Act 351

Buy new books with old books

I visited my local used bookstore yesterday. I limit my visits to the bookstore because it’s a danger spot for me. I love books. I’d fill my house with them if I could. They are small, delightful, artful, meaningful objects full of knowledge.

The store is full to the brim but I’m told that they are always looking for new stock. And everything I bring in can be used for store credit. So over the holidays, I’ll collect some books from home and trade them in for some new to me books.

Books never expire. They keep some of their value. Maybe buying so many books in the first place wasn’t such a bad idea afterall.

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Act 342

It’s okay to say “I can’t afford it”.

This has always been a challenge for me. Rather than admit I’m short on money, I have at my disposal a litany of lines to get out of the uncomfortable admission that I don’t have the money. I’m busy. I’m sick. I’m working. I’m tired. I have other plans. I have to be home with the boys. Even after almost a year of this public exposure of my financial follies, I still have trouble saying the words “I can’t afford it”.

What happens when you say “I can’t afford it” is that people will offer it up for free, will offer to lend you money, will offer to pay for you or might not invite you back. That’s not what I want. I want to be able to afford what I want and by accepting the generosity of others, I’m admitting that I can’t afford it. You can certainly see the viciousness of this circle, can you not?

I’ve made excuses to get out of evenings out, lunches with colleagues, weekends away, sports registration and school fundraisers for the kids.

There’s no shame in not being able to afford something. In fact, it’s pretty reckless to do other wise. If anything, there is honour is being able to afford what you have. So why the stigma. Maybe it’s just me. But somehow, I doubt it.

Economics tells us we have unlimited wants and limited means. That’s just the way life is. How it’s come to be a shameful thing to not be able to afford something is a riddle to me. One I may not figure out anytime soon. But I will try. And I will admit, at least once in awhile, that there are some things I cannot afford, and I’m okay with that. And if I admit it to you, please don’t make excuses, or apologize and share your equally heart breaking story about the time you couldn’t justify the purchase you just made. Just acknowledge it. Maybe even admire it.

As consumers, we are preyed upon at every moment of every day to buy things we don’t need. I don’t know how much longer we can afford to ignore this omnipresent influence of gigantic corporations and ginourmous financial institutions.

Just think of it this way, every time you say out loud “I can’t afford it”, and put your credit card away, you’re denying a wall street banker another dollar. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face as you say it, I don’t know what will.

Act 314

Spend your Canadian Tire Money

I do enjoy Canadian Tire Money. No sign up. No cards. No points. Nothing complicated. Just money. I especially like using it on discounted items (another thing I like about Canadian Tire). And they reward you for spending cash (not credit). I like that too. And to top it off, they’re Canadian.

I have a feeling that Sandy McTire (the Scottish looking character depicted on the currency), wouldn’t approve of debt of any kind or any nonsense whatsoever when it comes to money. I could probably learn a thing or two from old Sandy. I bet many of us could. Maybe Canadian Tire should re-incarnate him in as a financial planner.

Canadian Tire money is the original loyalty program and still the best, in my view. More interesting facts on the much-loved currency here. So don’t just collect it, spend it. Enjoy it. That’s what Sandy would want.

Act 262

Raise a little hell

Sometimes, it needs doing.

Here’s my rant. I’ve been a Rogers customer for 13 years. I purchased an I-phone 5 earlier this summer and signed on for another 2 years. Do the math, I’m now a 15 year customer. My lifetime value to date is approximately $25,000. My future lifetime value is about the same.

I owe Roger $200 from my September 6th bill. Today, exactly 12 days after my last payment, I got a call from Rogers credit office asking me to consider clearing up that balance by using their convenient mobile credit card payment option. I don’t mind the friendly reminder. I admit I’m 12 days late. But ask me to put in on a credit card and I unhinge. I reminded the snarky credit caller of my long time custom and my so far unblemished payment record as well as my choice to renew my contract with them as opposed to their competitor. She couldn’t have cared less. Her response? That she regularly phones customers who have been with Rogers for 15 to 20 years. The call ended. And not that nicely.

I then phoned customer service to share that concern. I appreciate that I am 12 days late and that I owe $200. What I don’t appreciate is a snarky credit call after 12 years of custom in exchange for my decision to spend more money with Rogers in a single month than I’d ever spent before. He was equally as snarky. So I asked to be transfered to the customer retention person, which I was. Twenty minutes later, I got an apology and a $50 credit in exchange for  an agreed upon payment date. Was that so hard? Customer retention people are well trained. They know a pissed off customer will go to another provider. Customer service and credit callers, not so much.

We need a consumer bill of rights. Even if I owe money, I abhor the abusive strategy of credit calls that do not take into account 1) that all customers have a lifetime value and 2) that all customers deserve respect and 3) credit calls should be placed with a customer’s credit history in mind. Their approach seems to be that everyone who owes money, no matter how insignificant, is a dirt bag. And nothing could be further from the truth. They treat people like this for a living and we let them. So raise a little hell. You might just get a credit.

Rogers will get its $200 (well $150 now) as they should. But what they won’t get is my soon to be teenagers phone accounts. And that’s what the call will have cost them. Expensive if you ask me.

It’s not what you ask for, it’s how you ask for it. That an oligopoly the size of the telco industry doesn’t get it or doesn’t think it needs to is, well, off the hook.