If You Want A Survey That’s CRAP, Call On CROP

Quite often I find myself getting offended by the things that offend other people, but I think I’m with Lacey Willmott in wondering just why Aeroplan, the travel and shopping rewards people, would be sending out a survey asking folks to choose their level of agreement with statements such as “Overall, there is too much immigration. It threatens the purity of the country,” “getting married and having children is the only real way of having a family,” “the father of the family must be master in his own house” and “whatever people say, men have a certain natural superiority over women, and nothing can change this.”

“I was alarmed and extremely concerned,” said the PhD geography student at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont.
In an email, Aeroplan offered her 100 bonus miles to take a “shopping and life habits” survey. It said the results would only be used to help enhance the program.
So she was shocked when she encountered questions on hot-button topics such as gay marriage, government’s role in society and family values.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is really problematic,'” said Willmott, who wondered what the questions had to do with Aeroplan’s rewards program.

Also wondering the very same thing? Aeroplan, which while saying some silly ass thing about not having properly reviewed the questions like a responsible person would do, did agree that this was wrong and pledged to delete all of the data collected by CROP, who the company had contracted to put the survey together.

Ahh, CROP. I had never heard of them, but I do believe that should we ever require market research here at Vomit Comet World HQ, we will be passing them over in favour of a firm that maybe has a snort of a chance of understanding concepts such as knowing its audiences.

CROP’s president Alain Giguere says he asked some bold questions simply to help Aeroplan better understand its members’ points of view.
“Are we dealing with modern people or are we dealing with very traditional people?” he said. “The goal of it is really to understand all the sensitivities of your audience.”
Giguere says, like it or not, many Canadians have conservative views on some issues.
According to his own research, in August 2017, when Canada was experiencing an influx of asylum seekers, 45 per cent of the 6,000 Canadians CROP surveyed agreed with the statement: “Overall, there is too much immigration. It threatens the purity of the country.”
Giguere says he has been asking these contentious questions in market research surveys for decades, including in a poll on populism and xenophobia that CROP did last year for CBC’s Radio-Canada. It included provocative questions such as the ones on immigration threatening the purity of Canada and the father being master of the house. 
Giguere adds that people are free to oppose any statements they find offensive.
“You just have to disagree and we will know that you are a modern person,” he said. “This is a very scientific process.”

Which is all fine, but again, know your audience. Unless the goal was to allow Aeroplan to better target discounts on travel to ass backward shithole destinations such as the White House where every night is racist night and bigots eat free to “very traditional people”, those questions have absolutely nothing to do with my ability to swipe a card at the drugstore or sit there and curse at the miles balance that won’t let me fly across town let alone the country. Next time, assuming somebody in the stuff reviewing department doesn’t do his job again and there is a next time, maybe leave the provocative bits at the office until they’re asked for, Alain.

United Breaks The International Date Line…And Also A Dog

Again with the dogs, United? At least you didn’t kill anyone this time, so you’ve got that going for you, I guess.

KCTV reports that Kara Swindle and her two children flew from Oregon to Kansas City, Missouri, Tuesday on a United flight.
They went to a cargo facility to pick up 10-year-old Irgo, a German shepherd, but were instead given a Great Dane. Swindle, of Wichita, Kansas, learned Irgo had been put on a flight to Japan, where the Great Dane was supposed to go.

United paid for the family to stay at a hotel for a night as they attempt to unfuck things, and wonder of wonders, managed to get them a room in the correct city. At the moment nobody seems to know how long it’s going to take for poor Irgo to be vet checked and flown to his proper destination, so one night may not even come close to cutting it.

United Breaks The Rules Of Overhead Bin Stowage…And Also A Dog

If there’s one truth about United Airlines, it’s that no matter what the greatest extent to which something can be fucked up is, they’re the people who will find it.

Today’s episode: Let’s put this family’s dog in this here overhead bin and see what happens.

You, because you do not work for United and therefore might have some sense, already know what happened. It died. And while officially the cause of death is unknown at this time, I’m going to go way out on a limb here and guess that the fact that dogs are not designed to fly between Houston and New York whilst crammed into both a pet carrier and an overhead luggage compartment might have had something to do with it.

United, for once, appears to have wasted no time taking full responsibility for a dumb thing they did. They refunded not only the pet transportation fees, but also the entire cost of the tickets for the family of three. The airline has also offered to pay for a necropsy to be performed on the dog, the results of which they plan to use to make sure they get smoked even worse in the eventual lawsuit.

In a statement, United said that this was “a tragic accident that should never have occurred,” possibly referring to the hiring of the flight attendant who thought it a good idea to store a dog in a fucking suitcase box for several hours.

