Monday, December 20, 2010

Health Care and Holiday Shopping

During the December Holidays, a frenzy builds among the citizenry to buy gifts for family, friends, and co-workers. The shopping season officially kicks off the day after Thanksgiving Day, affectionately referred to by retailers as "Black Friday." Most Americans are off work that day, and the malls are packed with people looking for the best deal on all kinds of merchandise. And without fail, every year has its stories broadcast on TV about those massive hoards of individuals ready to barge through the front doors of every store in the country, many which open while it's still dark in the wee hours of the morning, so they can be the first in line to capture that "Early Bird Special." And also every year, along with those massive hoards of credit card crazed shoppers, is typically at least one headline and video of someone getting trampled as the doors are flung open. Tragically, the holiday shopping season can be injurious if you are not careful.

After the initial stampede, shoppers usually find that the pace slows down a bit until the final week before Christmas. However, it is still very wise to be conscious of your surroundings when you are out looking for those last minute sale items. According to the Aurora Public Schools Risk Management Department, before heading out to do your holiday shopping here are a few tips to keep in mind:

--Be extremely careful using ATM machines: Use them in populated places and be constantly paying attention to what’s going on around you. Try to go during the daylight hours. If you must go at night, pick a machine that is well lit and visible to passing traffic. If anyone is lurking near the machine, pass it up and find another.

--At the Mall: Try to shop when the mall is less crowded -- during the weekday, or at night when malls stay open late for holiday shoppers. Avoid the weekend rush, when it's easy to lose children among crowds. And, don't dangle your handbag from your shoulder. You are creating a perfect setup for a purse-snatcher; keep your purse tucked tightly under your arm, or better yet, don't even carry a purse. Wear a fanny pack facing the front instead. Besides allowing your hands to be free to hold onto or carry your child, you’ll eliminate the possibility of leaving your purse behind or having it stolen.

--Paying for Purchases: If you use pockets, place your checkbook, cash, or credit cards in your front pockets. Only bring one or two credit cards and a limited amount of cash with you. Spread your money around in different pockets. That way a pickpocket can't clean you out in one fell swoop. Avoid carrying your checkbook, cash, and credit cards all together in one wallet, because a thief who gets the whole package together can cash checks with your identification and run up a large credit card bill in a short amount of time. Keep your keys separate, too. Don't "flash" large rolls of money in public. You never know who's watching! Check to see you’ve been given back your card once you’ve paid for what you bought. Watch your credit card slip being filled out - and make sure it's not passed through the machine more than once. Ask for your carbons if those are used in some stores. Destroy the carbons, but keep your credit card receipts and check them against monthly bills. Make a list of your major credit cards, their account numbers and the phone numbers to call if cards are lost. Keep this list at home. If you’re not sure a shopping bag will be available, take one of your own to the mall. Consolidate as many packages as possible, or make several trips to your car to deposit packages in the trunk. Don't allow yourself to become so burdened down with packages that you become a tempting target. Avoid carrying large, heavy packages that block your vision and make you a target for purse-snatchers.

--Taking care of Children while Shopping: Keep an eye on your child. It's okay to let children look around and have fun while they shop, but they also need to understand that it's important to stay near their parents.

Bring a babysitter, friend or older child to help watch your youngest, especially when waiting in long lines.
Teach your son or daughter what to do in the event you get separated. The best option is to instruct your child to look for a security guard or police officer, or go to the customer service desk where people are trained to help.

--In the Parking Lot: Always park where there is plenty of light, not only around your car, but also from your car to the mall or store entrance. Once your car is parked, familiarize yourself with its location so you can find it without delay. Don't hesitate to ask for a security escort if you feel unsafe. Use the trunk of your car to keep your packages out of sight. Keep your car locked at all times. When walking through parking lots, be sure that you are aware of your surroundings. Walk with authority. Don't look like a victim! Have your keys in your hand before you go to your car.

As the holiday shopping season moves into high gear, police are beefing up their patrols around shopping centers. Shoppers need to be alert more than ever as thieves target people parking in dark areas, walking alone or seeming preoccupied with numerous packages and roaming children. During the holidays, the potential for thefts and robberies increases. More people are out and about, and they are carrying more gifts and money than during other times of the year. Additionally, the East Valley Tribune in Arizona has some more holiday shopping safety tips to help you weather the retail season:

• Be aware of your surroundings and make eye contact with others you walk pass through the parking lot.
• Be aware of who is walking behind you.
• If shoppers see any suspicious people groups or activity, they are encouraged to go inside the store and report it to store security.
• Carry a cell phone. If someone makes you suspicious or uncomfortable, notify security or call the police.
• Don’t display reminders of high-dollar purchases while taking out the trash and recycling. Break down the boxes of TVs, stereos, computers, etc., and turn them inside out before disposing of them.
• If you are traveling for the holidays, make your home look “lived in”. Have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and newspapers or have your service suspended while you are away.
• Use timers to turn lights off and on. Also, while leaving your home to go shopping, leave lights on inside and outside your home and make sure all doors and windows are locked.

The Holidays can be very stressful. That self induced desire to please all those you love with just the right gift can create situations where you leave common sense at home in front of the TV instead of bringing it along with you. When you are out and about, searching for that bauble you just can't do without, please make time to consider your personal safety and well being. Taking the proper precautions during this time of year helps to prevent, or at least mitigate the severity of, incidents that cause harm or worse. Your health care doesn't take a vacation during this season, and neither should your intelligence. Stay safe, and be happy. Make sure that your Holidays can be celebrated at home, and not in the hospital because you weren't mindful of your own personal safety.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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