Bell Mobility’s Customer Service is one of the worst (edited)

Edit: Recently I emailed the Toronto Star and recommended that they do an article on Bell Mobility and their business practices, consumer awareness on wireless accounts and how it’s reported to the credit bureau.

 Bell Mobility reported my closed account right away to the credit bureau. That is simply wrong. I check my credit all the time and I keep track of what’s on it and when creditors report things. For example my Ford car loan and credit cards reported new account 1 month after I had it opened. Bell Mobility reported my new account right away. There’s a return policy and customers of such have to wait until that return policy expires, in most cases 30 days max.

Anytime you open an account and close it when reported to the credit bureau it brings down your FICO score drastically. That’s why when you get a credit card and don’t want to use it, just keep it open don’t close it. Even if it’s at zero balance. Opening and closing accounts is damaging to your credit.

A day after I emailed the Toronto Star I received a reply by a reporter and they forwarded my email to the Vice President of Bell. Who emailed me and said they will rectify the situation.  A day after I received that email I received a phone call from their head office at 9am on a Saturday and asked me if it was a bad time to talk?? they promised that they will remove the account from Equifax.

Why do customers need to go through all this? A long with other stresses in life do customers need to write to the local newspaper to get something done by thee organizations you give your hard earned money to? When you expect good service you don’t get any but they expect you to pay on time and if you don’t you’re cut off. And when you want to cut them off you have to pay a penalty for ending the contract early. Perhaps Bell reacted so quickly because they’ve been getting a bad rap lately. Besides getting wireless service shouldn’t these companies, that without customers, provide the service customers deserve? Is that too much to ask for? Well, judging from what I’ve experienced, it sure is.

 

In recent years I’ve dealt with different wireless phone companies, so you can say that I know the standard policies and procedures.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a wireless cell phone from Bell Mobility. A couple of days later it arrived so I was so eager to open the box and start using it. I opened the box and surprise! it was the wrong phone. So I called Bell Mobility and spoke to what was supposed to be a ‘customer service’ representative. Customer Service is all relative. But due to recent experiences I will call them “person just answering the phone-I-know-squat about customer service- rep’.

I told the woman on the phone that the wrong phone was shipped to me and that I will be returning it back in the box with the return label enclosed. The woman put me on hold,  I waited and waited and waited for about 20 minutes. She did not return. Maybe she had the shits and had to run the toilet? Maybe she took a break? Nothing surprises me at Bell. If she were to research the answer or had to transfer me somewhere she didn’t  come back on line to inform me nor did she have the courtesy to say “sorry to keep you holding for so long, I am still researching this for you and will return shortly”. Now trust me, I know a lot about customer service I used to be a rep for many years at a different company and know everything about providing excellence in customer service. So perhaps I have high expectations on what to expect as a customer.  After this ordeal, Bell Mobility’s customer service is the one of the worst I dealt with and I am a customer like many other people with various companies.

So I hung up and called again and repeated myself to a man on the phone, he said “Oh, just return it with the label inside and we’ll take care of the rest”. So I did just that. I didn’t even put the battery in the phone just for curiosity I didn’t want the phone. So there was no usage, no issue.

Two days later I checked the tracking # on CanadaPost’s website  and it showed delivered. on December 20th. 1 week later I got a bill and today I called and explained the situation for the 3rd time to a woman on the phone.  I was very nice, calm and collective. Well…that all changed 10 minutes later when I lost my cool due to what I call intolerance to stupid incompetent people.

She was arguing with me and told me that I should of returned it back to the Bell store. I said, why would I return it to the Bell Store, you guys shipped it to me, it MUST be returned to the fulfillment centre, not a store!! She then said “Well, I don’t understand why you would open another account and not just exchange it. I said because I didn’t want to wait for another phone actually the wrong phone to be sent out again so I went to FutureShop (for those who don’t know, they’re just the same as BestBuy in Canada) and got the phone I wanted. She said you should of returned it there.

I said to her “YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT??” Tell me you’re joking. I DID NOT GET THE PHONE FROM FUTURESHOP NOR THE BELL STORE.  Something is wrong with you, are you on medication (sounding a lot like Judge Judy suddenly)??? Because something is clearly wrong with you! You’re not getting this, it’s not rocket science!!!!”

So I demanded a supervisor and 10 mins after putting me hold she came back and said “I spoke to my supervisor and I need to transfer you to a different department”. I said Holy shit man, go, transfer me, I should of been transferred ages ago! But if she were trained and monitored this wouldn’t of happened.

Another 15 mins later a woman comes on, and I had to tell her my information all over again for the 4th time. A good representative would of relayed everything so the customer wouldn’t repeat themselves for the 10th time, it felt like that 10th time. But nooooo, she didn’t do that. So I thought to myself okay this woman is going to take care me because the previous representative ‘s supervisor told her what to do.

WRONG!

After explaining for the 4th time, all I heard this representative say was “Oh Wow….”, “….oh wow, I can’t believe it”…. “Oh wow…”.   Then after the ‘”Oh WoW’s” she said “I’m going to put you on hold.’ So I was put on hold for the 10th time. She came back and said “Hi Joey, I’ve got Alex on the phone and he’s gonna help you”. I said “What!!! I thought your oh wow’s meant this was going to be resolved by you? That’s what the transfer was for.

SO, this other rep put me on hold 3 times came back and reassured me and said everything will be taken care when they confirm it’s been returned.

So then I sent an email to their  so-called bullshit  ‘Executive Office’ and today someone called me back

English: SVG version of the new Bell Canada lo...