And just in case you’re new here and think I’m being unduly harsh on United, it should be noted that what went on this week is pretty much standard operating procedure there. In 2017, 18 animals died due to interactions with the airline, as compared to the six that met similar fates on all other airlines in the United States combined. So this is just United Uniteding, basically. Way to keep those numbers up, guys!

Save Money, Live If The Ancient Cereal Doesn’t Kill You

I have an urge to go through every cupboard in our house all of a sudden, not to mention a simultaneous urge to maybe never shop at Walmart again. I can’t quite put my finger on why either of these things might be.

A Lakewood family bought a box of Quaker 100% Natural Granola cereal from a Littleton Walmart on Monday. It was the Quaker cereal with oats, honey and raisins.

It wasn’t until the Carelses sat down for a serving that any of them realized something was terribly wrong.
“It looks like February 22, 1997,” Anthea Carelse said, pointing to the box’s printed “best by” date. The box appears to date back 21 years.
“I had about two bites, and that was it,” she continued. Her husband, Josiah Carelse ate a full bowl.
“I just started eating and thinking, ‘it just tastes funny. It must be ok,’” he said.
Of course, Anthea told him, “I was like, ‘Josiah, you’re going to be really sick.’”
Fortunately, he’s feeling fine and has plans to return the expired box back to Walmart.

And lest you think this is yet another unscrupulous attempt to wring a few bucks out of a hardworking businessman, it’s not looking that way. The television station from which this report comes took the time to hunt down the UPC codes and compare the brand’s old and new packaging and yup, these people ate 21-year-old cereal.

Walmart has yet to explain how this could have happened, not that anything they come up with is going to make it sound any less gross.

Nice Try Rogers, But A $0 iPhone 8 Does Not Cost $1440

I don’t know how many of you have gotten or will get this, but I want to mention it because I hate to see people taken advantage of.

Lately Rogers has been texting us, offering up a new iPhone 8 for $0. My current 6S is showing it’s age and sooner or later Carin is going to need a new one too, so we thought we or at least I would take them up on it.

But as it turns out, the new phone is anything but free.

When we called in, we were told that yes, we could get a $0 iPhone 8, but that the price of our current plan would be going up by $60 before tax.

Um…wait…what? That’s a not insignificant amount. What are we getting for this $60 plus tax?

One gig of data added to our current Share Everything plan, we were told.

We followed that up with the obvious question, which of course is and?

Silence.

So let me see if I’ve got this right. In order to get my free iPhone, I have to pay $60 more per month and get basically nothing in return? That sounds like a ripoff.

The rep on the phone seemed surprised that we had thought this through so quickly, but wanting to make a sale, told us that if we wanted to keep our current rates we could buy a phone for $429.

Thinking things through quickly again, I decided yeah, let’s do that, because a little quick math tells me that my free phone with its attached strings would cost $1440 over the length of the two year contract, or to put it another way, somewhere around 3 and a half $429 iPhones.

To their credit, nobody we dealt with at Rogers outright lied to our faces, but that’s some pretty egregious deception by omission that they were hoping we wouldn’t notice. And this isn’t me trying to talk up myself or Carin as super smart or anything, but they’re right to think that most people wouldn’t have. There’s a reason why almost nobody in my family will go to a phone store without at least asking me first. These companies (Rogers is far from alone here) make this stuff confusing on purpose. They do it because it works and because there aren’t any rules (at least not any with teeth) against it.

If you get a similar offer, by all means check into it. But be careful. That old saying about things sounding too good to be true because they usually are exists for a reason.

Spirit Airlines: Less Hamsters, Oh No!

I don’t have a lot of words. I am really trying to think of a circumstance where I could see where this woman was coming from, but it’s not working. I’m really really trying.

Belen Aldecosea had to fly home, and she wanted to fly with Spirit Airlines. In the recent past, because of anxiety over a medical diagnosis, she decided she needed an emotional support animal, and chose a hamster. She even got a note from a doctor saying this hampster, Pebbles, was her emotional support hamster. As I said in this other post about emotional support animals on planes, emotional support animals aren’t trained and don’t do anything for the owners except give them a warm, fuzzy feeling by being there. She probably could have gotten the same effect by buying a plush toy.

Apparently she called ahead to check that she could bring Pebbles on as an emotional support animal, and was given the incorrect information that this was possible. When she arrived at the airport and started the process of checking in, she was told that this was not going to happen. Then, according to her, she was told that she could either release Pebbles into the wild or flush her down the toilet. After a lot of “agonizing”, she flushed her.

