entries filed under 'paris' 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 Jul 26, 2009
'decarie-evening' by afternoon_sunlight, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Am I really doing this to myself? Am I some sort of masochist? Fifteen months ago, right before leaving Montreal to work in Paris, I had sold my 10-year old car. I didn’t know how long I was going to be away from Montreal, so I figured “why leave this car to sit around and lose value indefinitely?". Plus, I live in Westmount, and have always either worked downtown or from home, so I thought I really wouldn’t need a car when I returned.
Now I am back and working from home again. I have easy enough access to anything I need. I have a bus stop for the 24 line right in front of my building, and the Atwater metro station is ten-minutes away on foot. I can go to Supermaché PA on du Fort for groceries, and get them delivered for $1. For almost anything else, I can go to Alexis Nihon (Pharmaprix, Canadian Tire, Zellers …). Therefore, obviously I don’t “need" a car.
However, after lulling over the issue for a bit, I am starting to want a car again. There are many things I got used to when I owed one before. How else am I going to get my favorite groceries from Adonis in Ville-Saint-Laurent? Or visit my in-laws in Candiac? Finally, I have come to enjoy a number of restaurants scattered around the island, but that are difficult to reach using public transit.
This blog entry isn’t just about cars. It is also another jab into the Montreal public transit system (or the lack of it). Had we had a better, more connected grid with more metro stations, maybe I could have done without a car. During the fifteen months I spent in Paris, I was really able to go anywhere without too much complication or distance to walk.
So now that I have actually started to look at car prices and what sort of deals are out there, my hate of all automotive-related professionals is coming back to me. Am I really going to put myself in a situation where I have to deal with all these clowns again? The SAAQ, dealers, mechanics, insurance agents! They’ve all given me a hard time in the past! Not to mention all the costs associated with owning and maintaining a car! And what about being stuck in traffic and not finding a parking spot? Do I really hate myself this bad?
Finally, there’s the whole “environment" issue. I consider myself eco-conscious to some extent, so I do feel a little bad owning a car for non-necessities. Maybe I can get a hybrid to feel better about myself, but they’re pretty expensive and the choices are few.
At this point, I still haven’t made up my mind for certain: do I get a car or not? However, of all the disadvantages, the one that worries me the most is having to deal with mechanics (especially at the dealer): their high prices, their “invented" problems with your car, their pressure tactics … Man, do I hate this bunch!
posted by Odin on Jun 17, 2009
'Barbershop' by Steffe, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
I knew I wasn't made for blogging. I haven't blogged in over a month now. It's really a combination of (1) I don't always have something to say that's relevant to SeekOdin, and (2) I don't really have the time right now, what with major changes in my life (new job, lots of vacation travelling and finally coming back to Montreal after fifteen months in Paris).
Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I was in Montreal for five days. I needed a haircut before my brother's wedding in Nashville, Tennessee. I have always hated going to barber shops and salons, and so I spaced my visits out as much as possible, which usually means my hair is way out of control by the time I actually decide to get a haircut.
For the past twelve years or so, I have been cutting my hair really short. I almost always go to a barber shop or non-fancy salon, and tell the hairdresser to just do my hair with the machine (down to number 3 or so). I just didn't want to bother with my hair in the morning. Keep it short and simple. By the way, I have very rough and wavy hair, so it's not like I can do much with it.
However, since I've been in Paris, I've been going to (slightly) more upscale salons, mostly because that's all there is around where I live, but also because my wife kind of forced me to. I definitely see the difference, I have to admit; I now cut my hair much longer than I used to. These guys really took their time, listened to what I wanted and, for the first time since I noticed my receding hairline, I actually liked my hair.
What was really annoying, on the other hand, was how much these places try to push and force you to buy their products. They always have a way to make you feel bad if you didn't buy this or that hair treatment. They almost convinced me that my hair was damaged and badly in need of repair. For a few months, I actually caved in and started using their expensive crap. But then I woke up, resurrected my old scrutinous nature, and put a stop to all that non-sense.
So now I am back in Montreal, and I needed that haircut. I decided against going to my old barber shop, and instead walked in to La Coupe (I happened to be parked in the area for something else entirely). Man, did I enjoy that experience!
