Thursday, January 27, 2011

No Info on Pay Range? Thanks but No Thanks.

For those of you looking for jobs, or just keeping an eye out for decent positions that come up (like me), you may have noticed that many organizations don’t post the pay associated with the position.  When there’s no information on pay, not even a broad pay range, then it is harder to ballpark if it’s worth your time and effort to put in an application. It takes a lot of time to apply for a job. There’s the resume, cover letter, and often an application form or online process to follow.  Not to mention any background research you do on the company.  I can easily spend 10 hours preparing a whole application.  Because of the time and effort required for a single application I’m picky about what I apply for and this is exactly what companies don’t want.  They should want to see as many qualified resumes as possible, which brings me to my point - this trend is foolish.  Companies are only hurting themselves by refusing to provide any information on pay – we all know they have a budget dedicated to the position so there must at least be *some* information available to potential applicants.
A recent position posted by Calgary Economic Development (CED) looked like a decent job, fairly similar to the current position I’m in.  But it was hard to gauge from the information given if it would be a step up, a step across, or even a step down for me in terms of pay.  I sent a nice email to the contract address listed and waited for a response.  My hopes weren’t high in terms of specificity but I thought it was worth a try.  Frustratingly the CED did not even respond to my message.  This angered me and prompted my second email.

“Hi, as you have not replied to my earlier email requesting information on the pay range for the Research Manager position I will not be applying.  This is because either 1) you're too busy/disorganized to check your emails and thus are an organization I want nothing to do with OR 2) you read my email and did not even have the courtesy to reply that you don't have/were unwilling to provide that information.  Thanks, but no thanks.”

Which I did not send.  Haha, I pondered it, but felt it was a little too abrasive.
Short of the email-checking-individual being on holidays I see no excuse for no return message.  AND even if the person responsible for monitoring that account is on holidays, shouldn’t someone else be monitoring it?  So now, not only am I less interested in the job because I have no idea regarding pay but also because they seem like a sloppy and/or arrogant organization. Thanks but no thanks Calgary Economic Development. You will not be seeing an application from me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Best Alarm Clock App – A Comparison of “Alarm Clock” and “Nightstand”

As all those with iPhones know the alarm clock app provided with the iPhone is a rather lacklustre and just plain boring.  This facilitates the need to download an alarm clock app – of which there are plenty.   Based on reading the descriptions and reviews for all the alarm clocks that came up on my search I have narrowed my search to the top 2 for testing and reviewing: The unpaid versions of “Alarm Clock” and “Nightstand.”  (My assumption is that the paid versions just offer more of the same and so I should be able to determine which app is best and then make a second decision if the paid version of said app is worth it.)
1)   Wallpaper – Right off the bat Nightstand wins for having a much more appealing screen to look at. You can choose from a variety of scenic photos from which to display the clock. Alarm Clock on the other hand looks like a plain digital alarm clock (you can change the color though).

2)   Weather Conditions & Date – Again the win goes to Nightstand, this time because of the size of text.  While Alarm Clock has the weather and date it is in the tiniest font and there’s no option to increase its size.  This is a criticism I have of both apps though as you should be able to increase the type as much as you choose.

3)   Background Alarm/Short Sound –Background Alarm or Short Sound is the alarm that goes off should you forget to leave the app running at night.  Both apps allow you to turn this option off.  Nightstand offers only 4 sounds and each is very abrasive sounding.  Why can’t you choose from the full array? And Alarm Clock only offers 6 and one is “standard notification sound” which I am unsure of, but it could mean it defaults to the same sound set for your alarm?? So Alarm Clock wins this round but only by a pinch.

4)   Alarm Sounds – Nightstand only offers 15 sounds to choose from and I only found 2 of them to be something I’d want to wake up to (flowing water or spring sounds).  I’ll pass on the wailing sirens and beeping horns, thanks.  Alarm Clock provided even less sounds (only 6!) and I only found one non-abrasive sound one (mystic river).  Nightstand wins again.

Overall Nightstand beat Alarm Clock on 3 out of 4 criteria.  Basically everything else about the apps are identical.  It should be noted that each lets you wake up to your own iPod music when you buy their full versions and both are 99 cents at time of writing (January 18th 2011).

