Monthly Archives: October 2013

Only Child on more government/consumer issues

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts and companies that screw up her life

Only Child gearing up to tackle government depts and companies that screw up her life

Last Saturday morning was grey, rainy and windy. A perfect premonition for snafus. If that didn’t warn me then my bus being nearly 10 minutes late should have.

It didn’t. And although I put it out there (God, universe – take your pick) to have things work out for getting my Photo ID card – they didn’t. So much for any smidgeon of trust.

No trouble finding the new Service Ontario outlet – a short bus ride from my home. Somewhat long line-up inside but it seemed to move quickly enough – until I got to one of the four wickets.

When I phoned the day before I was told for a photo ID card I needed a birth certificate, my Ontario Health Insurance card and my divorce papers (the latter bridgingthe name change gap as well as giving certified dates of marriage and divorce.)

The latter two were no problem. The unfriendly government employee behind the counter said my original birth certificate wasn’t valid – I needed one issued by the City of Toronto and this one looked like a church one – was it?

“I wouldn’t know; I was a baby then,” I replied.

Then I pointed out that the title said “Birth Certificate” and the part where the issuer was the City of Toronto in the County of York (back in the grey ages) and that it was signed by a Toronto City registrar. She wouldn’t buy it so faxed a copy to her superior in the downtown office. This “superior  idiot” agreed with her. She said that it was issued by a hospital. Now there was no indication of a hospital issuing it and if that were true, it should be valid. Even as late as 1978 when my son was born, his original certificate came from the hospital (but has all the city – Newmarket here – info on it.). In the 1980s I used my original paper birth certificate to obtain the laminated one the Ontario Government were creating and this ***hole Service Ontario employee stated that the laminated ones were valid.

Why has the original paper birth certificate worked for proof of birth elsewhere?

Why has the Ontario government been considering chucking issuing new laminated birth certificates? What will they accept then? Invisible birth certificates?

The photo ID is supposed to be for those of us who don’t have a driver’s licence and costs much less. Is what happened to me a variation of being discriminated against because I don’t drive?

I have a laminated birth certificate. Yesterday I took it (and other ID cards) out of my safety deposit box. They were all in there for safety purposes – the police tell us to do this instead of carrying them around with us or leaving them lying around in our homes in case of b and e’s and/or muggings.

But with government stupidity it looks like you have to constantly carry them around. You never know when you might need them.

I talked to a few people at the CARP Zoomer show (for adults 45 plus) Sunday and was told to complain to the Ontario Ombudsman and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. Will do – once I get my damn ID card and get all the other becoming senior issues and procedures done.

For the record, at this point here are my lists – gratitude/good companies/government depts. And my *hit list of the baddies. Note: some get on both lists – short explanation in brackets afterwards.

Only Child’s Gratitude Good Companies/Government Depts.

  1. Service Canada – phone and in person, in particular one branch at Gerrard and Pape in Toronto – others praise their helpfulness, friendliness. What government service should be like.
  2. Dell Canada (in part – for being able to lease laptops for years at a continually reduced monthly rate)
  3. Sears Canada (in part – Optical Department, Home Services – particularly window blinds – and watch repair)
  4. State Farm (they handle my house and business insurance and did a good job switching the former to monthly payments)
  5. Kristin Green and Associates (manage my website and domain and I have two email accounts connected to this) – despite their switchover to a new server, after my email request for help, Kristin phoned me back and walked me through any changes to my accounts that I couldn’t do. And explained it all in a friendly helpful manner.
  6. Scotiabank – for usually being helpful – and they accepted my original paper birth certificate for eliminating some costs for seniors

