Oh dear Aeroplan

Last year when I was in Charlottetown I applied for and was given an Aeroplan Visa card as a means to start reintegrating myself into Canadian life. I’m oversimplifying, but considering I have been a non-resident for 20 years with no debt, and also no history, I saw this as a way to start saying hello again to the credit bureau. It also made paying certain recurring bills more convenient.

I didn’t chose the Aeroplan card for any particular reason other the promise of “miles” and the possibility of using them for something Air Canada related in the future. I hate loyalty programs in general, as the benefit always seems too heavily weighted towards the program vs. the consumer. And I don’t find the game all that fun.

Since I did have all these points, some seem to have expired already, and have an upcoming flight from Tokyo to Montreal, I thought this might be a great opportunity to see if I could upgrade my way out of the back breaking economy to something affording more wiggle room.

I called Air Canada here in Taipei, but was told I need to take care of it online or phone long distance to Montreal. So off I went to the Air Canada website. As it turns out you can’t use your Aeroplan miles through the AC website but must call reservations which redirects me back to the same number I called in the first place.

Going to Aeroplan’s website I entered in my flight data in a “not confidence instilling” form to find out that while I had plenty of points to upgrade to business, upgrades weren’t available for this flight. In fact they wouldn’t give me an upgrade on any of my upcoming flights.

For fun I thought I would have a look at their “great deals” section and see what aeroplan could give me otherwise. I’m alone for a few weeks in July, a cheap trip might be fun. The most interesting I could find was a flight to London for ~13000 points plus taxes. But when you pay the taxes on the flight you end up saving just $200 off Air Canada’s regular fairs and likely less if you looked hard elsewhere.

At this point I don’t exactly know what the point of Aeroplan is.

Years ago I was a member of EVA Air’s frequent flyer program and used to enjoy regular upgrades, preferred status and lounge access. Perhaps I need to learn the rules of this game in Canada, but I think over the summer I will be cancelling this Aeroplan branded card for something that offers tangible value.


A Yarus at BMW Prices

From: Canadians pay some of the highest wireless prices in the world — but report says they’re worth it

MEI claims the study is “simplistic and misleading” because it ignores factors that can inflate prices, such as Canada’s geographical barriers and the investments that Canadian telcos have made to provide superior wireless services.

“We have some of the best networks in the world,” said MEI report author Martin Masse. “We’re paying for a Lexus, but it’s worth a Lexus.”

This must be the most ridiculous metaphor I have ever heard but if they want to use it, a Corolla or Yarus at BMW prices might be more apt.

As for the argument that Canada’s wireless services are comparable to driving a luxury car, like a Lexus, not every Canadian can afford — or even wants — Lexus-like services, says Laura Tribe, executive director of consumer advocacy group Open Media.

“Not everyone needs an elite product,” said Tribe. “We have expensive; we don’t have affordable.”

She even gets it wrong.

Months ago, when I created a spreadsheet to budget our monthly expenses in Canada, the biggest percentage change in the budget month over month was wireless and home internet charges. Our current usage habits here were not going to be sustainable in Canada.

As a point of contrast:

Currently we have the kids plans which cost the equivalent of $4.00 CAN a month with 1 gig each of data. They both came with free Android devices which failed and were replaced with older iPhones we had on hand. The plan my wife I have is $43 CAN each for unlimited data – the price was originally marginally higher as it subsidized our iPhones. We don’t care about talk minutes or sms, as everything uses data.

Currently Chunghua Telecom, the national carrier has a Mothers day special available from today until the 15th, detailed below:

  • 30 Months contract
  • ~$31 CAN/Month
  • Unlimited Internet
  • Free calls within CHT
  • 90min/month free calls to other mobile providers and landline.

Alternatively, limited to 12GB/month and less free calls: ~$13 CAN/Month. If you want an iPhone, the price goes up to ~ $25 CAN / Month.

Phone quality and speed is excellent, and even when you find yourself at the top of some remote mountain you can still stream video.

I’m surprised more Canadian aren’t up in arms over the price gouging they endure at the hands of telecoms.


What’s up with Canadian banks?

I wrote a short entry recently on the UX of the contact feature, essentially about how sending email is more often than not a waste of time. Company’s keep putting up contact details but can’t follow through with “people systems” to actually reply to inquiries. In Taiwan, using Line or Facebook gets you far better results. In China, email doesn’t really exist and your life revolves around WeChat.

In my very very limited sample set, many of these types of problems in the past year or so have been with Canadian banks, who despite having created complex contact protocols to their staff (sales people disguised as advisors), have a terrible record of communication. Is banking in Canada still an in person business culture?

When finding financing for a home we skipped the email chain entirely and were personally recommended to someone in a bank in my wife’s hometown. A long expensive phone call later we gave her our life story, with a promise to continue the meeting in a couple of days. Having gone through this process before I know if she knew how to use her information system at her desk she would have most of the information she need within an hour but chalked it up to inexperience with international clients. She never did continue the conversation nor reply to further enquiries.

Contrast that with smaller companies we have been dealing with in Prince Edward Island who on the phone and via email have been more than helpful. One of which I will visit in person, despite not going forward with their offer, to thank for their help. Are the incentives different for those with small businesses?


Adapting to change

John Cage said that fear in life is the fear of change. If I may add to that: nothing can avoid changing. It’s the only thing you can count on. Because life doesn’t have any other possibility, everyone can be measured by his adaptability to change. [source]

I regularly receive news of impending doom in my native country due to the rising cost of heating oil. People worrying about the coming winter, wondering if they will be able to heat their homes. It’s a serious, though inflated, concern especially for those in rural areas living on marginal incomes.
If you know change is coming and you have the means why don’t people prepare? Part of the reason lies with Eastern Canadian culture whereby when faced with change there is a over-reliance on various provincial and federal government agencies to provide answers. Unfortunately, the pace of change is too fast to rely solely on others. Government is slow and they may not have the answers in time (if ever). It’s time to look to alternatives (one, two, three), change our expectations, and enjoy the new reality?


The Beginning of Canadian History

The Beginning of Canadian History
“Canada is fine. It’s good. And in Canada, our nil magnum nisi bonum*s keep us warm at night. In the identity we have created and maintained as uniquely Canadian, who we are is good, but, well, not particularly great. That is the only zeitgeist by and for Canadians that is articulated with any regularity in the magazines, television and billboards, or in the streets and schools and homes and offices. “