Rogers: boob behind the tube


When I signed a 2-year digital TV contract last July with Rogers, it was following a long and painful price negotiation with their customer service department. Unhappy that they had increased their prices last summer, I argued to get it at the previous price. Plus additional discounts for invoicing screw-ups. Now, 9 months into the contract, this month’s invoice displayed a sudden hike in the amount due. Of course, I called them up immediately.

(Following several minutes of unbearable Muzak)

Me:  Hi. The amount on my invoice is higher than usual, and I’d like to know why.
Rep:  Yes. Rogers has increased the price of some of their programming packages, including the one you’re subscribed to.
Me:  When I signed up, I agreed to a particular price. I’m not interested in, nor do I intend on, paying more.
Rep:  Unfortunately, they’ve decided to increase the price. Rogers is constantly making improvements to the levels of service they offer their clients.

(Play along. Benefit of the doubt.)

Me:  Okay. Can you tell me what these improvements are?
Rep:  Well, um, Rogers is always bringing improvements to existing services, to better serve their clients.
Me:  Yes, I got that part. Can you tell me how this will benefit me, specifically, in my day-to-day experience, when I watch TV?
Rep:  Um, unfortunately I can’t really say… specifically…
Me:  That’s what I thought. Once again, I was already paying more than I’d like for cable, and I have no intention of paying more. So please change my invoice to the price I used to pay.
Rep:  Unfortunately, I can’t change the price of the packages.
Me:  Sure you can. I’ve negotiated with you guys before to get better pricing.
Rep:  Yes, I can see you have discounts on your invoice.
Me:  Yes. So just adjust that so that I don’t pay more. You can call it a credit, or a discount, or whatever label you need to on your end, as long as I don’t see an increase. Look, it’s simple. I know I’m screwed to stay with you for the 2-year duration of the contract. But you have a choice: you can keep me at the increased price and know for a fact that you’re losing a client after the contract, or you can work with me and keep me as a client.

(Pause.)

Rep:  Okay, here’s what I can do. We have a promotion right now, on the package you currently have. It’s 20% off for 12 months. But your current discounts will no longer be valid.
Me:  That’s OK, because the 20% off more than compensates for it. (Translation: in the end, I’m still paying less, which is what I wanted)

(Note: Always ALWAYS repeat what you THINK they’re saying, to make sure you’ve understood correctly.)

Me:  So you’re telling me that for 12 months, as of today, I will keep the exact same package I currently have, and I will get it for $X less than I am currently paying.
Rep:  That’s correct.
Me:  Great, let’s do that.

But clearly isn't.

But clearly isn't.

In conclusion:

–  Never, ever accept a random change in service levels or price unless it’s in your favour.
–  Never, ever accept their initial refusal or dismissal. Push back. I’ve never called anywhere without getting something in return, with varying degrees of success.
–  I’m appalled that it would take a client threatening to leave before being offered a better deal. Shouldn’t the better deal be offered automatically, as a thank you for clients’ continued business? Oh wait. That would involve some notion of customer service.
–  I’m still getting my package for less. Again.

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Cup of Joe?


It’s so simple. You walk into a coffee shop, order yourself a cup of joe:
– black
– with cream
– double-double

However you like it. In whatever size you want – small, medium, large.
And it will cost you anywhere from $1 to $2.50.

And then there’s Starbucks. The problem with Starbucks is that it takes all these simple givens, chews them up, and then spits them back out in a way we don’t understand, and charges you double for it.

Starbucks is pretentious. Everything they serve pretends to be something else. They refer to their regular coffee as a “Caffè Americano”. Even their cup sizes are camouflaged and ask, “Who, me?”
Take what you and I would call a small coffee. To obtain its Starbucks equivalent, you need to ask for a Tall Caffè Americano. Tall. It’s like they’re afraid of giving the small cups a complex. Next size up is a Grande, followed by Venti.

I won’t get into the more complicated beverages available at Starbucks. There are Web sites devoted to demystifying this, such as:

1. Broken Secrets
2. eHow
3. wikihow

Besides, you can try for yourself at one of the hundreds of Starbucks available within a 10-km radius.

Then there’s the staff. I’m not sure whether they seek out know-it-all metropolitan Gen Y staff, or whether they have to lobotomize them upon employment, but every Starbucks I’ve been in has them. Same blank expression, different piercings. If you don’t order correctly, they wait calmly and trendily for you to catch on, and then gleefully repeat your order back to you with the correct terminology. Your momma must be proud.

But what gets me is what they charge for coffee. Don’t get me wrong – I make a decent salary, I occasionally splurge on a trip to the spa, enjoy shopping. But out of principle, I refuse to pay 2-3 times what other coffee shops charge. It’s coffee. Adding a dollop of whipped cream, a drizzle of caramel or a squirt of flavouring doesn’t change that.

Last week, after months of avoiding Starbucks, I walked in with a few people for a meeting. I ordered a small tall peppermint mocha coffee. The smart-ass behind the cash asked for $4.15, to which I replied an indignant “For a small?” (see what I did there? I said small) Response: Blink, blink. “Yes, that’s right.”

