October 29, 2007

Good deals -- and not-so-good deals -- for Canadians

Want to celebrate the rise of the up-up-and-away Canadian dollar, currently worth $1.05 US? Here's some information gleaned recently.

To kick things off, here's a good deal for just about everyone, as long as you don't already have a subscription to Smithsonian Magazine: the magazine is offering a special introductory rate --

United States: 12 issues for $12
Canada: 12 issues for $25 USD
Foreign: 12 issues for $38 USD

Compare this to the renewal rate of $29 annually for U.S. subscribers; $42 USD for Canadians; and $55 USD for foreign subscribers. So this is a dandy time to get a subscription if you don't already have one. It's a magazine the whole family can enjoy.

Other Good Deals:

Lee Valley, the wonderful Canadian woodworking and garden tool company, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with 20 percent off all books to the end of this month (this means you have 'til Halloween). Favorite Lee Valley titles from the Farm School book shelf include Boy Craft and Lee's Priceless Recipes; and Daniel has The Boy Mechanic series from Popular Mechanics on his wish list for when he's older. I also keep eyeing Workshop Math and Construction Geometry as possible math texts for Daniel and Davy in high school, when they might find something with practical applications more appealing.

LL Bean: Not only does your Canadian dollar go much further nowadays for cross-border shopping at LL Bean, but now through December 16th, Bean is offering free shipping to Canada with no minimum purchase.

Not-so-good deals, or, Canadians caveat emptor:

Lego: Thinking that with the Canadian dollar above par I could finally head to Lego.com to do some shopping for the kids, since what I can buy online from Chapters.ca and Mastermind (which, by the way, is offering free shipping in Canada on orders over $100, until November 18th) is fairly limited. On a hunch, I checked the price of the Lego digger (item #7248), and lo and behold it's $29 CAD for Canadians but only $19.99 USD for Americans. Hmmm.... No reply yet to the inquiry I sent along via customer service wondering whether they would be willing to consider an adjustment for Canadian customers. I'd like to buy some more Lego soon for the kids, for Christmas and for Davy's birthday next month, but I'm not willing to pay the Canadian mark-up and shipping and duty, so I just might add on to the K'NEX set we just received and which has been a huge success (will write more and post pics later on), and/or buy some more Lincoln Logs (now part of the K'NEX family) to add to the kids' collection. Especially because the fine folks at Canadian Home Education Resources sent along some CHER "customer appreciation dollars" (think Canadian Tire money but better) toward our next purchase. Now that's a lesson in customer service the companies in this nether section could learn.

Math-U-See: We've been using Math-U-See to supplement Singapore Math, and Davy just completed the old Foundations set, which I had bought secondhand. Considering the purchase of one teacher pack and one student kit each for the new Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon levels for my bunch, I saw on the website that while shipping for Canadian customers is free at the moment, each level would cost me $78 CAN, for a total of $234. Buying in the US, the same three levels would cost me $165 US, with an additional $14.50 for shipping, for a total of $179.50. That's a difference of $54.50, which seems rather high to me, given the present exchange rate. And so I wrote to the local MUS rep. To which I received the following reply,
Well as of today the Canadian dollar is going down [it bounced back quite nicely, thank you]. We purchase and print our books in Canada because the Canadian version is different so we pay more then the American version. We have taken off our 8% postage plus 5.00 shipping charge and that is as far as we can go. Sorry. Thanks [Rep's Assistant]
I wrote directly to the company after that -- no reply from anyone there -- and back to the rep, too,
Dear [Rep's Assistant],

Down, I suppose, is a relative term, considering that it's at $1.02 so far today and fell only in response to David Dodge's comments yesterday.

Could you tell me please whether the Canadian version contain substantially more material than the US version?

Many thanks, ME
And the final word on the matter -- and you thought the customer was always right -- from the rep's assistant,
The Canadian version contains both the metric measurements and the imperial measurements. The US version has only the imperial measurements. Yes it is a result of David Dodges comments and the radio said the dollar is at 99 cents today and continuing down either way this is the solution that [Canadian MUS representative's name] and Steve Demme came up with seeing as the Canadian books are printed in Canada and cost signifigantly [sic] more than the US version. [Signed, Rep's Assistant]
Call me cranky, but I can't imagine that each level has $18 worth of additional metric material. And it still seems rather a slap at Canadian customers, who have been paying more for the same items all along, from 62 cents to the dollar to a buck five; and then there's the little matter that after a full week I'm still awaiting a reply to the email I sent directly to the company. At this point, I'm considering secondhand MUS again -- new doesn't seem to be much of a bargain, especially if I can't factor decent customer service into the price -- and going back to Singapore Math for now, supplemented by Developmental Mathematics by L. George Saad.

And with that, happy -- and careful -- shopping!

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