Bitch and Rant

Formerly called "Places I Boycott"

RED is BAD-STOP don't shop

GREEN is Good - shop at these places

Grey is, as you might guess, a grey area. Good and/or bad

They just don't get it. All the establishments (red titles) listed in this blog gave me poor service. I'm not a complainer, I'll eat the steak if it isn't done right, without complaint. I'll remove the hair in the food and eat it. The food! I won't complain when I get slow service at the burger bar or the customer service at a store. But there are times when you just want justice when people fail to deliver. To quote from the movie Network: "I've had enough and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

I used to be in customer service and answered the phone 24/7 for the products I do service on. I gave 120% to my customers and would hang on or remain in the loop until they were satisfied. The buck stopped at Bob's phone. Consequently I expect similar service, or at least an ATTEMPT from the people I spend money with, or write letters to.

Poor customer service is like getting bad food at a restaurant. You never go back.

For research done on this topic, read this article: News : iSpeak (Reprinted by permission)

Symantec Corporation

I was a big Norton fan from DOS days for Pete's sake! I loved Norton Integrator and Norton Utilities and their disk doctor product where you could actually see the File allocation table code and stuff. Cool! I thought Peter Norton was a genius. Alas, I think he sold out to Symantec and things went downhill from there. I use PC Anywhere, a reasonably good product that I've had no problems with, but their Norton Antivirus is another matter. I was buying it every year as a bonus that came with my QuickTax software. Sometimes it worked. Most of the time it would crash or hang my XP computer and would bug the hell out of me when it scanned a Word file I created, for many minutes before saying it was Okay. I mean, I wrote the damn thing, but the AV would still take minutes to scan it. Stupid thing. Norton didn't find a virus that another program (McAffee) did. It was a big one too, and my AV was ALWAYS up-to-date because I had Auto-update on. AVG found it and killed it. I emailed Symantec about this and THEY didn't respond either. I didn't see the virus in their hit list and here I thought they were the Kings of the AV world! They have become too big and too complacent. I had about 9 months left on my AV subscription and I took Norton off and bought AVG antivirus. Not ONE problem with the latter. No hangups. No long scans for NOTHING. I love it. I hate Norton AV and will not recommend it to anyone. (And I'm a consultant for these kinds of things).

Pizza Hut Restaurant

I really liked Pizza Hut because they had different kinds of pizzas, including a pizza "desert" that no one else had. I visited Pizza Huts in Calgary, and in the United States and was disappointed with most of them. In one I was given sour chocolate milk, that was expired as shown on the date. I asked for a replacement and got another sour one. This one I hadn't opened because it had the same date as the previous one. At another place, my wife was given a salad with a moldy piece of lettuce. My friend and I went to a place in the USA and we waited an hour for a pizza that never came but was always promised. We left without eating. And another time, my wife found a hair in her food. I can see why the Pizza Hut in Calgary closed

Universal Ford and Ford Motor Company

I've been a Ford man for 45 years. Read this letter I sent to Universal Ford and FMC. Did I get a reply? No.

Dear Sir,

Read this if you care about why I, a former, loyal, customer did NOT buy a Ford.. I have been a Ford man all my life, starting with a 1953 Ford in 1965. With a few exceptions, every one of the 24 vehicles I've owned has been a Ford. I bought two vehicles from Universal, a used Chev Sonoma in 1995, and a new 1997 Ford F150. For the last ten years I have had all my service and oil changes done at your shop. The Ford truck was phenomenal, the best of the 24 vehicles I owned. I drove it relatively trouble-free for 10 years. At first I was a Gold Card holder, then a CFL. Your service department employees, Chris Torok and Larry Madden especially have been very good to me and my truck. I never had an issue with any service you did, although one time Dag never contacted me when there was a $1000 hit on a service requirement.

Your body shop needs some work. I had to take my truck back 4 times to get my door fixed. There was a problem with wind noise they couldn't fix (hence 3 trips), and then a piece of plastic moulding they said they couldn't get anymore. In any case, were it not for the CFL card and the $500 credit I get with it, I would not have taken it back there the 3rd and 4 time. The eventual job they did was good, but I'll never take a vehicle there again, or recommend it to anyone.

Last year I wanted to buy a new car for my wife, something sporty, around $20,000. I went to Universal FIRST and was disappointed that the salesman could not show me anything. The only cars that were close were a couple Escapes but they were black, and very plain looking. I was not shown or given any brochures. I went back on two occasions, when I was there for maintenance on my truck, to try and buy a Ford. Nothing. So I went to every other car dealer/manufacturer in the area and settled on a 2005 Chevy Cobalt for about $19,000. A new car, in yellow (not offered on Escape), new engine, sporty, and a dealer who wanted to sell me a vehicle!

This year I went to the CMDA show because I wanted to buy a new truck. Ford had the nicest display, but the only small truck Ford had was a very boring Ranger, with no options. Plastic everywhere, nothing special. I saw the Mazdas and was very impressed with the B4000, like the beautiful demo they had at the show. Regardless, I went back to Universal to buy a Ranger but once again was not shown anything of interest. You had no stock and what you did have was crap! I was shown a 2005 model that was nice, but I wanted a 2006. I asked for a brochure and was told there were none so I was given a photocopy, without pictures. Again I went back 3 times to buy a Ranger and could not even get to the point of sitting in an office to discuss options and price.

I went to the "Invitation Only Event" you had. Now that was a joke! I got a special invitation in the mail, then a follow-up phone call to see if I was going to attend. I thought I was going to have to rent a tuxedo! Wow! This was going to be something! I invited my wife there at lunch time, telling her about the big "shin-dig" you were having. When we arrived and handed in our invitation we were on our own. No one to greet us, no salesman to ask us why we were there (we were wondering ourselves), no big demonstrations or events of interest. No food! We were offered popcorn and a bottle of water! It is laughable that you would invite someone to such an "event". We expected hors oeuvres, we got popcorn! People really laugh when I tell them that story.

I found out the Customer for Life and Gold Card programs were changed so they were no longer as "sweet" as they were. This was the only reason I went to you guys for oil changes and service. (I can do these things myself). Not continuing with this incentive is a big mistake on your part.

Last week I sold my F150, so I needed a new vehicle. I didn't even stop at Universal. I went to Marlborough Ford and was ignored there as well (even after asking the receptionist to page someone to sell me a truck), so I went to Mazda, then Dodge and Toyota. What a difference! Here were people that wanted to sell me a vehicle! They answered all my questions, showed me all kinds of vehicles and I got to test drive one vehicle from each dealer. When I first walked into Toyota, a girl greeted me and said it was her job to "make sure no one stands around waiting and to make sure a salesman was available." I was given all kinds of pricing options in clear language. I was told what kind of truck I could have � NOW ! I was offered a free coffee. The sales manager came in to introduce himself, and I hadn't even been that serious about buying at that point. They gave me two brochures, one 2006, the other 2007. I was told the bottom line that the 2006 was mine for 3.6% financing, the 2007 for 5.6% financing and they could "deal" on both. I bought the 2007 Toyota, a Tacoma with all the bells and whistles for which I paid $40,000 cash. Toyota offered NO incentives on their vehicles (not the trucks anyway) but they had a winning attitude and were willing to accommodate and discuss the purchase with me. When I decided to buy, they were willing to deal and gave me $1000 in options. They even took $5000 on my Visa card

I feel bad for Ford. In my business (computer control systems), when a long-time customer buys a competitors product this really tells about the organization, service, and salesmanship of the company. Have I given up on Universal? Yes. On Ford? Yes. I still have my Mustang and will defend IT'S honor, but no more than that. I'm a Toyota man now. No wonder Ford is in trouble. Former Customer for Life

Canadian Tire (Auto Repair)

My wife had an overheating and antifreeze-loss problem with her 4 liter Mustang so I told her to take it to Canadian Tire. After all, they are my favourite store for tools, parts, car stuff, hardware, you name it. First they replaced the thermostat and of course they never saved the antifreeze so they charged her for another gallon. The engine still overheated. Then they did a radiator/engine flush which they said they "had" to do. That didn't work either. Then they changed out the water pump. I knew now they were getting pretty ridiculous because, though a defective water pump could cause the engine to overheat, there was no evidence of this from other symptoms. For example, the water pump did not leak through the bleed hole, indicating the seal was shot. Also, there was no high pitch squeal from the water pump, typical of a failure. Finally, a visual inspection of the water pump showed no problems with worn or broken impeller blades. So why did they change it? Of course it didn't fix the problem and now the costs were over $100 for the pump replacement. I went to Canadian Tire and had a discussion with the service manager who found it difficult to talk his way out of this one, so he suggested we talk to the mechanic. I asked the same questions, "Why did you replace the water pump" and "If the first thing you "repaired" didn't work, why were we charged for it? To the latter, he responded "because the car needed it". Talk about ridiculous. I asked if they checked the thermostat they took out (by putting in hot water and measuring temperature of when it opened). They said no. So my question was, "if you didn't test it, how do you know it was needed...especially since it DIDN'T FIX THE PROBLEM!???" When I told him the symptoms of a bad water pump he asked me somewhat acidly, "So you're a mechanic now?" I said yes, and a "better one than you are". He got real testy and was ready to bop me one and I was ready to respond. In the end, my wife got all her money back and since it would cost more to take out the new water pump than it was worth, they let us keep it. Oh yeah, I took the "defective" pump to another company, Moores Engine service and they said there was nothing wrong with the pump! Of course there wasn't.

