complaint

Social Networking Bullshit

I'm tired of all this social networking bullshit. I mean the social networking bullshit that is always asking me to click something, creating visual noise, and generally just pissing me off because I'm not interested in sharing everything I do with the world. Today I purchased some books at Chapters and after my purchase went through I got this screen asking me if I want to "tell my friends about my purchase" on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

[img_assist|nid=403|title=Chapters - Share Your Purchase|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=501|height=233]

The only good thing to come of this is that as more and more people share useless information on social networks that no one cares about (like your lastest high score in some game that no ones care about but you, or your recent check-in at a local business, or something that you liked), more are more people will get pissed off and stop using them. I barely go to Facebook anymore because I find the ratio of crap to quality is monotonically increasing. Google+ is a bit refreshing because they are so few people that use it, there is therefore less crap; however, I can still use it for the things that matter to me, like sharing photos and videos with close friends and family (not the public), even those that aren't actually signed into Google+.

It's probably because I'm getting old, and being older and wiser, I can see things for what they are. I have no illusions that my friends will care what I buy at Chapters, and I know that Chapters just wants to sell more books. It's a little thing, but when combined with other things (the new Plum points crap), it's another reason to shop somewhere else instead.

Preschoolians: the internet's most ridiculous company

We ordered a bunch of shoes online for my daughter, from various American companies. One of them was Preschoolians (I'm not going to link to their site. There is an entire blog devoted to how much Preschoolians sucks but the last post was from 2006 so I decided to give them a try anyways.

First, I tried to order an "Accufit measuring device." The order was cancelled by Preschoolians and they said the following: "We would like to inform you that the for the moment we do not ship Accufit measuring devices and unfortunately your order was automatically canceled by the system . Please accept our most sincerest apologies for any inconveniences this may have caused you."

August 20th, 2011: I went ahead an ordered some shoes. I received a standard email stating that once the item ships I will receive a tracking number.

September 9th, 2011: I inquired about the order and they replied, "We would like to inform you that we have checked with the manufacturer to know exactly when your order will be shipped. They have confirmed that the shoes were made and will be shipped in 1-2 days, with the next shipment. The shoes will be delivered to you next week, and we will also send you an email with a UPS tracking number, to know exactly the estimated delivery date."

September 13th, 2011: The refunded the shoes, but stated that the shoes will be sent anyways as a gift! "First of all, please accept our apologies for the delay. We would like to inform you that the full refund was issued, and the money will go back in your account in no more than 2-3 business days. The refund was issued in order to make up for the delay. We would also like to inform you that the order was not cancelled and that the shoes will still be delivered to you as a gift."

October 18th, 2011: I inquired again, and received this reply: "Please note that we were informed that the problems we have been facing at the factory were solved so, all overdue orders should start shipping by the end of the week. We do apologize about the delay."

November 13th, 2011: Apparently the shoes are on their way via USPS: "We would like to inform you that the order for the I'm Walking Barefoot Fly Away Dark Purple Light Purple size: 25 was just shipped to you and it is transit with USPS and should be delivered to you in Canada the following days. Please accept our most sincerest apologies for any inconveniences this may have caused you."

Now it is January 3rd, 2012. If I check the status of the order online, there is a UPS tracking number (not USPS). The order is in the "waiting for UPS" state. Apparently they created a tracking number/label but never got UPS to pick it up. The number was created August 21st, 2011, the day after I ordered the shoes.

This company is an absolute joke. Most of these emails are obvious lies, as my wife said near the beginning, after the refund was issued and they said they would still send them as a gift: "Omg, they are never coming."

BTW, if you want a recommendation on where to buy toddler shoes online, check out Pediped, See Kai Run, and Robeez. Some other companies we didn't order from include Soft Star Shoes, Vivo barefoot, Teva, Land's End, and Feelmax.

Yelp sucks big time

Update: Yelp has now un-filtered all my reviews.

Yelp sucks so much. I created 5 reviews on Yelp and each one of them has been filtered. The first review I created was a 1 star review for Crocodile Baby, a baby store with some of the worst customer service I have seen in many years (an opinion that is shared by several of our friends as well). The review was terse and to the point, and I suspect I've been black-listed ever since then. Their automated system that checks for spam is supposed to be aggressive and have some false positives but 5/5 of my reviews being essentially marked as spam is ridiculous.

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Ticketmaster fees

[img_assist|nid=353|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=316|height=262]
Just bought some tickets on Ticketmaster and couldn't believe all the little fees that they add on. Why can't they just bundle these charges in to the ticket price? The "order processing fee", although it is added on to the "order" not the ticket, could also be bundled in to their overall costs. Make it a fixed cost per ticket rather than a cost per order. The "order processing fee" was especially annoying because when I was asked to select how I wanted my tickets (standard mail, express mail, pick-up, etc...) I chose standard mail because it said "Free." What is the "convenience charge" anyways? Just put everything together in to one fee and tell what it is up front. Break-it down later if you want.

Avoid UPS Like the Plague

I found out the hard way why UPS sucks (as least for shipping from the US to Canada). I bought an audio cable online and here is the breakdown:

  • Subtotal: $29.95
  • Shipping: $10.74
  • Tax: $0.00
  • Total: $40.69

Now here is where is gets ugly. After 8 working days the package finally arrives. Of course, they try to deliver it in the middle of the day when most of the world (including myself) is at work. So I got a sticker on my door today that says I owe $22.01 in Brokerage C.O.D. charges . WTF? $22.01, that's 73% of the original price of the cable and 54% of the total cost of the cable including the $10.74 I already paid to UPS in shipping costs.