First of all, you get a really long and relaxing shampoo/massage. Next, my hairdresser really took his time, used techniques I have never seen before, and produced a pretty good cut. Finally, even though they carry tons of their own products for sale, not one person mentioned anything about how "bad" or "damaged" my hair was, or that I should use this or that treatment. That was the cherry on top of the cake for me.
Bottom line, it's really worth going to an upscale hair salon, even if you have to pay more. And, to be honest, it's really not THAT expensive ($45), especially after Paris prices (€40 for an average place, nowhere near as nice as La Coupe).
posted by Odin on May 14, 2009
'DSC_0507' by g.h.vandoorn, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
So I haven't blogged in a couple weeks, mainly because I've been recovering from a wild weekend in Amsterdam.
Last week, after more than a year spent in Paris, I finally obtained my "carte de séjour", the official government document that allows me to live and work in France. The process was painstakingly long, convoluted and filled with mishaps. My experience testifies to all the jokes and stereotypes regarding France's heavy and inefficient bureaucratic system.
After the dust has settled, I am now able to compare my French experience with that of the two other countries I immigrated to or lived in temporarily: Canada and the United States.
To sum up, there is NOTHING like the North American "service" and "efficiency" mentality! In France, whether it's in dealing with government agencies, customer service reps, restaurant waiters, I have been serviced by slow, inefficient, error-prone, rude and unhelpful people, for the most part. I really miss being greeted nicely on the phone, or having a friendly and talkative waiter come to my table for a chat or just to find out how my meal is going.
Granted, there is a flipside to this argument: employees in France (especially in the public sector) pretty much have their job for life and it's near impossible for them to get fired. On the other hand, labor contracts in North America are much more flexible, so one might say that those "friendly" and "efficient" Americans and Canadians are only so because otherwise they would lose their job.
Regardless of their motives, I would still rather receive prompt and courteous service. With all the unemployment in France, these people should be glad and thankful they have any work at all! Not to mention the long list of social benefits to which they are entitled!
Personally, I'm just glad I don't have to deal with the French government anymore, for a while at least!
posted by Odin on Apr 30, 2009
'bixi' by ApollineR, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Just when I thought the city of Montreal couldn't make any more mistakes, I am proven wrong! Just when our public transit options couldn't get any worse, they actually do!
The Bixi public bicycle rental system is due for launch next month. The idea is simple; you pay an annual fee in order to access a network of public bicycles, parked at given stations. Various European cities, such as Paris, Munich and Barcelona, have had similar systems for a few years now.
The concept is great. Lord knows that during the year I've spent in Paris, I have used the Vélib system quite often and am now a devoted fan. What's not to like? Lots of bikes, lots of stations, incredible city coverage, cheap membership (30€ for the year)…
The Montreal system, on the other hand, seems riddled with problems from the onset. To start off, the annual membership fee goes for $78. This is no astronomical amount, but to keep things in perspective, you can buy a used bike for around $100. Also, how can the system cost way less in Paris, a much more expensive city?
Second, the distribution of the Bixi stations leaves much to be desired. A quick look at the map on the official website shows a massive network of stations scattered around downtown and the Plateau area. This raises two issues. First, do you really need THIS many stations next to each other? Seriously, some stations are actually only one block apart! Second, what about the rest of the city? I would have decreased the density a bit to provide some stations in surrounding areas such as Westmount, CDN, NDG, which seem to have been completely neglected.
Finally, we live in a cold city, where you can really only bike for a few months a year. I'm just not too sure it's wise to invest time, effort and money for an activity that will only benefit certain people during a short time window. There are supposedly 300 Bixi stations to start off. What exactly did we lose to provide for all of this space? Is it parking spaces? I sure hope not!
I am not a fan of cars, and would love to see fewer cars on our island. But, unfortunately, cars are everywhere and are here to stay for now. With all of the parking lots transformed into condo projects and the hike in parking meter rates, it has become very hard to find parking anywhere in our busy districts. Does it really make sense to take up even more spaces for Bixi stations? It just seems like we're benefiting the minority bikers at the expense of the majority car drivers, which by the way, need those parking spots ALL year long!
Once again, it seems our officials want to do well and head in the right direction. It just seems they fall short on almost every occasion.
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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