Here's links to a couple other bloggers that have also put some effort into reviewing iphone alarm apps.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

AMA Travel Website & Deals

So just today AMA Travel requested feedback on their website.  Having used it before and being the wonderful force-my-opinion-on-people person that I am, I figured it was time for a little review.  ;)
Now I’m going to stick to reviewing what I know which is linking to “deals” through Facebook or Twitter.  I love that they put specials on this way as it’s not like I’d be regularly checking their website for deals – ever.  However, there’s a couple of annoying things I’ve noticed about the links they provide (and some good things too).  Here goes:
1)      Sometimes I’m confused as to if I’m looking at just a flight deal or an all inclusive package.  This needs to be clear!
2)      Wherever possible I want to see AFTER-tax prices first.
3)      They have a wicked deal Wednesday but depending on when I’m on Facebook/Twitter during THE Wednesday and how much I’ve seriously thought about when/where I want to vacation, showing me a one-day-deal is too much deciding pressure.  Give me a hint on Monday regarding location, Tuesday on dates, or even just a couple reminders that the big Wednesday Deal is coming! I’ll be that much more likely to look for it and seriously consider it.  
4)      Although the prices for many of these deals seem cheap, when you look at the deal it seems to me it’s often cheap because it’s a low star hotel and it isn’t even that big of a discount from the regular price.  30 bucks off, 50 bucks off?  The current discount from Edmonton to Varadero is wait for it… $15.50 cheaper.  Is that a sale?  I want 150 bucks cheaper.  I realize I’m asking a lot here but I need a more substantial discount.  You might be better off offering an expensive package with a cheaper discount than a cheap package with a teeny tiny discount.
5)      As AMA is meant for Albertan’s I think for every deal offered in Edmonton there needs to be a Calgary counterpart and vice versa.  It doesn’t even have to be the same location, just give me something to look at for my city.
6)      Going through the booking process was easy and I appreciated that.  Though, the optional service to get a travel specialist to call with additional info about your destination was a joke.  If I’m booking online I can get the info myself and I’ll save my 50 bucks. Thanks.  Instead just provide a few links on the destination’s main attractions would be a nice free addition.
7)      Travel insurance stuff was easy to understand and provided totals for all passengers so you don’t have to do one for each person – nice.
So overall, I like AMA Travel because it provides me with up-to-date deals through Facebook and Twitter but I need to see bigger discounts before I’m prepared to book with them.  In my mind when I’m vacation shopping it’s all relative.  If there’s deals for similar 4 star resorts, one for $1,000 that’s $200 off and for $800 that’s $30 dollars off, which seems better?  Obviously you “feel” like you’re getting more with the heavily discounted one despite how similar the resorts seem.  (Haha, there’s a little behavioral economics for you – my other interest that may get woven into reviews here and there.)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Netflix Canada - Worth the 8 bucks?

Netflix has been available in the U.S. for a long time but just recently has been introduced in Canada (Fall 2010ish?).  I was interested in this service because from what I understood you basically get TV shows and movies all for only 8 bucks a month – that’s a lot cheaper than cable.  If there was potential that I could actually replace my expensive cable with only Netflix then HELL YES! I would be on board.  So I signed up for the free 1 month trial to see what it was all about. 

SetUp - So you can choose to stream Netflix on your TV through a couple of devices – Wii, PS3, or Xbox360.  (They also list some other devices on their website.)  It was my boyfriend who set it up through our Xbox and it seemed pretty easy for him (only took him 2 minutes to do).  You can also watch Netflix on your computer – although I haven’t tried that yet.

Selection – Now if you’re thinking that Netflix will just be a replacement for Blockbuster (or whatever your regular movie rental stores is) then selection isn’t as big of a deal, but if you’re thinking Netflix might replace your cable then selection is a HUGE deal.  But in either case MORE = BETTER. Now I don’t want to bash Netflix here because I feel like they have such potential but frankly I need more TV selection. It doesn’t have the shows that I regularly watch on TV - mainly “House,” and “Two and a Half Men” (don’t judge!). As for movie selection there are 75 movies from a number of fairly typical categories (e.g. Horror, Romantic Comedy, etc.).  But I have no idea how they choose which 75 movies go into these categories. They seem to be mostly older and many have 2 or 3 star ratings or are just movies you’ve never heard of.  Now to be fair, preference in movie selection is naturally subjective so go to their site and check it out yourself. 

Overall, I think Netflix doesn’t replace cable but might be able to replace your regular trips to Blockbuster.  Check out the selection and see if it agrees with you, it is only 8 bucks a month, and I’m hoping as Netflix gains popularity in Canada it will improve upon its selection.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Online Ordering from Aldo

I've been wanting some good quality, fashionable boots for some time now but for a variety of reasons I haven't had any success, that is, until my recent purchase from Aldo.  Just after Christmas I ordered 2 pairs of boots online, why online?  Well because frankly, I usually hate going to their stores, its just too damn busy.

These are the boots I ordered: the Doiley (1st pic) and the Pariente (2nd). Purdy hot, no?

