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Pull My Hinge

May 7th, 2008  · stk

MyHomeHardware - We saved money by cross-border shopping in the United States for 96 hinges and 48 cabinet pulls, when we recently gave our kitchen a face lift. Total cost: a little over $100 CAD. Savings by not buying from Home Depot Canada? $500!! Outrageous.

Cabinet Hardware:
A U.S./Canada Cross-border Shopping Tale

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We've been in our "new" (24-year-old), Vancouver Island home for a year and a bit. The galley style kitchen is a traffic jam, drives us nuts and needs a complete renovation. Unfortunately, we have neither the funds - nor the time - to embark on such an expensive and extensive project, at the moment. So, instead, we've satisfied ourselves by painting the (dark forest green) cabinet doors, using a lighter earth-tone melamine paint ("Cozy Cottage") and replacing the old cabinet hardware with something more modern and brighter.

Having a major kitchen renovation under my belt (I completely gutted and re-built the kitchen in my 1940's California bungalow-style craftsman home), I had some idea of the costs associated with cabinets and cabinet hardware. After we counted the number of pull/hinge sets we'd need - forty eight - we took a trip down to the local Home Depot hardware store to purchase some simple, brushed chrome wire pulls and matching hinges. That's when the project stalled, because after a rough tally, we were looking at about a $400 bill and Scott said, "No way! That's outrageous!"

This is the tale of how we bought our pulls and hinges from an eBay company in the United States, for a fraction of the cost that Home Depot wanted for similar items. Chock up another success for cross-border shopping. It's thumbs down for Home Depot Canada for not being competitive and a big thumbs up for MyHomeHardware for their accurate product description, prompt shipping, reasonable shipping costs, product prices and customer service!

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Updated: 7-May-2008
Web View Count: 36633 viewsLast Web Update: 7-May-2008

Getting Off the Sunset Train

April 30th, 2008  · stk

Today, because of the Intuit "Sunset Policy", Quicken Deluxe 2005 will lose certain functionality. It's a blatant money grab by Intuit, confident I've grown used to the functionality and will purchase a new version ($89). Sorry guys, I'm getting off the Sunset Train. Read how I'll regain the lost functionality (and actually improve upon it)

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Shame on Intuit's Sunset Policy, which disables certain software features after three years, effectively forcing customers to purchase an "updated" version (containing few substantive improvements).

I've been using Quicken since 1990 (18 years). I'd say that makes me a long-time customer. I used to upgrade every year and drool over the new features like a kid looking through a confectioner's window. As the product matured, I noticed that the new, must-have features became fewer and farther between. The software also became more expensive and so, I stopped purchasing yearly upgrades.

Apparently, I wasn't alone. When Intuit noticed this shift in consumer behavior they countered it with a planned obsolescence of their products, in the form of a Sunset Policy. By disabling certain features every three years, they could generate revenue by forcing users, dependent on those features, to upgrade.

This first happened to me in 2005, with my Quicken 2002 version. At the time, I didn't object too loudly, because I found a way to upgrade for free! Fast forward to 2008 and now it's Quicken 2005 that that is being crippled - today. Intuit says, "Buy Quicken 2008 Premier or lose certain online features."

Well, this time Intuit, I'm getting off the Sunset train. I've found a simple work-a-round for downloading multiple, daily stock and mutual fund quotes, which is the only feature I use that's going to be disabled today. And thanks to my mate, I now have mQuote, which is actually superior to the historical quote retrieval "service" that I'm losing inside Quicken!

For more about why the Intuit sunset policy sucks and my stock quoting work-a-round, read on.

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Updated: 20-Mar-2009
Web View Count: 24835 viewsLast Web Update: 20-Mar-2009

Intuit Canada

April 19th, 2007  · stk

We give Intuit Canada (makers of the QuickTax software we used to do our taxes this year) a thumbs up for standing behind their web site errors. Read about our taxation frustration

intuit canada thumbs up

Kudos to Intuit Canada for exceeding our customer service expectations when we questioned them about pricing and licensing contradictions regarding their 2006 QuickTaxWeb software.

Filing taxes isn't in most people's list of 'fun things to do'. Ours either. In Canada, taxes are due at the end of April and like most people, we procrastinate. We finally caved in and spent the better part of the afternoon, yesterday, muddling through our complicated Canadian taxes (foreign income, household moving expenses, capital gains, tuition, child care credits, sole-proprietorship ... yuck)! When did our lives become so complicated? (Answer: When we each married a foreigner!) :p

This year, we used the online version of the popular QuickTax software, thinking that it was less expensive than a boxed version. Imagine our surprise and frustration when it came time to print our final tax forms and the bill was more than double what we were expecting!

