5 Tips for Shopping at TJ Maxx

5 Tips for Shopping at TJ Maxx | Writing Between Pauses

If you had asked me two years ago if I would prefer shopping at TJ Maxx, Marshall's, HomeGoods, and all similar and associated stores, I would have told you you were out of your mind. I've always avoided these stores like the plague; in my mind, they were disorganized and a little gross. 

Friends, I was wrong. 

I've recently converted my mom to a TJ Maxx and Marshall's fan. And just the other day, I found myself in a conversation about getting the best deals in these stores. As it turns out, I've gone enough that I've developed a system, without even realizing it. I've gotten a lot of great deals, especially on beauty and makeup items, and I decided it was time to share the secret to my success. 

1. Go in the morning on a weekday. 

This one is not super possible for a lot of people, which I totally realize. However, I've always had my best luck at TJ Maxx and Marshall's on Thursday mornings, as opposed to Saturdays. The store tends to be more organized and clean on Thursday mornings and my local stores stock on Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

2. Check everything before you buy it. 

It goes without saying: some people are absolute animals in TJ Maxx and Marshall's. The number of times I've found a great find (like a Stila lipstick or a MAC lipstick), only to open it and find it completely destroyed, used, or gouged... it's too much. But I've learned to religiously check everything I find at TJ Maxx and Marshall's just so I don't end up with something I have to end up throwing away. 

3. Ask the employees if something hasn't been stocked yet. 

A few months ago, I was on a quest to find one of the Kat Von D Light & Shade palettes (this is before Kat really went off the rails), as a few of my friends in a beauty group had found them. I was searching the beauty section in my local Marshall's and an employee asked if she could help. I mentioned that I'd seen Kat Von D palettes online and she replied, "Well, let me go back and check." She did! They didn't have any (and they ended up not receiving any), but she did tell me that if you see something online that others have found at TJ Maxx and/or Marshall's, don't be afraid to ask employees; sometimes they get things and don't stock them for a long time. 

4. Set a limit. 

A time limit, a spend limit, some kind of limit. My limit is usually $20, sometimes $50 if I'm looking for something for my house (like a shelf that I still haven't found). Having a limit helps keep me in check and keeps me from just buying everything

5. Go frequently. 

Right now, I've been searching for a rope basket to use as a laundry hamper in my bathroom, as well as a ladder shelf to add a bit of extra storage in there too. I know I've seen both at TJ Maxx before, but right now, they just aren't there. So I've been going nearly every weekend, just to check. So far, I haven't found what I'm looking for, but I know if I check often enough, I'll find it. If you're really in the market for a specific piece, going back often will make you more likely to spot it at a great price. 

4 Ugly Christmas Sweaters for Under $60

4 Ugly Christmas Sweaters for Under $60 | Writing Between Pauses

I love ugly Christmas sweaters. This isn't a controversial or even new opinion. Ugly Christmas sweater parties have become incredibly popular and it feels like the internet is always trying to outdo each other with their sweater. Personally, I like to keep my clothes wearable, so the light-up, bow-adorned, bauble-covered options aren't for me. If you want to get in the spirit, but don't want to go all out, I found 4 options for you: under $60, wearable, and cute/ugly enough to be part of the crowd at a Christmas party. 

1. Dinosaur Sweater, $18.95

So, this is actually a children's t-shirt, but if you're looking for something last minute to wear, it's a good choice: you can get it in the largest size and layer it under a cardigan, plus since it's on Amazon, you can get insanely fast shipping. Also, I think a dinosaur wearing a Santa hat is just the cutest thing on the planet. 

2. Unicorn Sweater, $26

When I originally picked this sweater, the women's version wasn't sold out--luckily, the men's version isn't and it's actually way uglier and cooler. The unicorn is breathing green fire. Sign me up! For only $26, it's a shoe-in for ugliest sweater award. Add some festive bows to really kick it up a notch.  

3. Corgi Sweater, $24.99

I picked some t-shirts for this post because, truthfully, many of us aren't in climates that get cold cold. This corgi ugly sweater t-shirt is the perfect combination of internet funny, ugly, and cute. You've got sweater pattern. You've got breathable cotton. You've got cute corgis. And it's $24.99? 

4. Ugly Cat Sweater, $34

For the cat lover, this sweatshirt is actually so cute it hurts me a little bit. It comes in white or pink, so you have two amazing choices. You won't be winning the ugly sweater award, but you will be getting compliments from all the cat aficionados in your life. 

