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Why many Canadians don’t love self-checkout

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Brendan Best says self-checkout isn’t worth his time because something often goes wrong, forcing him to seek out assistance.

“I would not like to have that type of hassle, so I try to go through cashier lines,” said Best, who lives in Halifax.

“There’s nothing in it for me.”

A new grocery shopping study out of Dalhousie University suggests many Canadians have dabbled in self-checkout, but few have found reason to embrace the technology — which, along with reducing labour costs, is supposed to make shopping more convenient.

By the end of 2016 there were 255,000 self-checkout machines in stores around the world. (CBC)

Out of 1,053 people surveyed in October, two-thirds said they have tried the machines when grocery shopping. However, just 11 per cent of those shoppers report that they use them regularly, while the rest opt to use self-checkout only occasionally.

The survey’s margin of error is 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Its principal investigator suspects uptake is low due to self-checkout’s “mediocre” technology.

“They’re gonna have to do a better job in getting the right technology in place if they want to capitalize on self-checkout,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University specializing in food distribution and policy.

Call the attendant

Self-checkouts debuted in North America in the early 1990s and are now a staple at many major Canadian retail stores.

Although the technology has advanced over the years, it remains a source of frustration for many shoppers.

Shirley Fourney of Saskatoon says she uses self-checkout only when buying a few small items because she finds the bagging area has limited space.

“The automated bagging thing keeps saying, ‘Put it in your bag. Put in your bag.’ Well, no, I didn’t because [it’s] 10 pounds of potatoes,” Fourney said.

“It’s just inconvenient.”

Brendan Best in Halifax says scanning snafus can also happen with small items.

“You have a thing of floss and you’ve already put it in the baggage area and it’s not reading it and then you’re going, ‘Sir, sir, ma’am, ma’am, I need help.'”

Brendan Best of Halifax says he only uses self-checkout occasionally because he actually finds checking out with the cashier is often faster. (submitted by Brendan Best)

Valerie Menard says she often experiences problems when scanning items without bar codes that require extra steps, such as produce that must be weighed or items from the bakery.

“Whenever I’ve tried to do it with more than a few items or produce or a baked good, I’ll have to get another staff member for help,” said Menard, who lives in Waterdown, Ont.

“It just doesn’t seem like it’s saving anyone time.”

She also finds scanning and bagging items a challenge when trying to keep an eye on her one-year-old son.

“Going through self-checkout isn’t practical. We have children to watch.”

Resistance is futile

Of course, not everyone has gripes about self-checkout.

Bob Munson of Nelson, B.C., says he uses the machines whenever possible to avoid getting bogged down in “unneeded chit-chat” with the cashier.

“I’m shopping. I’m not there to make friends,” he said. “I like to get the machine that does the job and just go.”

While Munson may be in the minority at the moment, professor Charlebois believes that will change.

In the age of automation, self-checkout is here to stay, he says. As the technology improves, he expects more shoppers will buy in — once they feel it truly makes their lives more convenient.

“Nobody wants to wait in line to buy food,” he said.

Already, self-checkouts are changing. Major global supplier NCR recently announced it was incorporating image-scanning technology that eliminates the need for weight-based detection of scanned items. That means no more need for that annoying automated voice reminding you to place your items in the bagging area.

At Amazon Go, customers can take what they want without checking out thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves. (Amazon)

Some retail experts expect people will flock to self-checkout when it looks more like Amazon Go, a cashier-less store created by online shopping giant, Amazon.

Thanks to technology that detects when products are removed from store shelves, Amazon Go shoppers take what they want and just walk out. 

Customers are billed via their Amazon accounts.

“Amazon Go is almost seamless,” said Toronto retail consultant Bruce Winder. “It definitely, I think, has great potential because I see the value for customers.”

Only seven Amazon Go stores exist so far, all in the U.S., but up to 3,000 more are reportedly in the works.

Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois suggests many shoppers aren’t embracing self-checkout due to ‘mediocre’ technology. (Radio-Canada)

Until such technology becomes mainstream, Charlebois suggests retailers could attract more customers to self-checkout by offering an incentive, such as a product discount.

“Why not reward a behaviour you want to see in your store?”

Best says an added perk might help him change his mind about self-checkout.

“At least I would be able to look at it and say, ‘What do I get from this? I get this discount.'”

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Window repair or replacement is the responsibility of the condo corporation

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If the windows in your condo are hazy, drafty, or have rotting frames, it’s an indicator that they need repairs or outright replacement.

However, under the Condominium Act, it is the responsibility of the condo’s board to carry out such changes as a replaced window is a common element.

“Under the Condominium Act, a declaration may alter the maintenance or repair obligations of unit owners and the corporation but cannot make unit owners responsible for repairs to the common elements,” said Gerry Hyman is a former president of the Canadian Condominium Institute and contributor for the Star.

“A declaration for a high-rise condominium invariably provides that the unit boundary is the interior surface of windows. That means that the entire window — whether it is a single pane or a double pane — is a common element. Necessary repairs or replacement of a broken pane is the obligation of the corporation.”

According to Consumer Reports, selecting an installing windows replacement can be very overwhelming for homeowners. Therefore, if you aren’t covered by your condo’s corporation, it would be necessary to hire professional hands.

Wood, vinyl and composite windows need to be tested on how they can withstand various natural elements. For wind resistance, a window can be very tight when it’s warm but get quite cold too—especially when it begins to leak a lot.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line remains that replacement windows can save you heating and cooling costs, but it’s best not to expect drastic savings.

Additionally, while getting a new window might help you save on your electric and gas bills, due to their expensive cost, it may take a long time to offset their cost.

Mid-last-year, the government withdraw a $377 million Green Ontario program that provided subsidy on windows to installers and repairers. Window companies had to install energy-efficient windows in order to qualify for the government subsidy that pays for up to $500 of a $1,000 to $1,500 window.