Image via Wikipedia

from “Anonymous’ and left a message with his extension. I called him back, entered the extension not once but 4 times and the system kept saying “Sorry no extension exists”. I then forced myself to call in their ‘I’m here to answer calls and know nothing about customer service’ reps and the rep didn’t want to provide me with a direct line for this person who called me from the Executive office. Surprise! He put me on hold because as we know by now Bell’s reps love to put you on hold 10x and for a long time, he comes back and said I will email his co-worker who then tell him to call you.

I am sorry, but am I calling CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service)??? Why is everything so secretive and difficult to accomplish?

Later I received his phone call, and from the beginning of the call all he only addressed was the fact that phone return will be processed but due to the holidays and the “high rate of returns”, it was not processed accordingly. Nothing about the crappy customer service and the ordeal their reps put me through. I told him, wait a second here! You only think the cell phone is an issue here? Wow. You are not even addressing the bigger issue here. And then I said Listen, because of the way I was treated, I will be also canceling my second line, I will pay the ‘$600 Early Cancellation Fee/Data We want to Screw You Fee’ just NOT to deal with your company again. So I want that cancelled and account closed as well. It’s a huge insult when your crappy company thinks customers have nothing better to do then be on the phone for 1.5 hours and go through what I did. And I FEEL SORRY FOR YOU THAT YOU WORK FOR CRAPPY BELL!!! he said “No need to get personal”. I laughed and said yes there is, look what I was put though! But it hasn’t sunk in your brain and your customer service standards are so low, it’s pathetic.

It’s a good life and there’s a sun through those clouds you know.

The Worst Product Flops of 2011

A number of incredible new products were launched this year. Apple (AAPL) introduced the iPhone 4S — a phone with voice command — and Boeing’s (BA) 787 Dreamliner — a fuel-efficient jet built of carbon composite — finally had its first commercial flight. But not all products and services launched this year did well. Some failed miserably. 24/7 Wall St. looked at the biggest product launches of 2011 in order to identify the worst of the lot.

Products generally fail because they are either inferior versions of already successful products or they have little to no demand. Research In Motion’s (RIMM) PlayBook is the greatest example of the former. There was no room for a poorly designed tablet in a market dominated by the upmarket iPad and its inexpensive cousin Kindle Fire. The Playbook was widely panned. RIM publicly blamed its weak sales on competitive shifts in the tablet market, referring to the release of Kindle Fire.

Many companies also often fail to understand consumer sentiment and, as a result, do not accurately estimate demand for the product. When Netflix (NFLX) announced it would spin off its DVD-by-mail service in the form of a new service called Qwikster, customers were outraged. Nobody wanted the new site and nobody wanted to pay extra money for it. As a result, it failed before it even got off the ground. The Qwikster blunder ended up costing Netflix many customers.

These are the worst products of the year.

1. Ashley Push-Up Triangle

Company: Abercrombie & Fitch

While no stranger to controversy, Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF) seemed to have crossed a line this time. In March, 2011, the retailer unveiled its spring line for Abercrombie Kids, a division targeting children ages 8 to 14. Included in the line was the “Ashley” Push-Up Triangle, a bikini top with padding. The launch prompted a violent response from parent groups. Several child development experts also criticized the top because it sexualized young girls. At first, Abercrombie tried to address the concerns by reclassifying the top as padded and saying it was not intended for very young girls. It stated on Facebook: “We’ve re-categorized the Ashley swimsuit as padded. We agree with those who say it is best ‘suited’ for girls age 12 and older.” But while the bottoms are still available, the bikini top is no longer featured on the company’s website.

2. Qwikster
Company: Netflix

In September 2011, Netflix (NFLX) announced that it would be separating its online streaming service and its DVD mail service. Streaming was going to continue under the Netflix brand, while DVD-by-mail was going to operate under a new website called Qwikster. The change and the accompanying increase in prices outraged customers, leading the company to kill off Qwikster before it was even launched. CEO Reed Hastings announced this decision in a blog post on the company’s website in which he began, “I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation.” The blog post was mobbed with more than 27,000 comments from angry customers. The ordeal cost the company approximately 800,000 customers.

[See also: 10 Money Saving Moves to Make by Dec. 31]

3. Volt

Company: General Motors

GM (GM) was originally so excited about the Volt that the company had announced in January it was speeding up its roll-out by six months. But by November the excitement had fizzled out. Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director for vehicle electrification told Reuters, “It’s naive to think that the world is going to switch tomorrow to EVs [electric vehicles].” Indeed, sales for the vehicle have been consistently low. Only 125 models were sold in July 2011. This was after GM spokeswoman Michelle Bunker was quoted as saying that the Volt was “virtually sold out” due to its popularity — a statement later shown to be misguided. Adding insult to injury, Chevy Volts are under investigation for fires involving the cars’ lithium-ion batteries. For concerned Volt owners, GM has offered free loaner cars.

4. HTC Status (Facebook Phone)
Company: AT&T/HTC

In June of this year, AT&T (T) announced the HTC Status. The Status was the first, and likely the last, smartphone with a dedicated Facebook share button. At the time of its launch, AT&T hoped it would be incredibly popular among Facebook users. “We can’t wait to put the HTC Status in the hands of our young customers who will waste no time tapping into Facebook to update their friends,” said AT&T Senior VP of Devices, AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets Jeff Bradley in a statement. But sales were significantly lower than the company had originally expected, and rumors that the phone would be discontinued quickly spread. Given the ease with which users can access Facebook on other smartphones, the case for owning the Status was not very strong. Despite its low sales, AT&T has defended its product, stating, “The HTC Status is a great product and our plans for it to be part of our portfolio haven’t changed.”

