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I suppose figuring out what constitutes an “indulgence” varies by socio-economic status. This weekend, I indulged in 5 things that as a middle-income earner felt entirely gorgeous – and I did it at reasonable (imho) prices.

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photo credit: Roland

  1. Went to Spa Utopia, again. For $100 you not only get a massage, but you are invited to come 30 minutes early for a steam or sauna, or to sip rooiboos tea with mint (or cool water with cucumber) – and all this in a gorgeous terry-towel robe with soothing music and a luscious environment. That 90 minutes leaves me feeling $500 better.
  2. Bought my first ever pair of John Fleuvogs. Yaaaayy! I got some black sandals at about 40% of their usual price, and I’m thrilled. And hooked. By the way, did you know John Fleuvog has open-sourced designs? How cool is that?
  3. Ordered this week’s suppers, all of them, from Sliced Tomatoes, for only $63 for 5 meals. This means every night this week I’ll come home to delicious, local, organic food that requires minimal cooking from me, and will provide me lunch as well with leftovers.
  4. Took myself to see Mama Mia! If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a must for the summer, and you’ll want the big screen experience. It’s a chick-flick, but men will appreciate it too. I paid full price but for a rush of Feel Good that lasts the whole weekend, it was worth every penny.
  5. Went on the PNE’s old rollercoaster. At my age, that’s not an so much an indulgence, as sheer foolishness. But as my friend Nikkie said (who insisted we go take the very front seats), I plan to go til I’m in my 80’s.

Readers: what have you indulged in recently? And if you don’t mind me asking, what price tag was attached?

ps:  my colleague S has some mint-condition IKEA furniture she’s selling due to a move (to my ‘hood!  YAY!).   Check out her craigslist post if you could use some pieces.

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Every so often I like to point out companies that are doing it right.  And no, this is not a sponsored post.

I’ve been using sliced tomatoes every so often over the past year, and do they deliver – both literally and figuratively.

Here’s how it works:  you go to their website and select which menu you’d like delivered to you (MetroVancouver) and select the date.  The menus are fabulous – organic, free-range, local and unbelievably tasty.

Greg or his crew will drop off a cooler containing all the ingredients, nicely sliced and chopped.  All you need to do is follow the very simple cooking instructions (which range from microwaving to broiling)… et voila, a gorgeous gourmet meal, usually with plenty of leftovers for lunch.

As if that weren’t enough, more than once they’ve gone the extra mile for me.  They did so again yesterday:  Because my usual drop-off point was closed due the power failure in gastown, Greg hand-delivered my dinner to me the following day at a time that worked for me.

All I can say is:  wicked value, great food, awesome little company.

Give it a try.

-nancy

Usually I post something fun on Fridays. This is a bit different — a support for a really cool friend of mine, Stephanie who is having no fun at all with Telus.   I’m no “Olson on your side” but this story is abysmal.  Here she goes:

Steph’s Telus Boycott

11:05am Today
I have worked in customer service for many years and find it paramount to the retention of business that will allow a company to develop and flourish. Unfortunately, many organizations have become such large monopolies that they are able to disregard this important facet of business because they are in the financial position of being able to not rely on the individual consumer. I have learned recently that Telus is one such company, and this is my story of why I am boycotting them.

August, 2007:

I set up Telus internet and home phone at my old apartment. I do not want a contract as I know we are moving in December and I will be bundling all my services together elsewhere. I speak to a very nice gentleman who persuades me to stay at Telus. He offers me a free computer if I sign up for high speed internet for 3 years. As I do not need another desktop computer, I decline. I mention that I am currently looking at purchasing a laptop for work/school. He says that the deal would still be a good way to go because I can pay $300 to upgrade to a laptop. Well, I need internet anyway and $300 is a good deal for a laptop so I say that I will consider it. I am told: It is a top-of-the-line computer, runs Windows Vista, comes with Internet Explorer, the MS Office Package, all the memory I could ever need. Just a great machine, great deal. So I agree. I am instructed to go online to redeem my computer. Turns out, the computer is actually $399. Still, a good deal for a laptop so that’s okay. As I am going through the redeeming process, it offers me a memory upgrade that it says it “Highly Recommends” so I pay extra for that. Give my credit card details to pay for it and off we go.

