Business blunders III

Dear businesses, don’t make me work to become a customer. Seems obvious, but my experience indicates otherwise.

I’m always on the lookout for a sale on Coca-Cola. A supermarket called Fresh Co. has a flyer out that advertises just such a sale. Sounds like a match made in heaven, right? No, not so much.

My mom commented, “Fresh Co.? I don’t know where that place is.” I thought it would be simple enough to find out. Newspaper flyers typically list the store locations and small-print at the bottom of the back page. Flipping to the back page, imagine my surprise when they boast, “87 Fresh Co. stores now open in Ontario,” and then follow with the locations, “See for store details.” I don’t think so, Fresh Co.

Even worse, I always look for any limitation on quantities. Fresh Co. tells me, “We reserve the right to limit quantities.” That’s it. So I may go and discover they’ll only let me buy three. That’s plenty for some people, but not everyone.

If you’re going to try to get me into your store, and then not even tell me where they are, I’m not going to go hunting for the information. I’ll just go elsewhere. I understand they’re trying to save money by using the same flyer in multiple markets, but when your saving money requires me to do extra work, your ad failed. Enjoy your savings, but I’m not buying anything from you. Happy?

If you think I’m the one missing out, think again. Sobeys has Coke on sale as well, and for the same price.

So is that the end of the story? Not exactly. In wanting to make sure things are as I expect, I had a look at the Sobeys flyer to make sure it does indeed list store locations. But it doesn’t! I do think the point stands however, as the larger incumbent companies are better known. In this case, I already know where the Sobeys is. Still, they risk losing potential customers, but it’s less a risk for Sobeys than for Fresh Co.

It doesn’t end there. In searching their respective websites for the logos I’ve included here, and to properly assign trademarks where they belong, I check the ‘Legal’ links. The legal page on the Fresh Co. site begins, “This Website is owned and provided by Sobeys Inc.”

I’m still not going to Fresh Co. and in fact, I’m even a little bit less likely to go to Sobeys, but I don’t think this will tip the balance. I’ll still buy the Coke, and likely nothing else.

Fresh Co., Sobeys, and the graphics shown above, are likely trademarks of Sobeys Capital Incorporated. I’m not exactly sure because both web pages state, “The content shown on the Website is protected by copyright, trademark and other laws” but they give no specifics on what terms are trademarks. 

Posted in consequences, consumer life, customer service | Leave a comment

Welcome to Yosemite

Despite knowing better, I went ahead and installed OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Others are glad to rush in and report the problems if I wait a day or two, but I seem to be one of those who rushed in.

During the upgrade I received an ominous error:

There is not enough free space in the Core Storage Logical Volume Group for this operation. Reboot and try again.

Yea, whaaaat? It offered a reboot button, and no other option. So I rebooted. After a moment, the Mac’s log in screen presented itself … but it was the Yosemite log in screen. I had a very bad feeling about this unexpected turn of events, but I logged in and the installation continued onward, seemingly without incident.

I have my main volume encrypted with FileVault2, and perhaps after a reboot, the installer couldn’t access the drive. Still, I would think that they would have tested installation with FileVault2 enabled! Still, I don’t know that was the issue so I’m doing nothing more than guessing.

Regardless, I seem to be okay. The installation finished without obvious problems and I’m running Yosemite.

I have a some random thoughts after just a few hours:

  • I’ve read that the user interface is much flatter with fewer elements to simulate depth. I read correctly. This interface is flat. It’s hardly objectionable, though.
  • The flat dock is a return to old times for many, but I joined the Mac bandwagon with 10.5 Leopard, just as interface elements really started gaining depth.
  • I hate the Finder icon. It looks demented.
  • I love the desktop drive icons.
  • My mid-2011 iMac is a year too old to support Handoff and the other Continuity features. Bluetooth 4.0 with its Bluetooth Low Energy support is required, and any iMac older than mid-2012 doesn’t have it. I will not be taking any phone calls from my Mac.
  • The iCloud Drive and its integration with the iWork apps looks cool so far. Happily, despite Apple’s wanting to differentiate iCloud Drive from Dropbox and other similar services, the files you’ve put into iCloud Drive are on your local disk at /Users/username/Library/Mobile Documents, and therefore backed up with Time Machine.
  • The sidebar in iTunes 12 is largely gone. You can bring up a sidebar by choosing the Playlists option at the top, but the sidebar that appears shows only your music, music videos, and playlists. The one-stop sidebar seems to be history. It wasn’t pretty, but it was entirely functional.
  • If something just looks different and you can’t quite nail it down, it’s probably the typeface. Lucida Grande it out and Helvetica Neue is here to replace it. The change isn’t huge, but it’s noticeable.
  • Safari still doesn’t offer inferior (lowercase) numbers despite being directed to do so with the font-feature-settings option of the @fontface CSS command. Every other browser I’ve tried, both webkit and non-webkit, handle it correctly. If even Internet Explorer can do it, what’s your excuse, Safari?
  • My first Time Machine back up after upgrading to Yosemite and allowing the Mac App Store to update my apps was just over 13GB.

