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Ordering flowers online and funeral home upselling: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet

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Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday. 

Testing ‘Canada’s official florist’

After hearing from Marketplace viewers, we tested one of the biggest online florists to see if what we bought would match what we got. Ottawa-based Bloomex advertises “fast, fresh and fair service,” but Pat Hodnett told us the bouquet she ordered for her sister-in-law’s funeral was ruined when it arrived as a handful of “cheap” carnations. After Bloomex refused a discount off her next order, it took a complaint to Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for her to receive a refund.

Pat Hodnett says the bouquet she ordered last year from Bloomex for her sister-in-law’s funeral was incredibly different than what was advertised on the site. (David MacIntosh/CBC)

WTF happened to romaine lettuce?

You might want to order the fries and skip the salad. The Public Health Agency of Canada is warning Canadians in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick to avoid romaine lettuce, but still hasn’t issued a formal recall. Grocery chains across the country moved quickly to take the product — which could be contaminated with E. coli — off their shelves. If there’s some in your fridge at home, experts warn there is no point in trying to wash the bacteria away. 

A similar outbreak last year sickened people and it also wasn’t met with an immediate recall. The outbreak has made at least 22 people sick in Canada and the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the contaminated greens likely came from California. 

The E. coli contamination of romaine lettuce has made at least 22 people sick in Canada. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Back-to-work bill for Canada Post

Your parcels may still be stuck in the Canada Post backlog, but the federal government is trying to change that. The Liberals have begun the process to force postal workers back on the job, but the union representing the carriers says that’s a violation of their constitutional rights. The labour minister says the government still hopes for a negotiated settlement, but that people in rural and remote communities are relying on mailed cheques to pay bills.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says back-to-work legislation will be used if the two sides in the Canada Post dispute can’t come to an agreement. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Why some experts argue we need pharmacare

Do you find yourself reducing spending in order to pay for drugs prescribed by your doctor? New research from the University of British Columbia says Canadians are going into debt to pay for their medications. The study found those going into debt tended to be younger, had lower household income, chronic medical conditions and no prescription drug insurance.

Younger Canadians and those without private insurance were more likely to take on debt, researchers from the University of British Columbia found. (Shutterstock)

Cloth vs. disposable diapers

Have you considered a greener alternative to diapers for your infant? Some Canadians have started using cloth diapers in order to avoid sending thousands of diapers to landfills. But it can take a lot to get a cloth diaper clean, and another option is recycling disposables. The City of Toronto has been turning parts of disposable diapers into compost since 2002.

Each year, billions of disposable diapers make their way to landfills across North America. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

What else is going on?

Loblaws is ramping up self-checkout with new technology called “shop and scan.” Customers can scan items while shopping with a phone app — part of an effort to streamline the shopping experience and reduce labour costs. Some shoppers are rejecting the idea because they prefer interacting with a cashier.

An online glitch left a retiree on the hook for an Air Canada flight he didn’t book. Claude Neblett spent months trying to get a refund from Air Canada. He eventually got his money back after CBC’s Go Public contacted the company.

Whirlpool refused to honour this Oakville, Ont., man’s 10-year fridge warranty. Naji Alimam’s seven-year-old fridge hasn’t worked since August. He wanted to warn others about companies not living up to its warranties.

This week in recalls

This plastic doll and furniture toy set could pose a chemical hazard; these vaping products do not meet requirements of the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations; this play tent could pose fire and burn hazards; this air compressor could cause injury.

Watch this week: Flower Delivery & Death Inc. Part 2

We tested one of the biggest online florists by ordering five bouquets for ourselves. Experts call what we received “embarrassing.” Plus, we’re back on the case checking in on funeral homes. A new hidden camera investigation reveals some are still upselling and rule breaking.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary

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Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market

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The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers

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Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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