Category Archives: shopping

My Excellent Birthday Adventure

steampunk, the Drive, Vancouver, East Van

Steampunk often involves gears, bolts and brass. From: http://www.bloodyloud.com/steampunk-jewellery-jm-gates/

Last week, it was my birthday. I’ve lived in Vancouver for years, and in the same neighborhood, yet there are many places on Commercial Drive, or The Drive, that I have never visited. I decided this year that I would choose to wander The Drive and try to hit five places I have yet to enter. I was going to start at noon and have friends join me as they could.

My first stop was the Time Travelers’ Bazaar at the Britannia School. Being no more than a five-minute walk from my place, I thought I knew where it was. However, Britannia is a huge complex that includes the school, daycare, library, skating rink, pool, courts and other buildings. Even if you know your way around it’s not easy to find the right spot. I went toward the cafeteria but all the doors were locked. I ended up picking up three other souls wandering as lost as me. Luckily one of my friends had come from another direction and found his way in.

The Bazaar was just for the day and everything from Steampunk jewellery to hats and bonnets, guns, masks, fascinators, fabric and sundries. I wandered in there fro about a half hour but with three friends trying to find me and coming from various directions, I headed to the Drive and told them which corner I’d be on. We went north for a couple of blocks and found the Windjammer Restaurant. I said they’d only been there a couple of years and someone said no since the 70s. I do know my hood well enough to notice when something goes in. It turns out the cafe has been around since the 70s but used to be on Main until about three years ago. Eight of us didn’t fill it up but definitely gave them a Sunday boost. Fish and chips are the specialty with choices in cod, halibut and salmon, plus poutine and a few other dishes. The special was two moderate pieces of cod, with fries and cole slaw for $6. The meal filled us and tasted fine. I don’t know if I’ve ever had stellar fish and chips. but the ones in England last year were better. These were fine and worth the price but nothing to write home about.

Commercial Drive, Vancouver cafes, food, burgers

Cannibal Cafe specializes in meat and is one of the newest restaurants on the Drive.

We crossed the street at Venables and then moved south along the Drive, wandering in and out of shops I’ve been in before. But part of the adventure was for my friends as well. Some people left, others joined and we continued along the way. The second place I wandered into that I’ve never really noticed much before was the Mr. Pets. It’s a large pet store across from Mark’s Pet Stop near 3rd and Commercial. I tend to support the little guy and usually stop in Mark’s but I was looking for special kitty kibble to help my cat who doesn’t jump too well. The shop has everything from cats to canaries (supplies) though I could hear a few birds. I actually didn’t explore the full store but bought the kitty treats.

Having eaten late and feeling still full we just stopped for a drink at the Cannibal Cafe with decorations above the prep area of plastic knives and cutting instruments covered in fake blood. They have beer and cider on tap and specialize in hand-ground meaty burgers plus smoked meat, salmon and turkey, and of course poutine. While we only drank, a friend says the burgers are good. Prices look reasonable and I’ll come back some night for a bite.

head shop, bongs, Smokers Corner, the Drive

This creature is for smoking. Found at the Smoker’s Corner

We were now into late afternoon. We stopped in front of a store’s window display that held strange blown-glass fish monsters. It turned out these were bongs for smoking your favorite substance. The head shop is called The Smoker’s Corner and only one friend and I were brave enough to wander in and look at all the artistic glass pipes. The weirdest gadgets were gas masks with long, clear green or pink tubes. I guess it meant you could get stoned and get your fetish on at the same time. None of us smoke but it was an adventure in weird pipes, to say the least.

I also popped into the long-running Dr. Vigari Gallery. It’s not new to me but the location is so it counts as half a bonus point. The last place on the Drive that was new to me was the Mediterranean Specialty Foods. The Drive is known for its Italian flavor, sporting many coffee shops, the Portuguese Club, old Italian restaurants now revamped, stores specializing in pasta, olives and salamis and El Sureno, another ethnic food store. I’ve been in all the others and somehow missed this one. It was a treasure chest, with bottles of different oils and vinegars, olives and peppers, pasta and spices lining the shelves like a caravan of goods. Definitely a cornucopia for the foodie. I’ll be going back here the next time I’m shopping. There are more oil than all the other shops put together. I also have some friends who like to play with their food so this place will be great for gift shopping.

