Rants, Raves and Reviews

A place to share my experiences with web pages/sites, online shopping, tech support and the like.

Rating: Bad
I was willing to give tigerdirect.ca a try since they had a unique set of products at reasonable prices and I had had good luck with their previous incarnation as Misco. But they blew their shot.
First off, an item description changed after placing my order. They sent me a slower CPU than I ordered and thought nothing was wrong with that and would do nothing about it.
Second, the other item I ordered was DOA, so I returned it. Many unanswered emails later, I call and ask whats going on, they tell me a refund has been posted to my charge account a month ago, but I tell them it hasn't shown up and they say this is typical. Not believing this crap I call back and they tell me nothing has been sent, the credit is sitting in my account at Tiger. Somehow they determined the DOA item was working and that stalled the whole process. So then they tell me the amount of the credit and its far below what I paid for the item and doesn't include the shipping charges they promised to pay for. So now I have to talk to an accountant and after numerous discussions I think I finally have it nearly sorted out. They'll send me a refund less a restocking fee, since the item wasn't DOA.
In the end, they screwed up yet again and sent me a full refund, but this was 3 months after returning the item.
That's too many strikes for me to deal with them again. Wrong product, not answering email, not sending status updates, mis-evaluated return, incorrect amount of refund, lengthy amount of time to get support.
Reviewing their products in hindsight, they sell cheap crap for cheap prices, you get what you pay for.
- Saturday, June 26, 2004 at 12:56:44 (CDT)
Chrysler Roadside Assistance
Rating: Excellent
On the two occasions I've used the service, service arrived quickly and was courteously completed within a short period. I didn't experience any hassles getting the service or work done. Just what it should be. The second event was during a period of extreme cold and massive backlogs for service, yet service arrived after an hour of waiting and 30 minutes on hold to make the request. Not bad considering peers waited for days. For the record, my calls were outsourced to Academy Towing and Dr. Hook respectively.
- Monday, February 23, 2004 at 20:29:22 (CDT)
Sturgeon Tire - Pembina
Rating: Excellent
Quick, reliable service at reasonable rates. If they don't do anything, you aren't charged. Helped me out with my tire problems.
- Monday, February 23, 2004 at 20:26:24 (CDT)
Superlube - Pembina
Rating: So-So
Normally I find Superlube to be quick and efficient. On my last visit I was disappointed. I've never seen anyone clean windows worse than on this visit. The service personnel did not check my tire pressure or fluid levels, let alone top them up. The person dripped oil in my engine compartment, something I hate. The bill says 10w30 even though I asked for 5w30, who knows what was actually put into the vehicle. The bill also lists a whole bunch of things they "checked", but I doubt they did. The person also didn't seem to be following their standard safety procedures, nor were they very alert or attentive.
- Saturday, August 09, 2003 at 17:08:42 (CDT)
Eastwood Chrysler Dodge Jeep Service
Rating: So-So
I've been pretty happy with most of my vehicle service at Eastwood. They are friendly, close to work, and handle work quickly and professionally. However the last service event was rather disappointing. Due to the cold weather they were skipping the usual car wash and doing an interior cleaning instead, this didn't happen. On receiving the vehicle back, I found the steering wheel and some door fabric covered in greasy dirt. There was also a dirty shop towel left in the car. On the exterior, there was evidence that something had been dragged over the hood of the vehicle. Under the hood, some liquid, appeared to be oil, had been dripped in the engine compartment and all the way out onto the body work and no noticeable evidences of any effort to clean it. Later I spotted a dent in the upper door frame which is suspicious of someone leaning on the vehicle with a tool in their hand. Don't know conclusively if that came from Eastwood, but there aren't any other occasions that come to mind which could have generated that.
- Wednesday, August 06, 2003 at 10:40:20 (CDT)
MTS (& Escape) Internet
Rating: So-So
I've had DSL service with Escape (now MTS) for several years. It has been a bunch of problems, but can I expect or should I expect better from a low cost service, I think so.
Early problems:
- Interference with the phones, even with a filter, additional noise is present, adding two filters to the same phone seems to help
- Frequent disconnections, inability to reconnect for long periods