5 Absolutely Affordable Spring Dresses

affordable spring dresses

Is this annoying? When bloggers start posts with things like, "ooof, it's been a hard week"? And it's only... Wednesday? That's how I wanted to start this post. I'm typing up this post, that I've had ready, at 6:45 in the morning, while Forrest sleeps after waking up at 4am. Remember how I had the flu in March? I heavily suspect he now has the flu. (This is where, if we were speaking in person, I would groan loudly and without end.) 

Anyway, at least the little sick man is giving me a chance to type something up, even if it's... a shopping inspiration post. I always have conflicted feelings when posting things like this, because the emphasis on shopping in blogging makes me quite uncomfortable. That being said, however, we all need a little wardrobe update from time-to-time, especially after the long winter days. 

And you know what? Looking at dresses is fun. So here are 5 absolutely affordable (yes, affordable!) spring dresses. 

1. Contemporary Open-Shoulder Dress, Forever 21 - $17.90

affordable dress for spring

We'll start with the most affordable. $17.90 for a t-shirt dress is still a little on the "hmmm" side for me, but it's still less than $20. Also, this dress is super cute and would be appropriate for almost every body type. And hey, if you don't like the sack look, a cute belt would nip it in at the waist. I normally don't like the "cold shoulder" look, but for spring, it's starting to grow on me. For a day look, top with a leather jacket and maybe some leggings, if you're in a colder climate. 

2. Palm and Collected A-Line Dress, ModCloth - $79.99

cute palm spring dress coachella

I can see the look you're giving me right now. "Michelle," you say, "I thought you said affordable." Ok, maybe $79.99 isn't super affordable for some people. For me, it would totally be a splurge. But... look how cute this dress is. It's so cute! It's appropriate for the office AND a party AND you can wear it into summer. And, hear me out, I think you could even take it into Fall. This is a Long Haul Dress because it's got sleeves, a lower hem, a cute print, a practical style... C'mon. $79.99 is a steal if you wear this dress once a week for a year. Also, consider it with a cute pair of kitten heels and a light cardigan at a barbecue. I think I've made my point. 

3. Angie Shirt Dress, Nordstrom Rack - $24.97

spring shirt dress

Look at this cute print! The minute I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for this post: it's cute, it's affordable, and it has SLEEVES. Is anyone else perma-cold in Spring? As the weather gets nicer, it feels like everyone turns on the air conditioning unnecessarily and I end up just as bundled up as during winter! Shirt dresses are universally flattering and I personally love a rolled up sleeve on a dress. With sandals or pumps (or even tights and boots during winter), this is really another long haul dress at a killer price. 

4. Contemporary Floral Print Dress, Forever 21 - $19.53 (Sale)

floral print spring dress cheap

I really, really love the pajama look top of this dress. I think it's casual and interesting. This is another dress that you can definitely make work for every season, but feels especially appropriate for spring--when the weather can still be chilly and wet, but can unexpectedly turn into a beautiful day. Plus, at a little over $19, it's super affordable and the shirt dress style is, again, flattering on every body type. 

5. Bookmaking Brunch Dress in Roses, ModCloth - $69.99

I know, $69.99... but please see #2 above. Also, look how cute this dress is! The a-line skirt, the nipped in waist, the neckline. Perfect for a spring or summer wedding, or with a jacket at work, paired with some white or nude stacked heels. Are you on board? Good, because I'm already on board. I love a vintage rose print and this one is absolutely stunning. 

If you enjoyed this blog post (and these spring dresses!), I'd love if you'd take a moment to subscribe to my newsletter here

5 Products I Love (Right Now)

The things I use on a daily basis change as I try new things and settle into different routines. As a mom, I budget really heavily, but there are some non-necessary items I like to include in our lives every day. These are them. 

1. Plum Organics Baby Hello Morning Cereals

Forrest loves these cereals. They're little packets of baby-friendly oatmeal: not too sweet, but not too bland (like a lot of baby food tends to be). They're actually made from both oatmeal and quinoa, which means he's getting a pretty good helping of oatmeal as well. He's quite partial to the apple cinnamon & banana blueberry flavors. 

2. NYX HD Photo Concealer

Concealer is extremely hard to find at an affordable price point, but, per usual, NYX comes through. The best part is that the lightest shade matches my skin perfectly, instead of being an unsightly orange color. (What is with pale foundations ending up orange?) 