September 2007

I receive my new computer. And my memory. Separately. I call Telus and am told that the memory has to be installed but that I am not to do it myself as if I open the cover, it will void my warranty. I must take it to a Lenovo certified dealer, of which there are few. In the meantime, I start up the computer. 15 minutes later, it turns on. It takes me several hours to open up the programs and look around the computer. It runs so slowly that it takes the better part of an hour just to open all the “start up programs” that Vista has. I keep trying to use it but it takes so long to do anything, I call Lenovo. I am told to get the memory installed and given a few settings to change to make it run faster. I change the settings, there is no difference. Spend my Saturday tracking a Lenovo dealer down, take in the computer, pay to have the memory put in and head home.

October through December, 2007

Continue to fight with computer as even though the extra 1 GB of memory I have had installed seems to make no difference to getting the computer to run. Now Internet Explorer has stopped working so I cannot get online. Also, the MS Office Package I was told about turns out to be a “free trial” and I will have to pay to keep it permanently. I continue to try the trouble shooting tips to get the computer to run.

January, 2008

We have moved into our new apartment and have our internet set up there. Once again, I contact Telus about the laptop. I inquire about the “free trial” of MS Office when I was told this was part of the package deal. I am told I must have just been given wrong information. There is nothing they can do. I also ask what to do about the computer because it is running so slowly that I can’t use it at all. I’m told to call Lenovo. Lenovo tells me that they can try to help me, but only if I pay for service.

February, 2008

I write a complaint letter to Telus regarding the computer through their website. I state clearly in the letter that I would like someone to call me back to discuss what is going on with the computer.

March, 2008

Having not heard back from Telus, I contact them by telephone. I get through to an agent after a long wait and explain the situation. I mention that I have already written in about this, and am told that they don’t really respond to feedback written in through the website. I go through the whole story again and am told, once again, that I should talk to Lenovo. I mention that I have already spent enough money and don’t intend to pay to ask questions to Lenovo. I am told by Telus that Lenovo will not charge me. I am told that he knows there are problems with these computers, but he doesn’t know how to help.

I contact Lenovo. Three times. I finally get an agent that seems to know what he is talking about. He says he is based in Atlanta and doesn’t know anything about Telus specifically, but that just he personally gets 10-20 calls PER DAY about this machine and the promotion. He says that I won’t be charged for service, but that Telus was also wrong in telling me that I am not allowed to put the memory in myself, so I wasted money there. He goes through some trouble shooting with me, but I say I have tried it all before and it is so slow that when I move the mouse I have to wait 5 minutes before it even moves on the screen. It is a useless paperweight. He finally says that he will level with me and says that Telus bought a load of these machines totally stripped down and they are not good machines. He said that they run windows Vista, but don’t hold enough memory to actually operate Vista so it will never operate properly. He said that I can downgrade to Windows XP, but that I will have to go out and purchase it. More money to spend. He also says that he will send me recovery CDs to see if that will help, but doesn’t think it will do very much. He said that my only real option is to downgrade to XP and keep increasing the memory as much as I can but that it will never run quickly, it’s just not a good machine. He says if it was him, he might just wash his hands of it.

April, 2008

I contact Telus again. I tell them about my conversation with Lenovo and that I want to send the computer back and get my money back. I am told that Lenovo shouldn’t have “sold out” Telus like that and they will be in contact with Lenovo. I don’t know how this is a resolution to my problem. For at least the tenth time, I explain all the problems with the computer. I am told I will be transferred to a manager. After 18 minutes on hold, I go to a manager. I go through the whole thing again, thinking he will provide me some resolution but he does not. Instead, he says he will refer to the “Escalation Team” and they will help me. So why did I have to go through him at all? I give him my work hours, my home and cell numbers and when to call and am guaranteed a call back in 24 hours.

2 days later (April 16th)

I am left a message on my home phone during my work hours from a manager in the Escalation Department named Al. He says he is calling to resolve my issue and gives me a number to call him back on. I call him back on that number but am put through to a voicemail for someone named Natalie in the same department, who I have never spoken to. I leave a message, again mentioning what times and numbers I can be reached at. A couple of days later, I get another message while I’m at work, on my home phone. I continue to call the number I have left and not once does a person answer, just gives me Natalie’s voicemail.
April 18th

