Never again for purchases using Futureshop.ca (via Kat’s Passions)

This is the blog post that will not die…

Sadly, it appears that since I first posted it – in 2006 – Future Shop hasn’t changed its ways. I admit that I haven’t purchased anything from them online since then – Best Buy and Amazon are SOOOOOO much easier to work with – and I have only purchased the occasional DVD from them in-store (don’t get me started on the way their in-store Computer/Tech people treat their customers), but a company that has such ludicrous business practices is not one I want to have much to do with.

And I am looking for a new computer set-up for home too…

I admit it – I do not like to shop at Future Shops stores. The sales associates are pushy and assume that you don't know what you want (no matter how hard you try and prove that you do) and you often do not get the best deal at a storefront shop. I am an online purchaser and I tend to prefer it that way. Futureshop.ca had this great offer – 1GB USB Flash Drives for $20! Wonderful! That is cheap enough that you are going to want to get them becaus … Read More

via Kat's Passions

Dining with the Spirits aboard the Queen Mary

Sad to say, one of the stories I had heard somewhere about the Queen Mary is untrue.

I had read somewhere, and I cannot for the life of me remember where, that some of the Queen Mary’s most famous spooks were the ghosts of servicemen who had died there during World War 2. No, I am not saying that there aren’t ghosts of servicemen, just that the story I had read was wrong: I had heard that they had died because they were sleeping in the first class pool, which is situated right over the engines (true and true), and that when the boat sailed through the Panama Canal, the heat from the engines combined with the heat of being close to the Equator resulting in overly cooked servicemen.

The Queen Mary is too big to go through the Panama Canal. Ergo, that last part isn’t true.

It is true, however, that the Queen Mary was used as a troop ship in the Second World War, however it operated in the North Atlantic, and I get the feeling that those troops who got assigned bunks in the pool area were probably happy about the extra warmth they would have gotten from the engines.

One of the highlights of my return from my trip Down Under was doing the “Dining with Spirits” tour on the Queen Mary, in Long Beach California. It was a last minute sign-up; I would have booked ahead of time but had been sure I would still be suffering from jet lag. Fortunately I had slept most of the day so I was fine and raring to go by the time I got to the ship.

I was also very excited because the Queen Mary has quite the reputation in ghost tour circles. I’ve seen a few ghost hunt shows about the ship, and was eager to try my own hunt.

Arriving at the ship is almost daunting… dark, overcast night, empty streets and then suddenly there she is: this huge behemoth ocean liner rising before you. I’ve been on cruise ships in the Caribbean before, but somehow the Queen Mary just seems more overwhelming.

There are a couple paranormal tours offered on board, but the one available that night was Dining with the Spirits, which included “upscale dining at the award-winning Sir Winston’s, followed by an intimate tour of the ship’s paranormal host spots.” Well, I was going to have to eat dinner anyway…

We were a small group that night (under 20), which I understand is quite the rarity. We all gathered in the bar area of Sir Winston’s, the ships ‘most elegant restaurant’. The bar is decorated with many pictures from the ship’s heyday, including some of its celebrity passengers. I met a couple who were not only doing the dinner/tour but also staying on board at the ship’s hotel. They were not the only couple doing so, I later discovered; most of the folks on the tour were staying there. Our paranormal guide says the ship is most ‘active’ around 4 a.m., so staying over is definitely something I’ll want to try next time.
Sir Winstons

Sir Winston’s definitely lived up to its elegant promise. The food was excellent and wonderfully presented. The group at my table spent most of dinner telling each other stories about strange encounters they had experienced or other ghost tours they had been on. Needless to say, we were primed.

Halfway through dinner we were joined by Andrew, who is one of the ship historians. He dashed the story I had heard, but confirmed another – yes, despite being unarmed the Queen Mary has sunk a boat. Sadly, it was an escort ship during WWII (a so-called ‘friendly fire’ type incident), and may account for some of the paranormal experiences. The ship also carried my POWs, which could also account for other ‘things that go bump in the night.’