3. Tazo Organic Chai Tea

I tend to bop back and forth between drinking tea and then not for months at a time. I recently have been struggling with anemia and started needing caffeine in the afternoon to keep me awake. I started drinking chai tea again and I wonder really why I ever stopped. 

4. e.l.f. Studio Contour Palette 

When I first tried this palette, I was not impressed--but the more I've used it, the more I fall in love with it. Contour palettes are expensive, though, and for $8 at Target, this one is a winner. I thought I wanted a cream palette, but the one I ended up getting, I found difficult to blend. With the right brushes (I use a fluffy eyeshadow brush to apply and then a kabuki brush to blend), this one is easy to use and looks great. 

5. Happy Tot Organics Smoothies

Another baby food product--but I use these ones as well. These smoothie blends, meant for toddlers, are great for watering down and giving to Forrest in a sippy cup (I'm hoping it motivates him to hold the cup himself). As well, adding one to my own smoothie adds an extra helping of fruits and vegetables, which is a win-win! They taste pretty good too. 

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Creating a Postpartum Capsule Wardrobe

Whenever I find myself talking about my postpartum body and style, I find myself getting (reasonably) dramatic. "I am a blimp," I have found myself saying to my husband. "I am a planet with a gravitational pull!" I cry to my mom group on Facebook. What is wrong with me? I think privately. Why can't I just diet

It's the question the world seems to pose to pregnant women. When you're pregnant, no matter how big or small you are, the world loves your body: you have another human you're taking care of! Eat the ice cream, the Oreos, the Taco Bell! However, it doesn't take long after birth to realize the cold, hard truth: you are now expected to just go back to normal, as if nothing spectacular happened to your body at all. 

I remember the empty feeling immediately after I had Forrest. And in the six days I spent in the hospital, I found myself feeling like a shell, merely a vehicle for this baby. I felt like the nurses treated me like I was nothing more than a delivery service, my needs and wants were secondary, and I was merely a food source, a fleshy cafeteria. 

This feeling is perpetuated at every turn: your baby is your number 1 priority, but it's also everyone else's. No one wanted to know about how foreign I felt in my own body, about how I ached, about how lonely and sad I felt. No one wants to hear about how I struggle to diet now (because, being an exclusive pumper, I know exactly what my supply is... and when I diet, I can see it shrink, the ounces diminishing); no one wants to hear about how tired I am, too tired to exercise. They just want me to do it and/or stop complaining about my body. 

I used to think that way. Really, I did! I thought new moms were lazy. How can you not have time to exercise? I thought, 22 and not a mom. How can you not focus on what you eatI was a bitch, that's for sure. I'm eating my words now. 

Over the weekend, I decided enough was enough: I was tired of making myself feel bad and I was tired of standing in front of a bulging closet and knowing that nothing fit. I took out every single item that no longer fit and put it in a bag. Part of it made me sad: I find it difficult to say goodbye to things I love, but can no longer wear. That being said, I've decided if it makes me feel bad, I'm not going to deal with it. 

I now have the saddest collection of items in my closet imaginable: four dresses (two maternity maxis); 2 pairs of jeans; 3 pairs of leggings; a smattering of topics (mostly maternity tunics); and sweaters, some of which are a touch too small, but fine for now. 

I decided the thing to do would be to create a capsule wardrobe. 

If I'm going to be starting from scratch, I should probably start from scratch the right way. I still have lots of stuff to clean out (I have drawers full of t-shirts I will never wear), but it's never too early to get started. 

My plan is to invest in pieces to make my body look great now--and rotate them out as I lose weight. As I'm working on my capsule wardrobe, I'll be sharing what I decide to keep and what I decide to buy here. If you'd like to see what I'm pinning along the way, you can follow my Capsule Wardrobe board on Pinterest

An Ode to Amazon & the Weirdest Stuff I've Ordered

On Amazon Prime Day, a day that will live in infamy for its hilariously bad deals (it really was like the clearance section at TJ Maxx), I ordered a highchair and bra extenders. In terms of Amazon purchases, these aren't all together the weirdest things to order: I got the highchair of my choice for Forrest for $70 cheaper than usual (and $90 cheaper than Target) and I got bra extenders because, well, you know. 

It got me thinking about when I started ordering from Amazon and what I ordered... and what I've ordered over the years. 