Moores, incidentally, found the problem by looking at the symptoms and saw that water was leaking into the crankcase. A further inspection showed that a head bolt had snapped on the aluminum engine allowing antifreeze to leak out. Leaking into the engine was a recent phenomena, earlier it was leaking down the side of the block where it was very difficult to see.

Dec 2007

A week before Christmas, I couldn't get my truck into the Toyota dealer for service because they were too full. Toyota said it was because so many people travel at Christmas they want to make sure their vehicle is in good working order. I walked by the Canadian Tire store I regularly shop at and noticed that EVERY one of their 10 stalls (each holding 3 vehicles) was empty. Not ONE vehicle in there and the floor was perfectly clean. It's good the mechanics found something they can actually do well...

I went back on Dec 27 (2007) to buy a sander that had been listed on sale a few days before Christmas. They would not give me the unit for the sale price stating that the rule is that only one day grace is allowed. I asked them what the difference was (now it was 5-6 days) and they said "if we did this for every customer it would get out of hand". Well I was only the one customer with money to spend. The sander didn't cost them any more so they would make the same profit they would have had they sold it to me last week. The manager who had been called over to discuss my request had just been arguing vehemently with a Pakistani couple. Obviously Canadian Tire is more interested in making a couple bucks extra than having good customer relations. If my customer ever yelled at me, I'd be fired for not handling his requests effectively. I bought the sander somewhere else.

World of Wheels Car Show

The organizers of this yearly February show could do a lot better and make the Calgary date the biggest in the ISCA (International Show Car Association) group. I was at the WoW in 2007 as a participant and found a bunch of issues that could have been handled better. An email I sent was replied to by an organizer who said he "acknowledged all the statements I made" but he didn't comment one way or the other on individual items so it's unlikely things will change. The WoW gets about 300 cars every year for the indoor show. The Three Hills Car Show, outside on main street gets over 1000 every year.

These are the complaints about the 2007 WoW:

  • Only one door to load into.
  • Long wait to get in. I waited 1-1/2 hours and I got there early in the morning.
  • Parking ($10) was too expensive. Why should exhibitors pay in the first place? We are making YOU money.
  • Although I said I wanted power, the Stampede event management did not have me listed. They were nice - they gave me the discount anyway. They said WOW was very disorganized.
  • I saw one ad on TV and heard 2-3 on Q107. The Boat Show had more
  • No participant badges. No one could tell us from otherpatrons and therefore were reluctant to talk to us. On the other hand, the people in my Club, the Alberta Mustangs Auto Club all had their own badges, making it obvious these people had answers to questions
  • Too many Class Awards. It's okay to give one to everyone as a participant, but why do it in the theater? Just pass them out at each car. Save us all time and allow us to spend the time with our cars. ( I hated leaving my car alone).
  • The guywho built the long front-wheel bikes got 3 awards. He was the only guy with this type of display. This is ridiculous and even he admitted this to me when I went to congratulate him. No wonder WoW ran out of awards!
  • Very few foreign (non-Alberta or Canada) entries. Only the Colorado guy and a couple guys from Winnipeg. At the Mustang International Meet in 2004, there were entrants from BC, AB, SK, MA, Montana, Washington, California, Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota, and Oregon.
  • Having the WOW in winter is crazy. Three Hills gets 1200 participants a year because the show 'n shine is in summer. Most participants DRIVE there, and don't have to worry about trailering and weather.

The Ugly

  • The hugging at the beginning was "cute" but got out of hand and looked very childish in the end. People were walking out before the awards were all handed out which was not fair to those who hadn't got their awards yet.
  • The goodie-bag was a joke! I got a pen, a T-shirt and a dash plate, to mention the only items of worth. A couple years in a row our Mustang Club had 25-37 (the high year) items of worth: pens, key chains, wax and cleaner samples, t-shirts, $10-100 credits at establishments, food vouchers, dash plaques, paper holders or pads. The list goes on and on. At a Parts Source drag-race show, the participants got over $100 in samples from the stores. Surely a show ofWOW caliber could have got more stuff with more aggressive people asking for the handouts.
  • The line-up for Ray Mysterio (wrestler) was really, really bad. First, it was delayed an hour so everyone in the line-up became quite agitated and looked for other things to do, especially the kids. The line-up was in front of my car and my stanchions got knocked over twice, dislodged 3-4 times, pictures got stood on, no one could see my car because it was 3-thick in front, everyone in line left garbage like fries, gum, paper, etc that I had to clean up after. Friends who came to see me couldn't talk to me (we tried, yelling across the lineup). No one would break the line because they were afraid to lose their place. Because the line was so thick, other patrons could barely pass and none could stop to see my car and others, for over 2 hours. The '57 Chev in front of me had all kinds of finger marks on it, the truck behind was scratched from people leaning on it, pushing others onto it, etc. I had to ride shotgun for almost 3 hours, moving people away from my signs, my ropes, my stanchions. This was totally unacceptable.

General Comment:

  • When I saw the long-haired judge laying on the floor looking under my car, I stated that he could expect to find dirt because my car was and is a daily-driver, of which I have much proof. I think there should have been a daily-driver class. I could never compete with a "trailer-queen"and 95-98% of the cars there were trailered,never havingseen road dirt. I even raced my car at Race City regularly for 5 years before this show!

Addendum:

  • When I volunteered to help for WoW 2008 but my request was not acknowledged. I figure you shouldn't complain if you can't come up with solutions, so I volunteered to take pictures of every participant and arrange to have the pictures shown in the theatre when they won their prize, kinda like the Oscars. I had seen this done at an International Mustang event and it was very, very effective. No answer to my email.

Channel 13, Access TV Calgary

What boneheads. We were watching a movie (The Phone Booth) and with 5-10 minutes remaining, they cut the movie off at precisely 11:00 PM. They then ran the stupid program regularly scheduled for that time slot. We continued to watch, thinking it was just an internal commercial, but no, the program never returned. When I complained via their web site, they never responded. I complained to the CRTC who said there was nothing they could do about TV programming! What the hell is the CRTC for, then, anyway?

Then I watched Monk and the entire program was skewed with no sound sometimes, no video, then distorted video and sound - for the entire hour. Next week the SAME THING! Are they idiots or what? I complained again, but in true arrogance, they did not reply. A month later, we were watching another movie and the stupid people did the SAME THING! At precisely 11:00 PM, they cut the end of the movie by 5-10 minutes. I complained again, and got a form letter from them. I complained to CRTC and got nothing. My response: we don't watch that channel AT ALL anymore! The other day the best movie of the night was on channel 13, but we elected to do something else instead of getting abused again. (We only have 4 free channels).

Guyon Racing

Of all the businesses I put the most trust in, Guyon came out on top. I spent 10's of thousands of dollars with him. He did excellent work, guaranteed his work, and was always true to his estimates. If he said, "$500", then that's what it was, no more, no less. When he sold out the business went to hell and closed within the year. He had good workers that had stayed on, but the new management sucked big time.

ING Direct (Internet Bank)

These guys are great. They have an easy-to-maneuver web-site, they have the best interest rate on savings, GICs and RRSPs in the industry and they answer their emails!!! They don't have branches but are just an Internet Bank. They also have contests and promotions where you can win or earn money. If I could make my bill payments through them and have a good way to deposit cheques and stuff, I'd use them exclusively.

Royal Bank

These guys are great. They have an easy-to-maneuver web-site, they have the best interest rate on savings, GICs and RRSPs in the industry and they answer their emails!!! They don't have branches but are just an Internet Bank. They also have contests and promotions where you can win or earn money. If I could make my bill payments through them and have a good way to deposit cheques and stuff, I'd use them exclusively.

Okay, I hate ALL banks. They nit-pick and nickle and dime everyone to death, yet they post profits in the billions of dollars. In my mutual funds, the best investments are the banks. They charge me $1.50 to send money by email, $1.50 if I get money from a bank machine that isn't owned by them. They charge me to see a photocopy of my cheques! Man, that infuriates me to no end! The interest they give (except for ING which I don't consider in this group at all) is pathetically low, and emails get responded to by a form letter. I recently sent the bank an email stating that the fact I was charged $1.50 for a bank machine transaction pissed me off so much, I took $20,000 out of savings there and put it in the ING. Did they care? No. They sent me a form letter explaining that transactions from a non-Royal Bank machine have the $1.50 surcharge. Duh! That's why I was complaining in the first place!

So why is this complaint on the GREEN side?

Update: The new guy is Nick Gill and he is every bit as good as Bob S. was. I highly recommend him. He even laughs a lot at my jokes which is a bonus. So I've kept my money in RBC, all my investments are there, I've even got a couple loans from them. I trust them because I trust Nicky.

Mopac Racing Equipment

Mopac has everything you need for car racing. They have a great stock, a good catalog and will get you whatever you want from their other warehouses or locations at no extra cost. They gave me good deals. There are a couple cranky guys there who whine if you bring something back, but the two guys I deal with are super customer reps.

Staples

I finally gave up on ink jet printers and decided to upgrade to a color laser printer. Looking on the web, I found a real nice one at Tiger Direct for about $500, but the shipping from "wherever" (USA probably) was over $200. I found out that Staples sold Brother printers so I went to their on-line store and found the model I wanted for about $600 with delivery FREE! So I bought it and 3 days later it was delivered to my door. Now how is that for service?