But a picture is worth a thousand words, and so, free of charge, I offer an updated logo with a frank appeal:

Old Starbucks logo vs. honest depiction

Old Starbucks logo vs. honest depiction

From the mouths of babes


We’re pretty careful about what and how much TV our girls watch. Despite this, they absorb information like little sponges. It all started before last Christmas, when our daughters began noticing TV commercials. Then the questions emerged: “Mommy, can you ever buy me that toy?” and “Mommy, can we ever go to Marineland?”

But what surprised me most were some of the other things Olivia started noticing. She was watching cartoons while I was making dinner, when she asked me: “Mommy, would you like a Slap Chop? Because if you do, you have to call in the next 20 minutes.”

Vince Offer & Slap Chop

Vince Offer & Slap Chop

In all fairness, that’s a bad example. Back then, every third commercial featured Offer “Vince” Shlomi (hey, you can’t make this stuff up), A.K.A.  the ShamWow guy, exclaiming “You’re gonna love my nuts!” To this day, I don’t know how that line was allowed to air.

BONUS: Vince Offer Soundboard – perfect for crank calls!

I couldn’t believe Olivia had taken notice of such a random piece of information. I was also partly amused, having worked in marketing since 1997 and being attentive to all forms of advertising ever since I can remember.

I find it utterly fascinating to have slogans recited back to me through the mouth of an innocent child, who doesn’t know any better than to believe the promises she hears. A few nights ago, she was fascinated with the Dollars for Gold ad. For those of you unfamiliar with this amazing service, you stuff any unwanted or broken gold jewelry into an envelope, ship it to the folks over at Dollars for Gold, and wait for your cheque to come in the mail. Seriously.

Tonight, Olivia had two specific new requests, each accompanied by a marketing-induced rationale:

1. Scope Outlast mouthwash. I told her we already had mouthwash. Olivia then explained: “But mommy, this one lasts five times longer!” Never mind the fact that she doesn’t use mouthwash. Or that mouthwash isn’t recommended for young kids because they might ingest it.

2. Pantene shampoo and conditioner. “Can you please, please, buy Pantene next time?” When I asked why, she explained: “They make one for curly hair, one for colour, one for shiny hair.” She actually retained, fairly accurately, their product segmentation. Olivia likes to look good from head to toe. Apparently that includes Pantene Pro-V shiny hair. Diva.

Time for a “Don’t believe everything you see on TV” talk…

Attention Shoppers


Shopping is underrated. And I’m not just saying that because I’m a woman. I truly mean it.

When women talk about shopping, men get an instant image of us gallivanting through malls, frivolously whipping out our credit cards and coming home with a dozen bags of junk and a second mortgage. That’s the glazed look on their faces, ladies.

Truth is, because most women like shopping, we’re also much better at it. We’re savvy deal-finders and expert comparison shoppers. It’s not just about jewelry and shoes. No, really. We provide for the entire family: clothes for the kids, school supplies, home furnishings, and yes, clothes for our husbands who hate shopping and otherwise would wear the same old jeans and college t-shirt until the fibers disintegrated.

Without us, our walls would don nothing more than a couple of movie posters held up with blue sticky tack. The only place to tell time would be the alarm clock or the microwave oven. And the only decorations anywhere would be those likely to hold chips or pretzels.

But that’s OK. Since we do in fact enjoy finding the best items at the best price, we gladly step up to the task. In fact, we get great satisfaction from coming home with great stuff for our families and our homes. But given existing stereotypes, I feel guilty when I need to buy something for me. Like I somehow have to justify it:

– Winter boots date back to 1998, leaked freezing water in, and I lost three toes. I can buy a new pair.
– After getting new wardrobes for the kids, I’ll allow myself a new shirt for work – one that’ll go with everything I own.
– Five pairs of socks with holes. I’ve mended 4, but I’m splurging and buying a pair. And I’ll pick some up for my husband while I’m out.
– I’ve cleaned the entire house and threw my back out scrubbing the floors. I can go for an 80%-reimbursable massage, right?

I’m by no means someone with a large collection of shoes and purses; but I needed a new brown handbag, and I found the perfect one. Although it’s a little pricier than I hoped, it’s gorgeous, sturdy, and made entirely of chocolate brown cowhide. Including the straps, which means they won’t crack and break. The buckles on the front remind me a little of those old-fashioned leather school bags kids had in the 70’s. Utilitarian and stylish.

New chocolate brown leather purse

New chocolate brown leather purse

Few things are as satisfying as finding exactly that thing you’ve been looking for. Of course, now I’ll need matching shoes…

Something for Nothing


You know that when I’m not happy about a product or service, I call the provider to fix it. In fact, about 80% of the times I call a provider, I get something in return: a credit on my account, additional services free of charge, etc.

Today, I’ve topped myself. I got something for nothing, when in fact my original premise for calling was wrong.

