Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Online Scams: Google SEO Promises Over the Phone

Recently, we had an unsolicited phone call from 818-420-4298 asking if we were interested in being on the front page of Google if we qualified. Of course the offer was for free.

The whole call seemed fishy to us. The caller identified his company as a "Google Partner" in his noticeably scripted spiel. At no time did he mention his name or his company's name. With a waft of other voices in the background it sounded like one large telemarketing scheme as opposed to a genuine SEO Marketing company. So what was the full story?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Online Scams: Faking Online Reviews

Over at Suddcorp Solutions, I recently posted an article about online review scams on Urbanspoon, Yelp! and others.

If you enjoy reading my restaurant reviews, I can ensure you I have never been paid nor comped a meal by any restaurant.  If I would, I gladly fully disclose said compensation to ensure you, the reader, know the full context of my visit.

The idea behind this post originated after I saw CBC Marketplace's episodes on Fake Online Reviews and how online marketers and businesses try to manipulate both review websites and reviews of products on their websites.

As an leading user in the Ottawa area of Urbanspoon and a social media company owner, I felt the need to show how both the average business owner and consumer could not fall for these fake marketing gimmicks.

To learn more, read the article on Suddcorp Solutions page.

Online Scams: Faking Online Reviews

CBC Marketplace recently aired two segments investigating online reviews both on review websites (i.e. TripAdvisor and Yelp!) and company websites (i.e. Amazon, TigerDirect, etc.). CBC Marketplace found that many of the posted reviews were from either regular average customers, paid marketers or even average customer reviews that have been edited.

The original intentions of online reviews both on review websites and company websites were to allow average people to provide authentic reviews on their experiences in purchasing goods and/or services. For quite a while this was the case until marketers researched the influence of these reviews and how they impacted consumer purchasing. Marketers quite simply found the more positive a product or service was reviewed positively the higher sales increased. This finding resulted in marketers writing their own reviews on review websites and possibly editing customer reviews on company websites as needed. Excellent examples of marketer's using these tactics can be found in the aforementioned CBC Marketplace segments.


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Flavourful Santa's Secret Tea at DavidsTea

Saturday morning I was out shopping and decided to try out DavidsTea (2277 Riverside Drive, Ottawa) for a couple of reasons.

I visited the new store that opened in the summer of 2014 to find a well stocked store with 100 plus teas lining the wall behind the counter.  One employee was carefully removing each tin one at a time and dusting the shelving.  She saw me approach the counter and stopped dusting.

She got down off the chair she was using to dust and approached the counter with a bright smile on her face asking how she could help.   I was there for two things:

First to sign up for the "Frequent Steeper" program.  This is DavidsTea customer loyalty program.  For signing up for the program customers receive a free cup of tea.  Another free cup of tea is given on the day of your birthday. Then once customers reach 100 points they receive so many grams of free tea. Currently 1 point is the equivalent of 1 dollar in sales.

DavidsTea Storefront

I signed up for the program mainly for the two free teas after sign up.  I don't really have a hope in reaching the free tea portion.  The main issue with the point system is DavidsTea resets the points balance at the end of each December.  Thus, if a customer spends 90 dollars in November, by next January those points are lost and they need to start over.

The next was to try out some tea.  I reviewed my options both from the cans lining the wall but also the specials neatly written on the chalk board.  I decided to try one of the specials as this was $3.00 (taxes included) instead of the $3.85 for a regular size.

The Order: 1 Santa's Secret Tea.

The tea was poured quite quickly by the excitable guide.  Guide? Yes, that is what DavidsTea markets their employees as.  Their guides are supposed to guide you through choosing the right tea for you.

The tea was hot and flavourful.  Felt like a warm comforting blend for a cold winter day.  I guess it could of been a more holiday season themed cup, but Santa's Secret would be perfect even in January long after Christmas has past.

Overall, this DavidsTea location has cheerful, warm and welcoming employees who are willing to help with your tea exploration.  Added "specials" are a great way to try a new tea for those, like me, who feel adventurous instead of just having the same old same old.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

No Run Around Customer Service with Philips

Philips LED Light Bulb

2 Years ago, after moving into our home in Ottawa, we began gradually converting our light bulbs from regular 60 watt incandescent bulbs over to LED bulb technology.  A few months after moving in Home Depot had some Philips LED bulbs on sale at a decent price.   I picked up ten and ventured onwards to install them throughout the house.   I had planned on adding more of the same model as my budget permitted but unfortunately, Home Depot had this particular Philips LED bulb as a "special buy".  This meant Home Depot had specially ordered this model line of bulbs for the special sale only and once they were gone, they were gone.  Nonetheless, I kept the packaging so that I could possibly find a close match in the future for other rooms in my house.

Why did I hold onto the packaging? When it comes to purchasing light bulbs I like to consistently purchase the same style of bulb over and over again .  This provides the same shade of light and brightness throughout rooms in my house.  A major pet peeve is walking into restaurants and noticing the soft whites, warm whites and daylights all intermixed.  It's not hard to keep everything a similar colour by standardizing light bulbs or at least their the shade of lighting.