- The joys of PPPoE, namely the very poor software which would frequently lock up my machine and the "MTU" problem, which requires re-configuring your machine for a non-standard MTU
- Untrained tech support, their procedure manual had 3 steps (1) reboot modem 2) reinstall PPPoE software 3) Reinstall windows) for every problem, occasionally steps 1 or 2 would work, I always refused to perform step 3 and it was never the issue, nonetheless, as soon as I refuse that step, tech support ends
- No notification or notices of outages or changes
Problems encountered with Escape after MTS purchase:
- While constant phone noise is removed by the filters, the ADSL modem appears to train itself into an audible frequency occasionally and its impossible to use the phone
- Mail servers are unreliable, outages for ~15min/day plus a couple hour outage per week
- Tech support still pretty unhelpful, but improved
- Incorrect billing
- Frequent outages of the DNS servers
Problems encountered after switch to MTS:
- Switchover from Escape was poorly documented, username and passwords provided were wrong, MTS contact information was wrong, no information was provided as to how to access to new servers (email, www, etc.), my website was transferred between servers numerous times incorrectly, each time overwriting the fixed version I had installed
- Overly dynamic IP, using their Radius system I assume, a new IP is generated for each connection and the old one given out quickly, rather annoying if you want to connect to your system, while a dynamic IP is part of the service, DHCP can provide a more static IP for those who are "always on", this is a new system and while the switchover was announced, it occurred before the date stated in the announcement
- Still have fairly frequent disconnections, perhaps every other day
- MTS switched their billing system and that required me to reinstate my service agreements, according to their documentation, I needed to do this between 12:00 and 12:01 on the switchover date. As it turns out, couldn't change anything on that date or for a month afterwards, luckily everything sorted itself out
- Invisible caching proxy server for www, while most everyone is using one of these, this one is particularly poorly configured, stale content is encountered frequently without recourse to update, pages are cached with errors in them, pages are half cached so they have mixed new/old information, pages become inaccessible
- A modem replacement has reduced the number of disconnections and interference, although the modem does get in a state where its connected and can reconnect but cannot pass traffic and needs to be re-powered
- I don't use the mail servers at home any longer, however I use them at work and the problems continue even after numerous upgrades to improve service
- Tech support has improved, they can actually solve some of my problems now
- The web proxy is less noticeable but still problematic for low traffic sites it appears
- Tuesday, August 05, 2003 at 02:44:36 (CDT)
Yamaha Support Canada
Rating: Good
After my first CD-recordable drive started failing all the time I looked for a quality upgrade. The Plextor, Yamaha debates rage on but I decided on Yamaha since it was a bit cheaper and available at my favorite resellers. Just over a year later I discovered a horrible intermittent whine in my system. Suspecting the worst I immediately suspected the IBM 75GXP, now notorious for problems. After much diagnosing, plugging and unplugging all the devices, I determined that a micro cooling fan in the Yamaha CD-RW ran continuously when powered and was squealing, as is common with those cheesy little fans. (Just watch them throw a blade) Anyway I emailed Yamaha support expecting the worst, told them what was wrong, that I was a month or two outside the warranty and I was disappointed cause I thought I was buying a quality unit in the Yamaha. The support rep cheerfully and immediately set up and RMA no more questions asked. I sent it off, had to pay to ship it out though, and they had it back the same week, pretty amazing speed.
- Wednesday, August 08, 2001 at 02:04:55 (CDT)
Rating: Bad
Update: I don't recall specifically, but I think my review really describes UPS standard service, while most of it applies to the other services, the customs brokerage fees for express and expedited services are included in the original shipping price, see this rate table. They do still have other fees associated with importation with duty and/or taxes owing and these exceed the $5 Canada Post charge and the free service from Fedex.
Update 2: As of August 11, 2001 Fedex now has an additional fee as well. If duty and/or taxes are owing Fedex will charge a $7 CAD fee unless the recipient has a Fedex account and they can link the package to the account. Fedex accounts are free by the way.