Only Child’s *hit list

  1. Service Ontario – see beginning of blog post.
  2. CRA (Canadian Revenue Agency) – for lack of  knowledge of recent changes to paying taxes with CPP payments – cost me a lot of time and phone running around and delay paying the extra which I was required to pay (but was first told it wasn’t necessary)
  3. Empire Life Insurance Company for never informing me about the setup for my life insurance premium – it’s part investment –  and that there is a built-in what’s it that if you don’t add in extra to cover  increase in premiums you get a letter stating that if you don’t pay the extra by a certain day, your policy is canceled. The kicker? You have to phone them at the end of each fiscal year that you want to increase your premium or they don’t on your bill. I’m looking into other companies’ life insurance premiums where a medical isn’t required and will take this company to the Insurance Bureau of Canada and Ontario Ombudsman for unethical stupid practices. Today I put my foot down and said if they didn’t send me a bill for the real amount owing for the next quarter I’m paying the faulty lower one they just sent – technically and legally I can do that.
  4. Sears Canada (because the idiot new CEO is planning on closing the flagship store in downtown Toronto in the Eaton Centre. That’s my store for optical, etc. Now I’ll have to go further into Toronto outskirts – if they have Sears Optical there for any warranty-covered follow-ups to new eyeglasses which I would get before the anticipated February 2014 closing. Also I like their clothes better than Hudson Bay)
  5.  Direct Energy for trying to tell me my heating protection plan with them was not valid.
  6. Enbridge Canada for closing my account because they thought I moved and some guy named Peter moved in. They mixed up our streets – same name except mine is a Crescent and Peter’s is a Circle. This was two years ago and was fixed after I phoned several times.
  7. All utility companies for raising the rates and putting many of us deeper into the poor house – no matter what we do to save energy.
  8. The Canadian federal and Ontario provincial government for their service-cutting (mostly the feds) and its results and the province’s errors with hydro and gas and making the taxpayer pay (there is a debt repayment amount in our bi-monthly hydro bills).
  9. Dell Canada for screwing up my original new laptop lease order – they didn’t put in the order and wouldn’t admit they made a mistake. But they ordered it again and it is now here.

The list can go on and on, but I think you get the picture.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumerism, Income Taxes, Problems, Seniors

Only Child Revisits Aurora

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23year

Only Child revisits Aurora where she lived for 23 years

I went back to Aurora, Ontario where I lived for 23 years. This wasn’t my first trip back since moving to Toronto in 1998, but my “first” since 2009. That and the two garden centres outside Aurora that Carol and I visited provided a welcome distraction from the kerfuffle of the consumer screw-ups and mis-communications of the past few weeks.

So, on Saturday, Oct. 12 Carol and I drove (well she drove) a bit north of Toronto to the first garden centre – Black Forest just north of King City. I’d never been there before. The entrance of plants and structures was interesting and inside – well, I’m sure it is very colourful earlier in the season with flowering plants. But that Saturday it was somewhat bare over in the plant section. No offence to Black Forest but more a harbinger of what is to come. With the switch to standard time lurking (first November weekend) the roll to all being downhill weather-wise has started.

The garden ornaments were interesting and inspiring. But Carol and I bought some bulbs, which is what I had come for. I bought tulip bulbs.

On to Pathways to Perennials – a truly fairytale place to visit to temporally escape all the crap in the world. P to P has a winding road (with forest on both sides) into the actual centre and an outdoor/indoor cafe. We didn’t go to the cafe but stepped inside the gift shop. More bulbs – I bought narcissus and hyacinth and Carol bought a small mirror. Outside we toured their small garden and here’s where the impending doom of winter showed with only a few perennials still blooming or not yet dormant.

From there we drove into Aurora – lots of changes even since 2009. The pub where we would eat (outside in the summer) is no longer there but we found another one, a small chain, but one with great food and it was even warm enough to sit out on the large patio which almost surrounds the outside. Afterwards we wandered around the unique plaza, St. Andrews Village, this Shoeless Joe pub is in, including into Starbucks. The IGA grocery store (or one of its derivatives) is no longer there and neither of us could remember its actual store location.

Carol left her car parked in the parking lot there and we walked down the few blocks to the centre of Aurora. The plan was to visit the somewhat newly renovated Aurora Museum (now the Aurora Heritage Centre) but it closed at 4 p.m. and we missed it by about 20 minutes or so. Carol had never seen the newer Aurora Public Library so we made a quick visit there. Then we headed up the street a bit and crossed over to see my old friends Mike and Lorraine Evans who run the Aurora Downtown Hardware Store They’ve been there (with varying store names) for 39 years.