Fast forward to mid-October 2014. One of those Philips LED bulbs had burnt out.  I was smart enough in the intervening time to hold onto the packaging.  Turns out saving the packing was the best move I ever did as both the Phillips Customer Service phone number of 1-800-555-0050 was on the package along with the "Limited Warranty" of:

Philips warrants that this bulb will be free from defects in material and workmanship and will operate 6 years based on up to 3 hours average usage per day/7 days per week, when used as directed. If this bulb does not conform to this warranty, Philips will send you, at its election, a replacement bulb or refund your original purchase price upon receipt of the returned bulb, register receipt and proof of purchase. Please call our toll-free number, write to Philips or send an email at the website below to find out how to return the bulb. This limited warranty does not cover bulbs subject to accident, neglect, abuse misuse or acts of God. REPLACEMENT OR REFUND IS YOUR SOLE REMINTY. EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW. THE DURATION OF THIS WARRANTY, LIABILITY FOR INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES IS HEREBY EXPRESSLY EXCLUDED. 

I dialed and seamlessly worked my way through the phone options aiming for the lighting customer service agent. Both the packaging and burnt out light bulb were at my side as James picked up my call.

James politely inquired how long I had the bulb and what the issue was.  I replied that the bulb was less than 2 years as I had only been in the house for just over 2 years and remember installing the bulb myself.  I also noted that I had the original packaging and that the bulbs on average, from my recollection, were on less than 3 hours per day 7 days a week thus well short of the 6 years under warranty and 18.3 years as per the claim of savings in electricity on the front of the package.

James apologized for the inconvenience and asked for the UPC code from the packaging.  This was simple to retrieve from the bottom of the box.

James then took down my name, contact information, where I purchased the product and promised a refund would be sent via gift card in the mail.  I should receive the refund in about 6 weeks or so.

Late last week I received an envelope addressed from Philips Lighting in Rosemont, Illinois.  I opened it to find a personalized letter from James with two Home Depot gift cards enclosed as compensation for the product. In fact, the  pair of Home Depot gift cards were for more than I paid for the product!

The only strange thing about the letter was a mention of a "Purolator label" being e-mailed to me so I could ship the light bulb back for analysis by Philips.  But no Purolator label was ever e-mailed to me or included with the letter.  I guess either something was mistyped and the e-mail never arrived.
Overall, dealing with Philips customer service was quick and easy. One customer service agent quickly took charge of the issue and resolved it without trying to obfuscate or find a way to deny the customer the promised remedy. Philips to me really stands behind their products and when something goes wrong they are willing to make it right.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Deluxe Freshness at Cafe Deluxe

Wednesday for Lunch I met up with a friend who talk about how each of our new businesses was going. My friend suggested we visit this quaint little cafe with good food at affordable prices in downtown Ottawa.  With this, we headed to Cafe Deluxe (77 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa).

We arrived to a small cafe style restaurant.  The only thing, where exactly do you order?  Good thing my friend had been there multiple times and was welcomed by more than one of the staff.  As we were the only two customers ordering at that time, it worked well. But where's the menu?  When facing the counter and the staff preparing your orders, the customer needs to turn around to see the menu.  Yes, the menu is, confusingly, behind you written on chalk boards.

I took a quick review of the menu and settled on one of the weekly Wednesday specials.

The Order: 1 Chicken Club Sandwich with fries and a bottle of Coke.

One of the ladies behind the counter started work right away on the sandwich and inquired if I would like it taken to my table where I could wait.  Sure!

Now with table service do I pay the cashier or wait for the server to bring it to me?   I decided to be honest and head to the cash. Good thing I did, I was asked by the cashier what I ordered and paid for it. Twelve dollars and change for a club sandwich with fries and drink?  I wasn't sure if the price was worth it.

I sat down with my friend who kindly waited for my sandwich to arrive before eating.  No worries though, my order arrived about 2 minutes later.

The club sandwich was cut in fours and neatly stacked on top of the fries around the edges of the plate.  Taste wise the white bread along with the tomato and lettuce was fresh.  One of the better fresher tasting club sandwiches and well worth about the same price as the neighbouring pubs.

The fries were freshly made with golden brown outside yet not crispy overcooked.  Great rendition for a cafe fries.

Overall, Cafe Deluxe was a pleasant surprise.  I had always thought it was more of a single Mom & Pop coffee shop that was a holdout against the chains.  I'm very glad that I was wrong!  This cafe is a hidden jem with fresh prepared food and knowledgeable kind staff who greet you with a kind smile.   It is no wonder that near the end of our lunch, there was another customer waiting patiently for us to vacate our table. The place was packed!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

CLIENT PORTFOLIO: D. Castro Bookeeping Services

D. Castro Bookkeeping Services is an Ottawa area full service bookkeeping, accounting, payroll and tax service provider that focuses on small business and the non-profit sectors. The company focuses it's attention on listening to client needs, developing an accounting process that works for the client and yet meets or exceeds government and industry regulations.

Dayani Castro founded the company to share her expertise in making bookkeeping and tax preparation processes customizable to the average business owner whose booking experience rangesf from very little to a lot. As part of promoting D. Castro Bookkeeping Services, Dayani provides bookkeeping courses that help introduce business owners to the needs of having a good set up financial records as well as some tips on how to do it.


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