Another time I had a coupon for $25 from previous purchases made. I had been carrying it around for months, and on the day I used it I was informed it had become expired by almost a couple MONTHS! The girl at Customer Service told me, "let me call the manager, maybe we can do something". She did and without blinking an eye, the manager, said, "Yeah, no problem. Honor it for full value". How is THAT for service?

It doesn't stop there. I had purchased a bunch of ink jet ink for my now dead ink printer (see paragraph above) and wanted to return it. I had bought the ink in March, and here it was November so I was dubious about getting a refund. The pleasant lady at Customer Service told me it was quite a while since I bought the ink but she would refund me the amount anyway. Now that's service.

Update 2012: No change in their service, they still handle customers well, but their prices are traditionally higher than other competitors and lately their deliveries have been poorly managed.

AandW Restaurants

AandW has a great, cheap breakfast and you get free refills on coffee. Tim Horton's you gotta pay extra for refills. MacDonalds is good too, on the refill side of things and also they have good coffee, but AandW has FRENCH TOAST and they make it better than 90% of the restaurants that serve this. I know, because I have made it my mission to find the best French Toast, which I have sampled in about 6 provinces, and 3 countries.

Update: The absolute BEST in the WORLD is at the Travelodge in Regina, Saskatchewan and I even wrote them an email to tell them so. But, getting back to AandW, I get a great French Toast for $3.99, consistently at any of their restaurants in Canada.

Nucleus Internet Services

Nucleus was my ISP, using DSL. They had a great tech support, guys that went out of their way to help me in the early days of Internet usage. They also sponsored me in my drag racing. I put a big decal on my car and they gave me $500 a year to buy race fuel. Always a pleasure to deal with and their DSL was faster at the time than Shaw cable was.

Future Shop

Ahh, what can I say about Future Shop that is good? Nothing. Not after they destroyed my car installing a stereo system, keeping the car 3x longer than they promised, then charging the hell out of me. I expected quality work but these guys were amateurs. I mean , what professional electronics guy would twist wires together to make a "permanent" connection?

Here's a list of the wrongs they did:

  • ran power to wrong side

They put in a big red 1/0 cable (big like your thumb) on the passenger side, then ran it across the firewall to the driver's side where the battery was. Isn't that stupid? This was a show car with lots of chrome under the hood and they made the whole thing ugly by running the cable across the firewall. This is the first thing I fixed.

  • twisted wires together, no solder, no Stakons

They obviously expected me to accept the crap wiring and so didn't put in any quick connects. Wires were run in one run from head unit to amps in the back seat. They installed a radar detector and security system as well with the same dodo wiring but the best was 50 feet of extra cable that connected the back radar sensor to the control up front. It had a 4 conductor RJ (like telephone) connector. With all the equipment they have access to, including in the store itself, couldn't they have just cut the cable and installed a new connector? No? I did!

  • Paint scratches and smudges all over car
  • Dirty engine

They didn't cover the engine as I asked. The engine is chrome and got all dusty, making me work a lot to get it clean again.

  • Security bar not installed

I told them to keep the bar installed so the car wouldn't get stolen. True, there were times it had to be off to do the work, but the car was there for many months with nothing being done on the car.

  • Keys in ignition
  • Car put outside

The car's a convertible show car. I told them to keep it inside. More than once I went past the shop to see the car outside and another vehicle in my former parking spot. This really got me fuming.

  • Head unit uncovered, upside down in rear seat, stuff piled on top
  • Project 4 months behind schedule.
  • I paid for insurance for 4 months @ $80/month
  • Made >12 trips to Future Shop
  • Rescheduled my own customers 3 times (mon, tue, wed)
  • Took time off from work 2-3 times to get things sorted out, pick up, deliver car.
  • Many promises made, including calls from Carl (the store manager) never happened!
  • Broken windshield, I had to take time off to take car in - and wait.

Compensation:

The windshield was compensated for by taking off $500 from the main bill for the glass and my time and trouble to get it installed. (Paradoxically, my total bill went up too...)

Some advertising was applied inside the car and I was not compensated for it. I wanted $500 but it was refused.

I was given $300 Future Shop credit. This covers the insurance I had to pay, but there was no compensation for the paint scratches and smudges. Also, despite techs cleaning the engine, it's impossible to get all the dust out that came from the shop

I also spent much time going back and forth to the shop to make sure work was being done and being done correctly. I should be compensated for that too.

2 years later as I'm trying to make modifications to the alarm system, I'm having difficulty resolving the differences in the alarm module wiring with the wiring in the manual I received from them. The manual was from a Viper 791XV. When I took out the module in the car, it was a 690XV! My bill said I was sold a 690XV, so I wasn't too hot under the collar. However, I wanted the latest and greatest when I bought the alarm system and if there was a 791XV manual, there MUST have been a 791XV system available. So they sold me old crap stock.

It's been about 5 years now and I haven't bought one single thing at Future Shop, and realize I'm a gizmo guy that always wants the latest and the best hi-tech appliance available. I estimate they lost about $20,000 from me...because of a couple hundred bucks they refused to COMPENSATE me for and their crappy customer service

Update 2013: Another 6 years, and I still haven't bought ANYTHING from these guys. I buy from Staples, TigerDirect, Best Buy, even Visions occasionally.

ADT Security

They lied to me about the buyout price of the alarm after my 5 year contract, charging me a lot of money for what they said would be "free" after the 5 year contract. That's why I got the contract in the first place. Unfortunately the contract DID NOT say that, it was a verbal thing from the sales person. Three or four times there were phony alarms, requiring my neighbour to call the police and then monitor the house. ADT replaced a sensor and it was okay. No cops ever showed up, yet ADT was supposed to phone them. (my neighbour was phoned by ADT, did the inspection, called back, but ADT did not call the police).

After 5 years I cancelled the contract. It was about $30/month for piss-poor service, as noted above. I paid the big price to keep the unit because at least it had the horn that could scare away thieves. When my front door was replaced and I needed a sensor, the jerks did not even respond (twice) to my request for prices to replace it. I can replace it with a Radio Shack part, but I wanted the exact part that ADT used just to make life simple. They didn't cooperate so the hell with them. Boycott. Ask me what alarm system to use and I'll say Alarm Force, not ADT.

Update: I replaced the sensor with one I had in my electronic stock. It came from Radio Shack and I only paid about $4.00 for it.

Winks Food Store

They changed the name from Macs and they changed owners too. Previously there was always coffee available in the morning and it had a respectable price, like Esso or 7-Eleven. After the change, I was in there twice and both times the coffee pot was empty. When I did get a cup, it was priced way, way to high compared to the others. Another time I went there at 7:30 AM and they weren't open! Result? I don't go there. Do you think I want to take the time to park, get out of my truck, go in, only to find that there's no coffee? I don't need the stress.

Update: About 1 year later and I haven't even stopped there for emergency milk or bread. I take the long way and get it at Coop, Sobey's or Safeway.

Tim Hortons

Okay, I don't boycott Tim Hortons (do you think I'm nuts?) but I'm pissed at them for the way they take advantage of us consumers. Did you ever have their yogurt? It's expensive. Not only that, check the cup they put it in. They don't fill the top 1" of the cup, the volume of which is quite significant because the diameter is greatest at that point. When I complained to them in an email, they responded that they did that so that the product wouldn't expand and leak out of the cup. Oh yeah? Get a yogurt at MacDonalds. It's cheaper to start with and they fill the cup to the max. Their product doesn't expand I guess. Tim Horton's thinks we are all fools.

Bank of Montreal

I switched from BOM about 15 years ago because their MBanx internet banking service was real crap. I had made a mistake with my accounts, making one of them overdraft. I noticed the mistake right away and made the correction, because I had lots of money in the bank. They charged me an overdraft anyway. Despite my insistence that the time between the mistake and the recovery was only minutes, they insisted on "following the rules". Instead of using common-sense, they went with what the computerized system was programmed to do. I fought with them tooth and nail because it was about principle, not the paltry $20 I was charged for the overdraft. They refused to comply, so I took all my money out of there. I had savings, checking, deposit box, cheques, credit card, and lots of investments. I threatened, they didn't listen. It was not an easy task changing banks: new cheques, new people to talk to, different techniques, etc. I took everything out except a few term investments.

When I went to discuss my investment alternatives at the BOM, the advisor was a complete idiot. She didn't know her ass from a hole-in-the-ground, so last year, I started chipping away at the RRSPs and when they came due, I put them into my new bank: the Royal Bank.

And another thing...I like to do my income tax returne early and file with Netfile. I find that this gets me my refund back much earlier. In 2006, I had all my documents (so I thought) and filed my income tax around March timeframe. A month later we (wife and I) get a statement from BOM showing some interest we had to include on our income tax. This was very inconvenient, having to re-file because it's a different process than filing the first time. Every other bank had sent me the proper documents (T3, T5) early, as expected.

AMD Processors

I bought an ASUS motherboard and a fast AMD processor for my video computer. In seemed to be working fine but I was getting weird errors from either Adobe Premiere or the Matrox NLE card I was using. The system was not happy and everything pointed to the processor as the culprit. This was my first AMD processor. I had bought another ASUS board for a different computer and since it was capable of taking a fast Intel processor, I used that mobo instead, with the Intel chip. Problem solved. No more issues.

