I read somewhere that people like reading lists. I think it holds true for me, so today over lunch I was brainstorming a list of things I/we will really miss about living in New York. So here it is, in no particular order…
(Note that this is things, not people. The list of people we will miss is too long to write here!)
#8 – The Postal Service
OK, I’ve had my complaints with the USPS — what with them reading my mail and all. But all that aside, the “mail” in the States is an incredibly efficient service. Its not really that bad in Canada — especially compared to other countries I’ve been to. But the USPS is definitely the benchmark. Mail arrives quickly, is even delivered on Saturdays, and the Post Office always runs like a well-oiled machine. The only time delivery slows down is if you’re trying to mail something out of the country!
I can’t remember how far back it was, but I know I was quite young when Canada de-centralized its postal service, splitting out “post offices” into “postal outlets” found in the back of grocery and drug stores. In some ways this has been convenient — when I first tried to mail a letter in the States it was a little disconcerting that I couldn’t figure out where to buy a stamp — but I’ve got to say, I am going to miss the speed and efficiency of the USPS. Alas, we’ve never had Kevin Costner deliver our mail…
#7 – The Apple Store
Apple Stores just ooze cool. Even if you’re not a computer geek, the store itself is just so chic and trendy that you want to be seen as an Apple customer. Not so in Canada. There is no official Apple retail presence there, so we’re stuck with these little crappy little shops that ooze nothing but an “air of superiority.”
Despite the fact that the employees at these stores probably make close to minimum wage and are no more informed than the average home user with an Internet connection, they still manage to convince themselves that they are better than you. Plus their prices are always 10-20% higher than Apple themselves charge. You walk in the store to buy a computer, and walk out feeling belittled and robbed… But if you’re a Mac user, you take it because you have no other options.
#6 – Uncapped Internet
Downloaders in the States don’t know how good they have it (which still isn’t as good as downloaders in Asia.) In Canada we have something called “bandwidth caps” that only the most evil of US Internet Service Providers would consider. A bandwidth cap means that once you’ve downloaded your monthly quota of content from the Internet, your connection slows to sub-dial-up speeds until you’re next billing period.
On top of that, Bell Canada, the sole owner of telephone lines in Ontario (probably the rest of the provinces), has just announced that they’ll be enforcing packet shaping on all their data lines — even the ones leased to other ISPs. This means that if Bell Canada decides that what you’re downloading isn’t important enough, they’ll throttle your speed down. And that’s even when you’re within your monthly quota.
#5 – Cheap (Reasonable) Cellular Data
If the above sounds anti-competitive to you, wait’ll I tell you about the cell phone companies. There’s basically only 3. One is the afore-mentioned Bell, and just like the AT&T of old (who’s now back again in the States) its an evil monopoly tolerated by the government. The other two are Telus and Rogers.
Rogers is the ONLY GSM cellular provider in Ontario. There used to be another one, but they bought them out. Now they have complete control over GSM and related technology. Of course, you could settle for CDMA if you want, but that’s not CDMA 3G. I doubt they’ve even got 2G.
If you’ve wondered why there are no iPhones in Canada yet, Rogers is the reason. Apple requires all iPhone providers, world-wide, to include an unlimited data package (at a reasonable price.) This is a huge pro-consumer move that drastically advances wireless technology adoption. Rogers, however refuses to acquiesce. They make hundreds to thousands of dollars a month on the poor suckers who need wireless data access. My $60 iPhone bill in New York, under Roger’s service conditions, would easily cost $800 or more.
But no one competes with them in this arena, so they have no reason to be competitive. The rest of the world is light years ahead of us, but Rogers holds the country back out of sheer greed and because no one, not even the government, will stop them.
#4 – Taxes
Speaking of the government, we are NOT looking forward to Ontario taxes. It turns out that New York is one of the highest-taxed States. If that’s the case, we’d be rich if we lived in one of those low-tax States! Ontario’s taxes, both income and sales, are ridiculously high. Since we’ve left there has been only a minor reduction in the GST — a “temporary” tax introduced in 1991 that brings Ontario’s sales tax total up to 14% 13% (15% when we left.) This becomes even more ridiculous when you consider…
#3 – Prices
Things are finally starting to adjust in Ontario, but its still safe to say that, in general, a product or service in Canada will cost 10-15% more than the same product or service in the US — despite the fact that the two currencies have been on par for well over 6 months now. And this isn’t just confined to technology (although that’s obviously my primary interest.) Pick up a book and flip it over. You’ll see what’s wrong with the picture…
Right there on the back are the prices: $7.95 US or $9.95 CAN (or worse). You pay a premium just because you’re reading in Canada.
#2 – The Olive Garden
The Olive Garden used to have restaurants in Canada — years ago. I remember it being a special treat to visit there, and then one year, they just closed up shop. There were rumors that there were health concerns about the particular restaurant we went to, but since all of the Olive Gardens in Canada disappeared at roughly the same time, I don’t think the rumors hold much water. (Around the same time we lost another favorite restaurant: Chi Chi’s. I don’t know if they still exist anywhere, but we loved that place.)
I could eat only Olive Garden’s Zuppa Tuscana soup and bread sticks and be completely satisfied. Lately I’ve gotten a little bit more adventuresome with my ordering and it hasn’t worked out well for me, but I’m a notoriously picky eater, so I don’t fault the restaurant. Most of their food is pretty darn good.
#1 – The Coffee
Ya, just kidding. I have not yet had a good cup of coffee in the States, so I can’t wait to get back to my old friend Tim Horton…