Mike and Lorraine are a phenomena in these times of crappy customer service. When I lived in Aurora, I would go into their store, let them know what I was looking for and one of them would either find it or order it in. When I had to buy a new microwave, Mike even drove me home with it because I don’t drive and the microwave was too heavy to carry. The duo (they are married) also provided me (and other regular customers) with the names of reliable and competent handymen and I used to hire one of them regularly.

They are an interesting couple – in their mid-sixties – she has long grey hair and comes from New Zealand. He has grey hair (and it’s all there) and might be a few years younger than her. They have a daughter in her mid-thirties. And they have a cat, Leo, whom Carol and I met. Leo was sitting in Lorraine’s chair near the back and looked very content.

And yes, both Carol and I bought a few items we were looking for. When we walked in the store and I introduced Carol and said “hi” I went right into “I need to get a few things which I can’t seem to get in Toronto and don’t get the service there that you and Mike give” – or something like that. So Lorraine went into action, finding the merchandise and asking questions about what we particularly wanted from the selection they had. She even pointed out something on sale in one category.

Too bad we can’t “lift” them and their business into Toronto.

After that we drove back to Toronto and all my problems.

No, I don’t want to move back to Aurora. I know I’d just get bored after a few months. I need the city for the many cultural, etc., events and my friends here. But it was a respite from hassles. And with the great bus service up and down the main drag into the north end of Toronto, I realized I can do the visit myself. Not in winter, so not before the end of March (I have a reading from my book Beyond the Tripping Point, along with other Crime Writers of Canada members at the Aurora Public Library March 24).

I told Lorraine and Mike about it and they said, “See you on March 24.”

Check out Aurora, Ontario, Canada at


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Gardening, Home and Garden, Libraries, Peace and quiet

Only Child says the customer is never right – apparently

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child rests before doing more battles with companies screwing the consumer

The wonky consumer issues keep on coming. It’s at the point where I’m afraid to open my mail, partly the regular mail. Now going into a store can be downright dangerous – at least if you want to be treated fairly.

Added to this list of consumer woes are the two biggies the past week.

My life insurance premium just went up up and up, thanks to the insurance company’s policy which they never bothered to tell me. Sure, the policy is 30 plus years old, it’s gone through several company mergers and the premium has not gone up for years. But the quarterly invoices have always been the same until now. When I phoned the company I did get a knowledgeable person (where was he years ago, including when I called for some clarification two years ago?) Hw explained the situation and walked me through my now ancient policy…and yes, I kept a copy.

In a nutshell,the way it operates is the premium goes up every year but the policy holder doesn’t know that and it won’t show on the invoices unless he or she phones the company to find out and state they want the increase added to their invoices. The policy holder can also request being billed extra to add in to the investment. It is this latter which would show up as extra in my “insurance kitty” – my words, with each annual year-end amount decreased I receive a letter to that effect annually. That amount ran out this month, according to the fellow I spoke to and that’s what triggered the letter. The “lady” at the insurance company I spoke to two years ago didn’t tell me this. Basically, she said if I miss a payment, the extra in “the kitty” covers that and to just keep on paying what I’m billed and that would do it.

Oh really?

The policy itself has a list of increased yearly rates but no info on how to calculate the amounts it transfers into dollars and sense (spelling intentional). The fellow at the insurance company gave me those figures and went through the calculation with me.

The letter I received wanted post-dated cheques for the next 10 months (remember, I’ve been paying on a quarterly basis) or a lump sum equal to that or the policy will be cancelled. I’m almost 65 so don’t need to go through the red tape for a new life insurance policy. I’d cancel this old policy in less than a heartbeat but the small pay-out when I croak will pay for my funeral expenses, lawyer fees to settle the estate, etc. and give my son a little bit more. On my living-just-above-the-poverty level situation I can’t do this otherwise. Instead I’m stuck with my not-so-open (policy-wise) life insurance policy.

I will do as this fellow suggested. But, I’m taking this insurance company’s (Empire Life) policy issue to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Insurance companies have the right to raise the premium but they have to let the customer know and change the invoice to reflect this. The utility companies and the insurance company insuring my house and business do this (State Farm for the latter two – giving credit where credit is due).