I then sold the ASUS and AMD together to a colleague. He called me later to say that the system did not work and when they brought it to a store to troubleshoot it, the store guys told them the MPU was cooked! How the hell did that happen? I used it for 2 months and it was fine when I took the system out of service. I was careful installing it in the case so I doubt I damaged it. (I'm confident my colleague didn't damage it either.)

I got on the web to ASUS and AMD to get warranty. ASUS responded right away, gave me a RMA to return the mobo, and a number of weeks later they told me there was nothing wrong with my board and sent it back to me.

AMD on the other hand pretty well ignored my requests, not only through the self-help warranty request process, but also directly by email. I finally got some form letter response from the jerks who told me that since it was not purchased installed on a mobo, that there was no warranty. (Forget the fact that a) I'm a certified Dell tech, b) been in electronics business for 30 years, even teaching it, c)I built more than one computer myself at the chip and PC board level, and d) the computer ran for 2 months with my installation.) Tiger Direct ignored me as well, even more so, not responding to one email. Tiger is where I bought the system.

So the idiots at AMD lost out on any potential future sales from me. ASUS? I have 3 mobos from them and I will buy the next one from them. AMD? Never. I often consult on computers and when asked my opinion I spit it out: Don't buy AMD. Buy Intel. Buy ASUS.

Tiger Direct

These guys have the greatest selection and the best prices but if there is a problem with anything you buy there, don't ask Tiger for help. I had issues with rebates that the rebate issuer was not handling properly. It got so bad that I had to contact the BBB in Florida to get involved. Tiger said "we are not responsible", despite advertising big time that there is a rebate available for products they sell. When I had the AMD problem, they didn't even respond to my many emails. Result? I don't buy anything from them anymore. I took them off my mailing and favourite lists. Sure, they'll make money off some other sucker, but they won't off me and my friends who I will not recommend them to! I'm a gizmo guy making good money and I spend it foolishly on toys like those sold by Tiger Direct. No more. I shop at Best Buy and Staples now.

Update: I've gone back. You just can't beat their prices. But watch about warranty.

Visions Electronics

It's hard to believe that some of these places refused to honor some commitment, say to refund $20 on an item found elsewhere for $20 less. This is when they advertise they will beat any competitors price and have this "price guarantee". What they did was piss me off and I made a note to myself not to shop there anymore. Result? Maybe $5000 not spent there! This is the story about Visions. I bought a radar detector there for X dollars and found the same one advertised by someone else for $20 less. I went to Visions and pointed out their price guarantee. They pulled out a list of qualifications/rules that seemed to fill a complete page. I met all the main qualifications: had to be advertised, had to be within a certain date, could only make the claim at a certain time, and of course, had to be the identical model. I don't recall what it was they called me on, but I was so livid and shocked I asked to speak to the manager. He upheld the ruling! I was aghast! It was a little thing, like I bought the kit and the one advertised was OEM or something. For a lousy $20 difference they lost all my business. I never bought anything there since, although I did go into the store to look around. I would have needed something REALLY bad or the price was REALLY good before I bought there again. I didn't. I wrote a letter to the Better Business Bureau, the federal competition bureau and of course to Visions. Nothing came of it. They ignored the BBB.

2011 (the reason it went from red to grey): When I lived in Calgary I purchased a 26" LCD TV from Visions because they had a good one at a reasonable price. In fact, of the places I checked their price was the best. They convinced me to buy the 3 year extended warranty which I NEVER buy on an item because this stuff is made so well it'll last 20 years without failure. They got me though when the sales guy said, if I didn't use the warranty, they would give me my money back for it. Well 3 years passed and so I hit them up for it. "sure, no problem, just fill in the webform". I did that and lo and behold, a short time later got a $189.99 credit put on my Visa. Mind you I had to spend $400 in order to use the credit, then they would apply the credit to my Visa. So, I bought another netbook computer 'cause mine was recently destroyed and a new digital camera, the only digital camera I actually bought for myself. Now I got the camera okay, a brand new 12 megapixel Fuji, but the netbook was a mistake: it was a used computer that did not work! So, I thought, okay, this is going to be a problem, likely. Well, I contacted customer support, they apologized profusely, sent me documents to ship it back at THEIR COST, and expedited a new computer to me. Now THAT's customer service. Perhaps they have new owners or new managers at this company, or maybe someone smartened up and bang some heads. Whatever, they are doing the right thing.

Oh, yeah, the price on both of these items was LESS than Tiger Direct AND there was no charge for SHIPPING! I think Visions is going to become my favourite web store.

Coffee Time Donuts

When they first opened up on our corner, we went there on weekends for coffee and a donut and I would pick up a dozen donuts whenever I visited a customer site. They made huge, good donuts. This is when two white women ran the show. The quality was great, the shop was always very clean. Then they sold out to Pakistanis and the quality started to suffer. The place became a pig pen. We stopped going there on Saturday but I continued to buy donuts. One day I bought a dozen and when they were being packed I smelled something funny. Definitely not the smell of fresh donuts. When I was waiting in the truck for a colleague, I opened the box and bit into one. Yuck! These were stale from the weekend. They sold me shit! I threw the box out into the parking lot for the birds, then went to Tim Hortons. I predicted this place wouldn't last and within 6 months the place was closed. They made the best cinnamon buns in Calgary.

Walmart

formerly a RED entry!

Walmart is great for good prices on virtually anything. Can you imagine buying a pair of prescription sunglasses, with lenses and frame for $83? Anywhere else, they would be $300! So what's my complaint? Well it's not with glasses. It's with batteries.

I went to Walmart to buy an Optima car battery, the best battery to buy for car stereo systems. I get there when an Optima rep was helping put up a display for batteries. This was next to a sign that said,"No refunds, no substitutions, no..." What the hell is that about? Apparently they are worried that people who pick their own battery may not get the "proper" one for their application (this was for all their batteries, not just the Optima) and somehow screw things up. No refunds. Tough shit! I discussed this with the Optima guy who said there was a good warranty on his battery. I asked, "yeah, but Walmart won't take it back, so what's the point?" He told me I could go and rattle the store manager to get what I want! What a stupid thing to say. So I didn't buy a battery there. I went to the Battery Shop who gave me all the information I wanted, the warranties, the straight goods. Walmart: Take down your sign or stop selling batteries".

Update 1: In Dec 2008, I bought a 5 KW generator from them, on sale at $450. Sears had the same unit in their catalog for about $1200!!! So yeah, Walmart can be silly sometimes, but their prices are hard to beat.

Update 2: May 2014 I bought a Canon camera online from them. Free delivery to my country home. Amazon wanted $158 for it, Walmart wanted $74. It's a discontinued model yet on eBay there wasn't one vendor who was cheaper than Walmart.

Telus Communications

What crappy service! And I was a shareholder too!

First of all they were slow out the gate to give us high speed ADSL internet. I would have gone with them but Nucleus was advertising and they were eager for my business. It's ironic that Nucleus had to use the Telus lines and go back to a Telus interchange to do all this! I have been with Nucleus ever since, almost 10 years despite the attempts of Telus to get my business

Then Telus came out with that ridiculous small yellow pages phone book for "our area" whatever the hell that was, I think it was NE part of Calgary. Why would I keep two Yellow Pages around, this dumb little one and a big one for ALL of Calgary? Did they really think that we are that withdrawn that we (the customers) would only shop our little area? Dumb dumb dumb. I sent them a letter. They didn't respond.

When the media reported that Telus had the worst service of any provider and crappy phone service (this after they laid off hundreds of service personnel to cut costs), the president came on TV promising things would be fixed. I do believe he included his email address to show how resolved he was in his statements. So I sent him an email. Got no response. I indicated that a response to my email would show he was being honest. He didn't reply so he wasn't. Okay, so maybe he got 1000 emails. So what? Even sending a form letter to me (and the other 999) would have appeased me. At least they READ it! Well, they didn't do that so Telus is off my good guys list.

I've since sent emails asking for quotes for Internet Service and ADSL (just to see where they come in) and they don't respond to that either! What is wrong with these people? (See SHAW - they are no better). I sent them some other emails telling them how they can improve their service, with a cell phone directory (instead of just the white pages), and how they can get the ADSL market back by offering sweet deals. They don't do either and haven't answered any email I have ever sent.

I figured if these dumb people were running Telus, then it would be stupid for me to invest with them, so I sold my Telus shares.

I recently had issues with my ADSL connection and called Telus. They came out 3 times when things still didn't work, even replacing an ADSL modem that my Internet Service Provider had put in. The tech did this on two Saturdays in a row and I think a Wednesday. Very responsive. The problem was NOT a Telus issue in the end but rather with the ADSL modem!! Telus did not charge me. So, on the service side, they are really good. I take back a lot of what I said above.

Best Buy

Like Visions, don't expect warranty from these guys.

I bought a remote car starter that was installed by Best Buy. I bought the good one too, with feedback so I knew when the engine started. Shortly thereafter, I noticed a crack in the LCD display that now no longer worked.

I took it back to Best Buy who asked if I had the extended warranty on the item. When I said no, they replied that if I had the extended warranty they could replace the unit right away. Otherwise I'd have to send the unit back to manufacturer. Say what? What kind of crap is that?