Erika Frost, our paranormal tour guide joined us for dessert. She gave us an overview of where we were going and what to expect. She also gave us this directive: if taking pictures, take a few in rapid succession: If you get an orb on one and not on another, that is to be ‘trusted’ more than if you only take one picture. That one could just be of dust; a couple pics will clarify that. She also warned us that many folks did experience unexplained camera problems on the tour.

Another thing she mentioned is that the boat is completely stationary. While still surrounded by water, it was wedged pretty hard in, and so it just simply didn’t move. Any rocking feeling we might experience would be due to electromagnetic waves, something she says occur a lot in such a highly charged paranormal area. Indeed, some folks had mentioned it during dinner, though not all of us felt it.

I did also want to mention one slightly weird thing that happened during dinner. At one point I went to the washroom, walking through the restaurant’s lobby and bar. As I approached the lobby there was an overwhelming smell of cigar. Even the maître mentioned that someone in the bar must be smoking and he hoped the bartender would tell them to stop. When I went down the stairs to the bar, the smell was fainter, but more importantly – the place was empty.

Our first stop was one of the engine rooms, where a spirit called Johnny resides. He had been crushed in an accident many years ago, and is considered one of the ship’s most famous residents. Erika said she felt his presence, which I did not, though myself and a couple others felt there was someone else, hiding in the back area. Erika confirmed that there is another man whose spirit has been felt in that area but little is known about him; he’s shy and not that talkative. We stopped and some of us were given a chance to try dowsing. While the metal rods did do a lot of moving around, I am still not sure I felt a presence. One woman though, felt someone brushing against her a lot, and Erika did say that ‘Johnny’ really seemed to like her.
Engine Room

Orbs in Engine Room

One of the next stops was in the very bowels of the ship, right at the front, where the POWs had been kept. Haunted or not, this area was downright creepy. We turned off our flashlights, sat in a circle and just tried to commune with whoever might be there. For a while it was pitch-black, but then you could see shadows of people walking by the hatch door. Something you thought nothing of until you realized we were in an area that was locked to other people – we had to have a security guard let us in – and there were no lights on upstairs in order to cast shadows. We also heard several knocks and muttering voices.
Chair in POW area
Orbs on chair

It was here that I took some rapid succession pics that actually showed some orb shaped things.
POWs
POWs orbs
POW - no orbs
Orbs
More orbs
And one of the other women who had ‘seen’ the other man down in the engine room confirmed my feeling that there was someone in the far right corner; a woman. Probably a nurse.

We all got out of that area quite quickly.
Walking to the pool area...

Walking to pool
The last area we went to was the first class pool area. This is considered another one of the ship’s hot spots, and one of our tour participants had told a story about an experience he’d had there a few decades before; something that had scared him enough that this was his first time back.

Almost as soon as we arrived one man started asking about the little girl in the corner.

The pool. I was sure I saw something near the upstairs curtain
Erika supplied her name, which I am afraid I have forgotten. She is also one of the more famous ghosts aboard, believed to have been a young girl who drowned in the second class pool area, but when it was closed and turned into more cabin space, had moved to this pool area.

Frankly I was more unnerved by the person I felt watching from the upstairs balcony.

After a wander around the area we were asked if we wanted to enter the change room area, where there was supposed to be a ‘vortex’ – portal to the other side. The man who’d told his story had said his experience had happened right at the end of the hall of change rooms…. so guess where I went? Yep. I didn’t taunt the ghosts, as he said he’d done, I just went down to the end, turned off my flashlight (as all the others did) and waited. Let me also say, the nearest person to me was three rooms down. No one close to me at all.

So who the heck as rubbing my feet?

First the right then the left, then a pause, then left then right. And my skirt was lifting a little at the bottom.

There was also a feeling that something else was in the room with me. So I stepped out into the hallway… just as Erika said, “Whoever is down at the end, there is a strong presence down there with you.” “Yes,” I replied. “Which is why I moved out to the hall.”

