Born to Shop author and shopping goddess Suzy Gershman joins host Kelly Regan and Frommer's editor Stephen Bassman for a breezy, informative, and entertaining exploration of the world's best brands and products. Suzy shares tips on how to avoid shopping scams, where to get the most for your money--and what to do when you pass out in the middle of a luxury linen factory store (she knows first hand).
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Top Tips from This Podcast
See transcript below for links to more information.
- Research: Go through local magazines at your destination for some good finds.
- The Back Rooms: Be wary of vendors who bring you to a back room, or bring items out of back rooms. They may be counterfeit, stolen, or different from the floor sample.
- Top Skin Creams: Dove ProAge, Garnier Nutritioniste, Dermaologica.
- Top Shops: ABC Carpet and Home (New York City), Ashneil (Hong Kong), Com d'Grasha (Tokyo), Dries Van Noten (Tokyo), John Dedarian (New York), Anthropologie, Top Shop (London), Chiang Mai Night Markets.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.Announcer: Welcome to the Frommers.com travel podcast. For more information on planning your trip to any one of thousands of travel destinations, please visit us at www.frommers.com.
Kelly Regan: Hi and welcome to the Frommers.com podcast, the latest in our continuing conversation about all things travel. I'm Kelly Regan, the editorial director of Frommer's Travel Guides. I'll be your host. My friend and fellow editor Stephen Bassman will be co-hosting with me today. And our guest has been with us before, so I'm very glad she's here to talk to us. Suzy Gershman is a journalist, an author, and a global shopping goddess, who has been writing the "Born to Shop" guide for more than 20 years. She's also the author of the memoir "C'est La Vie" which is the story of her first year as a widow living in Paris. She now divides her time between her new home in San Diego, a small house in Provence, and of course the airport.
But the reason she's here today is that she's the author of a brand new book "Suzy Gershman's Where to Buy the Best of Everything" which is going on sale now. And as Suzy put in the introduction, this book is the product of a million miles of international travel and possibly a million dollars worth of shopping expeditions. So today she's here to talk to Stephen and I about some of the shop that she's picked up over the years. She'll give us the inside track on some of the world's best shopping destinations and one of a kind stores. I'm also curious to find out from her what to do if you get dizzy in the middle of a designer linens outlet store.
Kelly: So maybe she'll tell me about that too, so, Stephen thanks for co-hosting with me today.
Stephen Bassman: Hello. Thanks for having me.
Kelly: And Suzy welcome back, thanks for being here.
Suzy Gershman: Oh, thank you, I'm delighted to be here.
Kelly: Great, well Suzy, my first question is, this book is clearly a labor of love and a reflection of your prodigious shopping experiences, and tell me how this book came about? At what point did you kind of look around you and realize, this is a book idea, I have here really.
Suzy: Like a lot of things it kind of happened by accident. All of us who travel now keep reading the newspapers every day and watching the news because they keep changing the luggage allowance laws and weight systems and everything. And back in the day, this book--I've been working on it, I have to say, all of my life, but began actually writing it into the form that it is now about three years ago. And it came about because of this weight allowance crisis that wasn't nearly as severe as it is now, and I had brought all of my notes, every notebook, every brochure, everything that I had collected in about 25 years worth of doing "Born to Shop". And you know some people keep money under the bed; I keep brochures under the bed.
Suzy: And I really found that shipping all of this stuff back to the United States from my home--I already shipped it to France--and that shipping everything back to the United States was going to be very expensive, and maybe we're talking about a lot of junk. And I should go through everything that I had a look in these notebooks and look at these notes and these phone numbers and those brochures, and just see if any of this stuff was valid.
And I was fully prepared to toss it all and go "good riddance" I should have done that years ago. Instead I found that virtual trash-is-treasure kind of thing, and a lot of the resources that I checked were still there. And I'm not talking places like Chanel or Cartier, or you know, everybody knows who they are. I don't really shop those places. And that's not my idea of a find. What I'm talking about, is that little first door down around the corner off the main street in Helsinki, or things at really great finds, good buys, things where you needed insider information to be able to get a handle on it.