Find out why reading the license agreement is a good thing or (how being anal saved us money) ...

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Updated: 6-May-2007
Web View Count: 14249 viewsLast Web Update: 6-May-2007

Canadian MERs - An Outrage

February 28th, 2007  · stk

Canadian investors pay the highest mutual fund management fees of any country in the developed world. Not a little bit more - a LOT more. Find out why, the real cost to Canadian investors and what they can do about it

2008 Update

  • The IFIC responds.
  • Updated Report (Jun 2007)
  • Canadian Discount Brokers

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Mutual Fund Management Fees Take Canadian Investors on an Expensive Ride

I have been investing in U.S. mutual funds since the early 1980's and have extensive experience with U.S. no-load mutual fund companies such as Vanguard, T.Rowe Price, Scudder, American Century & Janus, among others.

I recently had the opportunity to investigate Canadian mutual funds and what I saw, absolutely shocked me. Canadians pay more for their mutual funds than any other developed country. Not a little bit more - a LOT more! More than any of the other 18 industrialized nations that were the focus of a joint Harvard and London Business School study, published last year (Source: Mutual Fund Fees Around the World - Feb. 2006 Draft).

The study found that Canadians pay a TER of 2.68%. Compare this to U.S. investors, who pay 1.42%. The next closest country was Luxembourg, at 1.75%, which is still over 90 basis points less than the Canadian mean.

A 0.93% to 1.26% difference in management fees may not sound like a lot, but it's nearly 1.9 times more than what U.S. investors pay and the dollar value, over the lifetime of a typical RRSP, will add up - both in terms of direct fees and loss of investment return. It's an albatross around the neck of Canadian mutual fund investors.

To learn why Canadian investors pay the highest MERs of any country, see how much money this can cost them on a typical investment and what they should do to stop it ... read on.

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Updated: 26-Jan-2009
Web View Count: 67285 viewsLast Web Update: 26-Jan-2009

Tricky Tranny Troubles

March 18th, 2006  · stk

We'll never purchase a Chrysler automobile again and we're recommending you don't either. Read about our experience with a poorly engineered mini-van transmission and ridiculous experience with the Chrysler Customer Service. The transmission failed three hours from home, cost us $2,500 US to repair and customer service has been absolutely NO help whatsoever...

chrysler thumbs down

We'll never buy another Chrysler automobile and I'm recommending that you don't either. The transmission problems we had on our mini-van were astonishing and costly. (Their customer service and loyalty is also a match to their poorly engineered cars).

~ Troublesome Transmission ~

We bought a used 1993 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE. It was 10 years old and had 118,000 kilometers (approximately 73,000 miles) on the odometer. It was in superb condition, both physically and mechanically. It was the largest version of the model year, had AWD, a large 3.3 liter engine, a towing package, electric controls & leather seats. We paid $4,500 CAD for it and thought it was a good value, considering its features and condition.

We drove it locally, for a month, then took it on a 1,200-mile family vacation, to see Scott's folks, in California. The transmission acted funny on the way down, refusing to go into gear immediately at a stop sign and shifting jerkily on a couple of occasions. In California, we drained the transmission fluid, replaced the transmission filter and refilled it with the recommended "Mopar 7176" fluid.

On the return trip, we stopped to visit with friends in Seattle, spending the night. Upon our departure, the transmission refused to deliver power, leaving us stranded in Seattle. We opted for a genuine Mopar replacement transmission, which came with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty. The bill totaled $3,503.89, plus incidental expenses, including a bus ride, back to Vancouver. It was an frustrating experience and and expensive repair.

That a transmission would fail at 73,000 miles is unbelievable. The mechanic who replaced the tranny said, "These transmissions are known to be troublesome and only last for about that [70,000 miles]. My advice? Drive the vehicle for another 70,000 miles and then sell it, before it needs another transmission."

Some stuff on a car needs to be replaced, including oil, tires, brake pads, a water pump (perhaps) and the odd fan belt. But not transmissions! Certainly not at $2,700.00 USD a pop and certainly not three or four times, over the life of a vehicle. Shame on Chrysler for such shoddy engineering.

But, that's not the end of the story and it's their customer service that really made me part ways with Daimler-Chrysler. To learn about the customer service fiasco, read on ...

Why Chrysler Sucks

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Updated: 4-Dec-2010
Web View Count: 144281 viewsLast Web Update: 4-Dec-2010
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