These are most likely UPS's "Entry Preparation Charges" and apparently I must have fallen into the $40.01 - $100 range, hence the $19.45 charge plus taxes and whatever else that might have made it come to $22.01. My best guess is that the $2.45 difference is the actual duty itself, charged by the Canadian government. The $19.45, goes straight to UPS.

Apparently I'm not alone. A quick Google search turned up many stories of similar experiences with UPS:

Why was I the last to find out about this?

It looks like USPS is the way to go. I plan to have the package returned to sender, which is fairly easy to do as C.O.D. shipments are automatically returned to sender the same day the final delivery attempt is made (according to the yellow slip). I have already warned the sender and told them to re-ship with USPS. I am guessing that USPS shipping + customs (I have read it is $5 max) will be less than $22.01 so although I have wasted $10.74 in shipping it via UPS at least I didn't give them any more of my money.

Apparently You CAN challenge the brokerage fee! Pay customs yourself! and this person did it at Vancouver's UPS facility, which is where I would be going. I would try it if I had a car and a few hours of spare time... The CBC also ran a story about how to avoid paying the brokerage fee.

There is a also a pending class-action lawsuit against UPS:

The lawsuit claims that on the purchase of goods from the US, UPS fails to obtain consumers’ consent to act as customs broker; or to disclose the existence or amount of the brokerage fee which they charge; or to provide consumers with the opportunity to arrange for customs clearance by themselves. It also claims that the amount of the brokerage fee charged is grossly excessive.

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Canada Post Rates Rant

[img_assist|nid=364|title=|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=220|height=50]
So I have this book that I was going to ship to Toronto. Here are the specifications:

Weight: 300 grams
Length: 210 mm
Width: 135 mm
Height: 25 mm

Shipping from Vancouver to Toronto via Canada Post Regular Parcel is $10.34 with a delivery standard of 5-10 business days. I thought that was grossly expensive for a very light, average-sized paperback novel. So I checked some other quotes:

  • Shipping from Vancouver to Florida via "Small Packet USA Surface" is only $6.65 with a delivery standard of 6-12 business days. It is both cheaper and barely slower than Canada Post's Regular Parcel service.
  • Shipping from Vancouver to Florida via "Small Packet USA Air" is only $7.90 with a delivery standard of 6-12 business days. It is both cheaper and barely slower than Canada Post's Regular Parcel service. I would expect that this Air Mail would be closer to 6 days and the surface would be closer to 12.
  • With FedEx Ground from Vancouver to Toronto it costs only $12.48 with a 4-day delivery standard (note: with a FedEx account it would be even cheaper). Only slightly cheaper than Canada Post's Regular Parcel, and a far better delivery guarantee.

Trim the package down a bit, to a height of just 20mm (instead of 25g) and a weight of about 250g (instead of 300g), about the size of another book I have here with me, and the price becomes only $2.49 from Vancouver to Toronto with Canada Post Lettermail and $2.99 to the US with Canada Post US Lettermail or $3.96 to the US with Canada Post US Light Packet. The prices suddenly change drastically even though the weight has barely changed.

Here are my observations:

  • Why is shipping to Florida cheaper than shipping to Toronto? I don't see how that can ever make sense, unless of course it crosses the border in Vancouver quickly and gets handed off to USPS and they are far cheaper than Canada Post. I wouldn't be surprised as I have read that USPS is much cheaper. Is Canada Post justified in having rates higher than USPS? If they are sending the package by truck, it could be most costly to drive to Toronto than to drive to Florida. Unless of course they drove to Toronto via the US :-)
  • Why is FedEx Ground with a 4-day delivery only 21% more expensive than Canada Post's 5-10 business day standard? Either FedEx Ground is highly efficient, or they are not charging enough, or Canada Post is highly inefficient or charging too much.
  • Why does reducing the package's volume by 20% and the weight by 17% lead to a 76% reduction in price? This does not make sense at all. Normally you would expect a letter and a small parcel to both have some fixed cost associated with the handling that needs to be done. So let's assume a fixed cost of $0.10 for the letter and $0.10 for a parcel. Let's say the letter weighs 0.1 kg and a small parcel weighs 1 kg. There should be some variable cost to send the package that is proportional to the weight to transport it. Let's say $1/kg. So the letter's variable cost is $0.10 and the parcel's variable cost is $1. So the letter costs a total of $0.20 and the parcel costs $1.10. The parcel weighs 900% more but it costs only 550% more. This makes sense, because of the fixed costs with each item. In my example, a package weight increase of 20% led to a cost increase of 315%. Doesn't make any sense to me. Either the letter is costing them more to ship than they are charging or they are overcharging for the 300g parcel.
  • I find it interesting that it is cheaper to send a 300g, 25mm book to the US than it is to ship to Canada, but for a 250g, 20mm book it is the other way around.

I think what we need is something like the small packets service in Canada. We also need some consistency in the rates. They are so many oddities and contradictions in the rates as I've pointed out above.

Some other links:

site5 is Annoying me Today

I never have access to wget or ssh for any of my site5 accounts by default. I always have to file a ticket asking them to give me access. Half the time it takes 2 or 3 tries for them to get their 'fix' right as well. This time it is really bothering me because I filled out the ticket 24 hours ago and they still haven't responded.

Update: I switched to slicehost a long time ago. Much, much better.

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