The back of the install sheet said the unit was warrantied for 1 year and Best Buy should have taken care of it. They should replace the unit with a new one that THEY obtain from manufacturer. If I had known this was how they were going to handle warranty, I would have bought the unit off the Internet for 1/2 the price! What's the advantage of paying more to a vendor when he doesn't even handle warranty for you?

The replacement cost, if I wanted to buy a new one, was $150. Yeah, for just the remote!

It's important to note that Best Buy didn't REJECT my claim because I was somehow responsible for breaking the unit. They didn't even CONSIDER my claim!

Okay it was summer now, I didn't need it, but when winter reared it's ugly head and my remote didn't work, I went back to Best Buy. Same story. I contacted the manufacturer who said they wouldn't warranty it because it had been a year since I bought it. They were a little concerned Best Buy would pull the old extended warranty crap on me, but they still refused to help me out. At one point they offered me a new remote for $49.00, but by then, I had opened the remote up, removed the LCD, so that now the unit would work without eating batteries. No display, but the vehicle starts. Why should I pay ANYTHING? What does "1 year warranty mean anyway?"

I sent a complaint to the Better Business Bureau. Best Buy head office responded to me by saying they needed more information and a copy of my contract. What contract? The extended warranty? What idiots! This wasn't about Best Buy not honoring THEIR extended warranty, but about them not honoring the manufacturers warranty! Plus, there was no email address and no 1-800 number. Is that customer service, forcing your customers to spend MORE money to get warranty they should have got hassle-free in the first place? I said the hell with it. I'd rather buy a new remote from another manufacturer and/or dealer. Hey, I know, I'll shop on the Internet and buy one from the USA for 1/2 the price!

No wonder Best Buy is empty of customers most of the time I go there.

2013. I bought a couple laptops at Best Buy for friends and the store guys are okay. I also purchased a number of items over the web and was satisfied. They have good prices and are worth checking out. This is reason Best Buy is now in Grey Area instead of Red where it was before this .

Optima Batteries

I don't know why these batteries are rated so high, because they are absolute crap. I've had 3 of them starting with a Blue Top I bought at a performance auto shop. It didn't work from the git-go and wouldn't take a charge. I returned it and was told to get a Yellow Top, which they had to order in for me. This one lasted just a little over two years, past the crappy warranty period, and I had to buy another one. I waited awhile, then just before a car show I was taking my car too I bought another, at a battery store that sold, well, just batteries. This one lasted about a year and then would not take a charge. It charged enough to start the car, let me take the car to work, then failed when I was leaving work, much to my embarrassment! I had to get a boost! Yeah, my fancy show-off car and I had to boost it.

I tried to charge it on a trickle charger and couldn't get the voltage over 11 volts. I took it back to the battery shop and he said he couldn't get Optimas any more but he would honor the warranty and BOUGHT the battery back. This was Battery World. Highly recommended

In the meantime I put in the battery I bought at Canadian Tire about 6-7 years ago for my race car. It was stored and trickle charged occasionally throughout the winter like the Optima was, but this one still performs flawlessly. Oh, I bought another battery (since the first was a little too tall) - it has a 6 year warranty. The lead-acid in my F150 truck is still going after 13 years!

I sent an email to Optima describing the events and asked for a response. They did not respond. Piss on them then. They get a bad rap and suffer my wrath by being listed on this web-site. Don't buy their crap, it doesn't work and they don't have tech support that cares.

July 2013 I bought another Optima last year, or maybe the year before because it was the one that fit with a chrome/aluminum cover I had. It didn't last. The battery is dead and all attempts to charge it with my expensive and capable "smart" charger proved fruitless. It is a piece of shit. Once again, don't buy their crap. I put in a cheap Canadian Tire battery with 5 year warranty, will likely last 10 years.

7-11

This store, unlike the useless Winks, does everything right! First of all they have 2 or 3 people in the store for security and assistance at the till when required. They have a post office, which is my main reason for going there, but they also have fresh pasteries, take-out lunches with fruit and they have about 10 pots of coffee, different types and multiples of the most common Colombian coffee. Their prices for a good cup of coffee is about 1/2 that of Tim Horton's. The staff is always helpful and courteous. The parking sucks because they are in a strip mall with a gas station and restaurant and a few other places. I often walk to 7-11 for a coffee, even though it's about 3-4 blocks further than that stupid Winks store.

I often see one of the workers continuously clean up and make more coffee in the morning during the rush. They have never run out of coffee.

Oh yeah, 7-11 even has a self-serve 649 ticket checker

Microsoft

Well now, I officially hate Microsoft. For years I defended the company because it is really due to them, ie Bill Gates, for this computer revolution we are in. Sure he made lots of money along the way, but he deserved every cent of it. I recall when I first started making a web page and was getting assistance from a guy in our car club. When I mentioned I wanted to use Microsoft Front Page for the editor, this guy went ballistic. He said if I used that product, I could expect no more help from him. I did use Front Page because it was very easy to use, it worked superbly and I could create pages very rapidly with it's WYSIWYG interface. Very intuitive. (The guy never spoke to me again, and I could never figure out what his problem was.) Most of the pages on this web site were made with Front Page or the follow-up program Expressions Web.

When I had problems with my XP upgrades (from ME), Microsoft helped a lot by staying in email contact with me, trying to solve the issues. Eventually they sent me a CD of XP that wasn't an upgrade so I could make it work. They did the same when I upgraded to XP2. For some reason their web downloads didn't work. So I got three CDs from them with XP-SP2 on it, for free.

They didn't help when my Media Player didn't work and I gave up after awhile because the answers I was getting were not advancing my cause. So I bought Media Monkey and AVS Media to do the work. Note that previous versions of MP worked for me, it was only when I upgraded to 9.0 and 10.0 that things failed. Besides MP wasn't playing mpegs at the time, and I don't think it could convert audio files to mp3, although it did play them.

I used Internet Explorer exclusively since day 1 and couldn't understand why everyone wanted to use something else, like Mozilla Firefox. Now I know, and I hate Microsoft.

I purchased Microsoft Expressions because my old Front Page wouldn't work anymore with my new Vista 64 O/S. It was 2002 version anyway and to upgrade to 2003 was a only a little less than the cost of Expressions Web. There were a few issues with it, for example, when browsing for photos within the Expressions application, the only view I could get was textual, no thumbnails. Yet, in Windows Explorer, it worked fine. Okay, so that was a workaround. Here's where I started to lose faith in Microsoft. When I asked them this simple question why it didn't work, they said in order to answer the question I would have to give them my Visa number. If the question was "valid", whatever the hell that means, they would not charge my Visa the $100/hour it would take to answer the question, supposedly. If it was "valid", they wouldn't charge. Now isn't that the most ridiculous way to do tech support that you ever heard of? It's totally at their discretion whether it's a plausible question or not. I sent many emails back and forth to tech support because they kept insisting that this was the mechanism. MS tech support by the way referred me to the Expressions Web team who was doing the charging. MS tech support said they couldn't help me, it was the Expressions guys that had to provide the answer. Dumb!!! I even emailed the manager of the group but he gave me the same form-letter answer.

I downloaded IE8 for my new Vista. While browsing, the app would pop up a message saying there was an issue and it had to close. It did this about 5-6 times/hour and it really pissed me off, but I tolerated it - for awhile. Finally, I gave up and tried Google Chrome since it somehow got downloaded without my knowledge to my computer. It sucked even if it didn't crash. After a couple days, I looked into Mozilla Firefox. Cool. Lots of features, more add-ons than IE and guess what? Not one crash. Ever. I didn't even contact Microsoft about their crappy IE8 because I figured I'd get nowhere

The complaints go on. When I looked at my web pages with Firefox, something I've never done because I assumed all browsers were equal (or worse, not up to IE standards), my page looked like crap! On the Mozilla forum a guy told me it was because I built the page with Front Page which favoured IE and other Microsoft products! Ahh...now I understood the big hoopla against Microsoft. When I ran the page through the W3 consortium web validator, it came up with 352 errors, errors that made it non-compatible with all browsers. The pages looked fine with Internet Explorer, including IE 8 which some thought would show the incompatibilities, but NOT SO. It looks fine in IE8.

I hate Microsoft now, thanks to their piss-poor tech support as detailed above and making products that exclude others from working. Okay, Word is pretty good, Excel is the best, Outlook hasn't crashed and doesn't bug me like Yahoo and Google mail. MS bought out Visio and didn't screw it too bad so I still use that program.

29Sep2011 I bought the wife a new laptop with Win 7 Home Premium on it. Microsoft has discontinued Outlook Express as a freebie mail client and instead give us something called Microsoft Mail. The latter looks nice with all it's fancy menus in the Win 7 tradition, but a little over the top in complexity when all a person needs is a basic client with basic functions. No matter, we were going to adapt. Well, when it came to importing the old Outlook Express mail database (*.pst file), it was not recognized as "importable". Surfing the web I found out from Microsoft themselves who admitted there is no upgrade path between the two, and that they may "add it later as an enhancement". Can you believe that crap? MS created both apps, want you to move to the new one but don't give you a conversion utility to do it? How hard would it be? Their solution was to download a trial copy of MS Office, load Outlook, load MS Mail, run some utility, then delete Outlook. MS Office is a huge download and takes incredible bandwidth. I tried converting to dbx files on the old computer but that requires an install from the disk. Since this wa s old Office 2000 and I had upgraded to 2003 on my other computers, I saw no need to keep the old 2000 around and junked it! And I couldn't get the file off the web, and it wouldn't run from my Office 2003 disks either. Arrrggghhh. Okay I gave up. I installed Office 2003 just for the MS Outlook and that is what the wife is using. So much for trying to get into the new world.

