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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.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Consumerism, Income Taxes, Problems, Seniors

Only Child says foul to no toys

tree05The spirit of Christmas has disappeared from some of Canada’s department stores – at least for children. Imagine my surprise and dismay when I walked into the main Sears store in downtown Toronto on Sunday to find their children’s toy section had disappeared. Oh, a few selections of toys were scattered on shelves in the children’s clothing section but Children’s Toys were still listed in their directory posted on each floor by the escalators. Down the street at The Bay, children’s toys are no longer in their posted directory.

Santa’s rolly-polly stomach must be churning at this turn of events. The Grinch must be cheering – if grinches can cheer. Sure, toys are online (and in Sears case in their catalogue) but some of us like to get up close to choose toys for our children, grandchildren and in my case, a friend’s eight-year-old son. And what about the kids themselves? No more checking it out in person. Have we turned so technologically crazy that the personal touch has been booted out into cyberspace? Sure, we have stores such as Toys ‘r’ Us specializing in toys and more power to them. They haven’t forgotten the joys of experiencing toys up close.

When I was a child (back in the grey ages) it gave me great pleasure to look at toys in stores – whether big department stores (then it was Simpson’s and Eaton’s in Toronto) or what we then called “dime stores” such as Woolworth’s and Chainway. Afterwards, I would go to my parents and “Santa” and make my Christmas toy wish known. I usually received one toy that I wanted.

As I’m a former journalist I had to dig further about this toy disappearance. I asked a couple of sales clerks in the Children’s Section in Sears and received two different answers.

The first clerk lied. She pretended that there was a toy section but it was out in the corridor. She belongs out in the corridor at the very least. Clerk No. 2 was honest – she said Sears dropped in-store toys two months ago because children would knock them off the shelves, some were broken, but also in-store sales weren’t doing well, but toys are available at Sears online. I also talked to a lady in management and she said she didn’t know but to check online at www.sears.ca. I did and went to Sears Canada corporate section (see “Sears Canada Reports Third Quarter Results” http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=117881&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1757870&highlight=) and also read a Globe and Mail newspaper story, “How Sears plans to get its mojo back” by Marina Strauss, May 25, 2012, which is about the new Sears Canada President and CEO, Calvin McDonald. Read this story at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/how-sears-plans-to-get-its-mojo-back/article4209711/ and decide for yourselves what you think. Among other things, Mr. McDonald planned to have Sears eliminate toys in-store (but not online) and other items not selling well from in-store to try and bring the profits back to Sears. I blame dismal sales partly on not enough advertising – in the past few months Sears flyers have been almost non-existent. News flash! If you don’t tell them, they won’t come.

While I may have to live with the new reality of no toys at these department stores, one thing stands out. If you are going to dump toys from the in-store roster, why do it two months before Christmas?

I won’t be ordering a toy online for my little friend next door. I’m headed for a bricks and mortar store that carries toys. I want to see and feel the toy first before I buy it.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas spirit, Grinch, Only child, Santa Claus, Sharon A. Crawford, Shopping

Only Child does Retail Therapy

Only Child wearing the old now tattered jeans - obviously when jeans saw better days.

Retail therapy is good for you. It can increase your life span according to a study published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Maybe my mother was on to something with our frequent shopping adventures to the department stores in downtown Toronto and the shops on the Danforth. As I write in my memoir:

The 1950s and early 1960s were the heydays of the big department stores – the Simpson’s and three Eaton’s stores downtown. The latter stores originated with a small Toronto shop, which Timothy Eaton opened at Queen and Yonge St. in 1869, and replaced with the four-storey flagship Eaton’s in 1883.  In 1930, The ritzy Eaton’s College St. Store opened at College St. and Yonge St. [See “Eaton’s” and “The Carlu” on Wikipedia.]  Mom turned up her country nose at it and steered me towards its opposite, The Eaton’s Annex, Albert St. Did Mom gravitate towards this store because its three storeys and basement sat on a downtown street carrying Dad’s name? Or was it the anticipation and joy of flipping through clothes and shoes stacked on tables in the basement and if you were lucky, you’d find a bargain that you weren’t embarrassed to wear?

More than the clothes and shoes, I remember the soft ice cream, the elevators and the escalators.

“Hold onto the railing, Sharon,” Mom says as we stand at the top of one of these escalators.

 As I dig my hand into the railing and look down at the ridges before me, I hesitate, then gingerly place toes, then the rest of my feet on the escalator floor. I expect the floor to change to steps, like those at the main Eaton’s store, but it remains a series of slabs rudely jutting out. Riding up makes me feel as if I’m on a conveyor belt in a factory assembly line; riding down is akin to standing on the poor person’s roller coaster without the safety bar across your front.

The elevators, off in their own hallway, are an earlier version of panoramic elevators, except the view is inside the shaft while you wait outside the glass door for the elevator’s arrival. I close my eyes, hang on tight to Mom’s hand and try not to think of freefalls.

But we arrive safely back in the basement or “subway” as Eaton’s calls it. I know that I deserve the soft white ice cream whirled into a cone sold at a stand near the underground walk to the main Eaton’s Store. I also deserve the hot dog sold there.

(Excerpt from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2012 Sharon Crawford)

The study, mentioned above, showed that among older Taiwanese people, at least twice weekly shopping could raise life expectancy an average of 27 per cent. Surprisingly, men engaged in retail therapy more than women. Researchers believed it was not all about the buying but companionship and exercise could be factors.

Not for me. I wanted to buy. However, I had two items in mind – a new mini stereo system to replace the dud that died in January after just over two years of “service,” and a pair of “good jeans” to replace the pair  now sporting rips and holes. True, I was thinking of my Mom’s and my trips downtown as I rode the streetcar there and walked through the Eaton Centre (definitely not there back in the day). But successfully purchasing the two items needed without hitting more than one store (Sears, if you want to know. I didn’t even enter The Bay which now sits on the old Simpson’s store). Even the sprinkling of rain on the way home didn’t dampen the expedition. I just opened my umbrella and held it over the box containing the stereo.

So, can retail therapy help? Maybe as long as you don’t play shopaholic. The life expectancy criteria is still off the table for me – I’m not quite as old as the study’s participants…yet. But it sure lifted my mood.

Check out these websites for a couple of retail therapy studies.

Shopping and Retail Therapy Makes You Live Longer – Totally Living http://www.totallyliving.co.uk/health/2011/04/08/retail-therapy-raises-life-expectancy

Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health http://jech.bmj.com/ (to search for article on the above)

Retail Therapy Effective at Improving Mood http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/retail-therapy-mood_n_882062.html

Your thoughts on Retail Therapy?

Cheers.

Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes

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Filed under Eaton's, Mother, Only child memoir, Retail therapy, Sears, Sharon Crawford, Shopping, Simpson's