entries filed under 'travel' tag:
posted by Odin on Mar 05, 2010
'Dove Billboard' by ebarrera, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Back in December, I read a great article in the Gazette discussing the excessive doctoring and editing done to marketing images in the women's fashion/beauty industry. The author mentions that in France, "legislators have proposed a bill that would require publishers to label which images were real and which had been enhanced", "in an attempt to educate consumers".
Isn't this amazing? I know this is not going to change the world or make it a better place, but it's just an example of how France and Europe in general are so much more pro-consumer than North America. The author goes on to say "although this bill might not consider the interests of the advertisers, it does consider those of the consumer".
That is exactly what I am driving at. Corporations need to be kept in check using small measures such as this one; otherwise the consumer is just being taken for a ride.
The article reminded me of other such regulations that I have encountered during the year and a half I spent in France. For example, I recall reading somewhere that all airlines and travel brokers in France are required by law to only advertise the final price for a trip. They are not allowed, for example, to list a figure before taxes and add a star pointing to the fine print, which says that taxes and other fuel surcharges need to be added, a strategy very common here in Canada.
Almost every edition of the Gazette contains WestJet and Air Transat ads for example, showcasing very attractive prices, such as $350 round-trip tickets to Italy. However, once you go on their website and get to the payment screen, the price easily doubles, after taxes, fuel and other charges are added.
This is plain ridiculous! Why not completely insult our intelligence, tell us tickets go for $10 and add a thousand dollars in taxes? The point is that the advertised price is meaningless to the consumer.
Another example concerns food advertisements in France. Any poster or magazine spread for non-healthy or non-essential food and drink products are obligated to display a modestly-sized disclaimer saying something like "You must eat such and such servings for fruits and vegetables a day" or "be sure to exercise regularly to maintain good health".
The list of such examples goes on. My question is: why can't Canada be more pro-consumer? Why must the corporation reign supreme? I think Europe can teach us important lessons in this respect.
posted by Odin on Dec 24, 2009
'Insurance Disclaimer' by andrew steinmetz, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
I hate the insurance industry. To me, it represents the ultimate form of corporate dominance over the consumer. However, I understand that insurance as a service is needed and is here to stay, and so we have to deal with it and accept it.
Today I want to talk a little about travel insurance in particular. Is it worth getting when traveling outside of Canada? According to a poll mentioned in the Gazette some time ago, nearly 40% of Canadians do not purchase a policy when traveling to the United States.
I've only actually purchased travel insurance once in my many travels. And the time I did purchase one was actually because I was required to do so, not because I thought it could be useful. To keep a long story short, when I moved to France for work about two years ago, the French government had me buy a supplemental health insurance to cover me while I was there (the Quebec coverage was not enough). So I went ahead and paid a little over $600 for a one-year policy.
While in France, I went to see a doctor on one occasion, where I paid him in cash. The next day, when I called my insurer, I was told I would not be reimbursed because I was supposed to call ahead of my doctor's visit to get the reimbursement authorized. Are you kidding me? That kind of puts the whole "emergency" concept into question!
Apparently, I was supposed to read the fine print in the policy booklet! To quote Jerry Seinfeld: "Have you seen the size of this thing?", or George Costanza: "Should I quit my job?"
But then you hear about the exorbitant prices for medical care in the United States, and you think to yourself "maybe it is worth insuring myself". According to that same article from the Gazette, a one-day stay at a hospital south of our border for a broken arm for example could cost over $30k! Of this astronomical sum, only $500 would be covered or reimbursed by our government!
Forget about traveling outside of Canada. Even for travel within Canada, most people ignore the reality of our coverage situation. Our provincial health insurance does not actually cover us outside of Quebec for everything, and when it does, it may not pay in full.
So, to sum up, I would say that in THEORY, travel insurance sounds like a safeguard worth purchasing. The reality, however, is that there are so many circumstances and exceptions that can stop you from getting what was promised, that you might be better off traveling without any insurance.
Just cross your fingers, and hope nothing serious happens to you while abroad!
posted by Odin on Apr 24, 2009
'VIA Train 60 entraining' by Bobolink, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
So I read an article a few weeks ago by Andy Riga from the Gazette about the proposed train shuttle between Trudeau airport and downtown, and I thought to myself "what a waste!"
I have always thought that Montreal lacked a lot when it came to public transportation, whether it was to the airport or elsewhere in general. And it definitely sounds like a good idea to add a fast way go get to the airport from downtown (something that most large cities of importance, especially in Europe, have always had).
BUT, at what cost? And to serve whose interests? Expected to cost $800 million, one wonders whether it's worth spending that much of our money on something that's only meant to serve commercial interests rather than your average Montrealer.