July 2013. A friend needed a new computer so I helped her buy a real nice HP laptop. It came with Windows 8 despite my attempts to get one with Windows 7. Windows 8 is a bunch of crap, it really is. I did all I could to get away from their supposed "features" which were really lame changes to stuff they already had. I have Windows 7 on 4-5 computers, and like Windows XP, they are all very solid, well-functioning operating systems. Windows 8 O/S is probably okay, it's just the home screen GUI that is a real mess and hard to manipulate.

Cascade Vans

I gave these guys thousands of dollars to do work on my car for the upcoming World of Wheels event. They promised everything, including getting it done quickly, but they didn't deliver on anything. They did shoddy work, totally unlike the work I saw displayed at car shows by this company. I had to take the car back numerous times for crap work. Then they had the audacity to charge me more because of "unexpected" unforseen issues. I had to pay them or they would have kept the car. Instead of working on my vehicle, they worked on a fellow employees...he went on to win first prize in his category. I would go to the shop at least once a week to see progress and saw little, and when there was some, it was bad. An example is the rug: I did a better job replacing the rug that they put in originally, and THEY are the experts.

Polar Start

Read the Best Buy story because that's where it starts. This is the same remote car starter.

I wrote to the manufacturer and explained the problems with Best Buy. They said it wasn't "right" that Best Buy would deny service because I didn't have a service plan or extended warranty. Okay, I was getting somewhere, so I thought. This device is made in Quebec by Polar Start and their attitude as well was that they would not warranty it either (because by now it was beyond warranty) but they would bend over backwards and offer me a new remote for something like $70. I had to send the old one in first though, in winter. I asked why they needed the old one but they never did mention it could be to code the old one. Instead the broad at the other end of the line just said they wanted it back. I wasn't about to let it go in the winter so I declined. I cut the LCD graphic out and the unit worked fine for another year or two. Just lately the battery connector broke and my attempts to fix it proved fruitless. My fix sorta worked, but was unreliable. So I wrote back to them and asked them for a replacement. No reply. Good customer service, yes?

So they get be on the red list. I'll have to remove the $300 truck unit and get another one to replace it. It won't be made by these jerks

Autotrax/Kovac Software

I purchased Autotrax PDA which is a program to draw schematic drawings, among other things. It has so many features that I can't even begin to know what many of them are. It supports PCB layouts, net-lists, auto-routing, plus a hundred other things. Unfortunately it does not work for the reason I bought the program: drawing schematics. At first it was going pretty good but then whenever I added a line (and I had about 50 short line connections to make) the program would jump to the PCB layout. No matter what I did to try to disable this, it did not work. Also, the PCB layout would display error pop-ups stating some of the components had incorrect pin numbers. The pin numbers were created by Autotrax - why is this MY problem? Consequently for each little connection wire I put in, I had to dismiss about 6 errors then close the PCB window. Then repeat 50 times. I sent 18 emails to Elija Kovac, the developer. He didn't acknowledge any of my errors. I sent him the drawings twice because he lost the first one. He offered no solutions and only replied 2-3 times to my 18 emails. I complained to Paypal since I paid through them, but they offered conflicting advice. They said I couldn't dispute the "usability" of the program, yet in their own policies they state I have a case if the "product does not work" Well it doesn't work, boneheads! Then to add incredulity to the issue, Kovacs emails me to say that he "tried to help me" but I refused! What a crock of shit! Since then Kovacs has not responded and my f'n program still doesn't work. Don't waste your money. Looks like a great product, but customer support is the worst of any company I have dealt with, including all the other assholes on this web page.

Update 2012: Kovac sent me some "gift" regarding upgrade of my program to the latest for only $15. I wrote back asking him about the licensing issue I had when I downloaded the upgrade. He didn't respond. I did: I de-installed the program and put Kovac on my banned list. I purchased another similar program that is intuitive, easy to use, with absolutely no complaints

X10 Home Automation

I purchased many X10 components. These are the guys that offer home control of appliances and devices like lamps from a computer, through the power line system in a house. The signals to turn on equipment is embedded in the power line current. This part of their system works well. However, their security cameras are absolute crap. The best you can get are low resolution, difficult to focus wireless cameras that only work well if in the same room with the video receiver. They operate at 2.4 GHz, which interferes with almost everything, most notably wireless routers. Okay, they have a little switch to move the 2.4 GHz around in megahertz increments to try and alleviate that problem. Despite this, the antennae on the cameras have to be pointed at the receiver, an impossible task if the receiver is in the middle of the cameras location. The ideal receiver antenna orientation is also pointing (flat panel) to the camera, which of course is not possible if the cameras are scattered around. The problem is worse when using the pan and tilt device because it causes the camera to change orientation and the signal that may have been good is now compromised. Stupid system. Another complaint is that they have so many different products that aren't compatible with all software, eg the USB video converter. One is V11a, the other d one is V12A. The former works on XP the latter on Vista.

They are the same hardware, why couldn't an upgraded driver make it consistent? They have different software that seems to do the same thing: Sentinel, Vanguard, Active Home. Their website doesn't differentiate amongst them and it's very hard to find the answers. The website is an atrocity as well, with a super long page that scrolls forever, bright colors that serve no purpose other than to irritate their customers, and links that take you everywhere to get you really bogged down on the site. It is so complex that one time I chose a particular sales "kit" that even the tech support people at X10 were not aware was available! When you confuse your own people, how do you expect customers to fare better? I talked to one of their tech support people, a girl, who had no patience and was very ambiguous in her descriptions. With my system I have to turn on cameras remotely using the home control part and then communicate to the cameras with the video receiver. She was saying things like "plug the receiver (didn't say which one), and tell me what you see". What receiver? She was talking about the home control one and sometimes referred to it by product name. She should have described the parts ahead of time, then go into her spiel. The home control receiver is a white box that plugs into the wall and has a chrome antenna on it. The video receiver looks like a big mouse and has a flat movable antenna. Oh yeah, there's a THIRD receiver for multi-camera view control. It looks very much like a mouse and has a small wire antenna. It communicates to the white box to control one camera at a time. Arrrggghhhh! I figured all that out on my own by turning one thing on and off and seeing what happened on screen. Finally, I got onto their newsletter somehow and despite my continuous requests to REMOVE me, they continue to send me spam about twice a day about another one of their stupid deals. The deals are actually "good" deals but their camera stuff is shit. I bought 5 Ninja pan and tilt devices which include power supplies and remote controls for $16 each, regular about $40 each.

Media Monkey by Ventis

Ventis makes a great music player called Media Monkey, so good that I bought the gold version. It has more features that I want than Real Player or WinAmp, little things like ratings using 0.5 values, eg 3.5, ability to drag a playing tune to a new or old playlist, duplicate file checker, and some other things. BUT there have been a few problems where the player crashed for some reason. Now that's okay to a point, as long as there is good tech support. That's where Ventis fails. Click on their support link and you get a popup that says you have to register first. Okay, that's an annoyance but not a deal breaker. Before you can ask a question you have to login, hence the need to register ahead of time. Why is that necessary? If I want to buy 100 licenses, why do they make me login to ask the question? Shouldn't they be making it easy to get to them? That's on the sale side. On the tech support side, once again you have to login and you have to make a "ticket" if you have an issue. Okay, I've done that a few times but the first thing tech support does is send you to the FAQ area where they want you to try every single little thing listed. They don't CARE what YOUR problem is, they just assume it's a problem that's already occurred. So one time I got to this point and got pissed off at the trivial things they were asking, and got to a tech support guy. He told me to do all the things listed. I did, again, to no avail. My problem wasn't listed. After 3-4 emails I got really mad and asked them to give me some troubleshooting routine that would check to see if I had all the underlying components. FINALLY, they told me to run the program with an extension "switch" that logged how Media Monkey was starting up. After a couple hours I got an answer back and they told me EXACTLY what the problem was: a setting in my hardware that had been reset during an upgrade or something. One little mouse click later and I was back working. So, 2 weeks wasted, hot under-the-collar customer, and the solution was just to run the program log to actually SEE what the f***in problem was! What total idiots.

Now I want to get the program running again and contacted tech support. Well I can't log in: my credentials, which I've written down do not work. I can't log in so I can't ask what the problem is with my password and username. So I tried to re-register and it tells me that I'm already registered with that email address or username. I can't re-register using that email, but I can't use the email to register properly in the first place! Arrrggghhhh! I finally found an email address for sales and sent them a message telling me about this idiocy. Of course I want help so I couldn't tell them in real strong language how I REALLY feel. Idiots

Update 2011: After looking for all kinds of other players, MM still came out the best, so I upgraded to their latest version, paying some money because the version was a new major one, eg 4.0 to 5.0. Works well

Memory Express

These guys were great, in Calgary. They had lots of stock, great prices, and real good sales people at the desk. I could ask them "what's the best motherboard" and they would tell me, and why it was the best. No BS'ing. I once had a problem that I blamed on a mobo with AMD cpu on it. They checked it out for me for free because I had only bought it 6 months previous. It was working when I replaced the mobo, but when I came to sell the board with this cpu, it didn't work. Turns out it was the AMD cpu was toast. Read the AMD rant to see what I think about them. Also the ASUS "bouquet", since it was an Asus mobo I was using. I haven't bought an AMD computer since then, 10 years now.