I don’t even know where to begin here. This feels like that story where the woman put her guide dog in a cabby’s trunk, only way worse. At least that poor guide dog lived. I would hope that, God Forbid if somebody told me that Tans couldn’t get on the plane and actually physically prevented us from boarding, that I would possess greater problem-solving skills than this. I would hope that I would choose not to go on that flight so I could work something out. I would make some calls. I would figure something else out that wouldn’t result in an outcome so final for Shmans. It’s not like anyone had a gun to her head or anything.

Her lawyer is trying to say that this isn’t her fault because she’s only 21 so didn’t know what to do. I remember being 21, and although I was just learning about advocating for myself, I’m pretty sure I would have done something other than this. At the very least, I might have called my folks and got some more ideas. I would have never tried to take psych rat Hope on a plane, but if I did, I can’t even begin to picture a scenario where I would flush her if I was told she couldn’t fly. Maybe I would have called a vet to figure out how to board her somewhere. Maybe I would have asked for help finding some other officials in the airport to get more ideas.

This line kills me every time I read it.

“She (Pebbles) was so loving. It was like she knew I needed somebody,”

And that was how she repaid the poor thing.

She has a new hamster. God help Pebbles 2.0.

I guess I had more words than I thought.

There’s Always Time For Tim Hortons, But Don’t Expect It To Be Paid Time

For the record, I support Ontario’s minimum wage increases. The sorts of folks who work those jobs often do very important, tedious, thankless and difficult work and they deserve to get much more in return for it than they do. For instance, it’s usually them who has to deal with the public with a smile, even though a lot of the public can be gigantic, malignant dinks sometimes (especially in retail situations). In spite of my feelings on the subject, however, I do to an extent feel for those small business owners who are going to have to find ways to stretch some already thin margins just a little bit thinner. Many of them are very smart, creative folks and I’m sure they’ll see a way through, but yeah, I’ll bet it’s a bit of a frightening prospect right now.

But the funny thing about the fright is that while I’ve heard lots of screaming, none of it ever seems to come from the folks who maybe ought to be worried. It’s always some super rich cunt whose worth more money than I could figure out how to spend in 1000 lifetimes crying about poverty from his winter home in Florida. And in this particular case, I do literally mean from his winter home in Florida.

Employees at an Ontario Tim Hortons owned by the children of the chain’s founders say they have been told to sign a document acknowledging they are losing paid breaks, paid benefits, and other incentives as a result of the province’s minimum wage hike.
“I feel that we are getting the raw end of the stick,” said one front line employee who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of losing their job.

The franchise is located in Cobourg, Ont., about 115 kilometres east of Toronto. The owners are Ron Joyce Jr. and Jeri-Lynn Horton-Joyce, the son and daughter of the chain’s co-founders, Ron Joyce and the late Tim Horton, respectively. Employees say they are married.
In the document, copies of which were obtained by CBC News, Ron Joyce Jr. Enterprises wrote:

“Breaks will no longer be paid. A 9 hour shift will be paid for 8 hours and 20 minutes.”
“These changes are due to the increase of wages to $14.00 minimum wage on January 1, 2018, then $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2019, as well as the lack of assistance and financial help from our Head Office and from the Government.”
The letter is signed “Sincerely, Jeri, Ron and Lisa.”

When CBC News asked about the new policy, they were given a no comment by a manager and told by employees that the owners were at their winter home in Florida. They were, however, emailed a statement from corporate media relations.

Almost all of our restaurants in Canada are independently owned and operated by small business Owners who are responsible for handling all employment matters, including all policies for benefits and wages, for their restaurants.”
“Restaurant Owners are expected to comply with all applicable laws and regulations within their jurisdiction.”

Some of that is undoubtedly true, although these independent, small business owners come from a family worth somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1.4 billion, so this might not have been exactly the right time to mention it.

Feel how ever you want about the new minimum wage, but know that by not supporting it, this is the sort of company you’re keeping. Just something to think about over coffee next time.

Closed. Not Interested, Blindy.

I don’t use my CNIB card for much, but it has come in handy for Via Rail. Apparently, they use it as proof that your guide dog is a guide dog, which is slightly twisted logic but that’s been the established piece of ID they default to. If you don’t put a piece of ID for this purpose in your file, they won’t send you EBoarding passes and you run the risk that some goof will get all weird about ID when you get to the station. Nobody ever has, but they tell me this is a thing. I have also occasionally used it to get discounted concert tickets, and it’s good in some cities as a free bus pass.