Suzy: Over the years and I have to credit Steve here. Because when we started out, Steve, could have been my son. He's aged to be my son. [laughing] But now, three years into the book, he is like my father. He has made so much...
Stephen: Turned me into a man, in this project.
Suzy: So this book has been.. Some people go to war [laughing], in need to rule. To put us...
Stephen: To be good at it. [laughing]
Kelly: Great. To be good at it.
Kelly: You talk about this book being 70 years in the making. What's your travel schedule been like, over the past couple of years?
Suzy: You know, that's funny. Because, people ask me; what is my name? What do I do? And, where do I live? That's the first three social questions asked, anybody is asked, when they meet somebody. I don't really know what my name is. [laughing] Because, I have used my maiden name for so many years, into my marriage. I mean, Gershman is my married name. But, I'm not really certain what my name is. I certainly, don't know where I live. I lived in Europe for five years. I had a house in Texas, to nurse my father. Now I've just moved to San Diego. So, if you ask me where I live. I don't really know that either. Well, what do I do? [laughing] I go shopping.
Suzy: But, I don't call it shopping. I call it sociological research.
And I am thinking really... I was taking notes while I was watching the nightly news. They were saying that this is a time when consumers are scared to go shopping. And, I understand debt, and I understand horrible "r" word "recession". Part of my brain says, are you crazy, Suzy. These people are going to look at this book, as just another book about shopping. And maybe they won't even be interested. Another part of me says, this is the most essential recession buster, shopping proof, smart bargain finder, arm chair... It's not about going to big name stores. It's not about spending a lot of money.
Suzy: It's about, knowing about goods, that have already been pre tested. I already... I was the Indian Scout. I already bought that stuff. I tested it. You don't hear about the time that my skin broke out, or my face almost fell off.
Suzy: You know; if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it. But, everything in here is really a find. And, eliminates your need for buying extra stuff. Trying new things. And certainly, one of the first rules of shopping is don't go into debt. So, I think you will find, that this is not just a book about shopping. That it's a book about living and lifestyle and making things easier. And taking care of yourself.
Kelly: Great. Great.
Kelly: Well Stephen, you touched on, this great introductory chapter. That, I'm hoping, that I can talk about. Rules to being a Shop God or Goddess.
Stephen: Yes, I asked if we could insert God, in there. So that we wouldn't discriminate against the Shopping Gods. With all Shopping Gods.
Kelly: Oh God.
Stephen: It was Suzy's idea. To have a chapter, How to be a Shopping God or Goddess. And, how to take it to the next level. Honestly, I learned a lot, from editing this book. And reading it. And, working on it with you. I think that they're really helpful, today. So I'm going to read down through the list here. You have; E Curious (one of the tips for doing research), Go to Museums, Snow Schedule, Network, Learn the Business Side of Retail, Shop Your Interests, Shop the Circles of life, Understand All Aspects of Value, Learn The Value of Good Service, Know the Rules of The Jungle and Know When to Quit. And, obviously, the book...
Kelly: I'm curious, what you mean by, Shop the Circle of Life?
Suzy: This is one of the fundamentals of life. Not just shopping. It is, also, a taboo subject. That a lot people don't want to talk about. So, I'm going to explain to you what it is. And hope that I do not offend you because it's a real essence of how I have always been the kind of person that will talk about things that other people don't want to talk about.
Maybe, it's because my husband died. I have been a widow. I lost my money. I have been through all sorts of dramatic things already. I'll talk about anything honestly, and the cycle of life is... Well, things are just things that come and go in life's ups and downs.
Look at all of the people that are in foreclosures now. Does that make it a good time to buy a house? Well, yes, maybe but maybe next year is going to be better. So, look, you had a market trend that is caused by somebody's misfortune. It doesn't mean we don't empathize with your misfortune, but it also means that in this cycle of life and the circle of things that go round; sometimes there are opportunities to be a smart shopper.
Stephen: Did you want to talk about the Rules of the Jungle a bit that was everything...
