Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year, New Consumer

As we end another year, I can only say that it has been very eventful. Watching several banks collapse, some countries go bankrupt, car companies asking for money to continue operating, and pretty much leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tabs.

A new year is coming and as consumers, we hope that change (for the better) is in the works for us, but as we all know it's up to us to make the little changes that will take us and our dollar farther.

Happy New Year and Happy Shopping!!!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Canadian Tire Money

I was at Canadian Tire the other day, and bought almost $100 in merchandise. I only received $0.05 back in Canadian Tire money. I thought the cashier had made a mistake and made a mental note to call Canadian Tire when I reached home. I spoke with customer service who informed me that when paying with a credit card at Canadian Tire, you get almost nothing back in their "money". Only paying by cash earns you big Canadian Tire "bucks". Good to know.

Happy Shopping!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Me vs. The Bank - Part 1

Background - I took a business cheque into my branch to have cashed. I had received it from a part-time job. It was for the amount of $1330. The bank told me they could not cash the cheque and if I deposited it, I would receive my $500 cashback and the rest would be on hold. I have asked my bank on several occasions to increase my cashback limit or decrease the hold time on our account (currently 5 business days), they have refused. (Cashback is the amount the bank will "free" up to you when you deposit a cheque with the teller or at the ABM.)

I have been banking with this certain bank (they shall remain nameless - the red and white guys) for 2 1/2 years. I have both mine and my husband's paycheques directly deposited into the account. I also hold a mortgage with their subsidiary company. Most of our debit transactions and bill payment are done through this account. My bank has not attempted to even meet me halfway regarding this issue. I have been told fraudulent activity (which doesn't apply to me) and the "banking crisis" as excuses for not increasing my cashback amount.

How inconvenient is it, when you have bills to pay and you are waiting for cheques to clear. Therefore, I have had no choice but to write to their Ombudsman and the Canadian Bankers Association to get this issue resolved.

Wish me luck and I will keep you posted.

Happy Shopping!!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Smart Shopping

As we fast approach the holiday shopping season, millions of transactions will be processed using debit. It's important to remember that while buying all your goodies, when paying by debit, to protect your PIN (personal identification number).

As a frequent debit card user, I've always thought I looked kind of weird when shielding the screen as I am paying for a purchase, however, I cannot begin to tell you the amount of debit card fraud stories I have heard. Although in most of the cases the victims were re-compensated by their financial institutions, the process they had to go through before getting their money back was very time consuming. Shielding your PIN not only applies to debit purchases, but also to withdrawing funds at an ABM (automated banking machine.) It's also extremely important to check your financial statements on a regular basis and to notify your financial institution immediately if you find any discrepancies.

If you become a victim of debit card fraud, you are protected by the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Debit Card Services. Under this Code, victims of debit card fraud will not suffer any financial losses.

For more information about debit card safety, please visit www.protectyourpin.ca
(courtesy of 2008 Smart Consumer Calendar)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Happy Shopping!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

2009 Smart Consumer Calendar

Get valuable monthly tips on everything you need to know about being a smart consumer:

• What you need to know about home repairs and renovations
• Your rights when dealing with an energy supplier
• How to protect yourself when buying a used car
• Steering clear of auto insurance scams
• What to remember about buying or selling a home
• How to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud
• How to help fight health care fraud – and much more.

Smart consumers are good for business.

Available this year in English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Punjabi.

Order your calendar today at http://www.serviceontario.ca/publications Call toll-free at 1-800-668-9938 (TTY toll free at 1-800-268-7095)

(Courtesy of Government of Ontario website - Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services)

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

National Do Not Call List


(In effect Tuesday September 30, 2008)

The National Do Not Call List (DNCL) gives consumers a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls. The National DNCL Rules introduce new responsibilities for Canada’s telemarketers.

If you are a consumer you can choose to reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive by registering your residential, wireless, fax or VoIP telephone number on the National DNCL. You can also check your registration, find out how to from the National DNCL, and file a complaint about telemarketing calls.
(Courtesy of CRTC Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, 2008)


I tried several times before I was able to register. I registered not only my home phone but my cell phone as well. If you can't get through the phone lines or the website is busy, keep trying.