When I mentioned the feet thing to her later, she laughed and said, “Oh, you probably got one of the cats then.” The Queen Mary had, in its heyday, a bit of a rodent problem. So cats were brought on board to take care of it. And many had never left… As soon as she said it, it made total sense: it had felt exactly like a cat brushing back and forth around my feet. And it wasn’t the first time I’d had cats show up for me on a ghost tour. It would seem that, despite not having a real cat at present, I am still a cat person.

All in all, an interesting experience. I am not sure how much of it was my imagination or if I did encounter something paranormal, but I did enjoy the evening. And I definitely would like to return for a night in the hotel and another tour. Maybe that one that starts at midnight…

How Air New Zealand messed up my Christmas 2009 trip

I started on my trip Down Under with high hopes and in good spirits. My stop in San Francisco was wonderful; I love that town. So much to see and do… and the food! YUM! What a great start to my trip (the only ‘bad’ spot being the man in the next hotel room who liked to be called “the King” during sex… I kid you not!).

Unfortunately, Air New Zealand decided that my bags needed to stay in San Francisco even though I had left. I arrived in Sydney, after a long 13 hour flight to Auckland, an hour rest and then a 3 hour bump over to Australia, to discover that my bags had been left in the US. Actually, that was discovered about 6 hours after my arrival – until then no one knew where they were.

The first day I was more concerned about getting clean clothes, but as days pass that quickly fades when you have trucked around the world to spend Christmas with your nephew – his first Christmas – and with your somewhat estranged side of the family, and have arrived empty-handed. Literally. Definitely not the way to make a good impression.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported, while I was in Australia, that several thousand travellers had had their bags go missing, and I also heard from several Aussies that both Qantas and Air NZ have a ‘propensity’ for losing bags around the holidays. I am not sure if there was any truth in the rumour that one Qantas flight from London Heathrow has arrived filled with travellers, but sans all luggage, but I can certainly believe it.

It took almost four days for my bags to show up. After Christmas. After having to sit there like a beggar at the table, feeling like crap whenever anyone handed me a present to open, knowing that the best part of Christmas is the giving of gifts – and I had nothing to give (yet).

Four days. A day and a half of which they had sat in Auckland waiting for someone to notice that they belonged in Australia not New Zealand. During that time I had called Baggage Services about six times, sitting on hold for on average an hour each time. Air New Zealand graciously compensated me $100AUD for my troubles… but I had to come to them and get it.

They failed to compensate me for having to replace one suitcase – when my bags did finally show up one of them wouldn’t roll properly. I opened up the back to see why the handle wouldn’t work and discover that the entire infrastructure was bent inward in a reverse V. I am afraid to think of how it was thrown in order to have created such a deep bend.

I said ‘ruined’ didn’t I? Well, perhaps not entirely, I did get to spend time with my family and to play with my nephew, but the first few days of my trip were marred by a preoccupation with the bags. Christmas Day was unenjoyable because I was unable to give the presents I had spend months selecting. By the time they did show up it was very anticlimatic, and I still felt like the beggar child. So no, not entirely ruined.

Canadiantire.ca wasted my time

I will have house guests coming soon (to look after me post-surgery), and as I only have one bed in the house and I am not going to share it… I need to get a bed for them to use. Seeing as space is an issue and I really don’t want a whole bed frame, I thought I’d get one of those blow up beds. A friend of mine has one, that I used while visiting him a while back, and it was very comfortable and easy to set up. Definitely a good option.

Until I tried to get one.

I headed over to the Canadian Tire website to see what they had, and found one on sale (yippee). Then I clicked on the “availability at a store near you” button. And they were available! Double yippee. So I pulled on my jacket and trudged over to the store.

I got there and headed to the Sporting Goods area. I found a sign for the bed, proudly touting the sale price, but the beds located right next to the sign weren’t by the manufacturer I was looking for. The boxes to the left of the sign were by that manufacturer, and the same price as the bed, but they were all tents (wonder how many people they fooled with that). I managed to track down a salesperson and asked about them, and he shrugged and said “must be out of ‘em.” Then he walked away. I called him back and asked about the price on the ones that were right there. Major sigh, and then he went off to look it up. $50 more expensive than the ones I was looking for.