Overall, I like it so far.

Posted in Apple, computers, me | 3 Responses

No one’s at the helm!

Last month, I told you that I wrote my MP asking how I might follow his activities for his riding. I follow him on Twitter and his only tweets are about his Minister of Defence duties. I did get an answer a few days after I wrote that post. This post’s delay is completely my fault.

The Honourable Robert Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The Honourable Robert Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, Ontario.

His office replied:

Dear Mr. Pali:

I am writing to acknowledge and thank you for your correspondence to Mr. Nicholson. For information about Mr. Nicholson’s activities as your MP please feel free to visit:

Please be assured that your comments will be passed along to Mr. Nicholson as her [sic] very much appreciates hearing from constituents.

Thank you again for writing.

Stewart Graham

Constituency Assistant for the
Hon. Rob Nicholson, M.P.

It’s both exactly what I expected, and entirely unexpected. I have visited in pursuit of what my MP has been doing in support of my area of the country, and trust me, the web site to which I was directed doesn’t answer my question. I expected the answer I received because there’s a heading titled “Riding News” on the web site, and it makes sense that I’d find what I was looking for there. The unexpected part is what is under that heading, and this is verbatim:

September 10, 2014
Statement by Minister Nicholson on World Suicide Prevention Day

September 10, 2014
Minister Nicholson commemorates the 75th anniversary of Canada’s engagement in the Second World War

August 09, 2014
Minister Nicholson commemorates National Peacekeeping Day

August 01, 2014
Disclosure Period: August 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014

And that’s it. Each item has a link which gives more detail, but am I to expect that all he’s done this year is issue three statements (because the two commemorations seem to be limited to statements), and disclosed that he spend some $800 on a flight? Even if we’re generous and assume that this is an exhaustive list of his activities only since the first entry in the list, it sure seems like a light workload for ten weeks. I know that this list represents the whole year however, because the web site was updated since I wrote the letter. The items previous to August 1, which have disappeared, were all financial disclosures.

So really, what is this guy doing for me? I knew of absolutely nothing, and I didn’t want to assume that an absence of evidence was evidence of absence, so I asked. Little wonder that the three e-mail messages I sent received no replies … my assumption seems to have been correct. I was directed to a list that can only be generously described as pitiful.

Read @HonRobNicholson however, and it’s all about ISIL, statements on various topics, retweets from his cronies, and check-ins from all the countries in which he’s visiting his foreign counterparts.

He’s clearly far to busy jet-setting about to bother serving the constituents who voted him into office. I am really looking forward to his re-election campaign, when he regales his constituents about all the things he’s done for us since the last election. It won’t take very long.

Weak tea, Mr. Nicholson. Weak tea, indeed.

Photo of Mr. Nicholson from

Posted in me, politics, responsibility | Leave a comment

New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising

A news story developing over the last 24 hours had me write my MP again:

From: Rick Pali <>
To: Rob Nicholson <>
Subject: Regarding the New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising
Date: October 9, 2014 at 10:32:30 PM EDT

Mr. Nicholson,

I was surprised to hear of the document drawn up by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Shelly Glover, titled New Copyright Exception for Political Advertising.

I recall the spat with the CBC and CTV a few years back about political parties using footage from their news stories without explicit permission. Frankly, I thought it was all worked out and the use of their footage was covered under fair dealing.

In the document, I’m concerned with one item in the Analysis section:

User community may interpret the exception as supporting “political expression,” but will likely call for it to be broadened to include other political players.

I’m concerned because this seems to call out a possible outcome, and the tone implies that the possibility against which a defence must be mounted because it must not be allowed to happen.

I’d put forth that the whole point of this copyright exception is certainly for free expression. If the Conservative party feels that fair dealing isn’t sufficient to allow the free expression to which it is entitled, why isn’t the fair dealing exception being adjusted to allow it? As it stands, the proposed exception will grant politicians a freedom that Canadians in general will not have.