5. PlayBook
Company: Research In Motion

The PlayBook was one of the most anticipated consumer electronic products of 2011 and “one of RIM’s most important roll-outs,” as The Wall Street Journal put it. It was the company’s first attempt at competing with Apple in the tablet space. Leveraging the success of the BlackBerry, many hoped it would be the businessman’s answer to the iPad. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry App World had few well-regarded apps, critical to compete with the iPad and Apple’s App Store. Following poor sales, RIM (RIMM) lowered its sales target for the second quarter of 2011 to one-third of what it had been originally, according to research firm DigiTimes. In a statement, RIM blamed the poor sales on “several factors, including recent shifts in the competitive dynamics of the tablet market,” by which it was referring to the popular Kindle Fire. The company attempted to get its product off the ground with aggressive promotions, which caused it to lose $485 million in discounts on the tablet in the third quarter.

[See Also: The Most-Returned Holiday Gifts]

6. Fiat 500

Company: Fiat

This year, Fiat released its new 500 — a three door car that is under 12 ft. long. The car was expected to be a big seller, rivaling BMW’s Mini. Even before the car’s launch, however, detractors were predicting failure. Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford (NYSE: F), stated in Panorama magazine, “I do not see a large market in the U.S.A. for a smaller car than the Fiesta. Those that tried failed.” He was right. According to online magazine DailyTech, “Fiat expected to sell 50,000 500s during 2011 in North America. Through the first seven months of 2011, Fiat sold fewer than 12,000.” Sales were so poor that Chrysler Group, which manages the Fiat brand in the United States, ousted U.S. chief Laura Soave this past November.

7. Mars Needs Moms
Company: Disney

Following the release of Avatar in 2009, Hollywood had a new cash cow in the form of 3-D films. This all changed with the release of director Simon Wells’s Mars Needs Moms — a flop of epic proportions. Disney (DIS), of course, was expecting another hit. The film cost $175 million to make. In its opening weekend it brought in just $6.9 million. According to movie data website The Numbers, Mars Needs Moms lost an estimated $130 million in worldwide gross sales, the biggest money loser of all time. Journalist Brooks Barnes wrote in the New York Times, “In the movie business, sometimes a flop is just a flop. Then there are misses so disastrous that they send signals to broad swaths of Hollywood.” Mars Needs Moms signaled that the market has become saturated and that digitally animated family films are not the sure thing they once were.

Poor People May Be Quicker to Be Kind

 Poor people are quicker than middle-class or rich individuals to recognize the suffering of others and to show compassion, according to a new study.

It included more than 300 young adults who were divided into groups that took part in three experiments designed to assess their levels of empathy and compassion.

The findings challenge previous research that concluded lower-class people are more likely to react with anxiety and hostility when faced with adversity, said the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

“These latest results indicate that there’s a culture of compassion and cooperation among lower-class individuals that may be born out of threats to their well-being,” study author and social psychologist Jennifer Stellar said in a university news release.

“It’s not that the upper classes are cold-hearted. They may just not be as adept at recognizing the cues and signals of suffering because they haven’t had to deal with as many obstacles in their lives,” she explained.

The findings, published online Dec. 12 in the journal Emotion, suggest a scientific basis for emotional differences between the rich and poor that are depicted in such Charles Dickens classics as “A Christmas Carol” and “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The results also indicate that people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may do better in cooperative settings than those who are wealthy.

“Upper-class individuals appear to be more self-focused, they’ve grown up with more freedom and autonomy,” Stellar said. “They may do better in an individualist, competitive environment.”

More information

For more on compassion, go to the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University.

1 year after re-design, In unprecedented move, Honda to roll out revamped Civic next year

For those who don’t know much about cars, here’s a little info. ‘Refreshed’ happens 3 years after and when automakers tweaks minor features, adds some features and changes the style slightly. A ‘redesign’ happens 2 years after the refresh and is when the automaker totally changes everything about the car, the style, the engine, interior, exterior. So for example, in 2006 Ford Fusion is introduced by Ford, for the 2010 model there’s a revision or refreshed version. Then Two years after that for the 2013 model, a ‘New Generation’ model or redesign comes out. So 2006-2009, then refreshed version for years 2010 to 2012. And for 2013 whole new car.

So in Honda’s case, they’re redesigning the Civic 1 year after, which is unheard of.

Toyota should follow suit with their so-called redesigned 2012 Toyota Camry. I wonder if they’ll give refunds or exchanges to those who bought the 2012 Civic.

ROMULUS, Mich. — Honda is scrambling to revamp its Civic just eight months after a new version hit showrooms, and critics say it’s an admission that the compact car fell short in quality and handling.

The revamp, to come by the end of next year, is unprecedented because new models aren’t usually overhauled for at least three years. Honda executives say they’re simply trying to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive small-car market.

The new version of the Civic started arriving at dealerships April 20 and was panned by critics. Consumer Reports magazine said it was less agile than its predecessor, and its interior quality was worse. The magazine refused to give the Civic its coveted “Recommended Buy” rating, saying that the braking distances were long and it suffered from a choppy ride.

More: 2012 Honda Civic — End of the road for an automotive icon

More: Honda at crossroads as Civic panned

More: After harsh reviews, Honda scrambles to redo Civic

The old Civic, which came out in 2005, was known for its sporty driving, high-quality interiors, lack of noise and excellent braking, says David Champion, senior director of auto testing for Consumer Reports.

“The new one seems to have fallen apart in those areas,” says Champion, who thinks that Honda cut costs with the 2012 version.

Honda has told dealers a reworked Civic will arrive before the end of 2012.

American Honda President Tetsuo Iwamura said Tuesday that the Civic is still the leader in compact cars. Honda will improve the Civic’s drivability, but Iwamura stopped short of saying exactly what the company will do to the rest of the car.

“It’s about how do we get two or three laps ahead of the competition,” said American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel.

In the past two years, the usual compact-car race between Honda and Toyota has become a free-for-all that includes high-quality entries from Chevrolet, Ford and Hyundai. Small cars from those companies threaten the Civic, a perennial top seller.