UPS is decidedly worse on all counts that its competitors.

Speed: FedEx and Purolator and several others are faster, even standard post sometimes beats UPS. Things are also hampered by the difficulties in retrieving packages from the central office when you are not home to receive them. It recent times it has taken several days to make arrangements to pick up the package, whereas FedEx, Purolator and even Canada Post allow you to pickup the packages the evening of a failed delivery attempt.

Cost: UPS is more than the USPS and about the same as other couriers. Where they loose is on customs brokerage fees. UPS's brokerage fees are astronomical, usually far more than the taxes and duty owing, sometimes even more than the value of the package. FedEx, on the other hand, includes the brokerage fee in the original shipping cost and most other companies charge a flat fee, such as the $5 fee of Canada Post.

Service: I've had UPS drivers refuse to carry a package up the stairs to my apartment. Drivers that can't figure out how to ring button 303 for apartment 303. Phone operators which are very slow and require far too much information and require it to be read to them very slowly. Delivery notices that don't stay stuck to the door and often wind up way down the hall or missing completely. The office that doesn't keep extended hours to facilitate package retrieval. The generally damaged condition of all boxes shipped through UPS. On a side note, occasionally a FedEx Rep will call before a package is delivered to tell me when it will be delivered and the specific amount of taxes/duty owning on a package, extremely handy if your waiting for a delivery person or heading down to the office to pick it up. Now you know what it will cost before they show up and have the proper payment on hand.

I personally find no reason to use UPS and try to avoid using them whenever possible.

- Monday, June 11, 2001 at 11:36:35 (CDT)

Netlink Computers
Rating: Good
I have dealt with them a couple times now and have no complaints. They have good prices, their webpage seems to indicate correctly the current stocking status of an item, they ship in a timely matter, bill correctly after the item has shipped and provide good order feedback. However, products are often listed multiple times on their website, each time listed with a different price and stocking status. In addition, some of the product names, pictures, descriptions and manufacturers SKU numbers are poorly listed and can be difficult to determine which product is represented for sale. Their website can be a little unfriendly, especially to Netscape and sometimes cumbersome to navigate. I have seen others report some problems with this organization, I did not experience any problems so I will not comment.
- Friday, March 30, 2001 at 10:39:53 (CST)
The Sony Store Direct
Rating: Good
Update: New URL, now called Sony Style
I took the headphones in for warranty to get the ear-pads replaced as they had ripped in less than a year. It took forever, several months later rather than the 2 weeks the salesman said, I called they still hadn't arrived back from service, so they decided to give me a whole new pair.

Well, I was having a hard time finding a good pair of wireless headphones. I found one good company, but they couldn't figure out if the products were even available in Canada let alone find a dealer for me. Next, I found a Sony model that was rated very highly. I looked around, Future Shop carried it, but didn't have stock, same thing at the physical Sony Store's around here. Checking online vendors they all had the same prices. While checking up on the specifications of the product on the Canadian Sony site (www.sony.ca), I noticed the online store, The Sony Store Direct. Anyway, the price was the same as everyone else, except I saved the provincial taxes. I ordered it up. At least I though I did. The shopping engine crapped out in Netscape. I fired up IE and put through the order. Oops, looking back at Netscape (I left it running), after crapping out, it put the order through anyway. I immediately left an email for them, it was a weekend, so this was the fastest way to get a response. Anyway, first thing Monday morning, they called me up and asked if I meant to make 2 identical purchases. Now, I don't think they had read my email at this point, this was flagged by their shopping engine or someone who reviews purchases. I was quite surprised that they had independently discovered the error, a nice touch, or at least they had quickly responded to my email. Anyway, the product was shipped out and packaged well and included in the packaging was tons of information, labels and shipping instructions for returning the item or having warranty work done. Now this is more than I expected, the complete terms of the shopping agreement, all the information about the purchase and returning the item if chosen, as well as warranty information. The product works excellently, just as the reviews have said. As for my rating, the selection is very limited, it just so happened they had the one product I wanted to purchase. Their prices are also the standard Sony Store ones, usually the MSRP or close too it, which means they are high. The pseudo failure of the online shopping engine in Netscape is also troublesome. However their actual diligence in creating a good experience for online shoppers overcomes these flaws. Note: The online store is actually run by a physical Sony Store in Quebec. As a general note, for online shopping, it seems one of two things occurs. Either the site has an excellent front end, (ie the website pages, descriptions, shopping engine, products) and a poor backend (ie shipping, billing, support) or the opposite is true. It seems no-one can quite get both done at the same time.
- Friday, September 08, 2000 at 09:53:45 (CDT)