Surely Canadians should enjoy the same freedoms to which the Conservative party feels it is entitled?


This whole issue gives me the heebie-jeebies. Michael Geist, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, suggests that their use of broadcast news footage should be covered under fair dealing. It doesn’t seem entirely clear cut, so I can understand that the Conservative party doesn’t want to get any egg on its face in the event that the news organizations mount a legal challenge over it. The logical course would be to clarify the issue in the Copyright Act, specifically regarding fair dealing. Instead, they’re crafting an exception limited to politicians or those seeking, but not yet possessing, political office.

My spidey-sense is telling me they’re up to something. It feels like they have something very specific in mind for which they want unambiguous permission, and that they don’t want the rest of us to have the same permission.

Hat tip to Michael Geist for his excellent work, as usual. If you’re not following his blog, you should.

Posted in me, politics | Leave a comment

VW diesel refuel #120

Dates: September 25 to October 9
Odometer: 111738 to 112738
Distance travelled: 1000.7 km
Fuel used: 53.581 litres

Calculated fuel economy:
5.4 l/100 km
43.93 miles/US gallon
52.76 miles/imperial gallon

Some highway driving nicely boosts the economy figure.

Posted in VW fuel economy | 2 Responses

Politicians and their idiotic ways

Remember in January when the Joyce Morocco for MPP campaign kept calling me despite my repeated instruction to not call me? She didn’t have the votes to make the leap from city councillor to MPP so she’s running for a seat on city council again.

Guess who called this evening? I heard the phone ring so later in the evening, I asked my mom if my sister had called. She said it was “that Joyce woman” for city council. Amused, I asked what she said. My mom answered, “Oh, I don’t know … and the woman wouldn’t stop talking so after a few minutes, I just hung up.” I’m still amused.

I also dashed off a quick message:

From: Rick Pali <>
Subject: Do not call.
Date: October 8, 2014 at 10:16:54 PM EDT


My phone number is (xxx) xxx-xxxx and I’m asking you politely not to call again.

When you ran for MPP, you called and I wrote you requesting that you not call. You called again. Then you called a third time. Seeing that you were unable to listen to my simple and reasonable request, you did not make the list of candidates that were in the running for my vote. If you won’t listen to my request, how can you possibly represent me?

Perhaps this time you can find it within yourself to not call as I’m requesting.


I’m hoping she’s turned over a new leaf. I’m also not holding my breath.

These politicians kill me. They’re all about how they’re representing you and they’re there for you … until they want something, then they don’t want to hear what you want.

Posted in consequences, me, politics | Leave a comment

There’s a wood chip in my ear

As I mentioned on Facebook, I spent all afternoon and part of the evening with a wood chip in my ear. Happily not in my ear canal, but just wedged somewhere in my outer ear. I only noticed when I had a late shower.

How did it get there? It happened in the process of doing a task I’ve never done before. I’m cutting down a tree!

20141007-165604 5D3 4M6C3189.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 17-40mm 1:4L @ 40mm, 1/100, f/8, 1600 ISO

My in-progress handiwork.

Since I can remember, my dad has had a shade tree or two in the yard. They grow very quickly so before the current tree threatened to become too large, he would plant a replacement, and remove the adult when the child was large enough to start doing its duty. In this case, you can see the large tree I’m disassembling, the replacement behind it, and the kitchen window that it is positioned to shade. My father planted the replacement tree, but he didn’t live to remove the now too-large parent, so it’s fallen to me.

The tree is too sprawling to cut down at once. It could damage the house on one side, and the neighbour’s fence on the other. So my plan is to remove the three primary branches that split off the trunk, one at a time, and deal with the trunk in the spring.

I started with a hand saw, but even before I got a centimetre into the wood, it started to bind in the moist flesh of the tree. There is a small two-stroke chainsaw I could use, but I decided against it. Partly because I’m not certain it’s functional, and it would be a pain to get the gasoline, the oil, and the chain oil, only to find it doesn’t work. The main reason I decided against the chainsaw is because I couldn’t imagine trying to use it (also for the first time) while at the top of a ladder. I can handle only so many new things simultaneously, and I want to limit the cuts to the tree limbs, not mine! Instead, I hunted up an axe in the shed and got to work. As I said, I’ve ever cut down, or even de-branched, a tree, but I thought, “how hard can it be?” I know, famous last words, right?

