#48

pexels-photo-259200.jpegWhat’s this? Posting two days in a row?  What the.  .  .?

Purging will be simple today – it’s just venting.

Vent # 1- aquafit/aquasize/water aerobics – whatever you want to call it last night. It was my second class. Because last Friday’s got cancelled. I had rushed to get there all enthusiastic and everything (and a little late, too) only to be told it was cancelled due to the Alberta Winter Games.

Well.

I knew the games were on but the instructor never said anything when she was telling us that our next class was to be held in a different pool because the one we were in needed some maintenance.

You know what they say about assuming things.  .  .?

Anyway, I made plans to go with someone to a class last night. (Double checked that the class was running, first.) We arrived and stood around looking lost because we had no idea where the class was being held – no signs to indicate which pool, no milling crowd of excited participants – just us shivering on the edge feeling conspicuous in front of the row of men sitting outside the steam room and the sauna. (We come to watch!)

Finally, I asked where the class was taking place. The instructor shows up and we get in to the water. The cold water. The deep, cold water. We were standing on our toes, water lapping at our chins.  Ever tried doing a skiers lunge in water that’s nearly over your head? Ha ha ha ha. We toughed it out, but were pretty chilled by the end of the hour.

This is what was great about the class – I got out for the evening, I spent a lot of time laughing, I got to spend a bit more time with a new friend, I got some exercise and I got to sit in a hot tub afterwards.

Vent #2 – Rewards programs.

Like 99% of the population I like rewards. I like the feeling that I’m getting a little something extra for my loyalty as a consumer.

Hence, we collect Airmiles. At the rate of about 10 a year. We have 2 travel points credit cards – which get used quite regularly, and which have been extremely beneficial. We also have a PC/Optimum card for groceries and whatever.

Generally, I don’t complain about these programs because I figure, hey,  it’s a bonus and it’s better than getting nothing. Right?

Riiiight.

In the last year our travel VISA through TD has changed the way you earn and redeem points. These were tagged as ‘new’ and ‘important’ changes.  Essentially what it means is that we earn fewer points per purchase but it costs us more points when we want to redeem.

I did the irate consumer thing and called to voice my dissatisfaction. All that got me was a “We value your opinion and we’ll be sure to pass along your comments” platitude. Despite my threat to cut the card up I’ve still got it, because, well, you know, something is always better than nothing. Right?

Recently, I’ve been forced into the PC Optimum program. This is an amalgamation of the President’s Choice family of companies and Shoppers Drug Mart.

I shopped at Shoppers quite a lot, and had earned a swack of points. I didn’t really shop at Superstore that much, just occasionally, even though I had a PC points card. So I really didn’t earn many points there.

When the switcheroo came my points transferred over and I thought nothing of it. Other than – now that the two programs are joined I might as well shop more often at Superstore, and any other stores affiliated with the PC Optimum program.

And that’s how they get you. Because you think there’s a benefit in it for you.  Well, not so much.

Now I no longer earn points on every dollar I spend. I only earn points on those items they choose to send me offers for. And most of those offers are for things I’d never purchase.

It’s an ingenious marketing strategy, and one I’m sure many producers are paying handsomely to be part of. Because now they can directly target consumers and entice them to buy their products through the promise of points that they can redeem for more of their products.

So many people use these points programs to enhance the quality of their lives. It allows them to put more food on their tables, take vacations, buy gifts they might not otherwise be able to afford.

When I consider this I can’t help wondering: if, instead of spending trillions of dollars creating these ‘loyalty’ programs, companies simply lowered their prices so that consumers could actually afford to purchase what they needed and wanted – wouldn’t that in itself create loyalty?

It’s a long one today – glad I got it all out.

Resisting

This is a post about how tired I am of being ripped off.  Specifically for television; for entertainment, really.

For a year we had a great deal on the cost of our cable, internet and phone through Shaw.  $67.95/month, plus taxes and long distance charges when incurred.  Rarely did our monthly bill go over 80 bucks.

Now, I knew it was going to go up after the year was finished, but imagine my shock and horror when the new bill came in.  $180, plus change.  More than $100/month increase!  I nearly fainted.

So, I asked my husband, who’s a great talker, to call and see if he could get us a better deal.  He couldn’t.  So, I decided to give it a go.  Afterall, I was the one who managed to get us the great deal we’d enjoyed for the past year.

Two wasted hours of my life later I had haggled my way to a whopping $14/month discount, agreed to pay 2/3’s of the cost of a new PVR (with FREE installation!!) and an added bonus of 6 months free long distance anywhere in North America.