Happy Shopping!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coupon Crazy

I love my coupons. Any opportunity to save a few cents, a couple of bucks or get an item or two free...I'm there. My thrill is finding them and then using them. To those clippable, printable money-savers, I say...bring it on!

There are several places to find coupons online.

To find coupons:

-check online:
Canadian Free Stuff
Frugal Shopper
Red Flag Deals
P&G Brandsaver

- check your local newspapers for inserts like Smartsource and Shop 'n' Save

- magazines (ie. Glow magazine by Shoppers DrugMart, always has bonus Optimum Points coupons)

- check your mail

- in-store (I walk up and down the aisles of my favourite grocery store)
Fresh Obsessed (A&P / Dominion)

If all avenues have been exhausted and you can't find a coupon for your product, email the company and simply ask for them (don't forget to mention how much you love the product.)

Also register online with the manufacturers of some of your favourite brands to receive product updates - Pampers.ca, Nestle.ca, Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Unilever,

Happy Shopping!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The "Eco-Friendly" Consumer

Biodegradable, organic, earth-friendly, eco-friendly, environmentally friendly....these are all terms that we are hearing and seeing. You cannot go anywhere, without any of these words jumping out at you. But is it possible to be a total eco-friendly consumer and at what cost?
First of all, has anyone noticed how pricey it is to save the earth? Hybrids cost more, solar panels cost more, organic materials cost more. Manufacturers increase the cost of these products, thereby increasing their profits while trying to convince consumers that somehow they are helping the earth in the long run. I care about our planet and I believe every little bit helps. However, I'm not convinced that paying more for my vegetables because it is grown in untreated soil, does a great deal for the earth, especially when those vegetables are put in a plastic bag to take home. I don't profess to be an Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio or David Suzuki, but I do my share. I use baking soda and vinegar to do my housecleaning, I take cloth bags on my grocery trips and I recycle whenever I can. I however, have never measured my carbon footprint, I don't do my laundry at 1:00 am to prevent carbon emissions into the atmosphere, I don't have a composter and I don't drive a hybrid. But then how many of you know people who do all these things? This is my point, it's difficult to be a total eco-friendly consumer. It does mean giving up some conveniences we've become accustomed to and going that extra mile to find products that are earth-friendly. That is not to say, it is impossible. There are more and more stores and businesses that are catering to the eco-minded consumer. Anywhere from food to furniture to clothing, all produced with the environment in mind. All these things however, come at a cost. Now I know some of you out there are saying, but if it's for the earth, then it's worth it. Of course, and I agree with you, but why does somebody have to make a profit for the earth to be saved? I'm not asking for these products to be free, but it's becoming more and more apparent that everyone is trying to make a buck off the earth these days.
The next time you are at a grocery store, look at the earth friendly products. You are sure to see the price hike. Remember, when buying eco-friendly products, always ask yourself, if this is a product you can continue to buy and use or if there is a cheaper eco-friendly alternative. If the purchase is because the earth is "in" right now and you know that on your next grocery trip, you will go back to your old fave, don't purchase the product, because the earth is not interested in a fly-by-night relationship. It requires a long-term relationship. It needs people in there for the long haul, through thick and thin. To nurture and to protect. Like I said, I use baking soda and vinegar, this relationship at times, also requires some elbow grease.

Earth-friendly sites for suggestions and ideas:

Cleaning with baking soda

Baking soda book

Vinegar Tips

It's easy Being Green


National Geographic

Happy Shopping!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Little Guy

Too many of us see ourselves as the little guy when it comes to dispute resolution with businesses. It would be ideal to love every acquisition we obtain, however, the reality is, there are times -more often than not- when we are either going to hate our purchases, they will be damaged, not work at all or we'll just change our minds about them. Some businesses, or dare I say, most big businesses make their return or cancellation policies clear. The rules are posted high and bright at their customer service desk and can't be missed. These rules state the time period with which to return or exchange the product, the return process for having or not having a receipt (full refund, restocking fee, gift card or store credit), and how the purchase was made (cash, debit, credit card, gift card). Then there are the bigger purchases which are difficult to take back (the 50" plasma, the new washer/dryer, the floors you had installed, etc.), the contract you signed and have now changed your mind about or the service fee which you feel is being unjustly applied. It is at this time, you see the "true colours" of the business.