food, olives, oils, the Drive, Commercial Drive, foodies

Mediterranean Specialty Foods. Owner Jack Elmasu. From Montecristo Magazine

That was the last official stop and since it was Sunday all of the shops were closing. What else to do on a birthday tour? Why, stop somewhere else to get a drink. We stopped at the Dime Roadhouse, a remade restaurant where one of the old pasta restaurants lived for years. I’ve only been there twice before and the sound was so loud you had to scream. For whatever reason; perhaps the better than expected good weather, being a Sunday, everyone was hungover…the noise was at a lower level and we could actually talk at normal level. A few more friends joined as others left. We ate dinner there. The Dime’s food runs no more that $4.95 for a dish. You don’t get massive portions but I had butternut squash risotto with goat cheese and it was enough and fairly tasty. You can’t go too wrong. Another friend had nachos for one; again, a good enough size. And if it’s not enough, order something else. Since I had been at the Dime before, it doesn’t count, but I’d not been to the bathroom there before. 🙂

For a Sunday Birthday adventure I got to show some of my friends more of my hood and after a very long time of living there I found new places. It was low key and great day out.

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A Follow-Up on How Zeller’s Sucks

customer service, shopping, consumer affairs, Zellers, department stores

Zellers wins in the worst customer service category. From magnaeframe.com

I received a comment from Chris, who had a lot to say about Zellers. In fact, so much so that the comment was really too long. So I asked Chris if I could use the comment for a guest post. I’ve edited it a bit and toned down the language but here’s my first guest blogger.

I worked in two different Zellers stores from 1991 to 1997 and have always had fairly strong opinions on why the chain would fail. In the early days of my employment I was working in a very recently converted former Towers store. Immediately I was thrust into an environment full of grumpy employees who were taken over as well, who had their wages frozen indefinitely as the pay scales of Zellers were less generous of those at Towers. It is quite possible that some of these folks were just plain overpaid to begin with, and maybe that’s what killed the Towers chain amongst many other things. Anyways, Zellers did not seem to bring any sense of excitement to anyone. Many felt they were a small fish being gobbled up by a whale. I once overheard a former Towers assistant store manager say that the takeover was handled badly, with no regard for the employees. Surprise surprise.

I was hired as a cashier. Before long a full-time position opened up in the Housewares department of the store. I  found myself inheriting a complete disaster. Boxes had been opened, were torn and tattered, merchandise was strewn across the floors, display models were incomplete, missing, or existed for items no longer sold, and items were not where they should have been on the shelves. At first I was shocked, but as time wore on, I realized that I was only expected to have things picked up off the floor and thrown back on the shelf each night, so that the cleaners could mop the floors. This was a far cry from my previous job in a grocery store where we could not leave the store until everything looked good. This included “facing” items on the shelves- retail lingo for bringing things to the front so that merchandise was accessible and made the shelf look full even if it wasn’t. At Zellers the only time this practice was followed was prior to what we called “Royal Visits,” when managers above the district manager level would visit. Why didn’t these people leave the visits unannounced, show up dressed like regular joes, and see what the front lines actually looked like on a normal basis? These guys, and yes, they were ALL mostly grey haired tall men in impeccable suits, wanted everyone to make a huge fuss over them.

The sad part was the way the store and department managers were treated. They were essentially given no budget, yet were expected to have things looking spic and span at all times. Sometimes the upper management guys would force a store manager to clean up a department himself while his shocked employees looked on. It was a real power trip for these bullies.

Oddly enough, I was encouraged to apply for the store management program, and being a high-school educated kid with nothing to lose, I took them up on the offer. In late 1993 I started my first assignment in another store, and for some time was pleased to be amongst employees that seemed more positive. I was told almost immediately that the store I was now working in had not seen the salary cuts of the previous store, but that they were coming. Almost overnight the location went from being a decent place, to the same as the first store. Somehow they thought that less employees would save them enough money to make the store more profitable. I learned many things about how the company operated:

  • Aisles cluttered with junky unappealing items that were old, tattered or had been returned. We were told NOT to reduce these items. The end result is that they never sold and wasted space. The stationery department was one of the worst.

    Zellers, customer service, marketing, sales managers, management, bad employees, bad zellers