Suzy: Everything hidden, all the good stuff is in the back. I had this hilarious story recently. I was having dinner with a woman I know, but I don't know her that well. I don't know if she really understood what I do. She thought she did, but the way she was talking she was halfway to idiocy. So, she is teaching me that, she has just come back from this big trip to India and she was going to tell me all her secrets so I can profit from her knowledge. She says to me, "When they really like you they take you to the back room". It was all I could do to keep a straight face. Is this woman nuts? Is she nuts? Did she not know why they take you into the back room? Did she think she was teaching me?
OK. And then she says, "After they take you in the back room, if you tell them that's just not good enough for you, then they bring out things that are wrapped in newspaper". And I am wanting to tell her these things, the serious fakes or the serious art theft or grave robbing and anything that can happen in a Third World country. That's why it is all put away. But, for the most part it's always in the back; it is always underneath.
As I had said, I lived in France for a number of years. You can go to the street market, and the best plums are put away for the best customers. The stuff that is out front and obvious to see is not the good stuff. The vendor knows his customers, knows his repeat business inside out.
Kelly: What piece of advice resonated the most with you? You were saying you learned a lot from reading these kinds of tips and advice. I am kind of curious, you know, what it was, which one of the...
Suzy: You learn the difference between cologne and eau du parum.
Stephen: I'm still stunned by that one. You know, I just think overall there are just so many good tips about how you use magazines. You say that one of the first things you buy when you go into another country is you load up on magazines and look through for different finds. You mentioned that you cut out so many things from magazines and bring them to retirement homes and hope that they don't notice all the holes that you cut out.
Suzy: Right. [crosstalk] I rip out entire pages so that the content might not be continuous, but there is no...
Kelly: Right. Right.
Suzy: Right. No sharp edges or dangerous edges.
Stephen: Speaking of the back room, you mentioned another tip where you said that you should never let someone wrap something at a site if they are going to bring you something...
Suzy: That is a particularly Third World problem. I had that happen to me in Hong Kong. You will see it any place where there is a discrepancy of wealth between the vendor and the shopper which basically means any third world country...
Suzy: He's going to figure that you are not going to miss the difference in being ripped off, where he has owned the difference. Or, you are not coming back anyway, so what does he really care. And they can substitute different quality. The sample out there is fabulous, and they say, "Oh, let me get you a new one. That's just the sample. People have touched that one, and we have got one all wrapped up for you."
Suzy: And then they wrap it up. And they give it to you in a bag. And everybody swears to be lifelong friends. And I'll see you and [indecipherable] and all that. And then you get to the hotel, or worse you get home 7000 miles away, and discover that's not the same one that you bought at all. It's a different quality. It's a different size. You have been had.
Kelly: So Suzy, how do you typically deal with that in the moment? Do you just say, "I want this one. I want the sample." Do you say, "Let go, when you..."
Suzy: Not necessarily the sample. But you don't want them to wrap it up; you want to see it. My basic rule is Americans are not so clued into or don't want to face up to the fact that everybody thinks Americans are strange, stupid, funny, out there anyway. And the end of anybody's day is they are going to go home to their family and talk about their American customers and how funny and odd and stupid they were.
Suzy: So they are already going to do that. You might as well just make their day. So I insist on it being unwrapped. And I try to be polite. I say, "Oh, I'm sorry. Let me see that." Or, "Oh, let me check..." I might come up with an excuse to make it look a little more polite. "Oh, let me check the color of that. Let me unwrap it right here."
Suzy: And then you don't have to scream, "Did you cheat me?" Right.
Suzy: On the other hand, any behavior on your part is acceptable as odd, because you're American.
Kelly: Huh. Yeah. Well, you do tend to get away with a little bit more.
Kelly: Not saying that you should, but again... so...
Suzy: I was just lost...I just moved to San Diego, as I was telling you. And I had a girlfriend from London here last week. And she wanted to ask some directions or something stupid. And I said, "I'll look at the map. Saw this; saw that." She said, "No. No. No. You don't understand. I have a British accent. I can ask anything in America."