I finally call the regular Telus number and speak to an agent named Jan. I say that I need to talk to someone in the Escalation Department and only have this one number, can she give me another one. She says no. She asks for my account number, which I don’t have and say I only want a phone number. She asks me for my SIN. I say that I do not give this over the phone and that she doesn’t need it for what I am asking for. She tells me she can’t help me unless I give her my SIN number. I say I will give something else, she says no. I tell her it is illegal to insist on someone providing their SIN, she says she knows this but it is my own fault for not knowing my account number with Telus by heart. I ask for her manager, she refuses. She says she won’t put me to a manager unless I giver her my SIN. I refuse, she hangs up on me.
I call back and speak to another agent, Jessica. I say I don’t want to tell my story, I just want to talk to a manager to make a complaint against the poor service. She tries to explain why they ask for ID, but I understand all that and had offered other verification information. Information that I feel wasn’t even necessary for what I was asking for. She is really reluctant, but finally agrees to look for a manager. I am put on hold for 19 minutes.
A manager, Kevin, comes on the phone. I try to make a complaint about Jan, he says he has no idea who she is. Apparently Telus has so many employees that there is no way they can possibly take a complaint about poor service, so it goes unnoticed. He also has no phone number to give me for the Escalation Team, but says he will email Al and Al’s manager, Richard. He says he is so surprised to hear I am having problems, that he has never heard of anyone having any problems with these computers. Strange, since I’ve been told otherwise.
Another two days later, I get a message from Al but once again I can only call and leave a message from the mysterious Natalie.

April 23rd, 2008

Hallelujah! I get ahold of Natalie! She actually answers the phone! She says she will look for Al, he is not around but will call me back. I say I have never actually spoken to Al, so can she help me. She says she will (reluctantly) but has to close up what she is doing and will call me back in 5 minutes. 20 minutes later, after no phone call, I phone back to give her a number to reach me on as I have to go elsewhere within my office. After half an hour, she calls me on the wrong number and leaves a message saying Al will be back and will call me “any second” or I can call her back. I call 15 times over the next hour, and get only voicemail. Al never calls me at all.

April 24th

I call again, I speak to Natalie after trying 10 times to get through. She says she will put me through to Al. Al comes on the phone and once again, I go through the whole story. He says he will start looking into it. This was passed onto him weeks ago, but NOW he will start to look into it. To my shock, he actually calls me back that afternoon. He begins the conversation, “You are not going to like what I have for you…” and continues to tell me they will do nothing for me. It took 3 agents, 2 managers and over 30 calls to the Escalation Team and then Al to tell me they wouldn’t do anything. The computer problems? Lenovo’s fault, Telus won’t take any responsibility. The wait times and no call backs? They are busy. The poor service? It sucks, but there is nothing they can do. He will credit me with one month’s free internet, valued at $30.
He also mentions that one of the reasons it took so long for him to do anything was because he has 17 other customers with similar complaints that he is dealing with and that “he’s not gonna lie”, they deal with this problem a lot. Funny, because Kevin told him I am the first person with this problem.
What about my $399 for the computer that doesn’t do anything? What about the money I paid to upgrade the RAM? Install the RAM?
I say I want out of my contract, they can at least let me do that so I never have to deal with Telus again. He says they can, but it will cost me a cancellation fee of $480. I ask that they waive it, he says no. He says the only credit I will be given is the $30. The reason? “It is a lot less than $480”. Well done, Telus. I say that I will not be paying this, AND I expect the money back that I have paid into this computer so far so if he won’t help me I will have to go to the Better Business Bureau. This is after, of course, I ask if he has a manager and he gives me a snarky, “Not here” and tells me that it doesn’t matter how high on the food chain I go, no one at Telus will help me. He refuses to give me another number. I ask to be put through to cancel my account at what they ironically call their “Retention and Loyalty” team. I am on hold for 15 minutes. Michael answers, I am cut off and hung up on before I can say anything. No one calls me back, or has called me since. Loyalty and Retention, my ass.

Readers:  anyone know someone at Telus who can get Stephanie outta there without the $480 cancellation?

My favourite local comedienne, Marlene, of the Assaulted Fish clan, had this very disappointing experience when she wanted nothing more than a good, sustaining bubble tea (for readers who haven’t heard of bubble tea … it’s the asian (Taiwanese?) answer to lattes, but tea, with the extra twist of tapioca tossed in. looks weird. tastes wonderful). The story raises the question: When do you take the loss and when do you ask for your cash back? Here’s the episode in her words:

__________________________

401935678_a642fd31bc_m.jpgSo this happened to me weeks ago but the trauma lingers. I’m sharing this story because no one should have their bubble burst.

I love bubble tea. I don’t need an IV of the glutinous goodness, but I like a refreshing, colourful beverage from time to time. Unfortunately, there’s a dearth of quality bubble tea shops in Kits. I’m not talking about slushies – even I can whirl those up at home. But sometimes, only a regular pearl milk tea will do.