Rating: Horrible
Well, for some reason, I figured no-one could screw up an ethernet hub, so I decided to purchase the cheapest one I could find. It turned out to be a simple 5-port 10/100 model from Linksys. It seemed fine for a couple months. When I went to plug in another computer, it wouldn't work in 1 of the ports. So anyway, I contact support, they agree the hub is faulty and get me to fill out this form to have the item cross shipped, (i.e. they will ship me a replacement before I have to ship back the defective item) and fax it back to them long distance. So a while later the courier shows up with the package and is demanding ~$70 in duty and taxes, I refused the package since a new hub is only ~$90 and I would have still had pay to ship back the defective item. After getting a call from the courier as to why I refused the item, they agreed that it was mislabeled and that I shouldn't have to pay for it, but that they can do nothing since Linksys labeled the item as "Sales" and put an inflated declared value on it. I contact Canadian customs just to be sure and to find out how to label it correctly. I contact Linksys inform them of what happened and how to ship the product correctly. No response. I email several times allowing a couple months to pass. (I was being generous and didn't require the replacement immediately since it still mostly worked.) Anyway, still no response, so I escalate the problem and emailed various sales, customer service and other high level people about my warranty not being honoured. Anyway this woke up the technical support. About this time I received my visa bill, and what do I see, but a charge for the hub I refused shipment of. (They required my credit card number on that faxback form....you know, just in case you don't bother to ship back your defective hub.) Anyway I contact technical support, complain my credit card has been charged for no reason, that my email hasn't been answered and that I still don't have a replacement for my defective product. So anyway they get right on it, reverse the credit charge and ship out the product labeled correctly. Strangely, when the product arrived, I noticed that it had been stamped with "warranty replacement" like it should.... but that means they had a stamp that says that, they also included all the correct documentation. This leads me to believe they knew what to do even before I told them in unanswered emails. Welp, the new hub works, and strangely I get faster transfers through it, so obviously the old one was flawed more than a malfunctioning port. Anyway, I am totally horrified by the technical support and pretty annoyed at a simple item such as a hub failing. (Note: I have a friend who also had a Linksys hub fail recently, and other friends have had problems with framing errors with Linksys NICs and cable modems) So anyway, I totally recommend staying away from Linksys products. They are cheap, but you get what you pay for.
- Friday, September 08, 2000 at 09:34:52 (CDT)
Onvia Canada
Rating: Bad
Onvia has undergone major restructuring and this review pertains to the company before this restructuring occurred, things are most likely different now.
I have made many orders from Onvia. Every order has had some aspect screwed up by them to some extent. I initially ordered from them because they had good prices and product selection as well as free shipping and the benefits of no PST. Problems with the website: At first they didn't have inventory tracking, they now do, however it is very unreliable. I have ordered products which are "in stock" and turn out to be infinitely back-ordered. For about a 3 day period, some idiot decided to put up a new non-functioning website for Onvia. The overall design of the webpage is poor, major sections have minor billing on the front page and other pages. Order tracking is one thing that is hard to find, even the product listing pages aren't emphasized on the main page. Problems with shipping: I have now determined that Onvia Canada is pretty much a web storefront for a distributor, Supercom Canada. So basically anything you order from Onvia usually gets shipped from one of the Supercom warehouses. Usually you will get multiple shipments, one for each item on your order, rather annoying. The packing lists are different every time I have gotten one. Some even list the seller as Megadepot.com (Megadepot seems to have been the predecessor to Onvia maybe 2 years ago). The packing lists are also very inconsistent with each other, the website and any other information. Part numbers, order numbers, back-ordered, shipped status all can vary wildly on these packing lists. However shipping is fast if the product is actually in stock and they decide to ship it right away and shipping is free. Usually in this case I would get the items within 2 days. I have had them screw up my address on the label as well. Problems with email contacts: They send out an initial receipt of your order, but no order status or shipped status emails. These emails are also problematic. Often having problems with the pricing or current sales or coupon usage. And usually not listing stock or back-order status correctly. Problems with support: Email support is lame. It takes at least several days to get any response. No toll free number is listed on the webpage, however a number is sent in a response email after you email support (1-877-367-6342). Since I have had so many problems, I have had to email support all the time. Usually problems are not resolved to my satisfaction for about a month