Suzy: It's that same thing.
Kelly: It's the same principle.
Suzy: Yeah. Be a foreigner in a foreign land. Go for it.
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. Well, first off today, one of the things I thought was really great about the book was that it's as much about giving your recommendations as it is about teaching people how to be smart shoppers and smart consumers. And one of the things I wanted you to talk about was the...you have this big vat in the sky theory of beauty products.
Kelly: And I think that for those things in particular it's really useful for people to hear about things like that. So can you explain this whole theory?
Suzy: Yes. I will explain it. And it's the kind of thing...this is almost like when your mother first told you about Santa Clause, like you don't want to believe what she said. But that little voice in the back of you knows that...the more you think about it, the more you know that what I am going to tell you now is the truth.
Suzy: OK. So there is basically only one way to make skin cream. It has just two very common, simple ingredients. You can add some vitamin E. You can add cucumbers. You can add applesauce and raisins. It doesn't particularly matter. But the essential skin cream is the same.
What costs when you go buy your skin cream, you are paying for packaging. You are paying for research and development. That's the decision if they should put the applesauce or raisins in it or not. You are paying for that person in the department store wearing the cute outfits.
Suzy: You pay for all of those beautiful ads of half-dressed young things in Vogue and Vanity Fair, all of that advertising campaign. And you are paying for this subliminal feeling that you get of status and enrichment and ego enhancements, because you are paying all of this money.
The very truth of the business is it's all the same stuff; it's just packaged differently. And in the beauty business, the slogan that people use is, it's all from the same one, big vat in the sky.
Stephen: Right. Do you...
Suzy: So it's as if God's up in the clouds near a water tower of cream and there is a spigot and it come out of the spigot and it can cost $5 at the drugstore or $500 at Nieman Marcus. But basically it is the same stuff.
Stephen: In the book you have a list of list of the top price creams that can go up to $300 or $400. And you mention that some of your favorites are $11 and $6.
Suzy: Yeah, in the course of writing this book...
Stephen: Do you remember which ones those were?
Suzy: Yeah, in the course of writing a couple new ones were introduced and I became big fans of those. Dove ProAge is a drug store and grocery store line. It's a division of Dove, but it's in the obergene container and it says ProAge. That's an incredible line of skin care.
I think the most expensive item in that line is $12.99.
Suzy: Garnier, which is a division of L'Oreal came to this country a few years ago with hair care, now they've got something called Nutritioniste and that's another one. That one is divided into three groups where some products cost $6.99, some are $12.99 and some are $15.99.
I like a line called Dermalogica. I can't pronounce it I can only buy it.
Suzy: This is what Americans would call a bridge line in that its not a dime store brand and its a cult line. Its hard to find and the skin cream costs $50 or $60. But I consider it as good as the $500 cream.
Suzy: So that's why I say this is a book to recession proof your lifestyle. You don't have to be using these creme de caviar or creme de mer, the things that cost $500. These days, it's the going price for expensive skin group.
Suzy: Then if you do even a little bit of medical research on this, what's going to make the difference on your skin? Genetics. It's not going to matter what you put on the body.
Kelly: Right. Genetics. Drinking a lot of water.
Suzy: You know they just disproved that water thing...
Suzy: Yeah, lighting is good. After I say it.
Suzy: With some from our children, right.
Suzy: No, really they've just proved the thing about Water. When I grew up with, they've done studies on twins, and one twin was just drowning herself on Evian and water and the other one was dehydrated all the time. And over a period of 20 years, their skin was no different.
Kelly: Huh? Huh?
Suzy: Water certainly is good for you and I'm not going to poo-poo it...
Suzy: ...But supposedly that theory is not rock solid science when it comes to your skin.
But the idea is that if you moisturize your skin... Oh you guys can't remember because you are too young, but Dorris Day once wrote a book. And she talked about a memoir, an autobiography or something, that she slathered Vaseline all over herself. And this was like whole of the book and what everybody talked about.
Suzy: You can use cold cream, Vaseline, olive oil; any of the things are going to be just as good for you.