Happily, not. I chopped into the tree from above and below, chipping out wood from both the direction in which I wanted the branch to fall, and the exact opposite side. The branch at the point I cut it was perhaps 12 centimetres in diameter. When I had 3–4 centimetres of wood left, the rope I’d tied to the branch a metre and a half above the cut allowed me to pull it down, in the right direction, with a minimum of fuss. A bit more hacking neatly separated the branch as you see above.

The exercise was an ideal proof of concept. Things will get more complicated as the remaining two branches both lean directly over the fence, and in nearly the opposite direction to where I want them to fall. Still, I do believe I should manage this project with a minimum of fuss.

One step at a time.

Posted in me | 1 Response

Antenna adventure results

I was going to title this post Antenna adventure ends, or something along those lines, but I thought it had already ended before I climbed back on to the roof this morning!

One of the earlier times I thought I was done, I posted the results. Brad offered some suggestions in the comments which resulted in my removing the reflector from the smaller antenna and combining the signals from both antennas. That was a disaster. The results were worse than either antenna alone. So I wired each antenna separately, and not having things set up inside to use two separate signals, I’ve been using the smaller antenna alone since July. Strangely enough, the four-bay antenna without a reflector did just as well pulling in the Toronto signals as an eight-bay antenna with the reflector. The only channel I’ve had difficultly with was CTV, out of Toronto. Having only one problematic channel isn’t bad, but it’s the channel I watch the most! With Canadian stations being what they are, most of the programs I watch on CTV are imports from the US, and the stations they come from offer exceptional signals directly to me, so things were pretty good.

Then it hit me this morning. The reason CTV is so problematic is not because of Toronto’s distance and the terrain between my antenna and the transmitter. The reason is because CTV is transmitting on channel 9, which is the only VHF channel left in Toronto. The two antennas I had up are not designed to receive VHF, though they can serve in that role with a strong signal. The CTV signal isn’t strong because the transmitter is far, and there’s terrain preventing line-of-sight transmission. Since the big antenna wasn’t performing any better than the small one, I took down the big antenna. I have a VHF-high antenna that I didn’t bother using because I thought the other antennas would do the job. Since they weren’t, I made a change:

The top antenna is as it was, except I removed the reflector. It’s a four-bay ChannelMaster 4221HD and it brings in every UHF channel in the area. To address its VHF shortcoming, I added the Winegard YA-1713 VHF-high antenna. I did this because I already had the Winegard antenna. I would not have purchased it just to pull in CTV when most of the programs I want on that station are also available from the US stations. It was just sitting in the garage so I thought I might as well use it for a complete line-up.

This also takes care of my difficulty configuring my home theatre set-up to use two signal inputs. The pre-amp on the mast has a UHF input and a separate VHF input, so when I connect each antenna to the appropriate input, the signals are amplified, combined, and brought into the house on a single co-axial cable.

Weird, isn’t it? The $50 2½′ tall antenna pulls in every channel perfectly but one. To get that one channel, I need another antenna nearly 8½′ long that costs more than twice as much! It does make sense though, as longer frequencies need bigger antennas.

I’ve learned of another advantage of using an antenna over Canadian cable and satellite. When a Canadian station licences a US program and shows it at the same time as the US network, the Canadian station will substitute its own commercials just as you’d expect. What you might not expect, is the Canadian channel’s feed overwrites the US network when you tune in to the US network. They call it simultaneous substitution and use it to make sure Canadians see Canadian ads. As I said, this only happens with Canadian cable and satellite. While it’s not a big deal (outside of the Superbowl), mistakes happen and I’ve seen the last minute or two clipped off the end of a program. It’s not nice to sit there for an hour, and then be denied the last minute of the program! Given that I receive the signals directly from the US transmitters, I find myself choosing to record US shows from the US stations, eliminating any potential simultaneous substitution screw-ups.

Despite my delight at not having to submit to simultaneous substitution, I wouldn’t be happy with only the US stations. I want to watch Canadian news, and there are some Canadian stations that are not largely US rebroadcasters, such as TVOntario. Though my channel choice is limited, the channels I do get offer most of what I want, and the US stations are actually the US stations … commercials and all. My latest channel scan reports 49 channels so I do have a selection.

Oh, and did I mention that my monthly fee is $0?!

Posted in me, television | 2 Responses

Oh Bell, why do we expect anything from you?