after my order. And often since it takes so long to resolve, time limits on returns and refunds etc. have expired and support options become even more limited, also prices change and again limit options. Talking to them on the phone seems to be a little more cheerful and get things moving a little faster as it should. I'm kinda amazed with the amount of traffic I have put through support that I didn't raise flags of problems with support at Onvia earlier than I did. For my last order, a customer satisfaction representative had contacted me to help resolve problems. Problems with products: Well there isn't a lot here you can screw up as a reseller. I have been shipped an OEM model when I ordered a retail boxed model. But the products are well packaged and arrive in good condition. (BTW: most products at Onvia are white box or OEM products, at least make this assumption unless it is clearly stated any other way) Problems with billing: Many inconsistencies arise in billing. First off it seems their accounting system is completely inadequate. When I have asked for printed receipts after settling disputes, items are missing, totals are incorrect, prices are incorrect, actual charges are missing from records, credits are also often missing, taxes, coupons, sales are often miscalculated. During disputes I often needed price adjustments or credits, these were almost always calculated incorrectly or not applied as credits. The billing department doesn't seem to have records of lots of the information they should have. In regards to my orders I've seen them charge my credit card and not have records of it. I've had items missing from orders on receipts. Strangely I've had extra credits applied to my account sometimes. When they bill an order they will usually bill an item only after it has been shipped, so you end up with a bunch weird charges on your credit card. The biggest concern is that their billing department has no detailed records of money going out or coming in, nor proper records of orders. In addition, simple math seems to elude these people, amounts of credits and charges are often wrong. Summary: It is pretty hit and miss at Onvia. And usually a miss of some kind. For some orders you might get away with it. You might place the order, it might be in stock and they ship it right away, getting it to you in a couple days. The product might be exactly as advertised, be at a competitive price and work fine. And several days later they bill the proper amount to your card. I'm pretty sure the packing list will be a little out of whack, but nothing to be concerned about if the product is correct and the billing is done right. On the other hand, you might get misses all over the place. The product might be "in stock" and not show up for over a month and contacting support will reveal that the product was in stock and was never shipped, and is now back-ordered, at least after 2 weeks of talking to support they might tell you this. Then you'll probably argue with them and suggest a very reasonable fix to the problem such as a replacement or refund, which they will hmm and ha over for another 2 weeks before reluctantly agreeing. So 2 months later you either finally have something or maybe even nothing, and even then you probably have an incorrect charge sitting on your credit card which will require another 2 weeks to get resolved. I've given up on these guys. The hassles drove me nuts, as my friends can attest. While the selection is good, prices are good, and if everything goes good, its fast, fairly simple and convenient. Problem is, there is a overly high chance something important is going to go wrong.
- Monday, July 10, 2000 at 00:13:10 (CDT)
Battery World
Rating: So-So
The company is still new, or at least new to the web. The web page is an absolute mess and is still in a constant state of change. It does not provide any product info, the contact info is sometimes difficult to find or is incorrect, online shopping is still not implemented, most everything on the web page is useless, except for searching out how to contact them. That all said and done, after emailing [email protected] ([email protected]) I got a quick response detailing the products he had to offer to replace the dead ones I had, after failing at buying online I emailed back the order and everything arrived a few days later in good condition. Overall, the company seems new and influx to me, the website is definitely new and influx, just a wait and see if they get better.
- Thursday, June 15, 2000 at 13:28:53 (CDT)
Auction Depot
Rating: Good
I purchased a used UPS from them. On receiving the item, the invoice indicated an overcharge on the shipping. I immediately emailed info@auctiondepot which was listed as the only contact address. A couple of days later after testing the unit I noticed that the batteries were dead and the unit could not support any load. I emailed [email protected] again with the findings that this supposedly tested UPS had dead batteries and did not function as a UPS. No response to either emails for several days. So I emailed [email protected] which had been the email address from which the electronic invoice was mailed when winning the auction. He responded within a day or so and immediately credited the entire amount I paid including shipping and let me keep the unit. I have yet to see the credit appear on my card, but I suspect it will show up soon. Everything was resolved to my liking. Auction Depot continues to be on my recommended list.
- Friday, June 02, 2000 at 00:59:20 (CDT)