In a struggle to be happy and free

Drystone Wall

Category: consumer life Page 2 of 31

Beware the scammers!

I just received a call from the 613 area code. I didn’t recognize the number so I let it go to voicemail. It was a message from the Canada Revenue Agency asking for a call back from me or my lawyer. So I called! The guy just overwhelmed me with information, like his name, telling me that he was an officer with the CRA, his badge number (which almost made me laugh), and then all kinds of other stuff, none of which I can recall. He finally asked for my name. I asked what this was about. He said that once I gave my name, he’d pull up my file and we could get into it.

Given that I’ve never once had the Canada Revenue Agency call me to inform me of an issue, I told the guy that I was not comfortable giving him any information. The CRA always sends mail, whether postal mail or through their online service if you’ve signed up for online communications, so I was hesitant. He told me that I should have my attorney call him and he hung up.

Of course it wasn’t the Canada Revenue Agency. In fact, the CRA web site has a Fraud page, and among the examples of telephone fraud they provide, the first is the same person who called me! The script has different details but it’s definitely the same guy.

Think twice before you even give out your name over the telephone. Just because someone calls you doesn’t mean they know your personal information. Don’t help them gather information about you!

Jean adventure

4M6C3582.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 85mm 1:1.8 @ 1/15, f/2.0, 3200 ISO, no flash

4M6C3582.CR2: 5D Mk.III, EF 85mm 1:1.8 @ 1/15, f/2.0, 3200 ISO, no flash

Amazon’s crazy black Friday sale had me discover that now only do they sell Levi’s 501 jeans, and they also sell odd-numbered waist sizes, but they were also on sale! I bought a pair for $39.95. I wanted just one pair so I could wash it and make sure it actually fits. And it did fit! I tried to order more to discover they were all out of my size. I kept checking back and I found one pair for sale a week later. It arrived and I discovered it was dark denim, which isn’t what I wanted, but for $39.95, I kept it anyway. Surely the sale would be over at the end of the week after Black Friday, right? Right! But I couldn’t help myself. I kept checking and a few days later, I saw the stonewash jeans in the size I wanted on sale for $34.95. I was only planning on ordering one more pair, but at an even lower price, I thought I’d better get two. It’s not like they go bad, right?

When they arrived, I opened the box to make sure they were the right size and colour. Happily, they were just what I wanted. I put the box down, and not five minutes later, the cat had to check things out and she seems to have appropriated the box (with my jeans still in it!) for her new bed. Kitties are the craziest people.

Yes, I was surprised that sells Levi’s jeans, and even more surprised that they sell them in my beloved 33″ waist! Before I saw them for sale on Amazon, I didn’t know they were even offered in odd-number sizes.

But sadly, Levi’s are no longer my preferred jean. A number of years ago I got ahold of two pairs of Lucky jeans and they are fantastic. They’re lighter, thinner, softer, and longer lasting than Levi’s. These jeans are also available in odd-numbered sizes and it was with them that I discovered that a 33″ waist is a much better fit than either 32″ or 34″. The problem is the Lucky Brand jeans are more expensive. I got them in Montréal and I’d be happy to pay the nearly $100 per pair for more, but going to Montréal is no longer a viable option for me.

One can purchase directly from Lucky Brand via mail-order, but they are all shipped from the U.S. so I’d have to deal with taxes and possibly import duties, both charged at the border, as well as the exchange. You may not know it, but the exchange rate has recently gone nuts. I’d know the price Lucky Brand charges in U.S. dollars, but the Canadian price, the tax, and the duty would all be a mystery until it’s too late to change my mind. No thanks.

I checked and there is a Lucky Brand store in Toronto, but they do not stock anything longer than a 34″ inseam, which is 2″ too short for me. Happily I called the store before I went to Toronto. The young lady told me that I could come in to the store, try a 34″ length pair to make sure the waist size is right, then they’d order the proper length for me. Great! Then she added, “…and they’ll ship it directly to your address!” She clearly thought this was a good thing, but I confirmed that this would basically be the same as ordering direct, with the advantage of being able to try the various waist sizes in advance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t about to take a risk and possibly end up paying $130-$150 for one pair of jeans! Yes, also offers Lucky Brand jeans, but there is not a single pair available in my size. Some have a 33″ waist, other have a 36″ inseam, but none have both.

So although they’re no Lucky Brand, I paid an average of $42.35, including taxes, for each of the four pairs of Levi’s 501s I bought. That’s a far better match for my current budget!

The Force Awakens? I’ve already seen too much.

The closer we get to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the more the Disney marketing machine cranks up, and the more fatigued I get. My second-decade self would think that I must have fallen and hit my head to utter such heresy! The truth is, we grow more discriminating as we get older and it seems that Disney is throwing a hell of a lot of ads and marketing tie-ins at the wall and hoping some of them stick. The result, as I mentioned, is Star Wars fatigue.

I felt a disturbance in the force when Disney bought Lucasfilm and the Star Wars franchise. Disney does make some good products, but their overriding skill and focus is marketing. They’re also ridiculously zealous in protecting their properties. Every time the copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire, their lobbyists talk to their pocketed congress people and the limits are extended.