I had a very unfortunate experience last week when I contacted Bell Canada with a very simple request. This is the message I sent to escalate the problem with their customer relations department:

I’m writing because of an unfortunate experience I had when I called your office. My Father passed away and we’re contacting the utilities to have the accounts changed to my Mother’s name. I was told that the only way Bell could do this is with a driver’s licence number or a social insurance number. My Mother has no driver’s licence, and a social insurance number is such overkill for this purpose that Service Canada states that one’s SIN should only be provided when it is legally required, and they further strongly discourage private-sector organizations for asking for it when it is not legally necessary. Further, I feel your corporate attitude toward the privacy of customer data is a joke, and more reason I would not offer up my Mom’s SIN to Bell in particular.

Your rep told me that she could not make the change without the number. I didn’t yell or argue as I know the fault isn’t hers. It’s policy laid down by Bell. Consequently, the account remains in my father’s name.

I find it absolutely abhorrent that you’d ask for information as sensitive as one’s social insurance number exactly when someone is left vulnerable by the death of a spouse. I recall with amusement how you describe your commitment to customers, “Simply put, that’s our mission: To delight you with the products, services and customer support that we provide to you every day,” and I’m flabbergasted that you have the nerve to suggest you care about customers and the service you want to provide them.

I can also assure you that it’s not a pleasant thing to have Bell reminder my mother of her deceased husband every month when your bill arrives with his name on it, as it seems that this will continue to happen as long as she remains a Bell customer. Those memories should be hers to recall when she wants to … not for you to thrust upon her.

My parents came from a time when one was loyal to a business and in turn, the business was loyal it customers. I know that time has long past, but until this point, my Mom has told me that she would not switch her home phone service from Bell. Period. Like I said, “Until this point.” Your rep told me multiple times that changing the account holder or opening a new account required one of the two previously mentioned pieces of identification. The fact that she has had the same phone number with Bell for more than fifty years, and she’s being treated no differently than a new customer, has opened her eyes to this unfortunate change in business practices in general, and of Bell’s in particular.

Now that she realizes how your customers mean nothing to you beyond the money for which you can bill them, I’m beginning to research other home phone providers. It’s high-time too, as the first company I looked at seems to be significantly cheaper even including the discount I have to call you every six months to receive.

I expressed my displeasure on Twitter and the responses have been lacking. The first asked for the account information so they could provide information. The second offered to put me in touch with someone. Neither stated plainly that they would fix the problem, and without an assurance that we can fix this, I don’t need information or someone to talk to. It would be great if you could take ownership of the problem, you know?

I tell you what … if you insist on fumbling with what you call customer service to try to keep my mother as a customer, feel free to call … but don’t waste our time unless you’re going to live up to the commitment that you claim is more than just talk. Further, call me at (xxx) xxx-xxxx this week and save my Mother the reminder of this unfortunate incident. Call her with a pitch at the number associated with the account, and I can assure you that her decades-long time as your customer will end very quickly. Just so we understand each other, if you think $5 off for six months will delight me, save yourself the ‘effort’ and don’t call.

I expect nothing from them. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they didn’t call at all despite the conformation e-mail message promising to contact me within 24 hours. Frankly, I shouldn’t even be nothing with them now that Mom’s on board with changing providers. Maybe I just want to see them fail. They certainly will fail because home phone service through our cable company is nearly $20 cheaper, every month. There’s no way Bell will meet that. We’ll see.

I did my best to search for an e-mail address I could use for the above message. The downside is that I failed to find one. The upside is that I found how to escalate the problem rather than just sending it to same department that already stonewalled me. I much prefer to use e-mail messages as I have a copy with the date and time. My concern was that the message might not even fit. Happily that wasn’t an issue. The web form allows 4000 characters, only 66 of which I didn’t use!

I told Mom we’d leave this in Bell’s lap this week and if all goes as we expect, I’ll be in touch with the cable company on Monday.

Posted in consequences, consumer life, customer service, idiocy, me | 4 Responses

Odometer ‘error’

The other day I had some errands to run. This is not unusual. It got weird when I sat in the car, inserted the key, and reached for my seatbelt. My eyes slid over the instrument cluster and I saw a row of vertical LED lines lit up. Uh oh, I thought. Maybe the ECU crashed. Or the electronics handling the display malfunctioned. Would the car start? How much was this going to cost me!? You know how quickly thoughts can run through your mind. By the time I finished fastening my seatbelt and looked back at the display, it was clear what those vertical lines were trying to tell me.

Oops. It was informing me of the distance I have used it to travel, just like it’s supposed to.

Happily there’s no surprise automobile repair bill in my immediate future. I’ll take the good news where I can find it.

Posted in funny, me, transportation | 1 Response