One of my favourite web forums happens to be redflagdeals.com, where bargain hunters unite and share where to get the best price on everything. One poster has put together a pretty thorough list of every tablet on sale in Canada, from popular ones like the iPad 2 to lesser known ones like all the others.
It’s an interesting resource. With the selling-like-hotcakes iPad standing pat at $519 in Canada, it’s interesting to see how low other manufacturers will go to undercut Apple’s tablet. Also, look for the HP TouchPad to drop in price further very soon, from $449 to $399 for the 16GB model, as HP has made last weekend’s sale pricing in the U.S. permanent.
I wanted to write a short entry about Videotron’s new “flagship” store downtown today, as I was at Tuesday’s press event, but quickly realized I couldn’t. After what happened over the weekend, I was in a lose-lose situation: Heap praise on the concept and appear like I’ve bent over for the company, or criticize and look like I’m holding a grudge. So for that reason, I’m writing this.
I was interviewed on CBC’s daybreak on Tuesday morning to discuss what happened and had the pleasure during that interview of hearing a clip of Marc Labelle, Videotron’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications. The clip features Mr. Labelle saying that “according to what they hear” I took a lot of pictures from the entrance of the store of the inside of the store with a flash. Patently absurd stuff.
Of course, no mention of the actions of their employees.
On Monday evening, however, I did have the chance to speak with Mr. Labelle personally. After sending an email to Videotron’s PR about attending their press event the next day, I was asked to call the company’s offices. They were concerned I’d pull a stunt the next day. Apparently, getting threatened by Videotron employees somehow gets you confused with Alan Funt, Ashton Kutcher, or Jamie Kennedy. Everyone who knows me is aware I’m about as controversial as 2% milk.
I won’t delve into much detail about the call, but I will say that’s it’s disheartening that they seem to be accepting the bald-face lies their employees have said following what happened. They went so far as to question whether the guy who threatened to punch me in the face even worked for Videotron. I’ve offered repeatedly to ID the culprits, but they are not interested. Mr. Labelle did express regrets that the incident happened, but there was no real apology.
Years back, I was watching a CNN interview with the Reverend Al Sharpton, who was ranting about some controversy and subsequent apology, and how offended he was by the apology. I’ve since forgotten what the controversy was, but I’ve never forgotten the analogy he used to describe an unapology-apology:
When you step on someone’s toe, you don’t say “I’m sorry your foot can feel pain.” You say “I’m sorry I stepped on your toe.”
So while I can’t say I expected much – it’s clear legalities on their end make having an honest conversation difficult, to say the least, I can say that the incident is entirely separate from what I think about Videotron’s products and services.
I don’t think two twenty-something thugs represent Videotron (although many of the people who’ve emailed, commented, tweeted, and talk to me do!) and my only real interest in the company is what they offer consumers, and its continuous battle for market share in Quebec. The actions of those employees was wrong, and as a lot of you have pointed out, assault under the Criminal Code, and they should be disciplined by their employer for their actions.
And that’s what I’ve got to say about that. Cool? Cool. Comments? Comment away.
Whoah. Adventures in retail this morning in Montreal. I ventured out in to the semi-suburbs this morning (LaSalle & Carrefour Agrignon) to buy a couple of video games, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, both for the Wii, which are getting pretty solid reviews. Little did I know just how much of a hassle this was going to turn into.
First, I stopped at GameStop. There, the employees tried to sell me opened games as new (A common practice for them well described here, here, and here). Having struck out once, I went to Zellers, since it was closest, and in typical Zellers fashion, they didn’t have them. Why I even tried Zellers, I don’t know. Strike Two. So I decided to go to Best Buy, knowing they’d most likely have the games in stock, and new to boot.