The other was Shopper’s Drug Mart and I’m a long-time customer here, particularly the one in my area (for 15 years). Last Thursday, they didn’t have any of the cheese on sale so I asked for a rain cheque. They wouldn’t give it to me because as the manager said (and I insisted I speak to him).

  1. That particular Shoppers is smaller and they don’t carry the full Shopper’s food selection.
  2. Despite Shoppers allowing rain cheques across the board in stores, Shoppers won’t give out rain cheques for anything that particular store doesn’t carry. Note to manager and I said so: I have bought that cheese product in that size before there. The manager said I could go to the next nearby store a larger one (a 15-minute walk) to get it or the rain cheque. I told him I didn’t have time that day. Which brings me to No. 3.
  3. Because of the long Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Shopper’s sales went only to Thursday, not to the usual Friday. Note to manager: Thanksgiving is on a Monday; the Friday is not a statutory holiday.
  4. Shoppers new screwed-up method of issuing rain cheques. They are done like receipts through the computerized cash register and to do this they need the UPS number from the product or its posted price sign, which the manager said, they can’t do for the cheese because that particular Shoppers doesn’t carry it. All other stores have rain cheque forms which are filled out when a customer requests a rain cheque. Loblaw just bought Shoppers. Perhaps Loblaw should push through some of their procedures – like rain cheque issuing – through to Shoppers.

The customer gets blind-sided into a black hole yet again. At my insistence, the manager gave me the head office number. So I’m not done with Shoppers or Empire Life. Next week I go into action with both. This week I have follow-ups on previous screw-ups – CRA for receipt of my tax cheque; Dell for where is my laptop (again)? And the annual included-in-the-contract furnace cleaning which the first person, the jerk, I talked to at Direct Energy wasn’t going to give me. And I have to visit Service Ontario for an ID Card as I don’t have a driver’s licence.

And people want me to devote 15 minutes of my time to what they want.

Screw that.

My parents are lucky not to have lived long enough to deal with this type of nonsense.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Consumer action, Consumerism, finances

Only Child asks “Where’s the customer service?”

Only Child with her parents in saner times at her grandfather's farm

Only Child with her parents in saner times at her grandfather’s farm

Are people working at call centres/customer service and even sales getting dumber and/or are they just not being trained properly?

Been hit on again dealing with businesses and public utilities. Snafu with my new laptop order from Dell and the dufus in customer service for Direct Energy insisted I had to pay more than the confirmed amount for my furnace heating plan or I couldn’t book the annual cleaning.


First, Dell…and with apologies to my cousin Bill in Stratford, Ontario (he’s an independent who fixes computers – hardware and software) who warned me that Dell isn’t what it used to be since founder Michael Dell decreased his ownership in the company. Well, Michael Dell is supposed to be back later this week with the reins in his hands so hopefully service will improve.

The fellow who “took care” of my order to get the new leased laptop messed up. After we straightened out what I wanted (and I got help from my son, the computer techie here), he sent me an email that the order had gone in and gave me the link to track its progress. The link also put the outside delivery date as Oct. 2, 2013.  On October 2, no laptop had arrived and the “progress” report still said “order being processed.” I emailed the sales rep and his reply said that the order didn’t go through with that order number. Oh really? He put the order in again under a different number and requested that it be expedited. But the outside date is after this coming weekend so my son will have to come a later weekend to finish doing all the software updates/additions, transfer from the old laptop, etc. I just checked the tracking online now and it still says “in production” which in Dell speakeze means “Time spent for actual build up of your order until it is picked up by Carrier.”

Good think I didn’t phone in my request to return the current laptop. And also good thing I extended the contract on a month-by-month basis in May (when that three-year-lease was up) and extended the service warranty for hardware. I was told then that after 18 months the laptop was mine. I laughed off that then. Now, I’m wondering. I’ve been a Dell customer for11 years (four laptops on three-year leases each) and never all these problems, which I told Mr. Dufus in my email about the new laptop not arriving yet.