For let us not kid ourselves; the winners here are not the citizens of Montreal, who will undoubtedly pay this costly bill, but rather the conglomeration of corporations, hotels and businesses scattered around our commercial hub located around Central Station.
Businessmen and some tourists may find the shuttle a cheaper and faster alternative to getting to their office or hotel downtown. However, as a Montrealer, this new shuttle doesn't really help me out that much, unless I lived close to downtown or a metro station that is within reach from Central Station.
The question is; how am I supposed to take advantage of this new line when the rest of the island has such little metro/train coverage? Suppose I just got back from a trip, and I took the new line downtown; am I supposed to take an interminable metro/bus connection with my luggage to get home?
If you really think about it, it is only a small area lying in the middle of the island that can really benefit from this shuttle. Everybody else will still have to take a taxi or have someone drive them, since from Central Station you can only go so far by metro.
In Paris, for example, I can understand the need and benefit from a direct train ride from the airport to the middle of the city (which exists, by the way). From Châtelet-Les Halles, where the shuttle drops you, you can pretty much get anywhere by metro and/or RER (a crossover train-metro system that covers both the city and its suburbs).
We live in a relatively small city of only 2 million people. We really do not need to go all out and spend like crazy just to join the ranks of cities with 10+ million citizens. I say, increase our on-island coverage first and fix most of its current problems, then maybe we'll talk about this project.
To summarize, I am not against such a shuttle service; I'm just not sure if taxpayers should pay for it, since it will be mostly serve corporate and commercial interests. Why don’t THEY get slammed with the bill?
posted by Odin on Apr 15, 2009
'Air Canada Airbus A330-343' by abdallahh, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License
Recently, I read somewhere that Porter airlines is doubling their flights between Trudeau airport and Toronto City Centre. Big deal! I'd be more interested if they halved their prices maybe, not doubled their flights.
You know, it's hard enough living in Montreal with the kind of winters we get, what's worse is that you can’t get anywhere decent without spending an arm and a leg.
So I went on Porter's website, to check out what a weekend in Toronto would cost me, and found out that the cheapest return-ticket I could get went for $296. I picked a ticket two months down the line, leaving Friday evening and returning Sunday evening.
Now that's just nuts if you ask me! 300 bucks to go to a next-door boring city like Toronto (no offense). I go to New York once or twice a year, and I always pay around $400. A couple of months ago, I bought a return ticket from Montreal to Nashville, Tennessee for $750, and I booked way ahead of time.
These prices really don't make any sense. How is it that in Europe, you can find amazing deals to go to amazing cities, while we can't even go to Toronto for less than $300? Of course, you can go by train for around $155 (for the same weekend in June), but do I really want to spend five hours (times two) in a train just to spend a weekend in Toronto?
Since I've been living in Paris, I've traveled around a few times for great prices. Lately, I took the train to Amsterdam for 50€ (about $75). $75 won't take you anywhere from Montreal! To make things better (or worse for Montreal), the train system is so much faster here in France. Paris-Amsterdam takes just over three hours for a 500km trip, as opposed to five hours for Montreal-Toronto (also a 500km trip, 540km to be exact). Today I can buy a Paris-London return ticket for 77€ (about $115) for that same weekend in June.
And trust me; these prices do not even begin to scratch the surface of the kinds of deals you can find in Europe. I haven't even addressed the budget airlines, since it seems that's a concept that doesn't exist for us Montrealers, so there isn't even a basis for comparison. EasyJet and Ryanair, the two biggest European low-cost airlines, offer ridiculous flight deals every now and then. Also, Expedia.fr and other similar vacation brokers offer flight/train-hotel combos that make Expedia.ca look like a rip-off.
Typically from Montreal, we head off to Mexico or the Caribbean to help with our winter blues. Generally speaking, you won't find any packages under $1000 for a week in a four-star hotel or better. From Paris, on the other hand, not only do you have great choice for a sun-filled destination (Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, ...), but you can find all-inclusive deals starting at 500€ ($750) or lower for four-star hotels.
My point is not to say that Europe is better than Canada. Even the States have more reasonable and affordable travel options than we do. I just want to know why there isn't more competition and choice for us. Is it that there isn't a big enough market in Canada? Maybe the demand is too small to take advantage of serious economies of scale? Do the big corporations have some sort of monopoly on prices?
I don't know, but right now I'm feeling very jealous of Europeans, and I'm definitely going to miss traveling around when I return to Montreal.
about the blog
MTLRants© is Seek Odin's brand new blog, bringing you entries from our staff and other contributors. The blog will cover topics and issues related to SeekOdin's central themes. Mostly, it will deal with the difficulties and frustrations of dealing with service-related businesses in Montreal.
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