Newark

Newark is like Digikey, an electronics/tools supplier with over 100,000 items in inventory. While Digikey is more well known and many DIY manuals give Digikey part numbers, I found Newark to be better because their web-site was more intuitive and it was easy to filter stuff out I didn't want to see. Besides this, they have a standard $12 shipping fee no matter what you buy and because they have a Canadian connection (ie website access), all the costs are in Canadian dollars. In other words, no hidden costs like UPS brokerage fees. What you see for costs is exactly what you pay. Okay, if this isn't good enough consider this: I bought a network cable crimper kit from them which included RJ12 terminals to crimp. At first I thought the crimps were going all right because the pins were even, but later, some pins were pressed down but someothers were up, indicating that some wires were not being penetrated by the pin knives. Sure enough, a test showed there was no conductivity. I did a few more tests and discovered the crimper die wasn't lining up with the contacts and was out about 1/2 of the width of one so it was crushing the plastic divider between pins. I couldn't align it. I phoned Newark and the girl told me it would be too expensive for me to send it back so she would give me a credit and then send me a new one! A new kit! No fuss, no muss, no blaming me for being some kind of amateur. Now THAT's CUSTOMER SERVICE. (For the uninformed, I had been making cables for 20 years when I was in the workforce, so I DO know how to make all kinds of cables).

Update 2012: I got the new kit and it was crap like the first one. There was no way I could make a proper connection with this crimper. I went to the internet and found an inexpensive tool made my Palladin. When I got it I made 6 perfect crimps in the first 5 minutes! To Newarks credit, they gave me the money back for the second kit which I also DID NOT return. The crimpers were crap, I threw them both in the garbage.

Nova Scotia Power

NS Power has a bad reputation in this province, and justifiably so. Their power rates are the most expensive in Canada. They insist on getting 10% return on all their investments but this didn't stop them from building a $35 M office tower on the Halifax Harbour, likely the nicest piece of commercial property in CANADA! They import their coal from Africa because it is low sulphur, and of course we pay for that in the end. Further, they take losses in other jurisdictions then make up for it by charging us more. When power demand went down as a result of power saving inducements, they were making less money so they raised the rates. So people who squandered their power are now paying more for it and getting less!

So, why the "grey area"? Well I had to call them out twice because of an overvoltage condition. I noticed it through the control of my water well pump that has an over- and under-voltage relay in it. NS Power came out, both times at night, in the dark and worked on it. In both cases they came back the next day to fix. The first time they actually replaced a transformer near our property because they couldn't retap to a lower voltage. It took two trucks, about 6 guys to do this work and they did it quickly and efficiently the next day. So their service is really really good.

Kent Building Supplies

Kent Building Supplies is only in the Maritimes, maybe even only in Nova Scotia. Despite their small roots, their store is as big as Home Depot and Rona, and they handle pretty well the same products and materials. I give them big kudos for customer service, because in Decemeber 2011, I need lots of 7W Christmas light bulbs to make a light display for 2012. No one seemed to carry these incandescent bulbs since LED lights were all the vogue now (despite their brightness being 1/2 what incandescent can provide). I found 3 sets at Kent and that was all! I needed about 15 sets. I emailed/phoned them and they said they would look in their stock. They found the ones I needed and even though they were put away for the year (it was close to, or AFTER Christmas), they said they would not only take them out for me, but also honor the SALE PRICE! I went in the next day and there they were. So, how many other businesses do you think would do this? I'm sure Home Hardware would because they are individually owned, but Rona and Home Depot certainly would not.

Rogers Communications

I have a cell phone that I use maybe once a week, when one of us goes to town and the other stays at home. So, I have the cheapest �pay as you go� plan I could find which Rogers Communication gave me, for about $10/month flat rate plus whatever calls I make at 40 cents/call. I noticed my last two Visa bills had charges of $23/month on them, not $10, so I called Rogers to find out what was going on.

Thus began my 45 minute quest to get the answer I required. Along the way I discovered (from phone agents) that

  • �wireless� only means Blackberry (a different agent said it was a �cell phone�. Duh!)
  • Prepaid does NOT mean Pay as You Go. (a different agent said OF COURSE they are the same)

When I couldn�t get assistance from customer service (the one who said prepaid is not pay-as-you-go) I tried the chat line where we type messages back and forth. I got half way into my spiel and was told, �uh, sorry, but we don�t handle these accounts on this chat line�. The guy gives me another address to try, and on this line I get half way through my spiel and am told, �uh, sorry, but we don�t handle these accounts on any chat line. You have to phone this number.� I call the number and not one of the selections is applicable to me. I don�t want to know my balance. I don�t want to get another plan. Arrrggghhhh!

I went to the website to get another number and found an agent who was quite sympathetic when he heard my troubles, then he said, �Uh, sorry, but I can�t handle this type of inquiry. You have to talk to the Pay-As-You-Go group.� Despite him being a nice guy, if he would have been in front of me I would have bopped him one in the mouth!

To HIS credit, he said he would conference me in to the other person and would not leave me hanging. When I got the customer support lady, a nice, quiet, older, experienced woman, she got my account number (the first one to ASK in all this BS) and said, �oh yes, I see the problem. This is how I will fix it. " And she did. About 2 minutes with her and problem solved.

Rogers had the audacity to ask if I wanted to fill in a survey. You bet I did and it was the lowest ranking survey I have completed for any website or tech support in all my life.

P.S. the very first person I talked to was at the call center in Moncton, NB. I could hear many voices in the background, and her mike was WAY too loud and close to her mouth. Part way through there was a large crackling sound like she twisted the mike off her headset or she was eating a big bag of potato chips. When I complained about the noise and my inability to hear her, she responded, "Well, we are really busy here, Sir". I replied, "so am I" and hung up on the bitch.

GTAWater

I bought two reverse osmosis systems from these guys. The price was 1/2 that of any commercial supplier in Nova Scotia. These came from Toronto (GTA=Greater Toronto Area). When I had problems they did not respond. When I asked for clarification regarding some parts I needed where they had not described them on their website, they did not respond. Wow! What customer service. So I got onto another Canadian RO supplier site, Aquasafe from Vancouver. I used the chat line and got instant response and proper information. I spent $200 on parts that day as a result because I was so impressed. When you think about how many filters I would have bought from GTA since that's where I bought the ROs from, it comes to a sizable amount of money, especially if I change filters (there are 4 per unit, total of 8 for the 2 that I have) every 6 months. Some people just don't get it.

Samsung

I have a 5 year old digital camera made by Samsung, that I got as a 20th anniversary gift from Emerson Process Management. It takes excellent photos and is easy to use. My gripe is with the battery monitoring software that has the voltage set too high. A standard alkaline AA battery has a nominal 1.5 volt voltage but if measured comes out to about 1.6 volts. When the camera won't take photos anymore and declares the batteries dead, they are at worst 1.45 volts, ie LOTS of life still in them. In fact I have a separate drawer just for weak batteries from this camera which I use in clocks, other cameras and flashlights. How many batteries do I have? Probably 100 weak ones! I get maybe 30 photographs, if that, with this camera. How easy is this to fix? Well I would think all it takes is a firmware download to the camera to set the threshold lower, like 1.2 volts. (Many cameras will work at 1.2 volts, the voltage of a lithium or Nicad rechargeable battery). I suggested this to Samsung who sent me a form letter on how to use the camera. Assholes! So I told them because of their ignorance I abandoned Samsung cameras and bought a new Canon Sure shot. What a great camera! I've already taken 50 photos and 4 movies without any warning yet about low batteries. My two Fuji cameras conk out at about 1.25-1.3 volts.

Note: I have a big screen Samsung television that works well and has super picture. Samsung does make good stuff!

JVC

I bought a JVC PICSIO camcorder just to film my dog. It is a waterproof, video priority camera that is very slim, smaller than a pack of American cigarettes. I bought it off the web for what I thought was a reasonalbe price and deal. Like an IDIOT, I didn't check comments or reviews about this camera before I bought it...I did this AFTER. Regardless, it soon became apparent that this camera was a piece of shit. The sound was EXTREMELY tinny, so bad that I cannot use ANY location sound, not even narration from me. The microphones are not isolated mechanically from the case so any movement, even the slapping of the cord on the case generates intolerable noise. And finally at full zoom on video or camera, the picture is out of focus! Cannot use the zoom at all.

I tried to get an update to the software, maybe they put in filters or something for the sound or changed the way the focus worked. I couldn't get the download. The version on my camera is NEWER than the version available for download. Asking tech support about this was like asking a dog what his name is. The answer didn't even come close to representing my question. Finally after looking at web reviews I realize the problems are inherent to this shitty design. It's not a "one-of", but a major design flaw. TEch support said I had to send it to the closest JVC service shop which was Moncton, NB about 400 miles away. When I clicked on this address and subsequent ones, they all jumped to the same address for JVC in Ontario someplace. I told tech support this, they never replied.

