Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Follow

3 Reasons Why I Love Kijiji/ Craigslist

This summer I had to get quite a few items off of these classified ads; of course the availability is much more limited than that of a store catalogue but it's was still a really great experience

Reasons Why It's Great

  • Many of these items that are being listed are in great condition, its near 10/10 mint condition; yet soo much cheaper! 
  • You get to meet such interesting people - just the experience of trading with this stranger is pretty cool. I met up with one girl to buy her bed frame and it turns out she graduated from the same University as me, it was a quick/sweet bond and I learned some interesting stuff. There are some interesting stories as to why it is they are putting it up for sale, moving, unused gift, etc.
  • It's eco friendly- you're basically recycling! With everything being bought brand new, there is definitely a surplus of used furniture and just 'stuff' that is being thrown out and wasted when it could be perfect for someone else. Assuming it looks brand new, and it's cheaper, do you really need to go and buy a brand new one yourself? Why not take one off of someone else's hands? You could probably put it to more use than it is sitting in the back of a closet or basement.
As much as you really want to buy whatever it is that you want to buy (there is high demand from yourself), there are people on the other side who really want to get rid of their stuff and have no use for it.

What do you typically buy off of Kijiji or Craigslist? Have you had good/bad experiences?

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Follow

AeonAttire - Up and coming!

So today while I was at work, I was doing what a lot of people do (but shouldn't be) which is checking up on Facebook. I actually saw this jointly posted on Instagram when my interest was piqued! A friend posted a picture of these neat "Sunnies" with a caption that mentioned AeonAttire. From what I could assume, she knew this company and with some quick digging I formed the connection between the two - she knew one of the co founders!

When I find something interesting like that (and am also quickly losing interest in work) I start googling, opening tabs, and pulling sites here and there to form a mental summary.

From their main website I made some mental notes:

  • it seemed to be a clothing/fashion company
  • there was a mention of "tapering" - which seems to be their main product
  • they are definitely new and just starting out
To add on to the last point, the magazine had an interesting caption, it mentioned the idea of crowdfunding which is a concept that is quickly becoming more and more popular. Although I haven't dug into the topic and don't have a full understanding of what it is, from what I can tell it is when the group/organization informs the public of their main goal and asks for their help and support in the form of donations/ funds/ seed money.

For any Torontonians out there I may be wrong, but I believe this concept is what was used when Gawker tried to raise the money (~100,000) to purchase the video of Rob Ford regarding the cocaine scandal.

Anyways that's sort of off track from the main point, what this company AeonAttire is trying to do is campaign for their new line of sunglasses. There is a goal amount, and already in an extremely short amount of time a large amount of money has been pooled through pledges. Looking at their twitter account I've also noticed their heavy online presence as they try to capture the attention of those with heavy media presences, such as Leah Miller and CTV, by Tweeting them about said Sunnies.

What really fascinated me was their story. It may sound somewhat cliche "started from the bottom" but nonetheless their story is extremely unique; I was extremely impressed with their adventure and how they got to where they are today. They truly inspire anyone who is an entrepreneur or who is looking to start something similar. One of the hardest parts of beginning a company (besides finding the selling point or main point) is finding the starting money. 

AeonAttire is formed of three co-owners, three best friends, two of which are twins. Things had been rough at home forcing the two twins to move in with their friend. They realized one day that they could create an extremely interesting product from something that is extremely ordinary and usually used to hold bed sheets in place. Although this was the birth of their product they didn't have the funds necessary to create the product in mind.

 And so they worked hard, and danced hard when they busked at Yonge and Dundas, right in front of the Eaton Centre - you may have even passed them. It was through these hours of hard work that they accumulated the funds sufficient to create an accessory that is used to taper pant legs. Simply roll up the pants, and cuff them with this taper. Of course these boys are fashionable, they wouldn't just rebrand the band with a different function in mind, they gave it a design. Now people through the streets of Toronto could customize their pants giving them an edge over others, truly giving it a different look while falling into the current trend which is the slimming of pant legs. 

I was quite surprised looking at their Facebook group, already a bunch of my friends had liked their page. People who believe to have not been original acquaintances had already heard of their product line! Wow. 

Not only are they creative, innovative, talented at dancing and fashionable they are empathetic. In addition to their tapers, they are also selling circle scarves with a similar model as that of Tom's shoes. With every one that you purchase, they will donate one to those who are homeless and living in the streets of Toronto. As they busked their butts throughout the winter they were exposed to the harsh conditions that many had to endure and wanted to use what they grown and to put it towards good use. Looking at a few pictures, the scarfs certainly look warm! I definitely want to buy one now, unfortunately I don't know if they are still selling them and couldn't find a link on their website. 

Already they are being featured in some stores, and are being contacted by people internationally; their is certainly a demand for what they have designed. 

I look forward to seeing their growth as they gain more recognition (already they have been featured on MuchMusic and FashionArtToronto)!