Today I phoned Direct Energy to book the annual furnace maintenance – as suggested in the letter they sent me that I had  automatic renewal of my home heating protection plan. This is usually a no-brainer but some extreme dufus whom I could hardly understand what he was saying, insisted I needed to change my agreement to something else that cost more because of the type of furnace I have and until I did I couldn’t get a service maintenance call. I saw red, purple and a few other colours. In no uncertain terms (and several times I had to repeat it –where do they get these dufuses for customer service?) that this was the same contract I’ve had for two or three years and the first year I had a discount but I’ve had no problems with the contract renewal and booking the maintenance service call. I said, “connect me to a manager now.” He did.

What a change with Wendy the manager. I am getting a new contract but at a discount rate. She said any year I can call in and get the discount rate for a year. She said she would make changes to my plan and said when the new lower rates would start. And she booked me an appointment for next week to get my furnace cleaned and serviced as I still had that included service not done for the current contract.

My boarder and I were discussing this lack of customer service – what happened to “The customer is always right?” she asked. Gone the route of the dodo and music tapes I suppsed. We tried to figure out when customer service started sprialling downhill and couldn’t decide. The 1980s? The 1990s? Or once we hit the millennium where I believe a lot of things in this world started going very bad – worse than rotting food.

One thing I’ve discovered – you have to be on your toes, assertive, persistent, and sometimes use anger to get the service you deserve. And the people in Customer Service and Call Centres need to be trained and monitored better. It might also help if they were at least in the same country as the person calling for service.

Another “at least” but a good one. In the City of Toronto we have one number to call for any city service – 311 – and despite a few stupid people working there, for the most part, you can get things sorted out. It sure beats trying to figure what section of the city you live in – according to the city – to know which number to call and do that for every city service. If 311 doesn’t work, I can call my local councillor.

To quote and add on to my grade six teacher’s saying:

 “I’ll give credit where credit is due.” I add “and discredit where discredit is due.”

Like I said in last week’s post. I want to go back to the 1950s and 1960s. I don’t think my mom and dad had to deal with a lot of this crap. The 2000’s stink.

Thanks to those who commented last week. Any more comments re bad service or even good service?


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumer action, Life demands, Only child, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child runs into more outside obstacles

 Only Child as a toddler  with Mom when things were saner and simpler

Only Child as a toddler with Mom when things were saner and simpler

The saga of being hit on continues. Am I wearing an invisible sign that says “make my life more miserable?”

The CRA (Revenue Canada) scenario continues. It turns out I do have to pay that amount because of some new rule about paying taxes on Canada Pension payments. This is for last year’s taxes and as the new rule came into effect January 1, 2012, it applies.

My beef is with the Service Canada rep I talked to back in June just after I received the Notice of Assessment. If this dufus knew her stuff she would have checked that I had followed the new rule. Then I would have paid the amount still owing, no question. So, it had to go the whole 100 miles (nine miles isn’t enough) to a tax centre where somebody there finally woke up and replied to my inquiry mid-September and pointed out this new law – in a letter sent by regular mail.

So I phoned CRA again to clarify a few more things. I’m to pay the amount owing and forget any interest (it’s $3.16 at this point). He also explained how I could pay online through my bank and gave me the mailing address for regular mail. It’s the dufus he transferred me to get more information on CPP payments and taxes that makes me want to throw something. This guy kept mixing up tax payments for CPP and stopping CPP contributions despite me repeating my question clearly.


And my bank has decided for their convenience to name most bank accounts by the same name (for example, Super Account – that’s not it – just a name) so I now have two accounts with the same name – and one is my business account. The account numbers are still different. So I phone the central call centre and at least found out how to nickname my account so I don’t mix them up when paying bills online. Just have to make sure the tellers don’t mix them up when I’m in the bank.

No wonder I have time issues and feel scattered much of the time. I bet my mother didn’t have to put up with all this hassle back in the 1960s and before. Of course, life wasn’t quite so hectic and stupid then.

I’ve said I want to return to the late 1990s just before things got so much worse. Well, now I want to return to the 1960s, even the 1950s. I hate this world we live in – everything is going to hell in a speed boat.

And I get to go back a bit later today, just for a short time. I’m teaching another of my memoir writing workshops – Kick-starting your memoir using the six senses – at S. Walter Stewart branch of the Toronto Public Library this afternoon. Six senses is correct. Hint: the sixth is your intuition.

Til next week.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Life Purpose, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child, Problems, Sharon A. Crawford