    At least you know what you're getting with this sign. Creative Commons: amycgx

  • Sale items were never in stock. In fact, the store had stock, but the merchandise was on a pallet deep in the stockroom where no one could get it. The stockroom was tiny, so tiny, in fact, that in stuffing it with more pallets, the aisles between the rows of pallets were eliminated. Essentially we had a block of pallets about 8 across and 10 deep, the only way anyone would find the merchandise would be if they hauled each pallet out and stuck it in the aisles of the store. This, of course, was forbidden.
  • Outdated computerized inventory system. I’m not sure if it was replaced, but up to 1997 the PIMS system was in place. This system, developed in the 70’s, was supposed to automatically re-order items as they got low. Someone had the great idea of building a little caveat into the system. If the number of items went into a negative, the item would not be re-ordered and a problem would be flagged.This kept happening on stuff like sewing items, and since the store didn’t have anyone investigating the problem, entire aisles were full of empty shelves and pegs. Customers came back time and time again asking for items. We essentially looked like idiots when we told them we didn’t know.
  • Poor quality merchandise. The worst by far was the crappy Permatech/Eurotech line of small appliances. Sure they were cheaply priced, but even for $10 I would expect a toaster to work when I plugged it in. We saw the same garbage returned over and over for years, but they kept selling the junk.
  • Credit. These jerks made 30% of their profit on credit. You know, the kind of profit that requires people to be slow on their payments so they can reap huge interest charges. Cashiers were hounded to push this on everyone, to the point that they were giving long spiels to customers, like a Jehovah Witness at your door. Even worse, Zellers willfully declined to use debit machines in their stores for fear that people would stop using their credit cards. They finally made the switch sometime after 1997, likely due to customers leaving merchandise at the register and leaving in a huff.
  • Lack of staff. Did you know that in the 1960’s, American railroad companies tried to save money by deferring maintenance projects? The result was bad track with slow trains, and a mess that ended up costing a fortune to fix, unless of course, they went bankrupt first as customers turned to trucks. Zellers somehow thought they could run stores without those pesky employees gobbling up their profits. A prime example was how they let one employee be in charge of helping customers in a 30,000 square foot area on a Sunday afternoon. Most times there was no one to cover lunches. Other staff had to abandon ship at a second’s notice to open another cash registers to reduce exorbitantly long lineups. Cashiers were getting lunch breaks at 2 and 3 in the afternoon “because it was just too busy”. They were made to feel that they were part of some sort of important struggle to help their comrades survive or something. Customers in the meanwhile were looking for help in the aisles, and nobody was there to give it.
  • Cheesy gimmicks. Zellers was a firm believer in this 1950’s corny style of advertising and promotions. Instead of trying to sell cool stuff, they resorted to silly balloon drops, flashy flyers, Zeddy, and good old “Zellers Radio”. What was Zellers Radio, you ask? A stupid tape message that would play every 10 minutes that usually began with “Shhhhhaaaappers!!” The elevator music was no better. It seemed they did not want to deviate from the practice of appealing to the senior citizen crowd. The TV ads weren’t any better. For the longest time they were a televised version of the weekly flyer. Later on they got some Hillary Duff clothes in their stores and managed to get some decent ads going. This did not last, and an ad campaign was launched with purported Zellers employees saying “we’re getting better and better”. Wow. Talk about admitting you suck.
  • Ridiculous policies for shoppers. Come on, if someone isn’t satisfied, give them their money back. People usually got store credits after getting the runaround and waiting in long lineups. Supervisors would tell their employees to enforce these policies until someone really lost it. What then? Give the customer what they wanted and make the employee look like a complete asshole in front of them. Seems these little Hitlers didn’t have the balls to enforce these policies themselves.
  • Clueless upper management. The only way these morons knew how to react was to fire people. It seemed like management shuffles were happening constantly as someone got the boot for underperforming. And do you know who didn’t get fired? Guys like the Regional Director of Stores who showed up on the front lines during a “Royal Visit” and yelled at people.
  • Panic at the sight of Walmart, but reacting like a deer in the headlights. Instead of trying to figure out what makes Walmart a generally better place to shop, Zellers instead tried to undercut them on many items, and lost an arm and a leg in doing so. Walmart isn’t just about price. It was also about the “shopping experience” that Zellers never seemed to be able to figure out.
  • Morning meetings. The dreaded daily “pep talk” was nothing more than an attempt into performing better OR ELSE. What was discussed? The weeks sales, which didn’t really register in most people’s minds, and a couple of minutes of badgering employees to get more credit card customers, and just generally work harder if sales were supposed to get better. One time our store manager decided to go off on a rant about employee morale and how the employees had only themselves to blame for it. In his mind the skeleton crew often appointed to run the place should work twice as hard to achieve the results of double the people. He couldn’t  understand why people were not motivated to shed blood, sweat and tears at minimum wage.

I left the company fifteen years ago. I had always wondered if things had improved after I left, and after reading other people’s blogs posted since the announcement that Target was acquiring Zellers leases, it was obvious they barely changed at all. It was eerie to read what employees were saying about the company as it was so familiar.

Shame on you, Zellers, and good riddance. It’s sad that the employees of the companies are the ones to suffer, while the upper management folks will all leave with a huge chunk of change. Pathetic.