Stephen: All the classics are still...
Suzy: Yeah, it is the nutrients in those things, are the same things they put in the Vatika.
Stephen: Well Suzy, I want to go through another list here. You have your 11 best one of a kind stores in the entire world from the best of chapter.
Suzy: I do, yes.
Stephen: I just wanted to run through those quickly and ask you about it. So you have ABC Carpet and Home in New York.
Stephen: Ashneil in Hong Kong. Com d' Grasha in Tokyo.
Suzy: Yes, talk about the difference between all of these Com d' Grasha, I think those stores are good all over, but I put the Tokyo one just because of the architecture.
Dries Van Noten is an incredible designer but his flagship store in Tokyo which is in this rehabbed building that looks like a candy box from 1910. It's just amazing. Then you can contrast that with Fred Siegel in Los Angeles which is the home of skinny jeans and see-through underwear and if you want to [indecipherable] that is the only place to go. And I like John Dedarian.
Stephen: John Dedarian, New York, What is that like? I still haven't been in there.
Suzy: John Dedarian got his start as a decoupage artist and did these cute little plates for a zillion dollars at Bergdorf Goodmans and eventually got so well grounded and founded that he opened one of the first downtown stores in the Bowery area and this is your basic cutiepie store, rustic, fun, handcrafted. He doesn't make everything in the store but he still doing his decoupage and I think it's a rich man's Anthropologie.
Kelly: Oh, wow! You mentioned Anthropologie in one of your favorite stores in the whole world.
Suzy: It is. It is because of its focus. First of all I like the hodgepodge look, I guess, the bohemian or boho or something but I think Anthropologie shows you how to hold together a lot of different elements and the store is so focused and yet so inspirational in terms of, "Oh, my God, I've got one of those at the bottom of my closet.
I'll never buy it here but now that I see what they've done with it I'll pull it out". It's all complete old style. They mix the clothing, the home-style, everything and really show you how to jumble it up. You know, the other side of that is something like [indecipherable] Como, which is run by the sister of the editor of Vogue in Italy. Louis Vetton fancy stores in Milan.
Stephen: Do you have a Louis Vetton in Paris?
Suzy: But just the Paris store and it's not that I'm talking about Louis Vetton the brand or even Marc Jacobs the designer for Louis Vetton because I think Marc Jacobs, his talents are in other areas. It is this particular store which is five stories high, has a museum in it, the decoration of the store is vintage product is on the walls but it's not funky; as I'm saying that I'm thinking Anthropologie, it's not funky like that, it's almost like a spaceship. It's like a spaceship with Louis Vetton on the walls.
Stephen: Right. Prada Soho. Is it more [indecipherable]?
Suzy: Another architectural story. Prada has done a lot in terms of psychologically influencing the shopper with that cool, mint green color and very technologically advanced dressing rooms where the mirrors might sing and dance and tell you you're thin and look great.
Suzy: The stores are more architecturally unique than many of the big time malls.
Stephen: And what about Top Shop in London?
Suzie: It's just that London flagship. Top Shop is a chain and in fact they've come to the United States but the one that I'm bragging about is this city block, big Top Shop which takes runway looks a week after they've been down the catwalk at the International Fashion Show's and then suddenly you can buy them for 30 pounds or 12 pounds or even 50 pounds, which dealing in sterling is never fun but if it costs 30 pounds, we're still talking 60 dollars which I think most people can afford.
Kelly: Yes. So it's kind of like and H & M. It's an H & M approach.
Suzie: It's hotter than H & M., actually and in London they are across the street from H & M. It's [indecipherable]. H & M does new merchandise every six weeks. I think these people do new merchandise every six days.
Kelly: Oh, wow!
Suzie: More color, more flash, more rock and roll, very creative, very hot and they move so much, so fast, it's changing and it comes and it goes.
Kelly: I think what this all is pointing to Suzy, is that this, is clearly a guide, a global guide to shopping around the world. The book is not just organized by products, although there are chapters devoted to women's clothes, beauty products, kid's stuff, but there are also several chapters that address the world's best shopping destinations and experiences. So I'm curious to find out, for you, as you've been traveling around, researching this book and also just traveling around as part of your vocation, what are some of the most memorable fairs or markets or exotic shopping experiences that you've had?