It was a cold and un-stormy night. I was dying for a bubble tea fix and the Dragon Ball Tea House – reputed to have THE best bubble tea in Vancouver – was the closest dealer of the stuff. I’ve had their drinks before and was always sort of disappointed. But desperate cravings called for desperate settling.

The place is empty and kinda messy. Behind the counter, some dude (presumably the owner) is yakking away on the phone. He sees me and gestures to someone at the back. This older woman, wearing bright yellow cleaning gloves, comes out and starts speaking to me in Mandarin. I don’t speak Mandarin. She soon realizes this and calls for someone else in the back.

A floating head appears. Seriously, this girl is so tiny they have to redesign a car for her. She also looks like a victim of child labour, but I’m pretty sure it’s just the Asian genes manifesting.

“Yis?” she says.

“Could I get a regular pearl milk tea, hot, to go?”

“Yis.”

“Um, $4.00?”

“Yis.” And off she goes.

Now, I’m sure there are different ways to make bubble tea and I’ve never made one so what do I know? But I’m preeeeetty sure you don’t make it like this:

Floating Head first pulls on a pair of gloves. Not the ones Subway Sandwich Artists use to slap together bun and meat, but these huge, bright yellow, heavy duty, rubber gloves. The kind I use when I’m going to be scrubbing toilet scum for hours.

Naturally, I start to think the bubble tea might be radioactive.

Floating Head takes a cup and proceeds to fill it with tea from three, THREE different tea tanks. Then she puts my cup into the microwave, THE MICROWAVE, and dings it for a minute. Then she takes the cup over to the bubble vat…and well, I can’t really see anything anymore because of the way the counter is designed. But I do hear a couple of “plops”, which I take to be my pearls slopping into the cup of microwaved tea. I hear some stirring…then some more stirring…then one more for good measure.

Suddenly, a yellow gloved hand appears on the counter. It gropes around like some dis-membered thing until it manages to latch onto a lid. This is when I notice that the glove is wet and kinda discoloured. A second later, my bubble tea complete with spoon and napkin, appear on the counter.
“Uh, thanks.”

“Yis.” And off she goes.

At this point, I’m still hopeful. Maybe the microwaving and multiple tea pumping are just some ancient, long-forgotten methods for making the perfect bubble tea…

But no. There, on the white lid, are these black flecks of god knows what. They’re all over the lid, the spoon, the napkin. They look like maggots that have undergone some crazy cell division. There are tons of them!

I can’t believe I left the place without demanding my money back. I actually carry the abomination to my car, where I stare mournfully at it, lamenting the loss of four hard-earned dollars, before pitching the cup of evil into the garbage.

I ended up consoling myself with a spinach and feta crepe. I have had bubble tea since…but only from Richmond.

_________________________________

Readers: I bet you’ve had something similar happen. For me, if it’s under 5 bucks I seem to just do the same are Marlene – leave bummed but without making a fuss. How much does it take for you to ask for your money back?

Photo Credit: phoosh

Guest post by Jonathon Narvey

Go Green, Save Money

Ever since An Inconvenient Truth became synonymous with the fight against climate change (rather than a commentary on my slowing metabolism and receding hairline), green companies selling eco-friendly products have gotten some great buzz. People are investing in solar panel roofs, hybrid cars and – of course – lots and lots of shiny new bicycles.

But going green shouldn’t necessarily imply one has to go out and spend money on a bunch of new stuff, even if it has the “green” stamp of approval. Buying a new hybrid car can actually be worse for the environment (and your budget) than just buying a used non-hybrid car, if you factor in the carbon emissions used to manufacture the new vehicle.

Basically, you need to balance the costs of your green purchases with your ability to afford your good intentions, along with your expected savings over the long run.

What this means for people of any budget is thinking about the three R’s: recycle, re-use and reduce. The ultimate goal for most people making eco-friendly choices isn’t merely to be seen as environmentally-friendly (although that’s definitely a consideration), but to actually be living sustainably.

Maintaining your transportation, whether it’s a car or a bicycle is cheaper than buying something new and means a factory doesn’t have to use up more of our planet’s finite resources to produce another one. Don’t buy bottled water – it’s expensive and produces a lot of plastic for landfills. Eat a vegetarian meal when you can. It’s almost always less expensive, and meat production causes a whole host of environmental problems. Check here for more great tips.

Both financial and environmental sustainability are intertwined and require common-sense solutions.

WRITEIMAGE
Principal Consultant Jonathon Narvey blogs about current affairs and life in Vancouver at Currents.

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photo credit: cogdogblog

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