I told him that I had just been online and checked the availability there and it said they had them in stock. I was told that ‘that thing is never right’. I asked him to look it up and see if they did have them in stock. Sure enough, nope. I asked where did have them and the list he came back with beared no resemblance to the list that was coming up online (the list that gave me several nearby stores that supposedly had them). I was also told that when I called I should just ask the stores to do a visual check, because ‘the systems are never right’.

Wow! Surly, unhelpful sales associates AND a useless inventory system! Whyever do I not shop at this place more?

That was sarcasm, BTW.

I am sure that the whole idea behind Canadiantire.ca is that you are supposed to buy online, but if that is the case then then first thing they have to do is change the design. When you first come to the site one of the first things you are asked to do is enter your postal code. To me that would mean that they are interested in giving me the best results for my geographic area, but now I am wondering if it has any purpose for the customer at all.

If you are going to have a ‘check availability’ button, could you at least make sure it comes up with REAL results? Putting that button on the site indicates that Canadian Tire understands that people want to purchase in store rather than online, but don’t want to waste their time heading to the store if it is not there… but if the inventory list that comes up online doesn’t relate to the actual store inventory it renders the whole process useless.

And if the product is no longer available in store, remove the signage! Talk about a ‘bait and switch’ scheme.

Oh, and if you want people to come to your store, try and make sure you hire people who are actually helpful. The guy who served me was horrificly rude, and getting information out of him was like pulling teeth. I do tend to like to shift for myself, so I only look for help when I really need it. And the help I got from him was no help at all. He would answer a specific question only, offered no extra information at all and denigrated the store’s systems the entire time.

So now I am off to check Canadian Tire’s competitors for the product… I’d rather pay more at one of them than bother wasting my time trusting Canadian Tire again.

BOO! A couple Florida ghost tour experiences

I like ghost tours.

I’m a bit of a history buff, and it is a great way to get a good taste of the area’s history. After all – to know the ghost, you have to know why the ghost came about, right? A good guide explains the history of not only the buildings visited, but also about the people and living conditions of that era. Or many eras. And with ghost tours popping up everywhere (sort to like Starbucks stores), it is a cool, and creepy way to learn a little.

If you ever find yourself in St. Augustine, Florida (and who hasn’t?), I highly recommend the Ghost Tours of St. Augustine’s ‘A Ghostly Experience’. Just about every old building there is haunted; everything from Flagler College, the Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine Lighthouse, even the building which houses Ripley’s Believe It or Not. There is even a haunted tree!

My last trip to Florida I was all about the lying on the beach and doing anything that required more work that putting on sunscreen… well, you get the picture. But the brain can only atrophy for so long and I took the ghost tour offered in New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona Beach. I was the only one of the tour so I got two, count ‘em – two, guides. Susan is a local medium and she brought along Charlie Carlson, a well-known author of the strange and weird (penning books like “Weird Florida” and “Strange Florida”). With a reminder that Florida was one point of the Bermuda Triangle, the two spooked me with all sorts of strange stories. Like the one about a former mayor who still wanders the streets, sometimes as a cat (and we saw a cat doing pretty weird things… like running across the street in front of cars. Coincidence?), or about a cheerleader who, murdered by a serial killer, came back to visit her family and frightened them so much they abandoned their home – just walking out and not coming back. The house lies empty to this day. Freaky!

Anyway, I love ghost tours… and am hoping to do some more on future trips.

Never again for purchases using Futureshop.ca

I admit it – I do not like to shop at Future Shops stores. The sales associates are pushy and assume that you don’t know what you want (no matter how hard you try and prove that you do) and you often do not get the best deal at a storefront shop.

I am an online purchaser and I tend to prefer it that way.

Futureshop.ca had this great offer – 1GB USB Flash Drives for $20! Wonderful! That is cheap enough that you are going to want to get them because even if they don’t work well it is an inexpensive enough cost that you are willing to try.

Only problem – trying to buy them.