Suzy: That's almost an unending and always changing. I'm a big person for markets. I was just in Chiang Mai, which I went to for this book. This is a very big part of what happens when you do this research. I was thinking, "Oh, we're going to do a huge thing because Chiang Mai is going to be non-stop shopping." And it turns out...
Suzy: ...Chiang Mai was non-stop bad shopping.
Suzy: And the only thing that was really fabulous was the night market.
Kelly: Right, the night shopping.
Suzy: And it's the kind of thing that nobody will say, the emperor has no clothes! The Chiang Mai night market was absolutely one of the top ten of the world, but my destiny for shopping; I think somebody needs to tell the truth there. Chiang Mai, you go to for these plush resorts. Then you take their shuttle bus into town and you shop yourself then go back to the resort.
So, Chiang Mai was a recent trip that was great, great fun and I'm looking to go to lots of different places. I'm going back to Vietnam in the fall. There are some places where it is not a question of walking in the store but going the whole destination.
There's a part of Sweden called Småland which is in the southern part of Sweden and it is all clothes factories. So you just go from one to the next, to the next. This part of Sweden is actually a regular port, for Baltic cruises so it's not like I'm taking something so esoteric that you're going yes she's right, because anybody going on a Baltic cruise, which you do in the summer because it's cooler, is going to have an opportunity to shop in Småland.
Sydney, Tokyo, is the most amazing architecture. Shopping-weird experiences! Crazy merchandise, people to stare at. I'll never get over it, that man in the green kimono. I was...
Kelly: Who are these people?
Kelly: I think you also told us about getting off the subway in Tokyo and coming across this store that sold raincoats for dogs.
Suzy: Oh, that was a fabulous place! God, you have a good memory!
Suzy: That is absolutely...You know, it's funny because that store did not make it into the book because when I asked for a business card it was only in Japanese. To this day, I can walk you to that store Pratesi where I am on Main Street. But I have...
Suzy: ...no idea. It has the best dog raincoats that will fit everything.
Kelly: And I'm sure that's a pretty small category of potential dog raincoat stores.
Kelly: For that way to be dressed.
Suzy: But in Tokyo...
Stephen: Speaking of amazing sights anything interesting at the camel fair? The pushcart camel fair? You...
Suzy: Pushcart camel fair...
Kelly: And where was that?
Suzy: It's in India, northern India, not far from Jaipur. I have to say, that I love India. I do third world very well. But it's not a trip for everyone and certainly the camel fair is for the adventurous at heart. And you go there not to buy a camel, believe me.
Suzy: You could walk a mile for a camel. You go to buy just little scabies, good luck emulates, and lots of religious stuff. I have shrines all over the place. I am not particular about who I pray to so I have flowers, and kitsch, and wonderful things you hang from the camel. It's just the best. Now, that's an advance shopping degree. I would say anyplace in India is for the advanced and the camel fair is...You get your Master's.
Stephen: You get your Master's when you go there. [laughter]
Kelly: Right, that is the purchasing Ph.D. territory, the camel fare. Well, you know Suzy, the dollar is weak right now, and it is no surprise to anybody. We are struggling against the Euro, the Pound, and, at this point, even the Canadian dollar. [laughter] Which is shocking to a lot of us.
Suzy: No, it is pathetic.
Kelly: Can you give travelers, and, more importantly, shoppers, an idea of a few destinations where the U.S. dollar goes far? Places that would be a good bargain right now.
Suzy: Yes, I also want to say something that I think is one of the most important parts of this book. There are products in the book that are bought in France or the U.K. where currency is strong against the dollar. But, they are wonderful products that end up costing four dollars when you put them into U.S. dollars. It is not just because it is from the U.K. or France or anyplace in the E.U. You can't think about it, you just have to know your stuff.