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The Apocalypse Begins

Apocalypse Diet, food, emergencies, rations, diet,

Apocalypse Chow is a book on preparing for outages from hurricanes to earthquakes http://www.flickr.com/photos/earthworm/5572145701/

In the late hours of 2011 the world came to an end. Or maybe it was the New Year’s virus leaving people feeling slightly comatose, half alive and glazed for January 1. It might be that misreading of the Mayan calendar, or it could be the zombie virus, a contagion that wipes out the majority of thinking humanity; in fact, come morning traffic you’ll notice many looking glazed and unthinking as they commute to jobs that are as numbing as their minds feel. There are many reasons that the apocalypse could have come about: massive abductions by aliens, the rapture taking more than its fair share, a meteorite hitting the earth, earthquakes, hungry carnivorous beetles, you name it.

For my Apocalypse I’m going with the zombies, something that wiped out a lot of humanity, leaving infrastructure in place but stopping supply lines for food. For the sake of this scenario I”m going with electricity still working and running water available. After all, I’m only doing make-believe on the Apocalypse Diet and still have to work in the world. Going smelly and unwashed and drinking out of rain puddles would not be that healthy for me. Likewise, if I start to run low on certain nutrients I’ll be taking supplements and if there is really nothing left to eat, I’ll quit the diet.

So the Apocalypse Diet begins today. How long can I live on the food in my house without buying anything? How long before I’m bored or eating condiments and drinking alcohol? I’ll do weekly posts here summing up what I’ve been eating and what trials I’ve had.

Right now, I’m in pretty good shape. Best to start your Apocalypse Diet after the holidays when you might have a lot of leftovers. My fridge is stocked with vegetables, my freezer (only the one in the fridge) with some meats and frozen soups. I have potatoes, rice, quinoa, flour and crackers. I have eggs. The fresh foods will be the ones to go first, so stay tuned.

Today, realizing that zombies were out there, ready to eat my brains while the living have raided any stores I had a meager meal. But then I wasn’t that hungry. A large glass of egg nog, with rum, is quite filling and that nog won’t last long so it’s got to go. I had about three slices of cheese, four crackers, three olives, and two chocolates that have liqueur in them. I’m actually allergic to dairy but I can’t let anything go to waste. I’ll need all the food until civilization is restored.

In the meantime, I’m going out for dinner tonight with a friend. And since forays to restaurants don’t count on the Apocalypse Diet, this won’t either. Don’t expect to see me going to restaurants five times a week to avoid my apocalypse. I can’t afford that and have some December bills to pay off. So, no shopping for food for weeks and weeks. Does anyone care to bet how long it will take for me to break this and buy food?

In the meantime the new set of knives will come in handy, especially if the zombies break through. I wonder if zombie stew is any good. And since it’s Canada, I have no gun. Until the end of the week when I post my first summary on the Apocalypse Diet, I hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve and that zombies didn’t eat your brains. Let’s hope for a healthy, happy and peaceful new year.

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Insta Fashion: Is it Art?

Fabrican, spray-on clothing, fashion, art, skin-tight clothing

Fabrican or fabric can't spray-on clothing

I recently came across a new form of art. Or is it a new fashion statement? In some cases it’s both or just one. NewScientist reports on a process of spray-on clothing. You’ll need to watch the video to get a good idea of the process. There is a second one of an artist working with cellulose as well. The problem with cellulose is that it swells or gets slimy once water is introduced.

The spray-on clothing is a mixture of cotton fibers, polymers and solvents. I can’t find what those polymers or solvents are made of and if this would even be a good thing to put on bare skin very often. While the experimentation is ongoing and researchers see the possibility of medical usages, such as spray-on bandages, the aspects of fashion are quite limited.

First, you would have to go into a shop or have a friend spray your clothing on. Otherwise, everything would be backless. I imagine that spraying this stuff on to any length of body hair could be problematic with removal. Considering that we’re living in a nearly hairless body era, that might not be an issue. The material can be washed and re-worn but it looks pretty fragile in maintaining its shape. I also noticed that the women were small breasted overall for the application. Does that mean that dealing with larger curves for breasts or buttocks could be an issue of tension for the fabric? Not to mention, if your breasts aren’t perky, your top will sag.

The models were all very slim and trim. I think that spraying on a T-shirt over a large beer gut might just be a bit more than anyone wants to see. And what about pants? This material gives a whole new meaning to skin-tight and indeed nothing would be left to the imagination. What I’ve seen of the styles so far are pretty basic and seems to be used in a very basic T-shirt or tank top style, so style still needs to develop.

While spray-on fabric might be useful for scientific applications or one of a kind art displays, I can’t see it catching on yet for fashion. Not until they solve the form-fitting aspect. But in the future, perhaps when we’ve deforested so much of the earth that the remaining stands of trees are protected as oxygen sources, maybe we’ll be recycling every fiber and spraying on our loincloths (what with global warming and all) and dissolving them when we need a new one. It might be the way of the future but I think we’re stuck for a while yet with clothes that cover us up. Which gives us time to all get in shape so we look good when the inevitable happens.