The other day, it dawned on me that I think my CNIB card is getting close to expiring, or perhaps has expired and I should figure out how to get it renewed. Back when I got my last one, I was still getting some orientation and mobility lessons, so I just asked my instructor and she set things in motion. But right now, the instructor I used to have has retired and I haven’t needed lessons, so I don’t have that contact person to go bug. But I never anticipated that the lack of a contact would make the process so unbelievably frustrating!

My first stumbling block was when I called the Waterloo CNIB office. I already knew that when you call CNIB Waterloo, you don’t actually speak to someone in Waterloo. You could be speaking to someone from who knows where. But I thought I could ask to be transferred to Waterloo’s reception or something. No, who you get for reception is who you get. You then have to name a specific person in the office you are seeking in order to get to someone who actually walks and drives and does stuff in Kitchener Waterloo. I’ll talk more about this later.

So, since I didn’t know who the person is who does CNIB card stuff, I told the one who answered the phone what I was calling about. It felt like the person answering the phone knew nothing about what would be required to renew the CNIB card. How much did it cost? Do I have to come into the office or can I email a picture somewhere? Were there requirements for the picture? All they did was say “I’ll transfer you to Waterloo.” This feels a little less than ideal. You would think if these people are going to be put out on the front lines, they should at least have been given the tools to answer some pretty basic questions.

Then, I was transferred somewhere, who knows where. I got what felt like a random staff member’s voicemail. The voicemail didn’t even say what this person did, so I had no idea if I was talking to the right person. So, I left a message and hoped they would return my call soon, because I had this week off, and after that, if I had to go see someone in person, it would get a lot more difficult.

After I left my message, I went looking on the internet, and what I found didn’t fill me with confidence. After seeing basic information from the CNIB about uses of the ID card, I found this blog post detailing the total lack of information about the ID card.

It was through this post that I learned that the charge is $10, which feels like a giant jump in rates since I last had it done, and you have to go down to the CNIB and get the picture done because it has to be a precise size.

So, I went to figure out when the local CNIB office was open, since back a few years ago, it was only open once or twice a week. I found a link which I cannot find anymore that said they were open to the public every Tuesday. Since I wanted to make double sure that was when they were open, I called their number and got transferred to who knows who. I asked to confirm that the Waterloo office was open on Tuesdays and was told that no, they’re only open the first Tuesday of the month from 9:00 to 4:00. When I expressed my disappointment, the person responded with “That’s all the resources they have.” How impressive…impressively pathetic that is.

Let me quote their service description from the Community Links database:

Primary resource for information, public education, programs, services and advocacy for people who are blind or partially sighted.

Should an office that offers such broad services be only open to the public one day of the month? If someone has just lost a massive amount of vision and is coming in off the street seeking guidance, should they be expected to wait for the designated one day a month to just start the process of getting connected? Do they really think that clients have so little to do that they can all come in on the one designated day if they need something from the office? What if, shock of shocks, we work, and getting there on some Tuesday between 9:00 and 4:00 isn’t workable?

I figured out that my card expires on November 6. The next day when we should all march to the CNIB office and graciously accept their assistance is November 7. Although I don’t use the card for a lot of things, it feels stupid to let it expire just because the hours are so restricted. So, I called back to that lovely central reception office and explained the whole expiring CNIB card thing, and the guy actually suggested that I go to Woodstock. I just finished telling him that I can’t drive and am not exactly flush with available time, and he told me to drive nearly an hour to the next city!

Thankfully my story has a happy ending. I left another message on the seemingly random person’s voicemail explaining that my card would expire before the office was next open, so what could we do, and she did respond the next day with options. She was, in fact, the right person to talk to, so I wasn’t deluging the wrong person. I could in fact email her any picture of me, as long as I wasn’t wearing a hat, and then she could take my credit card over the phone and start the process.

I’m sure there are some people saying I could have avoided running so close to my card expiring if I had just planned better. The thing is most things that are going to expire send you letters in the mail warning you that the expiry is coming up, and telling you how to renew. This isn’t what the CNIB does. They don’t even send an email, for those of us who would prefer that over print. I guess they used to, but stopped getting volunteers to do it. It was just lucky that my internal sense that something was due started bugging me. So, if not for my freakishly weird memory, I, the blind one, is expected to look at the small print on the back of my card and check the expiry so that I can go through piles of hoops to get to the CNIB one day a month to get it renewed. Something seems wrong here.

I have a bit of a problem with them consolidating reception to a central location for something like the CNIB. If I am trying to locate a business, and am close by but can’t find it, the first thing I do is phone the place and ask for some guidance, since I can’t very well look for the sign. Sometimes the person on the phone gives me specifics I can use, or sometimes they just keep an eye out for me and help me make the final leg of the journey. If I did this while trying to locate the local CNIB office, the person on the other end of the phone could offer me nothing in the way of help. Considering the CNIB is serving people who can’t see well so might need a little help locating their destination, this feels kind of like a big problem.