Here’s where the fun starts. Walking to the Best Buy, I noticed the Videotron store, which has recently been remodeled as the company focuses more and more on its new cell phone services. Not only was the store remodeled, but there was a ratio of about 6 employees per customer in the store. This was hilarious to me, and even more so when I think about how Videotron’s parent company, Quebecor, has locked out 253 Journal de Montreal employees for almost two years now. Apparently the company can’t pay for journalism but can afford an army of numbskulls selling cell phone contracts.
So I took out my phone and snapped one picture of the store from about 20 feet away. Put my phone back in my pocket and walked to Best Buy. About a minute later, I feel a hand on my back.
“Why did you take a picture of me?”
I was floored. “What?” I said, realizing that it was a Videotron employee from the store. He asked the same question again. I looked at him, flabbergasted that he even cared. He looked very nervous, like he knew he and his store was incompetent. He told me not to take pictures of his store, or else. I stared at him, realized I didn’t have to tell him a thing, and walked away, although not before I must have gave him the most confused look in my life.
I get to Best Buy, walk to the games section (major cutie working there today!) and found several new copies of both games. I was happy. I picked both games up. Then, out of nowhere, this guy approaches me.
“If you take another photo of my store, I’m going to punch you.”
“Another Videotron employee? Really?” I was thinking. This goon wasn’t wearing the familiar button-up black shirt that most Videotron employees wear. It was a brown shirt, so either this guy wasn’t on duty or was a manager of that same Videotron store. “Are you threatening me? In a Best Buy?” I asked. He repeated the threat, except this time he said “me” instead of “my store.”
Incredulous, I said “You realize if you do that, I will have you arrested?”
He began to ask why I was taking photos. I could have gone on and told him that it was just one photo, the reason, etc., but stunned that I had been threatened by two Videotron employees within 10 minutes, I simply shut my mouth and took out my phone. “If you don’t get away from me,” I said, “I will call the police.”
He heard that and took a b-line out of the store. Mr. Physical Threats was not a fan of the police, it appears. I went to the cash and paid for the video games. I was going to leave the mall, I really was, but I couldn’t believe I was just threatened twice by a couple of Videotron thugs. So, since I had to walk to my car anyways, I went back past the Videotron store to take one more picture, because intimidation isn’t cool.
Walking to my car, the first videotron thug starts following me again, talking on his cell phone. I look at him, and he shouts “I have the right to follow you!”
I keep walking to my car, but then I see him dart to go grab two mall security people. Again, not willing to be intimidated by punks who sell cell phones for a living (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I go right up to the security guards. Before Mr. Moron can start talking, I tell the guards what happened. The initial photo, the two threats, the next photo. I ask the guards if there’s a problem. They say I’m not allowed to take photos in Carrefour Agrignon, to which I respond, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know that.”
The guards then ask me to DELETE the photos from my phone. Realizing I was in Canada and had rights, I ask “Have I done anything wrong, and are you holding me here?” By then, there’s several people watching this play out right in the middle of the mall.
Videotron’s thug yells “You took pictures! Of me! At work!” The security guards didn’t say anything, but ridiculously ask me again to delete the photos from my phone. I turn around, and start walking to my car. They just let me go, because they knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on.
So I walk to my car and go home. As they say in the military, it was a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot kind of morning. So if you find yourself at Carrefour Agrignon this holiday season, show some solidarity with me and take a picture of the Videotron store. Send any pics to email@example.com and I’ll post them up here in a future post.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play with a Mii version of Alex Trebek.
UPDATE: I’ve added my final thoughts about this debacle here.
Earlier this year, Apple finally reversed its long policy of not allowing iTunes gift cards to be used for app purchases, giving some weak excuse about Canadian tax codes. Whenever I pressed them to explain just what Canadian tax laws prohibited this, they could never give me an answer. Lame, I know.
Since the new policy, I’ve always been on the lookout for deals on iTunes gift cards. Thanks to a post from the awesome community at redflagdeals.com, I found one today. Until October 24th, you can get $60 worth of iTunes gift cards for just $48. That’s 20% off, turning your 99-cent apps into 80-cent apps.