If you find that the help or the remedy that is being offered by customer service is not to your satisfaction, do not be afraid to climb up the ranks. Many people feel that their complaints are not important or significant enough and therefore do not warrant the attention of a senior official. Others have the, "I can't be bothered" or "I don't have the time for this" attitude. It's important to understand that when you voice a complaint to a business, it gives them the opportunity to correct not only your problem, but to look into any defects their product(s) or policies might have. Remember, YOU are the customer, YOU spent your hard earned money and if YOU did not get what you thought you were going to get, YOU deserve to voice that. Ask to speak to the manager or assistant manager. Explain your concern(s) to them and take it from there. This usually helps to solve the problem. If this doesn't help or you are not satisfied, climb further up or contact the manufacturer and register your complaint with them. If that doesn't help, put your complaint in writing and send it via registered mail to the business and/or manufacturer. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself in case you have to seek third-party mediation.

It is important to know your rights as a consumer and what recourse you have in the event you find yourself in the above situation.

Links to Provincial websites on consumer protection:


British Columbia


New Brunswick


Northwest Territories

Nova Scotia







Happy Shopping!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Election Fever??!

Election day in Canada is October 14, 2008. Somehow though, I don't feel the fervor and the excitement that our neighbours south of the border are enjoying or enduring. However, nonetheless, as citizens of this nation, we have a civic duty to elect (who we think is) the most responsible and reliable leader for our country.

I know many people who do not vote because they do not see or understand how it affects them. It's such a shame, as these and many people throughout our nation do not realize that, as consumers, the people we elect into office determine what we can spend, how it is spent and many times where we spend it. The laws and policies that are passed in parliament affect, -in some way or another- every single person in Canada. That is why it is our responsibility to familiarize ourselves with the different parties (PC, Liberals, NDP, Green Party,Bloc Québécois), see what their agendas are and then look at our own issues and see which party will best represent our cause. If you have any concerns or questions, don't hesitate to contact the party offices.

Voting is not just a privilege, it is a right, and a right every Canadian should take seriously. On October 14, 2008, get out there, cast your ballot and let your voice be heard.

Happy Shopping!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Listeria Hysteria

So, we have been through a couple months of listeria hysteria. The truth is approximately 100 people die from listeriosis a year in Canada. Why the emphasis on the outbreak this time? Could it be that this time we can point the finger at a large corporation? Maple Leaf Foods was apologetic, ensuring the public that everything was and is being done to fix this mess. The company complied with all of the government’s requests, shut down their factory, cleaned up and took blame. They have assured us that they will do anything and everything to win us back. (They have cut prices of their foods across the nation.)

I, however, can’t help but notice how empty the deli aisles appear to be since this case. I’ve spoken to and heard from many people who have said that this will not change the way they buy their deli meats, but I don’t see those people running to the counter to have their roast beef or ham shaved or sliced either.

So what can we learn from this? Well, firstly, our food manufacturers are not perfect. We trust them to feed us and to provide us with quality products, but sometimes, things go wrong and as we have seen in this case, can have deadly consequences. Secondly, our government, namely, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has to ensure greater quality control. There are reports that the federal government allowed the industry to begin it’s own testing this year. Fourthly, as consumers, we should all practice caution and care. We should take consumer alerts and recalls seriously. We should pay attention to expiration dates and if you are ever in doubt about the quality of any food, don’t buy or eat it. Notify the company of your concern. In the case of food, we all need to take caution when handling and preparing. Even in our own homes.

Unfortunately, and sadly, as a result of this contamination, lives have been lost, and for that I offer my deepest condolences.

Happy Shopping!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scanner Price Accuracy

Canadian retailers are committed to accurate scanner pricing. Incorrect prices can result in poor customer relations and legal sanctions. Consequently many retailers are now implementing a variety of procedures that were developed to help achieve and maintain accurate scanner pricing.

