Category Archives: Misc blogs

Dear Loyalty Apps, Please Stop Logging Me Out!

In 2016, I published a blog post about the number of loyalty cards I was carrying and the challenge in keeping track of all of them. There had to be an easier way.

I still maintain that with impeccable client service and reasonable prices, we could probably skip loyalty programs.

But marketing wizards seem to have tapped into our basic human need to belong, and have turned clubs and memberships into an art form that seems to fill a void. Sometimes the exclusive rewards and personal offers are so well thought out that we overlook the consumer information that we have volunteered about ourselves to get to those benefits.

Shortly after that post appeared, I figured I had nothing to lose in trying to keep track of all of them with the smart phone apps that they were offering.

Initially, the issue I encountered was that my antiquity of a phone was sometimes too slow to produce the apps as soon as I needed them. To proceed with the experiment, I had to wait until my phone was retired and replaced.

When I bought a new phone, I jumped on the bandwagon in a big way and signed up for all of the apps to replace the imposing stack of loyalty cards I had accumulated.

My next task was to learn how to juggle products like a circus performer, while waiting in line to check out. I wanted to avoid the huffing, puffing and sighing from the shoppers behind me, as we all waited for an app to launch.

I became pretty good at holding different products under my armpits, between my legs, or in my teeth while needing both hands to swipe my way to the right app at the right time. I’m sure that there is some funny security footage out there to attest to my newly found skills. Continue reading

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Why I Still Love Print Newspapers

This past week I did something I haven’t done in a long time, I read a newspaper!

Normally, I get news coverage from the car radio on the way to and from the office, and 4 or 5 times per week, I supplement that by checking out an online newspaper or two. And that is on top of the articles that I may check out when friends repost them on social media.

But it has been years since I sat down and read an actual print version newspaper.

There must have been something in the air during the more laid back, hot, hazy, humid summer days that put me in the mood to just relax and gently savour the world’s stories from a page that wasn’t glowing at me with bright ads blinking like Times Square … that and the fact that there was nothing on TV, so I had the time.

It could also be my slowly approaching retirement that has me rediscovering things that I enjoyed in the past but didn’t always have time for when I was busy building a career.

It didn’t take long for me to notice the huge difference in experience when reading a print version newspaper.

When I check out online news sources, it is perhaps to my own detriment that my reading is like a squirrel gathering nuts for winter.

I scan through the titles, I click on the ones that spark interest, I read a few sentences until I get the gist of it, and then it’s on to the next. I probably miss quite a bit that way because if the headline doesn’t catch my attention, I may skip an article altogether.

With a newspaper, because the whole article is open and in front of me, I am more likely to look beyond the titles and to preview a greater number of articles. And when I choose to read one, I will likely spend more time reading an article to the end. Continue reading

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My Attempts at Reducing Plastic Packaging

We’ve known for years that the plastics we discard now can potentially remain on this planet for generations to come. With that knowledge, I have been trying to do my part to reduce my plastic footprint by switching to fabric shopping bags (and remembering to bring them), by using reusable containers for my work lunches, and by finding substitutes (or additional uses) for single-use plastic bags.

And then, despite my best intentions and efforts, I have weeks where I feel defeated when unpacking my shopping and seeing so many products entombed in plastic bubbles, with no offer of alternatives.

Just looking at recent weeks’ shopping, I have seen item after item that probably could have been served up in a bin like at a bulk food store.

I understand that these sturdy packages prevent breakage or leakage in shipping, and at the retail level they help in reducing shoplifting. Also, for some personal products, plastic is considered necessary to keep products clean and sanitary. But in doing a 360 degree turn in many stores, all I see is plastic, plastic and more plastic. It’s discouraging.

We need to rethink retail. Maybe we need things behind counters and hire actual humans to sell them to us rather than putting things in big blobs of indestructible plastic. For taking products home, are there other more eco-friendly materials than plastic bags?

Also, when it comes to clothing or fabric products, could everyone in the manufacturing, shipping, storage and retail chain get by with one tag and a more mindful use of plastic fasteners? I recently bought a throw for the sofa, to protect it from Ivy the Wonder Cat’s claws, and spent 10 minutes removing a multitude of tags and a ridiculous number of tiny plastic fasteners. Continue reading

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Why Car Sensors Make Me Jumpy

When I bought my car, it was with the intention of finding a new vehicle that wouldn’t be any trouble for my last couple of years of working and commuting.

My previous car was 7 years old, with just over 100,000 km on the odometer and starting to get to that point where it might need significant maintenance or even replacement. The problem is that with car issues, you’re never really sure when or where that will happen, often with little or no advance notice.

I didn’t want to be “that guy” stuck on the side of the highway, blocking traffic during rush hour traffic, annoying people and being on the receiving end of people showing me their middle fingers. For my own peace of mind, a newer car was the solution.

However, as much as I love the smooth ride and the peace of mind from knowing that the car is not likely to need fixing anytime soon, my car’s dashboard has seen the sight of my own middle finger (but not when I’m driving, of course).

The reason: the sensitive car sensors.