Stock up this week. If you don’t have a Costco membership, ask a friend who does to buy you a cheap Costco gift card. The wholesaler allows anyone with a Costco gift card to shop at the store as if they had a membership, and will accept cash, debit or AMEX for your purchases. So even if you only have a $10 gift card, they’ll let you buy a $1,000 HDTV.
Apple has finally released its Canadian iPad pricing this morning, and as I predicted, pricing is at $549/$649/$749 for the 16, 32, and 64 GB models, respectively. 3G models are an additional $130. Despite this unbelievably fair pricing, complainers north of the border are out in full effect today.
In their opinion, Apple should be pricing the iPad at $499 Canadian, because for a few days in the last two years our dollar matched or surpassed parity with U.S. currency. But also in the last two years, the dollar has gone to as little as 76 cents, in March of 2009. Last May, the dollar was at about 86 cents. The lesson here: currencies fluctuate.
As I write this, $499 U.S. is $523.99 in Canadian funds. So based on today’s rates, Apple is charging just about five percent more for the iPad here, despite the increased costs of doing business above the border. To expect Apple, or any other company for that matter, to take the risk of pricing their products for the same dollar number as in the U.S. is completely and utterly illogical.
Neither can you sell electronics the same way you’d sell fish at a market, with variable pricing depending on the day. Not only does it make things difficult for retailers, it makes buying even more confusing for consumers. By pricing the iPad at 10 percent over the U.S. dollar figure, Apple is simply adjusting for the higher price of doing business in this country and giving themselves a small amount of wiggle room for currency fluctuations. When it comes to exchange rates, sometimes we lose, sometimes we win.
In April of 2002, the Canadian dollar stood at about 63 cents, and Apple released a new PowerBook starting at $2499 in the U.S. The price in Canada? $3699, or about $2330 in greenbacks. All those that took advantage of this price disparity in Canada’s favour, you can forward your bogus iPad pricing complaints to Apple along with a check for $169.
Have you been to a grocery store on both sides of the border recently? Shopped for clothes? Things are more expensive in Canada. Doing business is more expensive in Canada. That’s just how it is. We pay more taxes, but we get more services and more consumer protection. So calm down, be happy that the iPad isn’t priced even higher, and in two months when Greece’s debt crisis has brought the Canadian dollar down to 80 cents, enjoy your Apple currency rebate.
If you’re walking along Sainte-Catherine street in downtown Montreal at night, be prepared to be freaked out by a display of Apple retail zombies employees.
I don’t know what enticed this particular Apple store to put up this display of Mac Zombie cutouts, but it got creepier as I approached the store. A legion of Apple retail employees, frozen, waiting to sell you a MacBook Pro – and possibly eat your brains.
As someone who gets accused of “drinking the Apple Kool-Aid” sometimes, despite the fact that I never hesitate to bash bad Apple products (like the TV and virtually every mouse the company has ever made) I can see how this particular display makes Apple look a little cultish.
This time, Apple has gone too far. Or perhaps these are just real employees awaiting the Hale-Bopp comet.
The extended warranty has long been a cash cow for retail stores. Charging $80 for an extended warranty on a $300 computer? Sounds like pure profit to me. The contracts at these places are filled with loopholes and clauses that allow them to deny warranty service.
Head on over to The Consumerist for yet another story of a customer getting denied a repair despite having a valid warranty.
I had to go to an Apple store at a suburban mall today to get my iPhone 3GS replaced (The screen was abnormally dark, wreaking havoc on the auto-bright setting) and about 100 metres away a store seemed very familiar…
Large light wood tables? Check.
Metal accents? Check.
Knowledgeable staff? Eh, not so much.
That last point was the clue that I wasn’t at another Apple store, but at a new Videotron store! Somebody has beaten Microsoft to the photocopier. More photos and full deets after the break.