As I said, I do a great deal of online shopping and I have never seen the level of over-securitizing incompetence that I got when I made the, in hindsight foolish, decision to buy from this company. What is worse (for them, not me) is that the purchase I was making was not for my personal use but for my company. And as the process required more than a few hours of attention from both myself (as principal technology buyer) and our company accountant – which clearly made this ‘economical’ purchase one that was WAY more expensive than necessary – I can guarantee that the next time I (both personally or for business) am called upon to make a quick, small, technology purchase… Futureshop.ca will NOT be where I go.

Heck, seeing as Best Buy now owns Future Shop, I will not be going to them either because, frankly, tarred with same feather.

As I said, I wanted to make quick purchase of a couple USB flash drives. Logged on to Futureshop.ca and found a deal (yeah!) so went forward with purchase. I put them in the shopping cart and head to checkout. Oh, did I want to pick them up at a store or have them shipped? Nope, need shipping. How much would shipping cost to you location? Enter postal codes, get answer. Okay, fine with that, can I now please check out? No, you have to have a Futureshop.ca account. That’s okay; I do so let’s get this order finished…

I hadn’t purchased from them much recently so when I logged in my user ID worked but passwords didn’t. No problem, ask them to send me a new one. It arrives, and I log in. Because I haven’t logged on in a while it needs verification that I am me. Either call the 800 number or enter a previous order number. I chose the latter. Woohoo! I’m in.

First it asks me to update my information. I do. It thanks me. But that is all it does. No indication of where to go from there. Personally, I think it is a pretty basic thing for a site to ask you if you want to return to your order basket or something to that effect at that point – multitudes of other sites can do it… why can’t a major Canadian technology retail company’s?

The next button down on the left hand column is update shipping info. Okay, perhaps that is where I am supposed to go next. Go there, update that.

“Thank you”. End of conversation.

Sigh. Back to the trying to figure out where to go next… Next is fixing your password, which I was going to have to do anyway because the temporary password they gave me was just that: temporary. And certainly not something I want to have to try and remember. So I update it. Again with the thanks. It takes a while (hey it was late at night) before I notice the teeny button for shopping cart up top. I click there – yep there is my order. Only it wants me to start again with the whole ‘find out about shipping’ thing that I have been through at the beginning. Fine, I know how much it costs for shipping… lets move on. You want my credit card? Okay, here it is… NOW can we finish this? FINALLY we get to the ‘thanks for your order, emails on there way to you’ window.

It’s over 45 minutes later but at least I am done…

HA! Not even close. The ‘thanks for order’ message comes through. It says how much the items cost, but no mention of the shipping or final costs. Hard to give that to the Accounting department – Heck it’s hard to even figure out whether or not it will be shipped! Call me crazy but no mention often means ‘not happening.’ But, at least I got an email… so it is a start.

But wait!The next day I get an ‘unable to process order’ email:

“Thank you for placing order number XXXX with futureshop.ca.
As part of our extended customer service, you will receive a telephone call, at the number provided as your bill to phone number, providing further instruction to verify your order.

Please note that we can only discuss these matters with the credit card account holder in person.

We will send you 2 more email reminders during the next 5 days but if we don’t hear from you in that time, we will automatically cancel this order.

For your convenience you can view and edit order information as well as check the status of your orders 24 hours a day through via our website… simply click on the link futureshop.ca!”

Fine. A phone call to verify. Okay… despite the fact that I had asked for quick shipping… just have to wait.

24 hours later I get tired of waiting and check the site. I can log in this time, however when I get to the ‘you need to verify yourself’ page I does not recognize the order number that was given to me. Okay. So I enter the other, older, order number that I used before. Now IT isn’t recognized. Only solution is to call them.

The 800 number is on the ‘order number cannot be verified’ page of the site so I dial it. According to the message it can take 3-5 business days for the order information to be put up on the site. Strange when you consider that according to their email you have only 5 days to let them know that you did in fact place that order. Okay, they are idiots… move on… talk to Customer Service person.

And now more gets revealed: YOU have to call them from the phone number that is attributed to that account and tell them that “yes, I did make that order. Now could you actually start the process of getting it to me?” How foolish of me not to know that from an email that:

  • says they’ll call, and
  • doesn’t even include a phone number you for to call.