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Fashion Goofs

I think I commented before on the silliness of the baggy pants, nearly-to-your-knees style, where young men belt up the voluminous garment but show their underwear above the belt line. This style is good for skateboarders, for movement and for keeping that tender flesh from being abraded during a fall. It’s not good for much else. But even so, that look is of a particular style that goes together in its own odd way.

Should you take five people and tell them to dress in the same style I bet that only three of those people would get it right or be able to pull it off. Some people do not have the demeanor, fashion sense or the body type for certain looks. These are the fashion goofs. We’ve all seen them; the elderly men with sagging paunches squeezed into a Speedo bathing suit, that woman psychic I saw on TV once who had to be nearing 60 wearing her hair in two ponytails and in very pink frilly dress, Donald Trump’s massively bad comb-over.

I’m going to have to start taking pictures but here are two examples of people I saw who were unable to carry off their fashion choice no matter their confidence in their attire. I was waiting at a local coffee shop for a friend, people-watching those waiting for the bus and there was this guy trying that underwear displaying look. However he had on the equivalent of Bermuda shorts, down to the knee and fairly form fitting. They sat on his hipbone but not as low as the baggy pants style. Above this, as proudly as a peacock, he displayed his version of tighty whiteys. Often worn with the baggy pants are the equally baggy boxer shorts. These were tight and bright red and up to his waist. Yikes! The picture to the left illustrates a ludicrous look with tighty whiteys, baggy pants and a garter!

The second was not eye offending but just not right and would not have even been noticeable except the person wearing the outfit proclaimed herself to be goth. What do we imagine in the realm of goth clothing? Red, black, maybe blue, sometimes white, torn, tight, bodices, laces, frills, leather, studs, Victorian…these are all gothy. This person wore her hair long and straight, with bangs. Okay, gothy…maybe. She wore, I think, some mascara and a lipstick in the darker colors but not red nor burgundy. She always wore jeans, black, straight legged with black runners (tennis shoes). Her blouses might have had a bit of ruffle to them. All of this together does not speak goth. Although her clothing was nondescript enough and didn’t look bad on her, in no way did she resemble a goth. Her work outfits differed little from her leisure wear and the only goth was in her head.

Possibly the people who proclaim loudly they are of a group, or fashionable are those who try just a bit too hard. I’ve had female friends that look terrible in dresses because the walk like men. They’ve learned not to wear those garments. On the other hand perhaps these people should be applauded for not caring what others think. Still some eye-offending outfits would be better left to nightmares than reality.

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A Holt Renfrew Girl on a Wal-Mart Budget

Creative Commons: Avon Lady by theotherwayworks flickr

The heading is just a bit off. I don’t really shop at Wal-Mart nor at Holt Renfrew, though I once did buy my winter coat there. I don’t shop Wal-Mart (or Zellers) because the clothing is generic and, while cheap, not made that well, nor that exciting for styles. Holt Renfrew, on the other hand, might have more fashionable outfits but with highly inflated prices.

For basics, sure you can buy some of those things in the cheaper stores, but if you want something made well that will last, you have to go to a store that’s more specific, as in a clothing store for clothes or a shoe store for shoes, not always a department store. But that’s just a general thing. Many clothing stores have cheaply made clothes where the buttons are stitched on with the least amount of thread and will fall off after one wearing. Or after one washing the seams will separate so it takes a judicious eye to spot the good over the bad.

I’ve always loved clothes and jewelery and I guess I’m a typical girl that way. I wouldn’t say I’m a slave to fashion, because those people change their clothes every season depending on what the new style is. I’m more of a fashion horse, in that I have a lot of clothes, I like to buy unique items but I keep them for more than a season. So my style is individualistic and eclectic.

I don’t want to look like everyone else and I want clothes that fit well and flatter my body, so some fashions don’t work well on me. Because I don’t have the funds to buy designer clothing I tend to shop around a lot. I go into various stores and little shops and don’t frequent the chains as much because in a chain store everyone wears the same. I also wait for sales because most clothing prices are beyond the worth. I have also found good clothes in stores like Wal-Mart, (Army & Navy) but not often and again looking carefully.

This weekend I decided to shop for a new purse. Purses are like other fashions; sometimes they’re in style and sometimes the styles change but in purses (like other clothing) there is quite a range. I have a couple of purses that I use year in year out; your basic black for one. But I wanted a lighter color, for spring and summer. As I started to wander through the stores I notice that The Bay in an attempt to pop themselves up to a Holt Renfrew level of chi-chi have renovated to shiny and marble with lots of space a few stands and handbags displayed airily. Of course I could not believe the prices: $185, $395, $240. For a purse! The most expensive I’ve seen in prvious years was $120 and that was very high.