Friday, 26 July 2013

Follow

An Ordeal with Nordstrom and Litas

For the longest time I have eyed the Jeffrey Campbell Lita's. Today while scouring the Urban Outfitter's web site I found a deal that made my day! They were on sale for $120 but the deal turned sour when I looked at the sizes that were left. 8.5 .. 9... 10 ..Too big! I needed a 7, 7.5, and with that I was pretty upset that I had missed out. Not only was it an opportunity to save a lot of money but from what I could see, other websites were discontinuing them (left with only the large sizes) and that there would be no more renewal shipments! Side note: these shoes are regularly $160 USD.

I realized that Nordstrom was known for having good price-matching adjustments, and so off I went to talk to some associates via their Live Chat. After showing them the website I realized that Urban was even having a $20 off 100+ orders promotion, this means that the total came to $100! Awesome! It had been worth the wait. 

..I'm not actually 100% sure if the size 7 will fit but I'm hoping it does because reviews say that it should be true to size!

Anyways after talking to two employees and validating that it was an authentic site, they were eager to put the order in for me. I was so happy about the price until they reminded me that there would be duties and taxes at the border of $50. This is absurd, it nearly brings the price back to the original amount! I told them that I would like to think about it (very hesitant about the order) and they said that the price adjustment would still stand later on. I should add in that I was so excited that they confirmed the price-match that I took photos of the chat on my phone!

seven hours later...

I decided that I wanted to place the order! And man, this is where the drama came in. I linked the worker to the website, same as before, because I hadn't been given any reference number earlier. He then told me that price matches can not be made if items are of different sizes! At this point, I didn't really care what the policy said because I was upset - I was upset that I had already been told one thing and that they did not want to follow through. At this point I pursued my case, in retail there is a mantra that is usually followed "The Customer is Always Right". If something is wrong or you are not receiving the proper amount of customer care, speaking to the manager is always a viable option. As such I told them very explicitly that I wanted a phone number to speak to a manager (since this was initially an online chat) and that I was extremely upset with the service and receiving. Not only was this the case, I actually had proof of the aforementioned promises! 

things got even more weird

He had read the chat, and said "I have looked into these chats and I can confirm these are not chats with Nordstrom employees" At this point I was like excuse me?
  "If that is the case then there is a bigger issue at hand. I would like to talk to a manager immediately as there is an issue with your website, you have an issue where the Nordstrom Live Chat window is being accessed by "not Nordstrom employees" who are making false promises. This is ridiculous.
For some reason, this issue was not fully addressed since he decided to accept my evidence for the promised price-match. It mindboggles me how that could have happened, supposedly an employee offered me a policy that shouldn't have been offered and they offered shipping options that aren't even available! 

cats-wonderland.blogspot.com
I was finally about to have my order placed, when I was disconnected with the sales employee due to technical difficulties (which only added to my frustration). Thank goodness I was greeted with some great service, everything else from there was smooth sailing. Entered name, credit card info and etc, and next thing I know I had the confirmation email for my Taupe Jeffrey Campbell Litas!

The last little obstacle that freaked me out was when I noticed reading over the confirmation email that the billing address was wrong! In the past I had gotten orders cancelled due to billing addresses that did not match, so I contacted Nordstrom asap. She was about to cancel my order to fix it when she alerted me that the payment had already gone through (less than half an hour later) and there was actually no need to worry. I don't know if I should be worried that my bank is confirming payments with inaccurate  billing addresses or happy that I am getting my shoes - well of course I know what I'm more excited about.

SUCCESS
Comment if you've had any similar experiences with Nordstrom or online shopping in general!


Monday, 1 July 2013

Follow

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Review

I just came back from my first trip to Cuba. The environment, and culture is completely different than that of North America. I've had plenty of friends who have told me about how great their vacations were but going myself was the real deal. I went with my family to a resort called Melias Las Americas, and for just over $1000 it included a round trip ticket there, shuttle service to the resort, food and drinks.

Places like Cuba, Dominican Republic and Costa Rica heavily depend on tourism, and as such there are a plethora of these resorts. What's different between them is truly the price and the quality. Staying at this resort, we were blessed with a postmark view. Since it's in Veradaro and on a peninsula, it actually works out in such a way that both sides of the hotel has an ocean view. One side; however, is much nicer to look at since it's shallow with the breathtaking blue water, whereas the other is more for fishing and is a lot less glamourous (but a view's a view).

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Beach View
I kid you not, this is the view when you step through the lobby of the hotel. 

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Beach View
Unreal.

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Interior
We walked around and saw a few other Hotels while we were in Cuba, but none could really compare to the level of detail seen in this lobby. 
Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Havana Club
Each room is given a complimentary '26' of Rum. 

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Room View
We were actually upgraded to this ocean view. 
Food: I've heard some interesting stories regarding the quality of food at these vacation places, but it was actually pretty decent/good. You pretty much receive all your food from their Buffet restaurant which consists of 4 areas.