Frankly, at this point my call to them is not to verify that the purchase is going through, it is to find out what the hell is going on because if they have decided that they are “Unable to process your futureshop.ca order” (the subject line from their second email to me) then just let me know so I can go walk up the street to The Source by Circuit City and just get it there. The Customer Service Rep I am talking to is very put out that I don’t understand their process. After all it is ‘for your security”. I say that they are going to ‘for your security’ themselves out of business, but clearly he doesn’t really care (though I am obviously a fool for not being overjoyed at their determination to keep me secure).

He takes my info down, and tells me that he is now sending the order forward and that they will get around to shipping it in 24-48 hours. I mention that if I hadn’t called when I did it would, even including my request for quick shipping, have been middle to end of next week easy before I saw my order. That is not his department – that is now shipping’s concern.

Honey, it IS your department because if I had sat around and waited for someone from your company to call me (as they hinted they would do in their email… but didn’t bother to) then we would still be stuck at the order processing stage…

I say again that I am horrified by the length of time it takes to get an order through and get the same ‘you are an idiot because you just don’t understand that you are so freaking secure ordering through their site that all of your troubles will be over forever’ speech. I tell him I am still not impressed and that I doubt I will be purchasing through futureshop.ca again. He responds with ‘do you want to make a suggestion about how to improve it?”

Yes.

“Here is the address.”

Address? I want an EMAIL address.

We can only give you an address. Or a fax number.

(Snort. Yep, really they really are a technology company…) Okay give me those.

He gives address and fax number. “It is for our head office in Burnaby, BC”

Is there someone I should direct it to?

“No, just send it there.” CLICK.

Clearly any mail I send them about this situation will be paid as much attention by head office as it was by this Customer Service Rep.

So let’s recap:

  • If I had purchased in-store it I would have gotten the item, been told I didn’t actually want what I got from an overzealous condescending sales clerk, argued that I did and was going to take it to cash to pay for it so back off, gone to cash and paid for it and walked out in about 10-15 minutes.
  • If I purchased online I will select the item, wrestle with the shopping cart, finally complete process, get ‘thank you for your order’ email, wait 24 hours until get the ‘unable to process your order’ email, wait another 24 hours before I get fed up with waiting for the promised phone call and then try and get into my account on the site, be unsuccessful but finally find a 800 number I can all to get answers, verify my identify with officious, could-give-a-care (okay, not my original word but there are children present – by which I mean Future Shop may be watching) service reps, listen to him rant about how I should bend over and show my extreme gratitude for their over-protection of my online experience, and then be condescendingly told where to stick my complaint. And the product will still take another week or so to get to me. (Just so it is a fair comparison that is 48 hours and counting).

(Oh and I pity the fool who doesn’t have time to follow the process as closely as I did because who knows if they would ever get their item).

Look, I know that if you purchase online you need to have protection – I only shop at sites which offer password protection and SSL protection and all of that. I shop on sites run by considerably larger organizations than Future Shop, and I buy from people who are way smaller. And I have never had a security problem – though if I did I can guarantee I’d be all over that immediately.

Statistics show that the majority of Canadians (companies and individuals) have made purchases online, and that there is a large minority who (again, companies and individuals) are extremely online purchase savvy (colour me part of that minority).

The system Future Shop has in place is clearly not geared to protecting my security; it is designed to ensure that I never shop online with them because the hassles, hurdles and time wasted it will not make the experience worthwhile to me.

It is the only online retail site I have ever come across that punishes you for using it!

(And as someone who recently made a $20k+ online purchase quickly, securely and effectively… making a purchase of under $100 and getting two days of trouble… not conducive to me wanting to return).

But not to worry, Future Shop, because I will not be using your site again.

Nor will I be using your owner, Best Buy’s site (feathers… tar… remember my earlier comments?)

Heck, I doubt I will be purchasing in your stores. After all, just like there are other online retailers who can meet my needs without all the bullcrap you have in place… there are other storefront retailers who can meet my needs too.

Oh, and I need some more tech stuff right now – mouse extension cords and such. Where are my shoes, I need to walk over to the computer store up the street…