In the short time I have had the car, I have had the experience of several dashboard warning lights coming on, beeping loudly, to announce “issues”. Continue reading

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Why Watching Paint Dry Can Be Fun

Much like most people, over the years, I have indeed used the expression “it’s like watching paint dry” to describe an event that might be considered boring. But based upon my recent experience, I might reconsider my use of the phrase. I just don’t agree with its accuracy anymore.

In this year’s round of spring cleaning and home projects, I decided to get some painting done.

As much as I love the whole ceremony of painting, in recent years, time and energy have been in short supply.

Plus, my body just doesn’t seem to respond well to weekend paint jobs without complaining in the days that follow. Between working muscles that don’t usually get used in that way and with arthritis starting to drop in unexpectedly, it was time for me to (reluctantly) look into hiring a painting company.

Upon finding a highly recommended team of painters, I decided to put their professional expertise to the best possible use. The first project was one set of walls I haven’t done since I moved in: the walls around the staircase.

I don’t know what the actual height of that area is but I do recall that the few times I tried to dust the lighting fixture or to try to grab the cobwebs in the corners, I felt like the Roadrunner’s archenemy, Wile E Coyote, trying device after device to extend my reach to get the job done.

When I was finally successful in completing the task, it was usually followed by a visit to the medicine cabinet for some internal and/or external approaches to pain relief.

I decided that for this paint job, the extent of my involvement would be to tidy up before, to remove my personal effects from the painting area, to set up the cat in another part of the house with food, water, litter and favourite toys, and then for me to sit and relax.

I admit that it felt like I was going against nature to be sitting, sipping coffee and clearing content off the PVR, while the painters were hard at work. I truly had to supress my natural impulses to pick up a brush and to help them.

But when the aroma of the ceiling paint starting wafting toward the living room, I knew I had made the right decision.

When they invited me to check in on the progress, my heart was pounding with joy to see the wall starting to get restored to its original beauty. That was when I knew I had made the right decision and that my investment in professional painters was money well spent.

A few hours later, it was time for the big reveal. I felt like I was on one of those HGTV shows, as all I could say was “Oh my God”, staring at the walls in disbelief, marveling at the beauty of their work.

When they had left, I parked myself on the top step of the staircase and sat there, literally, watching the paint dry.

As I breathed in the aroma of fresh paint and stared at the walls, I felt a range of emotions. Boredom was definitely not on the radar.

I felt a sense of accomplishment. The task which got consistently pushed down the to-do list over the years was finally done, even though I didn’t do it myself.

I felt amazement that the bumps and scuffs left behind by 33 years of home owners and renters were completely erased as the walls were restored to their unblemished beauty.

I felt gratitude in thinking that whenever I decide to put the house up for sale, this monstrous task won’t need to be done again.

I felt relief in thinking of the physical pain I spared myself by having a team of experienced painters (who probably know better how to avoid the strains I would have experienced) take care of the walls and ceilings in areas I could not easily reach.

I felt pure joy in seeing how one coat of “Cloud White” paint in one highly visible area makes the whole house look better and fresher.

After this wonderful experience, I also felt encouragement that I have found a painting company I can trust for future painting jobs.

While some people might think that watching paint dry might be boring, I think they need to look a little harder to find the joy, the satisfaction and the gratitude that comes with freshly painted walls.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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When a Favourite Product is Discontinued

Back in the 1980’s, when I used to work in retail, there was a customer who used to come in to the pharmacy regularly who was well known among team members. She was a little eccentric and she had what you might call a unique sense of fashion, but she was still very sweet and we were always happy to help her.

But we really got to know what she was made of when her world came crashing down at the news that her favourite shade of lipstick was discontinued.

As I understand it, she had her colours done back in the day and was told that this particular shade of orangey-red lipstick was the perfect shade for her. She obviously took this very much to heart as it seemed that every subsequent visit was punctuated by a question about her non-negotiable shade of lipstick.

I don’t think we ever knew her name, but through her relentless search, she became known to us as the “Orange Lipstick Lady.”

At first, she bought up all the remaining lipsticks in that shade. Then in the months that followed, she asked our head cosmetician to order some for her until the distributor couldn’t supply us with any more.

When she had tapped out our supply chain, she still came in at regular intervals to check EVERY lipstick on our shelves to make sure that there wasn’t one that was missed.

I’ll never forget that lady. And I often think I have turned into her when a company discontinues my favourite product… which seems to be happening regularly lately. Continue reading

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The Halloween Candy Calculations

With Halloween just around the corner, two questions that seems to be increasingly on our minds are “How many Halloween treats will we need?” and “Is it too early to buy?”

When I was growing up, I don’t recall there being much debate. The number seemed generally stable from year to year. When the neighbourhood’s teens felt they were getting too old to be trick or treating, younger kids were replacing them. And if I remember correctly, 60 to 70 kids seemed to be the norm for many years. When it came to Halloween, it was suburban stability.

Also, back then, Halloween candy didn’t grace our store shelves until after the “Back-to-school” season was over… when kids were back at school. I don’t recall any retail shenanigans of having Halloween candy on the shelves a couple of weeks into the summer break.

In the couple of weeks leading up to Halloween, Mom would buy 60-70 treats. On Halloween night, most (if not all) of the treats would be distributed. The end.

But that hasn’t been the case recently. Continue reading

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