I have to say I sneered and wandered off to other stores to see similar prices. I just wanted a little purse, to bop around summer with, to

Creative Commons: Rene Ehrhardt via flickr

store a few things. Yes, most of these purses were leather but even in Sears, considered not as high-end purses were topping $100-$200, though some were in the $60-$85 range. But of course those were vinyl or some other pseudo plastic. You do sometimes get what you pay for but expensive poly plastics still tend to tear and rip faster and sometimes you pay for name (I refuse to advertise for a company so never buy anything with a very conspicuous brand labeled across the clothes). I did eventually find a purse on sale for about $40. It’s not completely ideal but it’s better than even the Winners purses that were coming in at $200.

If I won the lottery tomorrow I’m afraid I would still not be a full Holt Renfrew girl. I don’t think $400 for a blouse is reasonable, unless it was made by gnomes during the full moon and sewn with spider silk. A lot of fashion pricing is a big gouge and I just can’t participate in it when money could go to better causes. On my moderate budget that counts as rent and food. If I had my millionaire’s budget that extra money would go to charitable causes, not $500 purses.

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How Zellers Sucks

Zellers is in the realm of K-Marts, Targets and Walmarts and other low-cost stores of cheap stuff. They carry some clothing, some shoes, some pharmacy, some every day living stuff, some food. They’re okay but not high on my list of places to shop. If I need a pair of cheap socks or stockings or a few cans of cat food I’ll stop in and buy them on my way home. But the biggest thing that deters me from Zellers is the service. I’ll go to the comparable London Drugs over Zellers even though I’ve noticed their prices are not that cheap anymore.

Kevin Yarr/CBC

I have never yet found a Zellers that has a fast checkout. I don’t know if this is the way the cashiers have to scan things (with a scangun as opposed to a scanning plate like grocery stores have) or the way the cash register seems to need five steps to get to a receipt, and heaven help you if the cashier’s been told to get people to fill out a credit form. But I do know the combination of these things with the stupidest cashiers in existence makes the checkout a tedious  and frustrating experience that would never have me shop there even if the quality was great and the prices low. Swimming through quicksand would be faster.

Here are some examples of the idiocy I’ve encountered. If I bought 10 tins of Yummy Salmon cat food, the cashier cannot run one through the scanner and then hit the “X10” buttons but must scan each one individually. Imagine if you have many multiple items. Sometimes they have trouble scanning an item because it’s not reading. If you have a multiple item, they never think of scanning another of the same to see if it goes through but will punch the number in and usually incorrectly at least once.

I tend to bring my own bag, to save all those plastic trees, but if you tell the cashier you have your own bag, she will not bother to put the items in the bag but just leave them on the counter. WTF? Having your own bag dictates less service? Or perhaps their little brains cannot fathom that a bag comes in other than Zellers logos.

Yesterday, this was my latest experience. I was buying two items total but wanted to pay for them separately because one was for work. I tell the woman this. She says, which one? I say, both but I’m paying separately for them. But which one, she asks. And I say, it doesn’t matter because I’m buying both. Choose one. And of course she cannot place these two items into my bag, slowing everything down because as I’m getting my money the items are still sitting out and then I must take more time to put them in the bag before having my hand free to take the cash, causing everything to slooooooow down. I give her exact change for one item: four quarters, a nickel and a penny. She gives me back a quarter and says, it’s American. I say, you can take this. It’s the same amount. Oh. Arrgghh! This exchange for buying two simple items took about five minutes. Of course there’s a line-up.

None of the cashiers I’ve ever seen at Zellers can do a multiple scan, grab items quickly, bag immediately, figure out simple math, let alone complicated math, or use a full brain. Zellers must pay so badly that only rotting zombie brains turning to sludge in the gene pool will apply. Or there is some ephemeral honey that attracts dumb bees. I don’t know but I tend to think people are more intelligent than maybe they are. But even if they’re not, what ever happened to common sense? Maybe Zellers should sell it on the shelves.

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HST: One Week In & How It Affects the Little Guy

The provincial government’s disregard for the overwhelming dissent over the HST is no surprise. After all, Campbell has disregard the public in many ways since he took office, arrogantly being above the law even in his drunk driving charge. Let’s not get into all the politics but his minions…I mean ministers, have touted the HST and are now trying to tell us how good it will be, how it will create jobs, how it won’t affect the common person very much at all. So, let’s take a look at how it has affected me in one week.