  • 'Salad'/deli typed food with different cold cuts and cheeses.
  • Already Cooked meat/veggies and Interactive Cooking Station of Fish/Chicken/Beef (Pork?)
  • Already Cooked pasta/pizza and Interactive Cooking Station where you can customize the type of pasta and sauce
  • Dessert and Fruit Bar
Fair warning however, they keep their windows open almost all of the time which is really nice except for the fact that there are always flies around. It's not uncommon to see these flies sitting on some of the food that's already laid out (as such I would suggest eating whenever the buffet opens). 

To be very honest, the level of customer care and service that I received throughout my stay was the best at this buffet. They are extremely polite, and are always around to see to it that you have a beverage and that dirty dishes are taken away promptly. I don't think that there was a single instance where I felt that someone was being rude. One server actually recognized us the next day, and told us that he thought that my mother may have left her cardigan!

However; in addition to this buffet there is a '24 Hour Restaurant (Bar)' and a few stand alone restaurants. Room service is also available around the clock at no charge. Don't expect a large menu for the 24h Restaurant, they sell simple items such as cheese burgers sandwiches and fries. I wouldn't say that it was great, but if you are stuck between meal hours or it is simply the middle of the night it's still great to have the option to eat. 

We were there for 7 nights, and for 3 nights you make reservations for these individual restaurants (I believe you make them at the front desk but apparently ours had already been booked). We ate at the International Restaurant, Il Limoncello and Sakura.

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort The International Restaurant
The International
 The International actually had a really great atmosphere, it gave off an upscale vibe with the decor and the music that was played by a quartet. The menu was interesting too, composed of an appetizer a main dish and a dessert. I had an appetizer with hummus, shrimp and 'crispy spaghetti', it was interesting and not bad in my opinion. However, we made the mistake of all ordering Lobster. What we found was 3/4 of the lobsters were not of good quality (you could tell by the texture) and  only 1 of our orders was tasty. Ordering something more safe such a pasta may have lead to a higher level of satisfaction at this restaurant. Finally for dessert, I took the waiter's recommendation of their creme caramel - although it was good, I was slightly upset I hadn't ordered the crepe that my mother had ordered. It was cooked in a sweet syrup with a hint of orange liquor - now that I would recommend ordering.

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Pool
Il Limoncello was an interesting restaurant to say the least. It's quite hidden, and we honestly had no idea where it was until the night that we went. It's right next to the restaurant that's next to the further (shallower) pool behind a hidden door. Walking through it I was pleasantly surprised as the restaurant sits with a wonderful view of the beach (our reservation was around the time that the sun was setting), unfortunately that's about as good as the restaurant gets. We had a waiter who seemed as if he had little patience; he was not friendly, brisk and also quite inefficient. To our dismay, we spent nearly 1 hour waiting for our main course. At this point the restaurant was hardly close to being full, if the staff had made a mistake with our meal (which we were certain they had) they never came to give an apology or any explanation. This followed suit with our dessert, in addition to a mix up of desserts. What's interesting is that they have two types of menus, one is the stardard a la carte while the other one is a 'taste tester'. The latter menu provided smaller sized portions of what seemed like everything on the standard menu. It was also supposed to provide a "Symphony of Desserts", however this was never delivered. Furthermore, as we waited impatiently for our desserts (we had been at the restaurant for a very long time now) we noticed that there was a swarm of tiny ants walking around the table. It definitely freaked out some of us, but instead of moving us to one of the surrounding empty tables or even an apology, the waiter simply took a napkin and swiped them away to the side of the table.

Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort BeachSakura is a Japanese restaurant as one can infer from its name. They serve everyone the same meals, and also have a "Teppanyaki" chef. The meal consisted with three pieces of sushi, miso soup, fried rice, cooked vegetables, beef/pork, tempura shrimp and chicken. Of course we were in Cuba, and it would be unreasonable to expect the same quality of Japanese food one would get in Toronto (which is extremely multiculturally diverse with some wonderful cuisine), but I would only give it a 'satisfactory'. Watching the chef cook the rice seemed to be worse since it was happening right in front of us, an unusual reaction. We watched as he poured extremely generous amounts of soy sauce and sesame oil. He actually would pour the stuff for what seemed like over ten seconds, flooding our meal. Of course the cuisines is quite forgiving and it tasted kind of 'okay' but regardless it is something to keep in mind. The rest of the meat was cooked alright with the seasoning, but I was ready to see what was in store for dessert. Japanese dessert usually consists of just ice cream, but we actually had what seemed to be a Tempura/Deep fried ball of Icecream. I was actually pleasantly surprised, the combination was pretty good and I ended up finishing all of it despite my initial thoughts of leaving half behind.


What my family and I concluded together was that the buffet is actually the safest bet. The food is pretty good, the service and care receive is excellent and the food is readily available.


Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Beach


Melias Las Americas : All Inclusive Cuban Resort Wind Surfing
That's me windsurfing for the first time!

Leave a comment if this has helped you in your decision or just leave a comment with your own personal experience there! I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!