entries posted in 2009:
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 Oct 01, 2009
'2000 VW Passat @ Zimbrick Middleton' by cw, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License & 'Neuer KdoW der Feuerwehr Tübingen' by FWPIX, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
For those rare individuals out there that actually read this blog, you may recall my entry back in July about wanting to buy a new car. Well, a couple of months later, I am the proud owner of a red 2009 Volkswagen Tiguan. Today I want to talk a little about how I obtained an auto insurance plan for my brand-new purchase.
Just to provide a little background and context, I used to own a 1999 Volkswagen Passat that I insured with company A (not through a broker, but direct with the insurer). This insurer covered me from 2003 to 2008, when I sold the car prior to moving temporarily to France.
During that period, my insurance premiums kept decreasing nicely over the years from $1,046 to $771 (these are annual figures, after taxes), even though I made a claim of around $1,700 in 2006. So, obviously, after receiving such great service, before buying my new Tiguan, I first called my old insurer to get a quote.
Man was I disappointed! They slammed me with a first quote of around $1,600! Granted, I was asking for much more coverage, smaller deductibles, and all sorts of additional options (since I'm buying a new car now, whereas my Passat was a used acquisition). But still, I am also now older and married, I live in Westmount and I work from home. No way was I going to pay more than double my previous premium!
So I decided to look elsewhere. A friend of mine recommended a broker from company B. After giving him all of my information, he came back with a best quote of $962. Now this was a good price, given that all the deductibles were at the minimum, the insurance was comprehensive/all-way and included all of the options maxed-out.
Just for fun, I then contacted my old insurer A again, and told him that I would like to stay with him (not really true, but I did also have my condo insured with them, meaning I would get a 10% rebate for multiple products insured), but that his price wasn't competitive at all. So he crunched in some numbers, and came back with $1,041! So he basically went down from around $1,600 to $1,041 for the exact same vehicle and insurance plan!
Needless to say, I still took broker B's plan, since it was still cheaper. But the moral of the story is that you have to bargain and put these people under pressure. Their quotes are not fixed in stone, and they have some leeway.
After poking around, I found out that insurer A couldn't go any lower because I haven't been insured in the last 30 days (which is expected, since I haven't owned a car in a little over a year). So for them, that's almost like starting from scratch. The insurer proposed by broker B does not have such a clause, and is able to give a good price regardless of when my last insurance plan expired.
I actually got a third quote from broker C (the one suggested by the VW dealer that sold me my Tiguan), but that one was still higher than B's. For him, the cut-off limit was one year, but since I had sold my car just over a year ago, I was reset to zero.
The point is; each insurer has a very different method of calculating your premium, based on many variables and factors. It is essential to therefore shop around among brokers and insurers. I would recommend dealing with a broker rather than directly with an insurer, since most brokers represent between five and ten insurers, so at least he's doing some of the shopping for you.
posted by Odin on Aug 04, 2009
'Dog Park' by dmealiffe, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License
Recently I read an article in the Gazette talking about a dog owner that lost a court case against a breeder in Ontario for comments he made on an online pets community.
Back in 2004 and 2005, Lorie Gordon made several negative comments on www.pets.ca against the Paws R Us Kennel, a family-run business based in Shawville, Ontario. She was commenting on the poor health of a black Labrador retriever she bought from the kennel.
On July 22nd, Gordon was found guilty of defamation and slandering by the Ontario Superior Court, and was ordered to pay $10,000 in damages to the owners, as well as $4,000 in legal proceedings.
I find this news pretty troubling, especially since SeekOdin contains several comments that may be considered “slander". Moreover, SeekOdin actually allows users to post anonymously, which makes tracing the authors more difficult (although we do keep track of IP addresses, so maybe the ISP can track the internet surfer using this information along with the date/time of the post).
Most other sites require registration using an email address before being able to participate. I decided against that for SeekOdin, precisely because I wanted to encourage honest and truthful comments, whether favorable or unfavorable. I believe that a lot of people might withhold on negative comments if they were required to provide their identities and email addresses.
I don't know about everyone else, but I find this ruling goes against “freedom of speech". If things keep going this way, we're going to end up with a whole bunch of online communities with nothing but positive reviews. Not very useful to anyone if you want my opinion!
I would personally like to protect the identity and anonymity of everyone that participated on SeekOdin. I want them (as well as myself) to stay out of trouble. Any lawyers out there have any tips to give me? Am I risking legal pursuit by allowing anonymous participation? Feel free to answer in the comments (I know you guys are expensive, but maybe you can make an exception this one time)...
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).
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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