I'm probably a bit of a strange bird in terms of my generation: I wasn't big into online shopping until probably 2010 or 2011. I never trusted online deals or any particular websites and in retrospect, this is probably why I was so good at not spending all my money immediately when I was younger (although I was very good at that early on). 

However, once I got into the swing of things on Amazon, I really went for it. Here's a run down. 


In my first Amazon order ever, I purchased a workbook and laboratory manual to accompany my Deutsch: Na klar! An Introductory Germany Course textbook. Obviously, I was prepped to study German. Hilariously, the workbook I received also featured the teacher's answer section in the back, which I used because I'm not dumb and I'm a bit lazy when it comes to workbooks. 


A few months later, I ordered over $200 worth of books, including Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Young LoniganI remember this term of my school career and I remember it well, because I was really tired of reading old white guy literature by the end of it. Thankfully, I also ordered a copy of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl to break up the monotony. 


Another year, another $200+ on books. This was the year I got really into sociology, obviously. A sample of the books I read include A New Look at Black Families, How Does it Feel to be a Problem, and the Rich Get Rich and the Poor Get PrisonAs a side note, I'm currently rereading How Does it Feel to be a Problem and it's so good; it's only $10. Buy it. 


This was the year I started to really get into Amazon. I ordered my last bundle of school books (sample: Shannon: A Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition), but I placed five other orders of non-school books and other weirdo stuff, including my camera. A link no longer exists for it, but I also ordered a bunch of bulk camera lens wipes. 


I am not a night shopper and I don't usually make impulse decisions. But in my two paltry Amazon orders of 2012, I made two intensely impulsive decisions. On one of Danny's visits home, I bought Katamari Damacy for his Playstation 3. This game is essentially a game version of taking acid and flying to Tokyo, then trying to navigate your way around mid-trip. I also ordered the stupid expensive Lord of the Rings extended edition blu-rays because, duh, Danny and I needed them.


2013 was the year I got Amazon Prime and it made a huge impact on my life. I ordered a planner that I literally have no recollection of using, a really horrible novel that I read on my honeymoon, books about emotional eating, and a copy of this awful movie for Danny


In 2014, I hit my Amazon stride. Up until 2014, I'd been placing between 2 and 6 orders on Amazon. This year, I upped the ante and placed a total of 15 orders. It's almost embarrassing. This was also the year I started clawing my way out of the deep, dark depression that had encompassed my life in 2013 and early 2014, and in some ways, my purchases mirror that. 

I ordered the Venture Bros, a bunch of Kong toys for Remus, 21 Jump Street, TWO of these jump drives (Danny knows why), and a ton of Quest bars. Between these seemingly normal-if-disparate things, I ordered a ton of phone cases, a case for my Kindle, what feels like waaaay too many Kindle books, and a lot of chevron print stuff. 


Don't judge me: in the first 7 months of 2015, I've placed more orders than I did for 2014. I don't leave my house anymore, guys! I'm a bloated, miserable, whiny, pregnant mess. What can I say? 

I've ordered Tummy Drops that made me sicker, Mama Butter which smells good but does nothing, tiny baby glasses,  this weird movie that is apparently part of a series, an embarrassing amount of scrapbooking supplies*, and stuff for my baby shower. I also ordered vitamin B6, prenatal vitamins (which I ended up trading for gummies from Target), at least 20 Kindle books, and another heap of iPhone covers. What can I say, I'm a collector for those iPhone covers. 

*If you're looking for cheap scrapbooking stuff, seriously check Amazon before going to a physical store. 

In many ways, tracing my Amazon purchases is like tracing my life. Everything in my world revolved around school for a long time. Post-school, it was cameras, GRE study books, and the occasional movie. In the year(s), I was depressed it was movies, weird video games, books to help with my depression (that didn't help), and gifts. In the past few years, I've ordered gifts, things that revolve around my hobbies (scrapbooking, reading, planners), things that revolve around my unending obsession with my body and its size (weight loss books, more books by Geneen Roth, a Fitbit, Quest bars), and alas, baby stuff. Enough baby stuff to build a tiny mountain. 

I can trace the crests and valleys of my life, the highs and lows, the classes I loved and hated, the months where I most wanted to curl into a ball and disappear. It's strange what an online purchase history can reveal--and what it can make me feel. 

Help Me: I Officially Need Maternity Pants

A week later and I'm  even bigger . 