The Civic for years has battled with the Toyota Corolla as the top-selling compact in the U.S., but this year both cars were thrown off kilter by the March earthquake and tsunami that disrupted parts production in Japan. Honda production only recently returned to normal, and Mendel doesn’t expect dealers to be fully restocked until March.

At the same time, the competition was rolling out new models like the Chevrolet Cruze, Hyundai Elantra and Ford Focus. During the summer months the Cruze was the top-seller.

All automakers have been forced to improve their compacts because they need to sell more of them in order to meet stricter government fuel economy regulations, Mendel said. Carmakers have agreed to double the average fuel economy of the fleets they sell to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

The competition will be good for consumers because carmakers will offer better small cars and could discount them as the competition heats up, Mendel said. But he said Honda would continue to show restraint on discounts, selling its products based on their value rather than price.

Toys of the Past

  1. Okay I must admit I had most of these toys and when I saw the Speak and Spell toy I felt like a child again, wow, I loved that toy. And I remember when the kids on our street went to Consumers Distributing, a store of the 80’s in Canada and no longer exists. Boys and Girls got the Cabbage Patch Kid I even remember the exact doll, it was a blond curly hair boy..lol..then I found a lost red hair girl Cabbage Patch doll at the Toronto Islands, I felt like I did a good thing rescuing her from the garbage. I was a kid, okay..lol
    Classic Toys: Then and Now
  2. Nerf Balls, 1970
  3. Nerf, Today
  4. Speak & Spell, 1978
  5. Speak & Spell, Today
  6. My Little Pony, 1983
  7. My Little Pony, Today
  8. Care Bears, 1984
  9. Care Bears, Today
  10. Cabbage Patch Kids, 1985
    • We begged and pleaded, wrote letters to Santa, and rummaged around in hall closets to see if we could find it—the hot holiday toy of the moment. Before the seasonal shopping mania fully sets in, take a look back with Snakkle at some of the hottest holiday toys of the past 40 years.
  1. NERF BALLS, 1970 – The scientific name for this famous orange material is Non-Expanding Recreational Foam (NERF). In 1970, the Monkees proclaimedthat the balls couldn’t hurt anything, and verified this by monkeying around indoors.(Buy | Search)

  2. NERF, TODAY — Nerf was a (very gentle) hit right off the (squishy) bat. From foam arrows to bazookas to trademark orange footballs, Nerf is still soaring through your living room, a little too close to the lamp.(Buy | Search)

  3. SPEAK & SPELL, 1978 — The handle. The keys. The ubiquitous primitive computer voice. After its peak in 1978, Speak & Spell became the last word in learning disguised as a toy. There was also a Speak & Math version, but you couldn’t spell swears on that one, so who wanted it?(Buy | Search)

  4. SPEAK & SPELL, TODAY — Sadly, the Speak & Spell is no more. Technology has progressed beyond yellow keypads, and anyone who is anyone on the playground today has an iPad. You kids may be 4G, but you’ll never have the glory of ’80s robot voice!(Buy | Search)

  5. MY LITTLE PONY, 1983 — Girls and boys, you haven’t really lived until you’ve brushed the nylon hair on a plastic pony. Another ’80s classic, Applejack here is just one of many with the original uniquely designed hindquarters. Collect them all? You bet we did.(Buy | Search)

  6. MY LITTLE PONY, TODAY — Out with the butt apples, and in with the tats and eyeliner! Although they’ve always had a strong cult following, My Little Ponies are experiencing something of a resurgence lately. This is probably because if you don’t buy them, the 2011 special edition pictured above will come to your house and beat you up.(Buy | Search)

  7. CARE BEARS, 1984 — In the ’80s, you could measure a friend’s worth by the amount of Care Bears arranged on their bed. Like most popular toys in this era, Care Bears had their own animated television show and even a few movies. They were originally introduced in 1981 as characters on American Greetings cards, along with sweet sister Strawberry Shortcake.(Buy | Search)

  8. CARE BEARS, TODAY — Care Bears made a comeback 2007, starring in a new TV show and movie and appearing on lots of ironic baby tees on twentysomethings. This spongy gal is called a Care Bear “Splish Splasher” and is advertised as beach- and bath-friendly, something the old ones were not. Sadly. As we found out the hard way as kids.(Buy | Search)

  9. CABBAGE PATCH KIDS, 1985 — Introduced in the late ’70s, these little orphans became a hot Christmas item in the mid-1980s. If you were a kid back then, chances are you were regaled with the harrowing tale of how your mom elbowed someone in the face for the very last one.(Buy | Search)

  10. CABBAGE PATCH KIDS, TODAY — It’s amazing what a good straightening iron and an A-line dress can do, am I right? These days, kids from the Cabbage Patch come sans yarn hair and giant bloomers and have more modern accessories.(Buy | Search)

  11. SUPER SOAKER, 1990 — Possibly the greatest invention in the world at the time, Super Soakers introduced the water-balloon generation to a much less labor-intensive way of drenching someone. It was pure glory—until those last few pumps before the tank ran out! Of course, it didn’t hurt that Michael Jackson was a big fan.(Buy | Search)

  12. SUPER SOAKER, TODAY — If you think it looked menacing before, watch out for the neighborhood Super Soaker water-cannon militias forming in a city near you. Like its brother Nerf, Super Soaker has gotten bigger and badder over the years. Except you definitely shouldn’t use Super Soakers inside.(Buy | Search)

    To see the full collection of great games Past and Present, please visit Snakkle.com.