  • I bought a bottle of wine at the liquor store. The liquor tax is gone and that was 10% but the HST is on there with 12%
  • I went out for dinner with friends. Whereas that used to have the liquor tax of 10% on the alcohol and the GST of 5% on the food, there is now 12% tax overall. I’m not sure I can figure out all the math but that means there is now 7% more tax on food and 2% more tax on alcohol.
  • I worked out at the gym. Whereas that just had GST before, it now has HST, an increase of 7% in taxes.
  • I bought a chocolate bar. This used to have 5% on it but now has HST of 12%. I am firmly opposed to any tax on food, whether it’s a luxury item or junk food because it says only the rich get to eat cake. I guess we could call Harper’s government the Marie Antoinette of era. I just wonder when we can lop off the head.
  • I pay for parking at my job. Now this one is the killer. TransLink, an arm of the provincial government upped all parking taxes (whether monthly parking, part of your apartment, on the street or at your job) from 7% to 21%. They said they weren’t raising the PST because that didn’t stand for provincial sales tax; it stood for parking sales tax, but still an increase of 14% on January 1st. Well, guess what, there are other hidden taxes, plus HST and someone I know who works in the business says that taxes on parking anywhere are now 35.5%! How’s that for a hefty hidden extra tax. If you pay $5 for an hour of parking it will cost you $6.78. Now multiply that by your monthly rate. If you pay $100, with taxes you pay $135.50.

This is just one week’s worth of taxes going up. I’m really really waiting for the provincial government to convince me on how it won’t affect me much and actually bring in jobs. They say it but they don’t say how or where. I’d love to hear how other average people are being affected by this.

Update September: You’ll pay more for postage in BC because of the HST. That’s Canadian postage, which should be the same price across Canada but it isn’t. Candy and other food that hits some esoteric guideline; it’s now double taxed. Keys…need one cut, you’ll now pay more in GST. Did I mention that parking in Greater Vancouver is taxed with 35% taxes? Can’t figure it out; ask your government how PST and GST equals that rate.

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HST? May Be Your Friend

It may be your friend, but not mine. I’m listening to BC’s Minister Colin Hansen giving a good impression of double-speak right now on the radio. When one woman asked him exactly how she was going to save if the industries like mining were for the HST he said how much savings would be passed on to other businesses. Wow. So that’s how that woman is going to save. Just like we all saved and saw prices drop when the GST was put in. Nope. We didn’t.

He likes to say that they’re removing the PST (7%) and putting on the HST (12%), and tries to make it sound like they’re doing us a favor. Food that is now exempt from GST will continue to be but he doesn’t say that food now being taxed (cookies, chips, chocolate bars; those items considered “luxury” items and therefore not for the poor to afford) will now have 12% instead of 5%. A $1 chocolate bar would have cost you $1.05 but will now cost $1.12. Not much but when you start adding up other items it will get costly.

Like buying a new home. Like going to the gym. I now will have to pay both GST and PST (oops sorry, that means I’m only paying HST not two taxes but it equals two taxes) to go to the no-frills community gym.

For restaurants, the minister said a provincial consumption tax is charged in other restaurants but BC and Saskatchewan. So, what does this mean? We’re not being taxed enough so should get more taxes and that justifies the HST. When the GST came in it was supposed to cancel all those other taxes but there has always been the alcohol tax at 10% on your restaurant bill, plus that 7% PST. Or was it GST. Has anyone been able to track how many ways our government taxes us?

The provincial government that Hansen represents plans to be generous now with that new HST coming in onto the  restaurants. They’re so generous they’re lowering the alcohol tax from 10% to 7%; and don’t forget you’ll not be paying 5% on food now but 12%. Plus it’s unclear if we’re paying 12% on alcohol plus 7%. If so, that nearly 20% on top of the cost of alcohol. But let’s say it’s just the one tax on booze and the one super, mega lumped together tax on food. What we have is 12% plus 7% so it’s still 19% plus 15% tips added so you’re looking at a minimum of 34% on top of your dinner, making a bill of $50 going to cost you $17 for a total of $67. But that’s only if taxes aren’t doubled on the booze. If it is, then we’re looking at 19% tax on booze, plus 15% tax on food plus 15% tip on all of that. I wonder how many people are walking around with accountants in their pockets so that they can figure out how much they ow on a bill.

Though Hansen claimed it will affect very few things, and somehow could not name how we would have any savings, he did say that about 25% of British Columbians will get HST cheques that will equal what, $30 per person? I think? I hope I misheard because it will cost more than that in a couple of months. So that’s the low and “some” middle income people, as he said. But not everyone, not most of us.