Scanner Price Accuracy Voluntary Code

1.1 On a claim being presented by the customer, where the scanned price of a product at checkout is higher than the price displayed in the store or than advertised by the store, the lower price will be honoured; and
    (a) if the correct price of the product is $10 or less, the retailer will give the product to the customer free of charge; or

    (b) if the correct price of the product is higher than $10, the retailer will give the customer a discount of $10 off the corrected price.
The Code does not apply in provinces or territories where existing legislation or regulation covers these concerns.
(Courtesy of RCC - Retail Council of Canada, The Voice of Retail, 2007)

Visit the the Retail Council of Canada for more details and to find supporting companies.

Happy Shopping!!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Receiving excellent customer service

You know good customer service. It’s the service when nothing goes wrong. You get a lukewarm hello from the CSR (customer service representative), he/she gives you your product, finds it, completes your transaction or handles your complaint. They wish you a nice day, you thank them, you take your product and walk out.

THEN there is excellent customer service. This is the service you receive that you tell your friends about, email the manager about and makes you a repeat customer. Below is a list of things to do, to go from receiving good to excellent customer service.

1. Smile at the customer service representative.

2. Ask THEM how they are. (You would be surprised, how many surprised looks you get when you turn the script on them.)

3. If the CSR is wearing a nametag, refer to them by name. This will also come in handy, if you are given incorrect information. You then have a source to refer to.

4. Make eye contact when speaking.

5. Speak slowly, enunciate your words and be direct.

6. Have a command in your voice. Sound confident about what you are saying.

7. Know what you are saying. If you are unsure about a product you are looking for, try to describe it to the best of your ability. Don’t be afraid to use body language, hand gestures, etc. to describe the product.

8. Be prepared. If you are returning a product, have the product with you and any receipts, and if possible, the original packaging, no matter how destroyed it is. Explain what your issue is with the product, ie. doesn't work, wrong colour, changed my mind, etc.

9. Control the volume of your voice. Too quiet or soft and you appear timid, if you’re too loud, you appear aggressive. Find a medium tone.

10. Don’t interrupt the CSR when they are speaking. (You don’t like being interrupted, so don’t do it to others, besides, you might miss important information.)

11. Thank them. It’s a small thing, but it makes all the difference.

Happy Shopping!!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Credit Card @ the Pumps

I had approx. $140 left on my MasterCard, when I bought $15.02 gas at a local gas station (Petro Canada.) On my way home, I decided to use my card to pay for some groceries, much to my surprise, the card was declined. This was strange, as I was certain I had about $120 left after my gas payment. Fearing that some fraudulent activity had taken place, I called the credit card company and was told that there was a hold on my account for $120 from Petro Canada. What had happened was that in paying at the pump, a hold was put on my account by Petro Canada as a means of ensuring that payment went through. This hold is anywhere from two to four days. I called them (PetroCan) and asked why a note or bulletin was not posted at the pumps, where patrons would easily find it. No real explanation or answer was given (as there never is).

I was finally told after being flipped back and forth from credit card company to gas company and back again, (after trying to have this hold taken off) that when paying by credit card at the pumps, the transaction is not handled the same as when payment is made with the cashier. For whatever reason, a hold is placed on credit cards and debit cards when a payment is made at the pumps. This, however, is not the case with payments that are made with the cashier inside, as the transaction is instantaneous and the amount paid for is all that is taken out of the account. The credit card company was informative, as they told me that all Canadian gas companies do this and the amounts held vary from $99(Pioneer) to $150(Sunoco) and everything in between, depending on the gas company. Gas companies in the US will hold as little as $1. If you only have enough funds on your credit card to cover the gas payment, your card will be declined and it would be in your best interest to pay inside.

In the case of debit cards, they ensure that the amount held is in the account. In my situation, if I only had $15.02 in my account, the transaction would not have gone through, and the machine would have told me I had insufficient funds. The same transaction would go through no problem, had I paid with the cashier.

Do yourself a favour, take a few minutes and walk in to pay for your gas purchases with the cashier.

You wouldn't want to go on that dinner date, only to find out, when the bill comes, that your card has been declined. Imagine the embarrassment.

Happy Shopping!!!!
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