I put in a complaint to BBB of Ontario, and to the on-line complaint site called Gripevine. (Remember the guy who got his guitar broken by United and wrote a song that went viral? This is his site.) Gripevine tried to contact the vendor on my behalf but after 2 weeks sent me a note saying JVC never responded. I complained to JVC USA. No reply. Sent one to UK. No reply. Can't get an email to JVC Corporate in Japan: they want their world reps to handle it. Well they ARE NOT!

Canon Cameras

Years ago I owned two Canon movie cameras. Not camcorders, but cameras. A Canon 814 and a Canon 514 sound camera. These took 3 minute Super8 film cartridges. I put these through lots of abuse and used them oh...every day for about 10 years. When video came out, I moved on but these cameras were still working fine. Superb optics, smooth controls, very well designed. I later bought a 35mm "snapshot" type camera, also Canon that was probably the best instrument I ever bought in my life. I had that for maybe 15 years and it took hundreds of great photos. (I bought my wife an AE1 when they first came out and she had that camera for a long time.) Last year I bought a Canon digital A1400 snapshot camera and it has to be the best designed digital camera I have ever owned, equal to the 35 mm in styling and use. The A1400 is instant on: no other camera starts up as quick as this one (I have two Fuji and one JVC). Press the buttton and it's on. I could film a meteorite and get most of its flight! To record video, it's one press of the big red button. No flicking dials around then pressing the shutter, this is separate. Press to record, press to stop. How easy is that? Then we have the power saving mode. I previously owned an Samsung camera (see above) that ate batteries at the rate of 2 every 20 photos. I got rid of it but only after clearing out the stores of AA batteries! This Canon has a set-able time to shut off the LCD to save battery power. I can't remember the last time I changed batteries and I've had the camera for about 8 months and taken lots of photos. I am so happy with this camera that I bought another one, just like it!

Canon Rules!!! Read previous entry about JVC (they SUCK!)

Sears Canada

Where do I begin? I ordered 2 blackout window shades from Sears, for two reasons: 1) they make custom shades to spec, and 2) I had a $40 credit there from a previous transaction where some blind people (people who put up blinds...) installed custom blinds in other rooms. I went on-line, found the stuff I wanted and ordered them with delivery to be a couple days later on July 03. They didn't arrive by July 4, so I called and they said it would be 4 days to a week. (The help center is in the Philipines. I had a little difficulty understanding the first girl that I got on the phone.) Because I was persistent, I was then told I could get them by July 7 and was given a UPS tracking code. I entered that at UPS site every day from July 4 to July 7 (when the product did NOT arrive) and the number kept bouncing back. It didn't say there was no such number or error, it just flipped the screen and took me back to the data entry screen. Okay fine, I'll just wait. On July 9 I received my materials from CANADA POST, not UPS (who DO deliver to my home). Okay fine. The tag on these special order shades reads 43" width. My order confirmation says 43" width. Actual? 37 inches! Okay, not fine.

Once again, a call to the Philipines. They realized someone there made a mistake and are sending me out another couple. Another week to wait

Here's another thing: on the website, you click on help/customer support and get a phone number, you phone, go through the automated attendant with 4 options that don't include customer support. Picking the most obvious one, "catalog sales", I get someone who apologizes and hooks me up to Customer Support! Yeehaw!

Their website is bogus, with some pulldowns blocking the rest of the page and no way to recover except close the page and NEVER chose that pulldown (because it stays down, like a Sears blind that doesn't work...) When ordering blinds, the customer orders by color, but on the final order page, the color is replaced by a color number! Nowhere is there a link between the two so you just have to assume that color 89 or whatever is the color you chose. There were a number of other issues with the website, and a note one time saying there were problems on the site, but I get an email from the webmaster saying there is NO problem, it must be a problem with MY browser. Funny, but a dozen other companies like Canadian Tire, Walmart, etc have no problems with MY browser. All the things they told me to do, like flush cache, restart browser, go back to site, allow Java, 3rd party cookies, I did. My cache flushes on every exit of the browser.

My $40 discount didn't show on the final tally but they said it would on the final bill that I would receive. That happened, but it's rather ridiculous not to include it so customer can see his credit being applied at the time of purchase, not a week later

Addendum: I wasn't told to return the incorrect shades so Sears billed me AGAIN. Once again, 3 calls to the Philipines, bounced around and transferred twice. What a bunch of morons. Now, despite buying online I have to return the items to a store. I'm glad I didn't live in the high Arctic.

And Sears wonders why it's failing with Internet and store sales...

Addendum2: The story goes on and on. I took the blinds into the City, a 40 minute drive one way, on my dime. It took 1/2 an hour for a GOOD customer service rep (Linda at Halifax Shopping Center) to wade through all the BS. She had to get 2 managers involved and made 2 or 3 phone calls to reverse the charges because, get this: "The goods were marked as Not Returnable!" I got my money refunded, but not the shipping I paid: wasn't possible from this store! A week later I get an email from a corporate Customer Service rep who heard my story. (only now? Probably because the account was flagged when they gave me a credit!!) I hung up on her the first time because I was so frustrated and wanted NOTHING to do with this company. She sent me an email that said she would refund the shipping AND give me a $25 gift card. This has been done. Am I happy? No. It should NEVER have got to this point. I am not even going to use the gift card and will give it away. I sent numerous emails after this lecturing her on the proper way to handle customer complaints like mine. I sent my complaint to Gripevine and the BBB of Western Ontario. Sears did not respond to Gripevine and responded to BBB only after I got my refund. I gave Sears the option of handling the complaint BEFORE it went through BBB but they didn't respond.

Halifax Waste Management

Bitch and Rant was only supposed to be about vendors and bad service, but Halifax Waste Management deserves an entry for their ridiculous garbage rules. The dumbest rule is where homeowners can only put out one BLACK bag of garbage, the so-called "privacy bag", along with up to 5 clear bags. The idea is that the garbage pickup boys (GPUB) will be able to see if you are throwing out recycle materials and thus reject the bag on that premise. Stupid. Like they can tell better what I throw out is or is not garbage. Here's a letter I sent to my local councillor, and published in the Chronicle Herald:

Week 1: I had GARBAGE in a clear plastic bag that was NOT picked up by the garbage guys. No note or sticker to say what the problem was.

Week 2: If it is notgarbage, it must be recycle, so I left it out for recycle guys. I added another clear bag that had a plastic tarp in it. NEITHER was picked up and both bags were now tagged by the garbage guys as GARBAGE.

Week 3: Left both bags out with stickers on that said they were GARBAGE, but once again they were NOT picked up.

Week 4: Recycle week

Week 5: Garbage day, last Thursday. After removing the stickers I put out the two bags, with an ADDITIONAL two clear bags and one black bag. They took the black bag but left me with FOUR clear bags of garbage! FOUR!

I had enough of this. I put the 4 bags in 2 large black bags and took them down the road to abandoned houses. Two hours later the garbage was gone.

This is what we get for paying 3 times the amount of taxes I paid in Calgary: delivering our own garbage. Now there are extra plastic bags in the landfill, and I had to burn gas to deliver these. I�ve spoken to neighbours and they said their garbage has not being picked up on occasion as well.

A phone call to Waste Management confirmed that the tarp was recyclable material! When we explained the contents of the bags, Waste Management offered to send the garbage guys back to pick up the 4 bags left behind but I had already gotten rid of it.

***I cannot believe that a garbage guy who has a quick glimpse of stuff in a clear bag can make a better determination of what is or is not GARBAGE than ME, the homeowner, who took time and care to sort out recyclables ahead of time.***

O'Regans Toyota Halifax

Toyota, the car company, had a worldwide recall on a number of vehicles because of excess rusting. My 2007 Toyota Tacoma was one of those vehicles. I took it in to O'Regans Toyota for an evaluation and they said there was no "hollowness" when they pinged the frame with a hammer, therefore the integrity was good but they would undercoat it for free. This process took 2 days because they put on the thick stuff that required drying. A year later I had the truck into a local mechanic who said he spotted perforation due to rust in a front support arm. I emailed Toyota Canada and got a terse reply, that "Vehicles wear out. The truck is over 5 years old. No warranty." I was PISSED! I wrote another email and got the same answer! I knew this was not right, frames should not rust through in less that 10 years. So contacted O'Reagans and they told me to bring it in for another evaluation because of my new information. They looked at it, and told me they couldn't allow me to drive the truck home! So they gave me a rental. I rented a Chevy CUV for 2 months, a Hyundai Tucson for 2 months and a Volkswagen Tiguan for 1 month. Yes, I drove rentals for FIVE MONTHS! I took it in Sept 5, 2016 and had it returned Feb 3, 2017.

O'Regans replaced the entire frame. They also replaced, at MY expense, the entire axle and differential case assembly. Cost to me was $2000. While the truck sat there, waiting for a frame to come in, the brakes seized so O'Regans replaced those at no charge.

I heard that frame replacements cost Toyota $10,000+. Just the rental bill alone in my case was $5000 (I saw an invoice for $1100 for one month). I had tried to negotiate with them before they did this, figuring Toyota could just buy the truck from me and I would buy a new Toyota vehicle with the proceeds, but the sales manager said they weren't allowed to do that.

So...KUDOS to Oregan's Toyota and big raspberry BLAH to Toyota Canada.