A week later and I'm even bigger

I told myself I wouldn't. I'm not going to buy maternity clothes, I thought, feeling very superior in February. I might need them, but I'll get by!! I will!! I will survive!! Persevere! Fortify!

Not only was this a really weird thing to try to do, it was also really stupid. Because let me tell you, even if you can get a normal waistband on when you're pregnant (either in legging form or pants form, and if it's in pants form, let me say, I'm impressed), you probably won't want to. Because if you're anything like me, the cutting sensation of a waistband hitting right underneath the burgeoning, if quite small, baby bump is potentially the most painful, annoying, frustrating thing in the world. 

I really thought I could do it at the beginning. I really thought I would be able to make due with my leggings and jeggings, and a belly band to cover up my unbuttoned pants. I really thought it would be ok.

First things first, the waistband of normal leggings hits at potentially the worst spot in the world for pregnancy. About 11 weeks in, I bought a pair of Aerie high-waisted leggings (my favorites) two sizes bigger than I normally wear. My logical thought was: I can pull this up onto the belly bump when the time comes. I seem to have forgotten the lifelong struggle I've had with things riding down if I try to wear them at the "right" spot. Basically, if I'm wearing a top, it will ride up to my waist; if I'm wearing a skirt or elastic waist anything at or above my belly button, even if it's tight, it will ride down to my hips. This is just home I'm shaped, but I really thought things would change. They wouldn't. As I got more spherical, my Aerie high-waisted leggings still rode down to sit just above my hip bones--a.k.a., the place where I could not stand to have a waistband. I sobbed, I whined, I pleaded with my body to just let me have this one thing. It wouldn't because my body is an organ that basically does what my DNA and brain, not my feelings, tells it to. I broke down and bought maternity leggings, which are not as thick as I like and have weird, baggy crotches. I'll make due. 

I held strong on the jeans front. I bought an Ingrid & Isabel Be Band at Target (for kind of a ridiculous price tag) early on and thought, "Yes, this will work." 

It does not work on my body. Ok, maybe it's just me. Maybe my body is just the random integer in a set of data, the outlier, the weirdo. But I don't think so. The band stretches out, both at the top and the bottom, so it sags, rolls, shifts, falls down. It stops fitting. It rides up, it rides down, it exposes your unzipped pants, it lets your pants ride down. When you wash it and dry it, it doesn't shrink back up. I bought the right size, according to the packaging, but I'm beginning to suspect that no size would make it work. It just wasn't going to work. Too small of a size would be unbearable to wear the beginning, only for it to inevitably stretch out. 

So I broke down. I bought maternity jeans, the thing I said I would never do. I bought them, feeling strangely excited to be able to wear jeans instead of leggings again. And I'm glad I bought them when I did: my trusty Target is gradually phasing out the normal colors of maternity jeans (aka dark) and replacing them with stone washed frayed capris and white jeans. Honestly, it's like they want women to suffer. 

Since then, I have delicately begun to search for maternity clothes elsewhere. Last week, I spent a terrifying 40 minutes in my local Old Navy looking for their maternity section (the Old Navy website insisted they had one); I eventually found it in the baby section, sort of behind a display of superhero-themed clothes. They had one rack, a messy shelf of maternity tank tops (all XS and XXL), and a clearance section consisting of about 5% maternity clothes and 95% leftovers from their plus-size collections. It was painfully disappointing. 

You'd think with the proliferation of online shopping, physical stores would step up their maternity clothes game. I can buy tons of maternity clothes on websites like Zulily and Amazon, but if I want to try them on before purchasing or have the fun thrill of going to a physical store, my options are incredibly limited. Pregnant women get to choose between a series of frumpy tank tops and tee shirts, horizontal striped dresses, and ill-fitting maternity jeans. What's up with that? 

Like plus size clothing, maternity clothing doesn't seem to have fully caught up with the rest of the shopping industry. There were a proliferation of fast fashion shops for conventional sizes, but if you're pregnant and/or larger than the standard sizes, you have to shop online and that is only if you find items that are actually, you know, flattering. 

So, this is where I ask you: fellow moms, where do you (or did you) buy maternity clothes (or clothes that come in a wide variety of sizes that you could perhaps customize for maternity wear)? What items did you need the most? What could you not have made it through without? What worked for you? What didn't? Tell me about it! 

When (and Why) Did I Start Expecting Bad Customer Service?