We recently switched to Rogers Cable. I really wanted Teletoon Retro, a wonderful collection of old-school cartoons from my childhood: Looney Toons, Scooby Doo, Superfriends, the Flintstones and lots more. I love these… I mean, um, my kids love these.

We’d watch Teletoon Retro after we got home, as I made dinner. After a few weeks, the channel stopped coming through. Last week, I called Rogers to explain the problem, and they said they’d look into it and get back to me. Big surprise, they didn’t. I called back and explained the situation to a different rep. I said that since we’d been without this channel for a few weeks, I’d like some sort of compensation. The rep, after some discussion, offered me a handful of additional bundles, free of charge, for two months. He even programmed in the end date, so I don’t have to call and cancel, hence avoiding the probability of my forgetfulness incurring extra charges on my invoice.

A-HA! So they can, in fact, program in end dates to bundles, programming etc. They just prefer to get you to call, hoping you’ll forget so they can charge you. We don’t have to bend over and take it!

I later returned to the Rogers web site, and discovered that I had been wrong – our original bundle didn’t include Teletoon Retro. Those first few weeks had most likely been a free promotional period.

So I got two months of freebies, all because of something I wasn’t meant to have in the first place. Not exactly David and Goliath, but it still makes me all warm and fuzzy inside to think I got something not only for nothing, but due to my own mistake – and ultimately theirs too.

Walk a mile in these shoes


I’d like to know who designs flip-flops? Cause I’ve got a bone to pick with you.

It’s almost June. We’ve wallowed all week in hot, sunny weather. Women all over have been kicking off their shoes, peeling off their socks, and painting their toe nails in anticipation of wearing pretty sandals and cute flip-flops.

I was out shopping for a pair of flip-flops. Although I love sandals, walking around excessively with a new pair will only yield blisters, regardless of how much you spend. Since I’ve never been a fan of wearing sandals with either blood or band-aids, my solution is wearing flip-flops to and from work, and changing into sandals at the office.

After shopping, I came to two conclusions:

1. most flip-flops for women look obscenely cheap (even for flip-flops)

2. most flip-flops feel worse than they look

Usually, the sole is absolutely flat. It offers no comfort whatsoever, which is surprising for footwear basically made of compressed foam or rubber. The top is usually made up of cheap, stiff, too-often bedazzled man-made material, assembled by a small underfed child in China. Whoever designs these shoes hates women. Even the Airwalk and Nike varieties are designed as a form of punishment for feet.

I’ve found the men’s flip-flops to be marginally better. From Airwalk to American Eagle, the sole is thicker (although still hard) and the strap on top is often made of a cotton weave or leather strap. But I still wouldn’t wear them daily, even less if there’s a $30 price tag attached to them. $30. For flip-flops.

I used to laugh at people who would pay an outrageous $40-$50 for a pair of Crocs. What a gimmick! I’m sorry. You’re not going to sucker me into buying Crocs, no matter how big that crocodile smiles. First, they are nearly $50. Second, I’m not 12 years old.

Crocs clog

Crocs clog

Until the day I actually tried a pair of Crocs flip-flops. My feet discovered the soft, comfortable, lightweight, superior-gripping, non-marking and odor-resistant caress of Crocs’ proprietary closed-cell resin. The sole acts as a cushion, absorbing shock as you walk; and – can it be – arch support from a flip-flop! It’s the way walking was meant to be.

I happily dished out the $45. Because in the end, I’d rather pay a little more for a superior product. I still hold that the original Crocs clogs are best suited for children and tweens (and yes, both my daughters wear them), but I was happy to see the gift of comfort being extended to many other footwear styles, from sandals to high heel shoes.

More Crocs styles

More Crocs styles

On behalf of sore and tired feet everywhere, I declare Crocs the undefeated casual footwear hero.

Stop and smell the espresso, part deux


Come to Momma!

This morning, UPS delivered a relatively large parcel to our home. Finally – after two years of dutifully accumulating Air Miles, and thanks to SuperJan’s commendable customer service, we are now the proud owners of the highly anticipated, the one and only, this-is-what-espresso-should-be-like Jura Ena 5 espresso maker!

See how right and cozy the machine looks on our kitchen counter?

Our new Jura Ena 5

Our new Jura Ena 5

The other coffee accessories took to it right away: the espresso spoons hanging from their magnetic plate smile down warmly upon it; the chocolate dust anxiously awaits to be sprinkled ever so deliciously upon each cappuccino’s steamed milk; and the Kicking Horse Cliff Hanger espresso coffee (certified organic & fair trade), which by the way is the best damn coffee I’ve tasted so far and worth every penny, happily sacrifices itself in its duty to help create a fine cup of coffee.

Excuse me while I wipe a tear from my eye.

So before signing off for a little over a week, I’d like to thank SuperJan and Air Miles once more – not only for the Jura Ena 5, but for giving me hope that exemplary customer service from major corporations may not be as endangered a species as I thought.