Tag Archives: consumer

The Power of Second Opinions

piggy bankWhile I consider myself an optimist who likes to think the best in people, I thank my Mom for raising me with a healthy degree of skepticism to keep things in balance.

If she didn’t, I think it would be safe to say that the Pollyanna in me might have fallen off the turnip truck, not seen the forest for the trees and may have gotten into financial hot water.

One life lesson that has proven invaluable has been the idea of getting a second opinion (…and sometimes a third.)

I don’t think a second opinion is needed when making small, routine purchases. Let’s face it, despite being starved for conversation after the pandemic lockdowns, we probably won’t make friends while canvassing for second opinions about long-lasting breath mints at the express check-out counter.

But to me, there are times when a second opinion makes sense to validate the necessity of an expensive transaction and that the associated costs are justified. Also, having a few moments to just take a deep breath and to absorb what we are being told without freaking out is an added bonus.

I recall a situation many years ago, where I took my car in for servicing. My plan was simply a regular oil change and to swap my winter tires for the all-season tires.

When the mechanic had completed the complimentary inspection, they found that my four tires needed to be replaced and my rear brakes needed significant work. Total value of the estimate: a lot!

Earlier that morning, when I loaded the tires into the car, I had indeed noticed that the treading on the tires was starting to get low. I did not dispute that maybe it was time to buy new ones. But given the amount I had driven and my typical driving conditions, the extensive brake job seemed a little early to me.

When I shared the verdict with a couple of friends who knew cars better than me, they agreed that contextually it seemed early for that magnitude of a brake job. I decided to go for a second opinion.

The $34 brake inspection at a different garage was the best $34 I spent. The mechanic at the second garage said the rotors were fine, the rear brake pads looked new and that there was a safe amount of brake pad left on the front ones. His verdict concluded with, “How about if we look at them again in the fall when you come in for your snow tire appointment?”

It took every ounce of willpower to hold back my nervous giggle in recognition that this appointment saved me some serious money. Nonetheless I couldn’t contain a big toothy smile and my enthusiastic agreement to revisit in the fall.

How can two automotive professionals have such different opinions? Either way, I liked the verdict from the second opinion and dodged an expensive bullet… for a while. The brake work did have to get done eventually, just not on the ambitious time table of the first mechanic.

Similarly, just after the warranty expired on my central air conditioning system, my service provider came for the annual maintenance appointment and in doing so, found something broken in the unit which would cost over $600 to fix.

I told them to let me think about it as that was a lot of money.

In seeking a second opinion, a family member recommended a friend who was in the heating and cooling business. I made an appointment for him to have a look at it.

The verdict: the piece in question was not broken, it was just loose. For the house call and the minor fix: $125. The air conditioner ran perfectly for several years after that. Needless to say, I changed service providers.

In some cases, a second opinion might not yield savings, but might add up to peace of mind and convenience.

Shortly after my last car purchase, I received 4 estimates for snow tires. To my great surprise, the price difference on comparable sets of tires was rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

That being the case, I chose to go with the dealer that was across the street from my office. I could drop off the car in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon with the new tires installed. What could be easier? And because the prices were so similar, I could sleep well at night knowing that I probably wouldn’t have gotten a better deal elsewhere.

While I like to think of myself as a fairly smart and knowledgeable fellow, I know and admit that I am not a specialist in everything. I have to trust professionals to give me an honest opinion, to do the work competently and at a fair price.

To me, the second opinion is that insurance policy, providing information from an independent source that should help me make a confident, informed decision on how to manage a situation.

Also, with two opinions (or more) in my back pocket, it doesn’t leave me wondering “what if”.

Even though a second opinion might cost a little in time, effort and sometimes money, it can often be worth it.

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Filed under home, stories

Are You a Tag Saver or a Tag Ripper?

There seems to be two kinds of people in the world: tag savers and tag rippers. I have rarely met anyone who was somewhere in the middle.

When I refer to tags, I mean those things we find inside of clothes that offer all kinds of useful information like the brand name, what the product is made of, the size and the care instructions.

These same tags can be found on pretty much any textile product including mattresses, comforters, table cloths and pillows.

I confess, I am an unapologetic tag saver. Why wouldn’t I be?

As an impressionable (and sometimes anxious) little kid raised in the era of “Do not remove by penalty of law” tags, there was no way I could have slept at night if I ever ripped off a tag, even by accident.

And throughout the years, I always saw good value in them and learned to live with them.

When I found a piece of clothing that I really enjoyed (or one that possibly drew compliments), if I wanted to go back to the store and get another one in a different colour, the tag would make that task easier by telling me everything that I needed to know. Continue reading


Filed under 50+, home, Humour

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


Filed under Misc blogs

When Door-To-Door Sales Were Banned

On March 1st, a province-wide ban went into effect in Ontario, effectively putting a stop to high pressure sales of heating, air conditioning and water services at our front doors. What a relief!

While I feel bad for the folks who were trying to make an honest living in the business of door-to-door sales, the sad reality is that in recent years, a few rotten apples spoiled it for everyone. Some sales people were becoming pushy, confrontational and some were downright creepy.

I remember one young lady who looked like Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch, who was selling a locked-in price plan for natural gas. After I politely declined the offer and started gently shutting the door, she wrapped up the conversation saying “you’ll beeee soooorryyyyy” with the same tone and inflection as a dire warning from a horror movie. That was a little creepy!

I also remember an argumentative type that got my blood boiling when I innocently thought this might be a good time to ask questions and to get more information. As I started asking very genuine questions about the service he was offering, he kept asking me why I needed to know that, as his tone got increasingly defensive with every passing question. When he started raising his voice and I started feeling rattled, I decided it was time to end the conversation. He kept talking after I closed the door.

It was the pushy people who wanted to get into the house and check out my water heater that pushed me over the edge, when challenging my own authority to say “no, thank you”. Holy invasion of privacy, Batman! Continue reading


Filed under Health and Wellness, Humour, mental health, Misc blogs

With This Many Loyalty Cards, How Loyal Can You Be?

Reward CardsDo you remember the episode of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” when George Costanza’s wallet explodes from the multitude of items he had filed away in it? Some days, I feel that could be me just from the quantity of reward and loyalty cards I have accumulated over the years.

Just this past week, I was in a rush to leave the house to go see a movie and found myself deep diving through the kitchen counter pile of flyers, lists, receipts and other miscellaneous orphaned items, to look for my movie loyalty card. Fortunately I found it in time, despite the needle in the haystack factor.

I have loyalty cards for airlines, hotels, department stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. I have cards to earn me free coffee, free pet food and free dry cleaning, to name a few.

As you can see by the stack of cards in the picture, I am a member of a multitude of loyalty programs, but frankly I am not as loyal to them as they may think. I confess, I have been seeing other stores behind their back.

Out of all of those cards, only two of them are always in my wallet. Maybe five get rotated in and out of the wallet regularly (…when I remember to). The rest, I try to keep as organized as possible by placing them all in a business card keeper (…when I remember to).

Talk about a house of cards, Continue reading

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Filed under Humour