Canada-U.S. border deal: The new realities for Canadians

The Canada-U.S. border agreement envisions a brave new world in bilateral relations. Assuming it’s implemented as planned, the deal has the potential to touch nearly every aspect of Canadians’ lives, from travel to food to the way our personal information is shared with government authorities. A look at the wide range of new realities:

Policing: By next summer, Canada and the United States will begin a “next generation” pilot project involving two police teams of both RCMP and U.S. officers who can operate together on either side of the border. It’s a follow-up to a similar marine system called the Shiprider program.

Information: Both the Canadian and U.S. governments will know a lot more about you when you travel. For the first time, an exit-entry system will let Ottawa know when Canadian visitors, residents or citizens leave this country. The Harper government says this will be useful. “By systematically collecting and reconciling entry and exit information, the government of Canada will be able to identify persons who overstay their visa, track the departure of persons subject to removal orders and verify that residency requirements are being met by applicants for immigrations programs and government benefits such as Employment Insurance,” a background document explains.

Air travel: By March 2015, Canada will invest in new explosive detection equipment for baggage screening at Canadian airports where there is pre-clearance for U.S. travel. This will eliminate the need for Canadians’ baggage to be re-screened if they transit through a U.S. airport. Until now, the requirement for re-screening has resulted in missed connections and lost luggage for many Canadians.

The border: To reduce border choke points, the deal calls for officials to inspect shipments arriving from offshore at the perimeter. That means a shipment destined for Canada but arriving first in the United States would be inspected only once, by Americans. The two countries will develop a five-year plan to invest in border infrastructure to pay for things like additional lanes and access roads at border crossings to relieve congestion. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird told CBC-TV this will cost Canadian taxpayers about $200 million annually. And there will be cooperation aimed at making trusted traveller programs such as NEXUS more useful and efficient for travellers. Many business people complain that NEXUS hasn’t lived up to its promise of reduced time spent at border checkpoints.

Harmonization: Ottawa intends to harmonize commercial regulations with the U.S. that could have significant impact on Canadians. Rules governing agriculture and food products are just one area where there may be changes. For instance, the two countries seem intent on creating a “common meat nomenclature” in the years ahead to end discrepancies in classification of cuts. But there are also likely to be changes across a wide range of products, including vehicle safety standards, boating gear such as life jackets, health products, workplace chemicals, environmental standards and the approval process for new prescription drugs.

Bureacracy: The two governments say it’s time to rein in bureaucracy when it comes to information on shipments. To bring a fridge into Canada from the U.S., for example, the importer has to fill out paper forms for nine separate government departments. The aim is to replace this thicket of forms with a “single window” where an importer can electronically submit all the information needed for a cross-border transaction.

Ontario government introduces anti-bullying bill, expulsion could be a consequence

Loooooooong overdue! Too bad this wasn’t in place when I went to high school back in the 90’s. I would of completed high school much sooner when I went to school in the 90’s, as I had to change high schools 5 times.  A ZERO tolerance everywhere in every school. Everyone is entitled to an education and a teenager can’t get that if they’re being bullied.

Stand up and say something about bullying, it has to stop, you just don’t know the impacts it has on someone who’s bullied. Not everyone can stand up for themselves, take action and do what’s right.

The Liberal government is introducing tough new anti-bullying legislation in wake of high profiles youth suicides in Ottawa and Durham.

Speaking at L’Amoreaux Collegiate Institute in Scarborough, Premier Dalton McGuinty said the anti-bullying bill toughens up consequences against bullies.

If the bill passes, expulsion could be a consequence.

The Progressive Conservatives are also expected to introduce a private member’s bill on bullying.

“We will not tolerate bullying of any kind, for any reason,” McGuinty told reporters Wednesday morning.

“As a premier and as a parent … I want our students to be free to be who they are, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or (cultural) traditions.”

School boards must intervene when bullying has taken place, he said.

The suicide of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley, who took his life last month after becoming a target of bullying due to his sexual orientation was top of McGuinty’s mind when this legislation was created. So was the death of Mitchell Wilson, an 11-year-old Ajax boy who took his life recently.

McGuinty also followed the federal Conservative’s lead by creating his own “It Gets Better” YouTube video.

Teachers and parents have a responsibility to make it stop, he said.

“If we are going to make the appropriate changes in our society I am going to call on our parents,” he said. “Bullying is wrong.”

Bullying is not okay in our schools, said Education Minister Laurel Broten. “Every single student has seen it and suffered some form of it.”

It would have been Hubley’s 16th birthday last week.

PC education critic Elizabeth Witmer also announced her party’s own private member’s bill addressing bullying, including a provision to introduce anti-bullying curriculum in kindergarten.

She said the Anti Bullying Act, 2011, looks at reporting, accountability, education and remedial programs for bullies.

“It provides for a formalized process, clear responsibilities and resources for victims and perpetrators,” she said.

Last year, Witmer was successful in naming a bullying awareness and prevention week.

Survey says the best place to live is…..

Vienna has the best living standard in the world, according to the Mercer 2011 Quality of Living Survey. Zurich and Auckland follow in second and third position, respectively, and Munich is in fourth with Düsseldorf and Vancouver sharing fifth place. Frankfurt is in seventh, followed by Geneva in eighth, while Copenhagen and Bern share ninth place.

European cities represent over half the cities amongst the top 25 in the ranking . London (38) is the highest-ranking UK city and is followed by Birmingham (52), Aberdeen (54) and Glasgow (56). Belfast (63) is the lowest-ranking of the UK cities that Mercer surveys. Globally, the cities with the lowest quality of living are Khartoum, Sudan (217), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), N’Djamena, Chad (219), and Bangui, Central African Republic (220). Baghdad, Iraq (221) ranks last in Mercer’s table.

Mercer conducts the survey to help governments and multi-national companies compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments. Mercer’s Quality of Living reports provide valuable information and hardship premium recommendations for major cities throughout the world. Mercer’s Quality of Living index list covers 221 cities, ranked against New York as the base city.