But, if you are really looking for a travel destination, look to Asia. Most Asian currencies are pegged against the dollar in the first place, so they have to be held. The funkier you want to go; the shopping in Vietnam is unbelievable. I don't understand why Jane Fonda got such a bad deal [laughter] [indecipherable] in that war when all she knew was about the three-dollar shopping. You could buy the best of Vietnam for three dollars.
Anyplace in Asia is great. Even getting into China is good. I would not go to China during the Olympics unless you are going for the Olympics. But any other time, look to Asia. That is where you are not only going to find good values in what you are buying, but airfares...I just got one of those email notes saying you could get a round trip ticket for $659.00 from the west coast of the U.S. to many destinations in Asia. I mean that is just amazing.
Stephen: That is pretty good.
Kelly: Plus the discount for the shopping so it is also an affordable travel destination, especially if you are going from the west coast.
Suzy: And, you want to see part of the world that you are not normally going to see. You want to see. You want to taste. You want to learn. The point of traveling isn't the souvenir you bring back, it is the memories that you make and the things that you never forget.
Stephen: Suzy, did you want to talk a little bit about online shopping?
Suzy: Absolutely. Particularly, for me, as I guess everybody knows, I always go into stores and it is the show business and entertainment factor that is important to me. But, there are certain things that it just makes so much more sense to buy online.
In doing the research for this book, what really became a big component of the book is making your life easier. For food stuffs, there are so many different places all over this country. You are not about to go fly to that town and test the small chocolaty or my beloved Fraligner's salt water taffy. But, one click away, and you can get all this stuff. For books, for foods, for a lot of bath and beauty products, for so many things.
I bought a lot of my kitchen equipment online because I felt that I was saving gas. Not only am I saving my time, but, every time I run out to the mall or to Best Buy or any big department store, I am still spending gas and still paying tax. A lot of these places give you free shipping, and I ended up buying kitchen equipment. It was delivered right to my house. Once you know what it looks like, the number you can look up, everything... I say do your basic, bread and butter, and even some adventure shopping online, and then do your exotic shopping adventures in person.
Stephen: So, what are some of the websites of your go-to sites that are the can't miss websites?
Suzy: I just call it the Amazon rule. When we started this, I just thought you bought books from Amazon.
Suzy: But even my flavored salt that is an important part of my life from having lived in France--salt is very important to me, but I don't like regular, old Morton salt. I like this important stuff. And I go to Amazon. My number one rule of online shopping is check out Amazon first, and then do your comparisons against it.
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah. Often, it'd be you actually know what you're looking for in advance. You do the homework so you can see how much it is online, and then oftentimes, you can get better deals online than you could get going somewhere in person.
Suzy: Right. And you've got to factor in the cost of gas these days.
Stephen: I think that's one of the things that makes this book so handy, for me, is learning about all these different things while I was editing. Actually, I have gone out to Craigslist and typed in some of the bands just to look for discounted deals online. So it helps to hear about what's the best, and then search online.
Kelly: Right, right. You kind of decide what you want in advance, and then you kind of go and you see what it is that you want to get...
Stephen: Where to get it at the price you want to pay... [laughs]
Suzy: Right. I think travel means we're all open and flexible, and for letting your brain wander, even if you're online or reading a book at home in your own bed. So it's taking other people's experiences and making them work for you. That's really what this book is about.
Stephen: Yeah, definitely.
Kelly: Suzy, we're just about out of time, but I couldn't let you go without asking you [laughs] about this one experience that you relayed in the book. And one of the things that I love about the book that makes it so engaging is that you have so many personal anecdotes that you include in there, and they're fun, they're informative, they're hilarious. And this one, I love.
Kelly: And I have to ask you to explain to people what happened when you were in one of your very favorite stores, the Pratesi...
Suzy: It wasn't the store...
Kelly: It was an outlet, wasn't it?
Suzy: OK. Well, no, what it was is it was the Pratesi factory...
Suzy: Which, the Pratesi is a factory at a store. And I had gone to look at the store for our "Born to Shop" readers, but it was an early visit, and they wanted to show me the factory, and they were all proud of it. And anybody who shops understands that you don't want to see the factory; you want to go shopping.
