’d expected. Not many companies sell dinnerware manufactured in the United States. I did find one whose plates I liked, however: The Homer Laughlin China Company. It’s been making dishes in America since 1871. The company is best known for its Fiesta line of dinnerware, which comes in a rainbow of colors.

I bought my Fiesta dinnerware from Macy’s. For online shoppers, the store seems to have the best prices and selection. Wait for one of their sales, and you’ll get very competitive prices. Fiesta’s dinnerware line offers you serving pieces and accessories, including platters, pitchers, salt and pepper shakers and cream containers. You can also buy baking dishes, flatware and glasses. While the company is best known for its solid-color dinnerware, it also offers diner-style and Christmas patterns. Plates are dishwasher, oven and microwave safe.

What about other manufacturers? Here’s what I’ve found:

Corelle: According to its parent company, World Kitchen, all Corelle dinnwerware are made in Corning, New York. However, the company indicates some of its dishes with decorations contain “low-lead enamels.” The company has not answered the email I sent a week ago asking whether its entire product lineup is made in the USA or only its dinnerware.

Pickard calls itself “America’s oldest fine china company” and says it has manufactured in the USA since 1874. The company’s china patterns are a mixture of understated and color options. While beautiful, they may not be an option for those on a tight budget. The company told me, “We use a low lead glaze system that is fully FDA compliant.”

Lenox says its fine bone china is made in Kinston, North Carolina. The company’s Made in America Web page features a dozen patterns with classic styles.

HF Coors says its dinnerware is lead-free, with all products made in the USA. While cheaper than Lennox and Pickard, its dishes seem to be more expensive than Fiesta.

Pfaltzgraff did not respond to my email asking where its dinnerware is made, but a variety of online sources indicate the company stopped manufacturing in the United States in 2005.

All Louisville Stoneware products are made in Louisville, Kentucky. The company has been in business since 1815 and bills itself as the “oldest handmade pottery dealer in the USA.” Its product lineup includes 19 dinnerware patterns, and a representative assures me all its products are lead-free.

Do you know of another source of dinnerware and accessories made in America? Please leave a comment so others can learn of additional options.


Filed under Made in USA, Shopping tips, Uncategorized

Free shipping on printer ink

In celebration of World Peace Day on Friday, Sept. 21, is offering free shipping on all printer ink this week. Use promo code PEACE to get this deal. It ends on Sunday, Sept. 23. I’ve found this website to have good prices and customer service. To comparison shop, check out the price for the ink cartridges you need on as well. That’s another site I’ve had good experiences with. Happy printing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Customer service, Sales and promo codes, Saving money, Uncategorized