Hi, I recently purchased a China Glaze brand nail polish set at the Keizer, OR store. One of the minis in the set was dried out. I don’t live close enough to exchange the set, and was hoping I could have a new one sent to me. (I’d be willing to send the new set out immediately.) Below you’ll find a scanned copy of my receipt and a picture of the dried out polish (“My Way or the Highway”). Thanks!

That's the email I sent to Ulta on Saturday evening. I had spent the afternoon with my mom, making a trip to Ulta to pick up new primer and a few treats. When I finally got around to playing with my new nail polishes, I immediately realized that one was beyond use -- it was goopy and dried. Hilariously, it was the color I'd actually bought the set for! I was disappointed and a bit panicked -- what should I do? 

Ulta has always struck me as a huge company that might have very, very poor customer service. I don't know what gave me that impression, but they struck me as a cold, impersonal company (versus a store like Sephora, that seems enthusiastic and passionate). I've had a lot of customer service dealings in the last few years and very few of them have been positive. Here's a brief overview of the big stuff: 

  • When I ordered my wedding invitations from Paperless Post about three years ago, they sent me the entirely wrong envelopes (after I had paid extra for a specific type). I had to email them three times, and include photos, for them to resend the envelopes. 
  • A year ago, American Eagle forgot to include three items I ordered and I discovered that their policy for such a mistake is to refund the customer the money, redo the order, charge the customer again, and then send out the items -- a process that can take anywhere between 24 and 72 hours, plus delivery time. Which might mean (as it did in my case) that the items they did not send to me and charged me twice for were sold out.
  • About six months ago, Victoria's Secret sold me underwear with human feces in them. (Writing that sentence still sends chills through me and makes me feel like I need to dry heave.) The response of every customer service representative I spoke to was shocking in that... they were not shocked. At all. They ended up sending me a $50 gift card, but only about two months and one very well-publicized blog post about it. 

The one thing I've learned working in marketing is that customer service is a huge part of it. Lots of businesses hate websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Influenster, etc. because it gives consumers a chance to complain, tell stories, and vent. There are lots of articles making fun of the "critics" who write reviews on Yelp -- wondering why they don't have better things to do, why they need to ruin a businesses reputation for something so small. While review sites present a complicated issue for both business owners and marketers, to ignore them and disregard them entirely is ludicrous. If someone takes the time to review you on Yelp, it's obviously because they feel strongly about it and if they feel that strongly about it, they aren't just writing on Yelp. They're telling everyone they know. 

Success starts with good customer service. But sometimes, it seems like big companies (like American Eagle and Victoria's Secret) get away with really, really bad customer service. (I should take the opportunity to say that I have spoken with American Eagle's social media team extensively and at the time of my incident with them, they were very apologetic regarding the policy; they felt the policy was ridiculous and sympathized with me. It was a departmental issue, clearly.) 

Perhaps this is why I expected really, really bad customer service from Ulta -- and I genuinely did. When I emailed them, I expected to not receive a reply for several days; I expected to be told, no, I'd need to replace the item in store and that was it; I expected to not hear back from anybody at all, actually. 

I was wrong, surprisingly. 

On Sunday morning, I woke up to two emails from Ulta: one apologizing for purchasing a defective product and saying that, while they couldn't ship me a replacement, they had sent me a gift card; and one containing a $5 gift card. Nice, right? I emailed them a thank you, but also mentioned that a replacement polish was $7.50 -- not $5 -- so I'd have to pay $2.50 to replace a defective product. However, immediately after sending that email, I realized I was being ridiculous -- it was awesome for them to send me a gift card anyway! I picked out some nail polish thinner (for future goopy polishes), a replacement polish, and two lipsticks (why not?) and by the time, I'd checked out -- Ulta had replied again, sending me another $5 gift card! I printed it to save for a future Ulta shopping trip. 

I was surprised at how easy it was for them. It didn't take a hundred emails, a hundred tweets and DMs. It didn't require phone calls, arguments, or accusations. They were wrong; their store did a bad thing; they apologized; they did what they needed to do to make me happy. And guess what? I'm happy. It's so easy for customer service to be good -- and yet, it seems to go bad so often. 

It made me realize that I always brace myself to experience bad customer service; I defend myself against it, take a stance and wait for the bad customer service experience to wash over me. Perhaps that breeds back results, but if nothing else, this one instance has taught me that there is hope: hope for companies to learn to be better, to do what is right, to work with customers. And, if nothing else, it is excellent marketing.