This year, the survey separately identifies those cities with the highest personal safety ranking based on internal stability, crime levels, law enforcement effectiveness and the host country’s international relations. Luxembourg tops this personal safety ranking, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich – all ranked at number two. Vienna ranks fifth, while Geneva and Stockholm both rank sixth. Baghdad (221) is the world’s least safe city, followed by N’Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).

Aberdeen and Glasgow both rank 44 and are the highest ranking UK cities on the personal safety list. Birmingham (53) and Belfast (63) both rank higher than London (68).

Slagin Parakatil, Senior Researcher at Mercer, commented: “Companies need to keep on top of current developments to ensure that their compensation packages remain competitive and continue to motivate expatriate employees. That means reviewing major events, such as social unrest, economic turmoil or natural disasters and their impact on the success of overseas placements.

“The top-ranking cities for personal safety and security are in politically stable countries with good international relations and relatively sustainable economic growth. Most of the low-scoring cities are in countries with, civil unrest, high crime levels and little law enforcement,” said Mr. Parakatil.

Americas

Canadian cities dominate the top of the ranking for this region. Vancouver (5) has the best quality of living and is followed by Ottawa (14), Toronto (15) and Montreal (22). Honolulu (29) and San Francisco (30) are the highest-ranking US cities. In Central and South America, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (63), ranks highest, followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico (72), and Montevideo, Uruguay (77). Port-au-Prince, Haiti (218), ranks lowest in the region.

Canadian cities also dominate the higher end of the personal safety ranking for this region, with Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver all ranked jointly at 17. In the United States, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston and San Francisco all rank 53. Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (40), is again the highest-ranking city in Central and South America, followed by Nassau, Bahamas (66), San Juan, Puerto Rico (79), and Panama City, Panama (92). At the other end of the personal-safety scale, Caracas, Venezuela (205), Port-au-Prince, Haiti (202), Bogotá, Colombia (196), and Kingston, Jamaica (192), rank lowest in the region.

Mr Parakatil said: “The disparity in living standards between North and South America is still considerable. Though a number of South and Central American countries have experienced positive change, political and safety issues predominate in the region. In particular, drug trafficking, drugs cartels and high levels of street crime, combined with natural disasters, continue to impair the region’s quality of living.”

Europe

Vienna is the European city with the highest quality of living. German and Swiss cities dominate the top of the ranking, with three cities each in the top 10. Zurich (2) is followed by Munich (4), Düsseldorf (5), Frankfurt (7) and Geneva (8), while Bern shares ninth place with Copenhagen.

In the next tier are Amsterdam (12), Hamburg (16), Berlin (17), Luxembourg (19), Stockholm (20), Brussels (22), Nurnberg (24) and Dublin (26). Paris ranks 30 and is followed by Oslo (33), Helsinki (35) and London (38). Lisbon is number 41, Madrid is at 43 and Rome ranks 52. Prague, Czech Republic (69), is the highest-ranking eastern European city, followed by Budapest, Hungary (73), Ljubljana, Slovenia (75), Vilnius, Lithuania (79), and Warsaw, Poland (84). The lowest-ranking European city is Tbilisi, Georgia (214).

With seven cities in the top 10, European cities also fare well in the personal safety ranking. Luxembourg ranks highest, followed by Bern, Helsinki and Zurich, which all rank second. Vienna (5) is ahead of jointly ranked Geneva and Stockholm (6). In Eastern Europe, Ljubljana (30) and Prague (47) rank highest for personal safety, whereas Moscow (199) and Tbilisi (215) rank lowest.

Mr Parakatil said: “European cities in general continue to have high standards of living, because they enjoy advanced and modern city infrastructures combined with high-class medical, recreational and leisure facilities. But economic turmoil, high levels of unemployment and lack of confidence in political institutions make their future positions hard to predict. Countries such Austria, Germany and Switzerland still fare particularly well in both the quality of living and personal safety rankings, yet they are not immune from decreases in living standards if this uncertainty persists.”

Asia-Pacific

Auckland (3) is the highest-ranking city for quality of living in the Asia-Pacific region and is followed by Sydney (11), Wellington (13), Melbourne (18) and Perth (21). The highest-ranking Asian cities are Singapore (25) and Tokyo (46). Hong Kong (70), Kuala Lumpur (76), Seoul (80) and Taipei (85) are other major Asian cities ranked in the top 100. Meanwhile, Dhaka, Bangladesh (204), Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (206), and Dushanbe, Tajikistan (208), rank lowest in the region.

At 8, Singapore ranks highest for personal safety, followed by Auckland and Wellington – both ranked 9. Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney all rank 25, and all the Japanese cities on the list (Tokyo, Kobe, Nagoya, Osaka and Yokohama) rank 31. The region’s lowest-ranking city for personal safety is Karachi, Pakistan (216).

“As a region, Asia Pacific is highly diverse. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore dominate the top of both our general and personal safety rankings, in part because they have been continuously investing in infrastructure and public services,” said Mr Parakatil. “In general, the region has seen a greater focus on city planning. Nevertheless, many Asian cities rank at the bottom, mainly due to social instability, political turmoil, natural disasters such as typhoons and tsunamis, and lack of suitable infrastructure for expatriates.

Middle East and Africa

Dubai, UAE (74), ranks highest for quality of living across the Middle East and Africa and is followed by Abu Dhabi, UAE (78), Port Louis, Mauritius (82), and Cape Town, South Africa (88). Johannesburg ranks 94 and is followed by Victoria, Seychelles (95), Tel Aviv (99), Muscat, Oman (101), and Doha, Qatar (106). Africa has 18 cities in the bottom 25, including Bangui, Central African Republic (220), N’Djamena, Chad (219), Khartoum, Sudan (217), and Brazzaville, Congo (214). Baghdad (221) is the lowest-ranking city both regionally and globally.