I asked the person in charge of CNIB card renewals why the reception person didn’t know anything about the process, and she said they were just volunteers. Volunteers do some pretty intense stuff. I have volunteered on a crisis line, at a women’s shelter, and with people with some pretty serious needs. If volunteers can be expected to do all of that, they can be given some training on how clients can reach services, especially since they are the point of contact.

I was also bothered by the comment that the only reason they were open one day a month and didn’t send renewal reminders was because they didn’t have the resources. So let’s go back to that topic of the CNIB opening up their own guide dog school. How?

I think I’m done now. I guess, of all the services the CNIB offers, the card is not as important as helping someone who is newly blind learn how to live with their situation, but I worry that the troubles getting cards renewed is an indicator of a deeper problem. If the card is this hard to get, what happens when someone needs something more complex?

The first blog post that I referenced had some pretty solid suggestions of how they could improve the process that still apply. Maybe some day, things will improve. Hopefully, in five years when I have to do this again, I will have an easier time of it. At least this blog post will roughly tell me when I did it last if I don’t get a renewal reminder.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It…In The Papers We Don’t Pay People Fairly For Delivering

I know times are hard in the newspaper business, but have things really gotten so bad that a company the size of Metroland has to resort to ripping off a couple of 10-year-olds?

Looking to make some money over their summer holiday, the boys took on a paper route with the Beaches Mirror, delivering newspapers to 100 homes for Metroland Media Group. It only paid about $2.50 per hour, or $20 per week, which they’d split between them.

It was straightforward enough. A selection of flyers was delivered to their doorstep, which they would organize. Then the newspapers would arrive. Elias and Ezra put the flyers in the papers, wrapped them in a plastic bag and delivered them. Since the route isn’t in their neighbourhood, Golden would drive them to the area.

Then one Friday morning, after the boys had made their deliveries, the paper unexpectedly dropped off a big stack of flyers. There was a note: these particular flyers hadn’t arrived early enough to make it into the Thursday paper and they needed to go out. 
But there was a hitch. The boys would be paid for their work, but just two cents per flyer — $2 total, one for each of them. To make things worse, Golden said, the paper told them this same scenario would start happening more frequently, since fall is the busy season, so they’d better get used to it.

Since this is obvious bullshit, mom and the boys had a chat and decided that Metroland could take this job and shove it. Metroland, in turn, decided that because they didn’t give the 30 days notice required in their contract, that they wouldn’t be paid for the last three weeks of work they’d done. But since mom happens to be a workplace and human rights investigator by trade, she was not fucking having this and after taking the story to Facebook, Metroland thankfully decided that it might be in their best interests to stop being assholes for a few seconds and pay up.

That’s nice and all, but beyond this one garbage instance we should probably be asking a pretty big question here. Why is it ok that any company, especially one this size, is allowed to pay virtually nothing to the people who are basically the reason that anyone reads their work and sees the ads that tag along with it in the first place? I know when you’re ten it’s often just cool to have a few bucks in your pocket, but that’s not an excuse. We’re not dealing with Mr. Smith down the street getting little Joey to mow his lawn for $5. Hell, we’re not even dealing with a small town, hand to mouth, independent newspaper. Metroland, to hear them tell it, is kind of a big deal. There’s a lot of horn tooting going on here, so we’ll cut it down to the relevant bits about newspapers and flyers.

Metroland Media provides local news and advertising media/information in Canada’s heartland.  More than 100 community newspapers are published that span from London in southwest Ontario to Ottawa in the northeast, with concentration around Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area.  The combined distribution of the community newspapers published by Metroland Media is approximately 4 million copies a week.
Metroland Media also publishes two award-winning daily newspapers, The Hamilton Spectator and the Waterloo Region Record. Click here for newspaper publications.

Metroland Media is one the largest distributors of flyers, circulars and product samples in Canada.  With almost total coverage of households throughout central and eastern Ontario, combined with delivery verification systems, Metroland Media excels at delivering advertisers’ flyers to their customers.

And Metroland is itself owned by Torstar, which seems like it should have a few bucks on hand to pay some kids and down on their luck adults a fair wage.

I wish I could say I was going to boycott them, but when they own a not insignificant slice of the news coverage in your area (the Record, the Post, the Chronicle, the Cambridge Times and the digital husk of the Guelph Mercury/Tribune), that’s not a thing that’s realistically going to happen. But in my way I can call them out for their uncaring and terrible treatment of important workers, so consider that done.