(Message sent Thu, 26 Jun 2008 17:02:11 -0700)
So, time for a rant I think. In general things in Canada work really well - provided you have the money of course. It doesn't matter whether you are talking about a supermarket or a bus or a national monument, things are clean and well-run and on-time and staffed by friendly and knowledgeable people. It's hard to tell for sure of course, but my impression is that, on average, Canada does things better than NZ. Not by much, but it's noticeable.
However, there's one aspect of the Canadian system that drives me batty, and which catches me out every time. There are a bewildering variety of taxes and levies, none of which I object to, but I do object to the fact that quoted prices never include them. So you take an item off the shelf that is clearly marked $5.49, take it to the counter, and someone smiles at you and says, "That'll be $6.27 please." (Or whatever, the extra amount changes depending on where you are and what you are buying.) I can understand why the companies like this, as it allows them to lie about how much their products cost, by why do the sensible folk of Canada put up with such a daft system?
The worst case of this I have encountered so far came when it was time to find a way to get to Halifax. I was originally going to take the overnight sleeper train, but it was full, so I decided to fly instead. I looked up the fare on the Air Canada site: $161, a pretty good price for a two-hour flight. Until you add on the fuel surcharge (remember how the Commerce Commission stomped on Air New Zealand when they tried that trick?), the Airport Improvement Fee, the Air Travellers Security Charge, Canadian GST, and let's not forget Quebec GST. The actual price of the ticket? $264. Why are they allowed to pretend that a $264 ticket is actually only $161? It just seems fraudulent to me.
And another thing, while I'm ranting. They still have one-cent coins, which means that your coin purse fills up with entirely useless flecks of metal. Why are these still in circulation?
Can someone fill me in on what it is with Canadians and ice? Every hotel I've been in so far has had an ice dispenser on each floor. What do they do with all that ice? Throw cubes at each other and dream of the Yukon?
One last story from Quebec. One morning I was talking to a French woman from actual France. She was saying that the Quebecois speak "ancient French". What with the differences in vocabulary, world order, and in particular accent, she was having trouble understanding them, and making herself understood.