At 23, Abu Dhabi has the highest personal safety ranking in the Middle East and is followed by Muscat (29), Dubai (39), and Doha (67). Port Louis (59) and Victoria (79) are the only African cities in the top 100. Elsewhere in the region, Tunis, Tunisia, ranks 140, Casablanca, Morocco, is at 147 and Cairo ranks 176. At 185, Algiers is followed by Tehran (188), and towards the bottom of the list is Tripoli (204). In terms of personal safety, Baghdad (221) is the lowest-ranking city regionally and globally, along with N’Djamena, Chad (220), Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (219), Bangui, Central African Republic (218), and Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (217).

Mr Parakatil said: “The recent wave of violent protests across North Africa and the Middle East has temporarily lowered living standards in the region. Many countries such as Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen have seen their quality of living levels drop considerably. Political and economic reconstruction in these countries, combined with funding to serve basic human needs, will undoubtedly boost the region as a key player in the international arena.”

Top 10;

 1 Vienna Austria

2 Zurich Switzerland

3 Auckland New Zealand

4 Munich Germany

5 Duesseldorf Germany

5 Vancouver Canada

7 Frankfurt Germany

8 Geneva Switzerland

9 Bern Switzerland

9 Copenhagen Denmark

Consumer Reports’ least reliable car brands

It just takes one or more models from an automaker to bring down the reliability ratings. I have a Fusion and it received excellent ratings, but it cannot be said the same for Ford’s other models. Maybe 2013 Fusion and Escape will change things? We have to wait and see. Surprising to see some in this list.

10. BMW

2008 BMW 335i Coupe // 2008 BMW 335i Coupe (Photo: BMW)

Photo: BMW

2008 BMW 335i Coupe

Reliability: 10% worse than average

In the auto world, you can count on Japanese cars; of the 91 Japanese models studied by Consumer Reports, 87 (96 per cent) were considered average or better in reliability. By contrast, Euro car makers can’t boast quite the same. Of the 58 European models surveyed, including 12 from BMW, just 37 (64 per cent) score average or better in their reliability scores. The Germany-based BMW isn’t the least dependable European brand by Consumer Reports‘ measure, but it’s eight spots lower on the list than the continent’s most reliable car maker, Volvo.

9. Ford

2011 Ford Fiesta SES // 2011 Ford Fiesta SES (Photo: Ford)

Photo: Ford

2011 Ford Fiesta SES

Reliability: 11% worse than average

From 2010 to 2011, several notable car brands freefell in Consumer Reports‘ reliability rankings, and Ford is regrettably near the front of the pack. This year, Ford dropped ten spots on this survey’s list, the biggest dip for any domestic car and second-largest of all 28 car makers surveyed. What happened? According to Consumer Reports, Ford’s plummet can be attributed to three new or redesigned models — the Explorer, Fiesta and Focus — that were scored below average in reliability during their first year on the road.

8. Dodge

2009 Dodge Caliber SXT // 2009 Dodge Caliber SXT (Photo: Dodge)

Photo: Dodge

2009 Dodge Caliber SXT

Reliability: 14% worse than average

Remarkably, while this bottom 10 is packed with North American and European brands, at least the local car makers have been able to hang with their Euro counterparts. In spite of a nasty rep in the wake of their government-assisted bailouts, 62 of the 97 domestic models (64 per cent) surveyed by Consumer Reports were rated average or better in terms of dependability, the same reliability percentage as brands based in Europe.

7. GMC

2009 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE // 2009 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE (Photo: GMC)

Photo: GMC

2009 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE

Reliability: 18% worse than average

Consumer Reports polled drivers of 13 GMC models in its survey, so it’s fair to deduce the auto maker’s cars can lay claim to a wide variety of reliability scores. Yet two GMC models stand out, according to Consumer Reports, for better or worse. Under the watchdog agency’s “newly recommended” column sits the GMC Terrain, which receives a favourable dependability review. By contrast, drivers may want to avoid the Sierra 1500 pickup, which Consumer Reports says has declined in reliability from last year’s survey.

6. Mini

2009 Mini Cooper S Clubman // 2009 Mini Cooper S Clubman (Photo: Mini)

Photo: Mini

2009 Mini Cooper S Clubman

Reliability: 22% worse than average

Motorists interested in Minis may want to target two of the car maker’s models — yet avoid another altogether. According to Consumer Reports, the Mini Cooper Convertible has improved reliability this year, and the Cooper Hatchback is the auto brand’s most dependable car, with a reliability score about 15 per cent better than the average car. The Cooper Clubman S, however, may be the dud in the bunch. The baby wagon, first released in 2008, is nearly 90 per cent less reliable than the average car, according to the auto survey. The inconsistency is confusing, given that all three models roll off the same assembly line.

5. Buick

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS // 2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS (Photo: Buick)

Photo: Buick

2010 Buick LaCrosse CXS

Reliability: 27% worse than average

Buick isn’t the least reliable North American auto maker, but it may very well be next year. According to Consumer Reports, just one North American car brand is considered less dependable in 2011 than Buick, which has seen two of its top models decline significantly in perceived reliability. The Enclave (AWD) and LaCrosse (FWD) all were rated less reliable in 2011 than their 2010 versions. In the vernacular of Consumer Reports, these models are “no longer recommended.”

4. Cadillac

2011 Cadillac SRX Premium // 2011 Cadillac SRX Premium (Photo: Cadillac)

Photo: Cadillac

2011 Cadillac SRX Premium

Reliability: 31% worse than average

That least dependable North American brand? That would be Cadillac, which plummeted six spots from its ranking on last year’s Consumer Reports auto survey. The Escalade, arguably the car maker’s most popular model, owns the distinction of being Cadillac’s lowest-rated vehicle for reliability, scoring some 70 per cent less dependable than the average car. The SRX, however, while not as poorly ranked as the Escalade, has declined in reliability in 2011 and is no longer recommend by Consumer Reports.

