The holiday season is upon us. I know this because our fridge is stocked with Bell's Christmas Ale, the Hallmark Channel is showing cheesy Christmas movies all day every day, and houses around Cadillac already have Christmas displays in their front yards. With the spirit of the season in mind, I'm renewing my policy of the past twelve years. During the holidays this column is devoted to positive, informative, fun, and (hopefully) entertaining news.


To get the season rolling, this weekend is one of the biggest shopping periods of the entire year. To be sure, getting presents for everyone on our gift lists is important, but that does not mean we will neglect ourselves. The National Retail Federation reports that 58 percent of us will spend money on ourselves this season with the average amount being $139.61.


After we take care of number one, it's on to those other names on the list. Most of us start with the children in our lives. The toy shelves of stores will be overflowing with the latest and (for this year) greatest, but you might be interested in knowing the most popular toys of the past. The latest inductees to The National Toy Hall of Fame are: “The simple swing, Dungeons & Dragons; and the colorful Fisher-Price Little People. The honorees were selected from a field of twelve finalists that also included: bubble wrap, Care Bears, Clue, coloring book, Nerf, pinball, Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, Transformers, and Uno.” You can go to to see the toys which have been inducted throughout the years.


To be sure, the tech toys of their day are there, like the Atari 2600 Game System and the Nintendo Game Boy. My favorites, however are some simple items that have never grown out of favor: the ball, the blanket, the stick and the ever popular cardboard box. And who can forget the Easy-Bake Oven? Mmmmm-boy. Is there anything tastier than a mini-cake baked by a little light bulb?


Well once a gift is selected, the real challenge begins – paying for it. The National Retail Federation says the average American will spend $935.58 on shopping this holiday season. As I shop, I am always flabbergasted by how many retailers and services violate my father's first rule of business. Big Don always said: “Make it easy for people to give you their money.” Regardless of what business you are in, collecting money quickly and efficiently should be your number one priority.


A recent study by Cayan, a company specializing in credit card transactions, indicates there may be a problem this holiday season, especially with the new chip card technology. “ Our new study sheds light on exactly how irritated consumers are and how worried retailers should be about the upcoming holiday season. More than 80 percent of shoppers are frustrated and confused by chip cards; while almost two-thirds experience frustration when waiting for the transactions to complete. Nearly a quarter of customers (22 percent) say that a wait time of between 5-20 seconds means they would forgo shopping at that retailer in the future. Fifty percent of consumers think paying with a chip card is slower than making a purchase with a non-chip card. Sixty-three percent say the next time they walk into a retailer where they’ve already had a bad experience and they see a long line, they may turn right around and walk out.” (


Because of this, many people prefer to shop online rather than brave brick and mortar stores. This is not good news for local stores who serve communities. However, shopping online may has its own pitfalls. The online deal that looks too good to be true often is is just that.


Javelin Strategy and Research notes: “Before you jump, take extra care this holiday season. Is this deal legitimate? Are you browsing a website with solid online security measures? Or could you even be looking at a fake app? Card fraud is a huge business. Criminals are going after the databases of online merchants and trying to engineer an account takeover. Once they're in, the crooks could get access to the credit card you had on file with the online retailer. Industry experts are warning of apps that impersonate well-known retailers. Every great deal that you spot online or via a text or e-mail is not a bargain. Instead, you could be looking at a phishing expedition.” So, it's buyer beware, even online. (


With all that said, being a wary consumer is your best defense. Still, most of us will be out shopping this holiday season. While you're out, it's always good to give the kidlings at home something to occupy their time. To that end I have once again compiled a nifty web page full of fun things to see and do. Check it out at


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and