I was so tired and worn out by the end that I simply didn’t care anymore.  However, I did tell the young man I’d dealt with that I wanted the name of the president of the company and his address.  He was a bit dumb-founded, said he’d never had such a request.  He promised to get the info for me, but when he came back he told me how I could go through the many steps of customer contact/feedback utilizing the website.  I thanked him and hung up.

Angry, I was determined to write the president/CEO of Shaw and tell him exactly what I thought of their customer service.

NOT, that we were treated poorly, with disrespect or anything like that.  It’s more a matter that customers, especially long-term customers — we’ve been with Shaw for over 23 years — are not valued.  Not in the least.

When I asked how it was that for 12 months the company could provide me with High Speed internet, Premier channel packages and home phone with 4 cent/minute long distance for the low price of $67.95, but that now that a year has passed that same package is worth nearly two and a half times as much, they would not answer me.

When I stated that I was not looking to have that fabulous deal last forever —  I am not stupid or unrealistic, I declared — I simply wanted to get the best deal I possibly could.  And, seeing that they were offering good deals to new customers could they not offer the same deals to me?

Well, no, I was told.  Shaw simply cannot afford to offer back-to-back deals like that, it’s not an effective way of doing business.  Well, I said, how effective a way to do business is it if your customers decide to leave and take their business elsewhere?

There are always choices, I was told.

So, we made a choice.  Or, rather, my husband did and I’m supporting him in it.  He called Shaw two days after my deal-making and told them they could keep their new PVR and that he was cancelling our cable.  They were a little flummoxed at first, but they quickly refunded the deposit I’d paid on the PVR and the disconnected our cable service IMMEDIATELY.

Guess that will teach us to resist.

It’s only been two nights without television, and other than the odd glance toward where it sits mutely in its corner, I haven’t missed it.  I do wonder how we’ll feel once ‘our’ shows are back on — The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Hell on Wheels, and Game of Thrones — but Tim assures me we can stream them all on the computer.

All this has made me think of how much we — thinking, feeling, intelligent — human beings are willing to pay in order to be entertained.

Way back when, when we first moved to Bon Accord our cable television cost us about $36/month.  The internet hadn’t been invented yet, so there was no cost for that.  The phone cost about $40/month.  We didn’t have cell phones.  It was pretty cheap, comparatively.

Slowly, as technology advanced, the phone company and the cable company started upping their rates.  It was for all the improvements they were making, don’t you know, so that we would have better reception, better selection, better choices.

Our monthly bills for entertainment creeped steadily upwards so that by November 2011, my bill for cable and internet had reached $145/month, my landline $65/month (with unlimited long-distance for $19.95/month), and our cell phones $100/month.  I called Shaw and asked them what they could do for me to keep me from switching to Telus.

They put together the great deal I enjoyed for a year.

Going back to my wasted two hours, the young man I was dealing with kindly pointed out to me just how preferentially Shaw had actually treated me, and that this showed just how much they really did care about their long-term customers.  In fact, he told me, Shaw had actually saved me over $1000 that year!

I nearly choked.  Excuse me, I said as politely as I possibly could, you can take that $1000 dollars and average it out over 23 years and then tell me how great a deal it was.  Don’t you dare try to make me feel guilty or look greedy because I am taking offense to the outrageous cost of having your services delivered to my home.

I don’t know when it became acceptable to pay $200 and more a month for things like television, internet and phones, but it’s not something I’m willing to accept.  This is entertainment, people.  Delivered to the masses through satellite dishes, fibre-optic lines and good old transmission signals.

We’re constantly being told how cost-effective and efficient these methods of delivery are, so why in the name of God are they so expensive?

I believe it’s simply because we’ve become a culture that needs to be entertained all the time.  We’re addicted to reality shows instead of reality, we prefer texting and face-booking one another rather than talking face-to-face, we’d rather spend family time in our living rooms huddled before our giant plasma /HD/3D televisions mesmerised by images of other people’s imaginations rather than pursuing or nurturing our own.  We have, for the most part, forgotten how to entertain ourselves.

I’ve been wondering lately why it is that I don’t have time to crochet or do crafts like I once did.  Why it is that it takes me forever to read a book.  How come I can’t seem to find the time to go for a walk in the evenings like I once did.

Well, the truth is because I now spend all that time either in front of my computer screen or in front of the television screen.  (Well, I used to, anyway.)  And, I admit, that if I could have all that for the cheap prices of yesterday I’d be more than happy to continue on watching and interneting.

Maybe Shaw did me a favour, maybe by charging so much they finally forced me to wake up and pay attention to how much of my life I was wasting in front of a flat screen.

Perhaps, resisting isn’t futile after all.