3. Audi

2010 Audi Q5 3.2 quattro // 2010 Audi Q5 3.2 quattro (Photo: Audi)

Photo: Audi

2010 Audi Q5 3.2 quattro

Reliability: 32% worse than average

The final three cars on this list — are all based in Europe. And if it weren’t for the least reliable car surveyed by the least reliable car maker (you’ll read about later), it would be an Audi that is the lowest-rated model in terms of dependability this year. The Q5 (V6), according to Consumer Reports, is 140 per cent less reliable than the average car, a dubious score bested by only one vehicle in Consumer Reports‘ entire auto survey.

2. Porsche

2011 Porsche Cayenne S // 2011 Porsche Cayenne S (Photo: Porsche)

Photo: Porsche

2011 Porsche Cayenne S

Reliability: 52% worse than average

In 2010, Porsche was the second-highest rated car brand when it came to reliability. In 2011, it is the second-worst. So, what’s to blame for Porsche’s seismic 25 spot drop on this rankings list? According to Consumer Reports, it is the redesigned Cayenne SUV, which poll respondents said is more than 80 per cent less reliable than the average car, that is behind Porsche’s dependability freefall.

1. Jaguar

2010 Jaguar XF // 2010 Jaguar XF (Photo: Jaguar)

Photo: Jaguar

2010 Jaguar XF

Reliability: 154% worse than average

Talk about a drop-off. After covering so much ground in terms of quality and satisfaction of ownership, 2011’s dependability study shows how much more work is needed for the British luxury car maker. It’s more than 100 percentage points less reliable than the second-lowest ranked auto brand. In Jaguar’s defence, only two of its models were surveyed by Consumer Reports, but those two models — the XJ and XF — nonetheless received dependability scores of 150 and 160 per cent less reliable than the average car, respectively.

5 brain myths busted

True or false: The brain’s hippocampus contains an “Oprah neuron” that lights up when we see pictures of Ms. Winfrey or even hear her name. If you guessed “false,” check out British neuroscientist Rodrigo Quian Quiroga’s quirky research, which not only found specialized Oprah neurons, but also brain cells devoted to Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, basketball great Michael Jordan, and even Luke Skywalker. There was also a brain cell that preferred watching “The Simpsons” to Madonna and Quiroga, researchers found.

While the studies were small—one involved 7 epileptic patients with electrodes implanted in their brains to find cells that were triggering their seizures—the research offers an intriguing look at the mysteries hidden inside our brains, which contain more neurons than the galaxies in the known universe: about 100 billion on average, plus thousands of miles of nerves, packed into a space the size of a coconut. No two brains are alike—even those of identical twins. How much do you know about your most important organ?

Here’s a look at five common myths about the brain.

Explore the brain in 3D.

Myth # 1: We only use 10 percent of our brain.

Truth: Brain imaging studies using PET scans and functional MRI show that any mentally complex activity uses many areas of the brain, and over a day, just about all of the brain gets a workout. More proof that the entire brain is crucial for daily life is the devastating impact of damage to even a small area of the brain. However, we do have some brain reserves. An autopsy study found that seniors who stay mentally active—through activities like reading the paper, going to the theater, or playing chess—are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease—even if they have the characteristic physical brain changes typical of dementia, suggesting that mental function has a “use it or lose it” component. That allows people who keep their brain stimulated to develop more brain reserves, allowing them to continue functioning normally even as their brains are being damaged by Alzheimer’s.

Myth #2: People are right-brained or left-brained.   

You’ve probably heard that left-brained people are logical and good at solving problems, while right-brained people are imaginative and artsy. This myth began in the 1800s, where doctors discovered that injury to one side of the brain frequently caused loss of specific abilities. Brain scan experiments, however, show that the two halves of the brain are much more intricately linked than was originally thought, so problem-solving or creative tasks fire up activity in regions of both hemispheres of the brain, not just half. It is true that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa, so a right-brain injury can cause disability on the left side of the body. 

Learn the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.

Myth #3: Your brain is gray.

You’ve probably seen preserved brains on TV or in a science classroom that look gray or yellowish white. Although the living brain is sometimes described as “gray matter,” it also contains “white matter” (nerve cells that link the gray matter), red areas (due to many blood vessels that feed the brain), and a black area colored by neuromelanin, a form of the pigment also found in skin and hair.  Preserved brains turn solid gray because they’re soaked in chemicals like formaldehyde.

Myth #4: “Flashbulb memories” are like photocopies of events.  

We all have vivid memories of dramatic events, such as being in a car accident or what we were doing when the Twin Towers fell. But while these recollections may feel extremely precise, studies show that they can be surprisingly inaccurate because our mind can play tricks on us, Smithsonian Magazine reports. For example, one study found that 73 percent of college students “remember” watching TV coverage of the first plane hitting the north tower on 9/11. In reality, the south tower was hit first.

Myth #5: Our brains are less sharp after 40.  

Actually, mental agility starts to slip when we’re in our late 20s, according to a study published in Neurobiology of Aging. When the researchers tested 2,000 healthy adults, they found that brain speed and reasoning skills (as measured by tests that involve solving puzzles, recalling words and story details, and spotting patterns) peak at age 22, then slowly decline, starting at age 27. However, some mental skills improve with age. Older people have larger vocabularies, are better judges of character, and score higher on tests of social skills, such as how to resolve a dispute. They also out-perform the young on remembering images and phrases that evoke positive emotions, which may explain why surveys show that, on average, older people are happier.

Discover ways to boost your brain health.