Kelly: Right. Before you get into the story, I just thought we should clarify for people. Pratesi, for people who don't know, can you explain quickly what Pratesi..?
Suzy: Pratesi is an Italian family name, and they have a small, private bed linen business. They make among the fanciest, most well-known European bed linens for kings. They have supplied linen for the Pope for centuries. They have stores in the United States. They have one outlet store in Woodbury Common in New York City, and they have one or two outlet stores in Europe, and they have stores in Italy.
They are not spread out across Europe. They have more stores in America than they do in Europe. But it's one of those traditional, high-quality, rich people resources that you have to be royal to sort of know about or to afford.
Suzy: Except for that if you get into the outlets, then suddenly it's affordable.
Suzy: You're talking about a $1,000 sheet for $100.
Kelly: Wow, wow! So, you're at the factor...
Suzy: I'm at the factory, and I'm going through this tour. I'm looking at equipment and I'm saying, "Oh, isn't that a beautiful loom?" Like I care!
Suzy: I'm getting dizzy, and I can't breathe, and suddenly I think I'm going to throw-up. I think, "Oh, my God! Now I can't throw up here! I'm in the middle of this factory, and look at all this $1,000--I can't!"
Suzy: "Would I ever socially recover from throwing-up all over?"
Suzy: So, sure enough I make it to a garbage can, and I just heave into the garbage can.
Suzy: It's this kind of thing where you wish that the earth would part, and you could just die and disappear. I'm mortified, and embarrassment. Something in my body knew that, because then I blacked-out. So I didn't even have to deal with the fact that I had just up-chucked all over everything in the factory.
Suzy: Because I remember the moment of blacking-out, and then when I woke up, I was in bed surrounded by pillows and gorgeous Pratesi linens, and there's a showroom window.
Kelly: [laughs] A showroom window!
Suzy: I was in the showroom window, because the only bed they had in the factory was in the showroom window.
Stephen: You thought you had died and gone to heaven!
Kelly: Yeah, it's like you died and gone to heaven as Stephen said.
Suzy: That's right, and then they called the ambulance for me. It's like, "I don't want to get in an ambulance; I'm in this Pratesi bed!"
Kelly: Right, like "The ambulance can wait. Let me enjoy the Pratesi bed for a bit longer!"
Suzy: That's right. Then we they finally did kick me into the ambulance, I'm smelly and disgusting, whatever. You run back into the store, and they grab a nightgown and a bathrobe off the rack, and these little [indecipherable] pills, and put me in this Italian ambulance--it was terrible!
Kelly: Oh, that's wonderful!
Suzy: Oh, all decked out!
Kelly: It was a little outfit to wear when you got to the hospital.
Suzy: That's right, that's right. So they took very good care of me, and the store gives special prices to all our shoppers that go there. That is one of the best shopping adventures in the world.
Kelly: I mean, although it tends to having a very good culture of customer service as well.
Stephen: Free robes for people who pass out.
Suzy: [laughs] Yeah, free robes for people who pass out.
Kelly: Well, that's probably all the time that we have for today. I've been talking with Stephen Bassman, one of the editors with Frommer's, and with Suzy Gershman, who's the author of her new book, "Suzy Gershman's Where to Buy the Best of Everything, " which is on sale now. Stephen was the editor, Suzy was the author. It was a wonderful collaberative project, and go pick up a copy as soon as you see it in the store, because there's a lot of really great advice, and a handy resource...
Suzy: Or order it online.
Kelly: Or order it online, exactly!
Suzy: Pre-order online.
Kelly: Exactly! So, Stephen thanks for co-hosting with me today. This was a lot of fun.
Stephen: Thanks Kelly, thanks for everything.
Kelly: Yeah, and Suzy thanks so much for joining us again. Safe travels, and hopefully you'll find a lot of good bargains.
Suzy: I'll have more to report back next time.
Kelly: Good, very good. So, join us next week for another conversation about All Things Travel. I am Kelly Regan, and we will talk again soon.
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