Sizing - Now the problem with ordering online, and particularly with Aldo, is that you have to play the "guess your size" game. I'm usually at size 7.5, but annoyingly Aldo does not offer half sizes. So after doing some internet research (i.e. reading other people's Aldo reviews!) it seemed that Aldo fits small, so its better to go up rather than down a size (I later found out this wasn't the case!). 

Price - Each pair was only 83 bucks! Which is pretty darn good.  This price was because they were already in clearance and had an additional 30% off their clearance price tag. Nice! Shipping was free - sweet! I hate being gauged on shipping. 

Delivery - The boots arrived literally days later through UPS.  The only problem with the delivery was that when I placed my order I wasn't sure if it captured my whole address. My apt # was entered but not reflected in the final page of the order and I couldn't fix this despite going back several times.  Anyway, my good luck, I happened to be entering my building at the same time as the UPS guy! He said indeed there was no apartment number and it was lucky that I got my boots then because it might have taken an additional week for the boots to make their way to me (somehow?).

The Boots! - Right away I loved the Doiley's. What can I say, they looked great. Not super comfortable but I mean look at the heel on those things. The color was nice and the quality was good. (Although in looking at the pic above the brown is much much lighter than its displayed here and on their website.)  The Pariente on the other hand, looked bulky on my legs. Instead of creating a smooth line it was kinda lump and fat looking? From a size persective, both were 8's but the Pariente was big in both the calf and the shoe area, and the Doiley was just a touch big.  I decided to return the Pariente (because it was ugly not because it didn't fit!) and try on the Doiley at Aldo in a 7 to determine if I indeed had ordered the right size.

I phoned Aldo at the mall (I purposely went to a mall that is farther from my place but less busy) and asked if they had the Doiley in a 7 and they said they did.  The girl I spoke to was quite nice - but it did take like 5 rings for her to answer.  Oh oh... does that mean they're busy? I headed there anyway.

At Aldo - To my surprise and delight Aldo wasn't super overcrowded as usual.  There was probably 4 or 5 people in the store and this store was a little bigger than many of the other Aldo's I've been stuffed into previously.  I waited a minute at the counter before being helped and told her the situation regarding my 2 pairs of boots. She was very agreeable and I was glad because I felt like a bit of a pain with my requests. She took back the Pariente's no problem (money went back on my credit card) and then grabbed the Doiley 7's for me. When I asked for the Doiley's she was like "oh, were you the one who phoned?" hahah. "Yep that was me."  After trying on the Doiley's in a 7, they were TIGHT, but they looked better than the 8's and she informed me that because they were made from real leather they would stretch. Works for me. I went home with the 7's. So far I've worn them twice, they hurt a bit the first time but improved significantly the second time. And I wouldn't advise running in those heels! But they look awesome, my boyfriend thinks I look awesome, and I'm really happy with my purchase and the service at Aldo for that matter.

Air Miles Opinions – I’ll give you my opinion alright.

I’ve got a problem with this Airmiles Research program – see the email I sent them below which will explain.

When the airmiles opinion research started I was willing to participate in any survey that came my way, glad to offer my opinion in exchange for a few airmiles. However, since then I’ve completely changed my mind. The program seems to have changed from a legitimate exchange to an “information grab.” Upon starting a survey its expected one might have to answer a few questions to determine is one is “right” for the survey or not. This makes sense, but what doesn’t make sense is that the survey model has changed to front-load all the survey questions under a guise of determining if you’re right for the survey or not. The last survey I did said it was a 45 minute survey but offered a larger amount of airmiles as a reward, I started completing questions of all kinds about the beverages I drink and how often etc. But then after 30 minutes of completing questions, I was really getting bored with it and thinking about quiting but holding on, because I’d already committed and those airmiles were just so close now… then I get a message “Sorry we’ve met the target number of people for this survey.” Excuse me? You’ve just collected 30 minutes of data from me for free? This model is completely misleading, it is not only annoying but its unethical. Please do not allow these companies to abuse the system like this.

I will not be completing any more surveys until this is changed.

I’m not the only one that’s noticed this. There’s people on their forum complaining about this as well.  If I get a response I'll be sure to post what it is.

New and Purposeful Blog

Plain and simple - this blog is a place for me to express my opinion about whatever I want. In my previous blog I found myself reviewing books, videos, products, and webpages and it seemed appropriate to create a blog dedicated to these types of posts.  Therefore, this blog is my exclusive opinion, critical feedback and occasional kudos regarding whatever I feel like.  If someday I can make some money for the stuff I review that would be awesome, but for the time being, this blog makes me no money.

Thanks for reading.

"Good feedback is hard to come by and extremely valuable"
                         -  In Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's SuperFreakonomics 2009