Consider that every year we have to calculate our income tax and it’s taken off  of our paychecks so most people pay between 20-30% taxes on what they make. But that’s not enough so now we get to pay at least another 15% tax on things we buy. How will this immediately affect you and me? Good question. The government and Colin Hansen have couched so much in doublespeak that it’s not clear. But I can tell you that I’ll be hit the next time I buy a gym pass, when I go to a restaurant, should I buy a cake or a pie, or a new home. Will liquor in liquor stores go down if the alcohol tax is being lowered? I’m kind of doubting it.

I’d love to hear how we will save so much money. When did a tax ever give the working person more money? And I would love to know how they see this as generating new jobs, except for those counting the coffers for the government. And this coming from a government that hasn’t raised the minimum wage in 9 years, and has one of the lowest in the country.

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The Wacky World of Bras

Statistics are showing that women shop for lingerie (bras, panties, etc.) more than any other type of clothes and at least five times a year. So much so that Mark’s (once Mark’s Work Wearhouse) plans to add lingerie to their line so that they can draw more women into their stores. And to guys bras and bra buying are a mystery.

Some young men work on their technique of undoing a bra one handed and others are befuddled by the fasteners, especially if they’re front fastening. Maybe this is why so many guys go into engineering. Of all garments of clothing a brassiere is the only piece that a man doesn’t wear or have an equivalent garment. Even skirts are simulated in kilts and Uitilikilts. As well a skirt covers the same part of the torso as shorts or pants, and a shirt or blouse cover the upper torso but men don’t wear bras…usually.

So this piece of apparel and women’s propensity for it is hard to fathom for many men. As one male friend told me, “I buy ten pairs of socks and ten pairs of underwear all the same and when they wear out I get more. But women may have from one to twenty bras and matching underwear. Because of the way our tops, blouses and shirts fit with scoops, V-necks, boat necks, square, low or high, it means that sometimes the bra might show and if the color blends it’s better. And if you’re wearing a form-fitting top you don’t want the stippling or seams to show through so you need a smooth cup but if you want something a little sexy (the only aspect of a bra that men might truly understand), you might want lace or ruffled edges.

Then there are sports bras, ones that will hold everything in place when you’re jogging, and strapless bras so you still have support and form even under an evening gown without the gauchness of showing the straps, or bras with crossed straps or thin straps for various styles of top. There are molded bras and ones with removable padding (especially helpful should a woman have breasts of uneven size and we all do to some extent). There are push-up bras and unlined bras, super support for the big busted gals and demi bras for those low-cut tops. So, it makes sense that in fact women don’t just have five white bras but a host of colors and styles and materials.

The opposite side is the women that do only have one or two bras that are older than their college aged children. The purpose of a brassiere is support and cover, as well as fashion and shaping. When I’m at the gym there are often these middle aged to elderly women wearing bras that sag more than their breasts. At that point, they may as well toss them. Their bathing suits often match in the baggy  department. It defeats the purpose on all fronts of having a bra if it’s old and doesn’t fit.

Bras are probably one of the most synthetic pieces of clothing that we wear. There are cotton bras but they’re often padded with something synthetic. You can get shirts, pants, skirts and dresses that are all natural fibers but you’ll be hard pressed to find a bra that is and they have all the forms to shape us and make us more than we are. And as it turns out, 8 out of 10 women are wearing the wrong size; usually too large a band size (the strap that encircles you) and too small a cup size. I can say from experience that I was doing the same thing.

Part of the problem is, as Wikipedia lays it out, there is no standardization between one brand and another nor on how they size bras. Some companies just add 4 or 5  inches to the band size to make the cup size. Some pad their numbers so that women think they’re buying a smaller band size. The bras of yesteryear, from the 50s and 60s were holdovers from the war era when rubber (and therefore elastic) was rationed. The bras didn’t fit that well. Torpedo bras rarely matched the human form. Sure the nipple might be pointed, sort of, but we don’t tend to have cone-shaped breasts.

With more elastic, polyester and other synthetic materials, bras took on many shapes with pad, water filled pouches and other ways to enhance the female form. Where Playtex bras of the 60s advertised “lift and separate” today’s bras are all about push together and up. Of course our shapes have changed, not because we’re evolving but because we’re having silicon and water and other odd chemicals injected or implanted into our bodies. Breasts are not torpedo cones, nor are they a melon cut in half and placed on the chest.

So, if men are baffled by women’s bras, considered that women have man shapes and sizes of breasts. Some are perky, some flattened by offspring sucking the dry, some lopsided, some full, some pendulous. And breasts change as we age, as we gain or lose weight, as we exercise and during the month. I tend to have different sizes/types depending on whether I’m ovulating or not. As long as bra sizes tend to be arbitrary wish fulfillment on the part of manufacturers women will continue to shop for lingerie most of all, because it really is a guessing game on finding the right fit.

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