Another more pertinent example? A reader of the Star Wars Action News Facebook page posted a photo of the Rey Star Wars figure he bought at Walmart†. Soon afterward, the photo was removed from the post. Facebook explained that a copyright claim was filed against the image. Jeremy Conrad at Star Wars Unity tweeted the photo and found himself the recipient of a DMCA notice about it. About a photo of a legally purchased figure in a post that basically says, “Look what I got!” The overreach is ridiculous in its extent.

So far, in my own television viewing and from articles about the marketing machine attached to this seventh Star Wars film, I’ve found fourteen marketing tie-ins! Among them is the particularly perplexing Kay’s jewellers Star Wars charms. They didn’t mention the Star Wars charm bracelet, but I bet it’s on the way! Many are nothing but an attempt to hitch their wagon to Star Wars, without actually offering anything but a Star Wars photo or logo on a package with the same old stuff inside, like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Coffee-Mate, Band-Aid bandages, and Cover Girl lipstick.

It’s marketing run amok and the more I see, the less I want to reward Disney for their getting in my face to this degree. As it stands, I’ll likely be seeing The Force Awakens in the spring when it comes to Netflix.

In the meantime, it’ll get much worse once the film is released and the toy ads start. Lovely.

The image is no doubt ©2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.

†“Lucasfilm Uses DMCA to Kill Star Wars Toy Picture” by Andy, posted on Torrentfreak, December 10, 2015

Cab drivers gone wild!

I was just watching Diana Swain on the CBC News Network. She was reporting on the large cab-driver protests against Uber that took place this morning in the Toronto downtown core. In particular, a CBC cameraperson managed to record1 a cab driver beside a white Honda, claiming “This is UberX,“2 as he gestured at the car. The cab driver then started pounding on the driver’s window, and then tried to open the driver’s door. The Honda driver, seeing the clearly aggressive actions of the cab driver, took off. The cab driver somehow managed to hook his arm forward over the side mirror and got it to bear his weight so he went along for the ride. Perhaps twenty metres later, the Honda driver stopped for a red light, the cab driver let go, and the Honda took off through the red light, leaving the cab driver standing in the middle of the street. Frankly, I don’t blame the Honda driver. I would have done the same thing.

A reporter talked to the cab driver and when asked about his ridiculous and dangerous behaviour, he explained it by saying,

We are trying to get a point across, that’s what we’re trying to do3

I’d suggest that his means of getting the point across is entirely inappropriate.

Swain also interviewed a taxi company owner. In particular, she said to him that she was in traffic downtown for two hours because of their protest and asked if this was the way to get support from the general public. His answer, and I kid you not, was “I’m sorry for any inconvenience we may have caused you.” I call bullshit. The whole point of the protest was to cause inconvenience. Like Swain, I question the means they used because I wasn’t even in the traffic, but what they did lessens any small feelings of sympathy I may have felt for the cab drivers.

They’re not doing themselves any favours as Toronto Mayor John Tory asked cab drivers to “stand down.” He went on,

There is no excuse for putting the safety of the public at risk, for blocking ambulances and first responders, for police officers being knocked to the ground.4

Sajid Mugha, of the iTaxi Workers Association said “If someone was stealing your food, how would you feel?“5 This is the crux of the drivers’ argument, but they’re attacking the problem in the wrong way. Consumers who use Uber see it as more convenient and cheaper. People want value for their money and the employees behind the more expensive entrenched system will find no sympathy by claiming the new service is stealing their food.

This is just the beginning of the problems for the taxi drivers. The taxi industry will be fine, but once self-driving cars make their debut, it’s only a matter of time before taxi companies have them outfitted with payment systems and dispense with drivers entirely.

  1. Taxi driver confronts Uber driver” video posted on, December 9, 2015.
  2. Cab driver pounds on Uber car, dragged 20 metres in Toronto protest” by CBC News, posted on, December 9, 2015
  3. ibid
  4. Anti-uber taxi drivers’ tactics ‘not acceptable,’ Mayor John Tory says” by CBC News, posted on, December 9, 2015
  5. Cab driver pounds on Uber car, dragged 20 metres in Toronto protest” by CBC News, posted on, December 9, 2015

Read the small print

The local FOX affiliate has been running ads about a weight-loss pill for a very long time. Lipozene helps you lose weight and you don’t have to do anything at all. You need not exercise, nor change your eating habits. A recent version of the ad states that they ran a clinical test and the group taking the pill lost over 400% more weight than the control group. Sounds pretty cool, eh?

At one point in the ad, a third of the screen is filled with small print. There is often good stuff in there so I decided it was time to read it.

It turns out that according to the small print, the average weight loss difference between the people who took Lipozene and those in the control group was 4.93 lbs. And it’ll cost you just $30 to lose 5 lbs! I have no idea how many pills the $30 gets you, but this seems like a terrible deal.

Another example of a deal that sounds too good to be true, and you know how those work out…

Lipozene logo ©2012 Obesity Research Institute LLC.

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