Due to the largely generous subsidies from the government under the Green Ontario program, a lot of window dealers were fully booked for months—even after the program had ended.

“We’re fine with the program ending, we just need more time to satisfy consumers,” said Jason Neal, the executive director of the Siding and Window Dealer Association of Canada, the industry group representing window dealers in a report.

According to Neal, the Progressive Conservatives acted hastily, making massive changes with no prior notice.

“No notification was given to us by anyone,” he said, noting he learned about the change through one of his dealers.

“It’s created a ripple effect.If they had just given us notice we would have pushed that down the line from the manufacturer right into the dealer right down to the consumer.”

Neal noted that he wasn’t particularly sad to see the Green Ontario program end, as it was “the worst rebate program in the history of the window industry.”

“It’s been horrible,” he said. “$500 a window has created such hysteria.”

However, despite the program ending about a year ago, numerous homeowners have been contacting window dealers consistently with concerns that they might not be able to afford replacement windows without the government’s subsidy.

“I understand their concern,” said window dealer Chris George. “I would suggest they reach out to their local representative of the government in their riding and let them know about their concerns.”

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7 Vancouver Real Estate Buying Tips

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The real estate market in Vancouver is turning around for good for everyone looking to purchase a home.

Previously soaring prices are now beginning to ease up, making it a perfect time for buyers—with real estate agents already getting ready for a very busy spring and summer season.

However, before splashing cash on a new property, there are some very important tips you need to know to ensure you make the most of the buyer’s market.

Here are some few expert tips that would guide you when purchasing a home in the sometimes frustration Vancouver seller’s market.

  1. Get adequate financing

It is very important that before you make the move to purchase a property, you put into careful consideration your credit score.

Normally, home buyers with lower scores use the secondary mortgage market to finance their purchase, as they’re more likely to pay a higher interest rate.However, it is advisable to get loan approval long before purchasing the house. This way, you are fully aware of how much you are able to spend—but never be tempted to borrow the maximum amount of money available.

“What’s your mortgage payment that you’re comfortable with? And take into the fact the taxes you’re going to have to pay, if it’s a strata – what the maintenance fees are, if it’s a home what type of maintenance are you going to have to pay in the future?” said Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver in a report.

Always be careful of the type of loan you secure and ensure that you can comfortably afford it over a long period of time.

  1. Get a real estate agent

Buying a property without professional help is a very risky move and can be likened to choosing to represent yourself in court without a lawyer. While you might trust your negotiation skills, only realtors are permitted to present offers directly.

Therefore, it is necessary to get a professional real estate agent in the area to represent you. So, screen a few agents and select the best one who has in-depth knowledge of the markets and has a great reputation.

“They’re there to protect you. They’re there to walk you through each step of the process,” Moore said.

  1. Sign up for automated alerts

Most—if not all—realtors have access to the Vancouver real estate board’s database which is updated approximately two days before the public MLS website.

Therefore, you can request from your realtor to sign you up for automatic real-time alerts of all new listings. Doing this gives you an edge as you’re among the very first to know about new properties.

  1. Do a thorough inspection

After receiving an alert for a new listing, it is necessary to push almost immediately for an inspection from your realtor. In this current market, buyers now have time to make an inspection.

Making a quick inspection eliminates any surprises—as there could be major maintenance or repair issues that could spring up. Therefore, you can now table your offer based on the outcome of the inspection, with clauses about claiming your damage deposit back if everything isn’t as was advertised.

Additionally, if you notice that renovations were done, you need to be sure that it was permitted work and carried out appropriately. Failing to do this would ultimately lead to further cost down the line and simultaneously affect the resale value.

  1. Have a back-up plan

There’s always the possibility that everything may not go as smoothly as you’d want. From the inspection being a failureto the property not living up to your expectations—or not being able to agree on the closing date that matches with your needs.

However, a professional real estate agent will definitely help you get past all of these things. If you plan on selling the property as you buy, you can table that and make it part of the deal.

“You’ve got an option, especially in a buyer’s market: you can put in an offer subject to selling your place. So maybe you want to have a place lined up,” Moore added.

Additionally, building contingencies into your buying plan is necessary. Things such as unexpected delays in closing the deal, closing cost and moving costs that could result in added living expenses if that’s your permanent home.

  1. Don’t fall for the buyer frenzy

The Vancouver market buying frenzy that caused a serious climb in the prices a couple of years ago has ended. Thus, it is important not to get caught up in bidding wars with properties that have been deliberately under-priced—with the hope of initiating multiple offers.

“Some of the sellers have been on the market for over a year and they’re eager to sell. So what I’m saying to consumers is: you have a lot of choices, you’re in the driver’s seat, let’s go out and take a look at what’s available,” said Moore.

  1. Never be wary of multiple offers

When purchasing a property, don’t be afraid of multiple offers as you have the same opportunity as anybody else.

Typically, there are just a few offers below the asking price: a couple priced fully, and two or three above the asking price—depending on how close the fair market value is from the asking price.

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Do you know what kind of condo you’re buying?

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(NC) Condominiums can come in all shapes and sizes. But it’s important to know that not all condos are created equal when it comes to warranty coverage.

Whether you’re buying a condominium townhouse, loft-style two-bedroom or a high-rise studio, they are all classified as condominiums if you own your unit while at the same time share access (and the associated fees) for facilities ranging from pools and parking garages to elevators and driveways, otherwise known as common elements.

The most common types of condos are standard condominiums and common elements condominiums. The determination of how a condominium project is designated happens during the planning stage when the builder proposes the project and the municipality approves it.

When you’re in the market to buy, you need to know how your chosen condo is classified because it affects the warranty coverage under the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act. Standard condominiums have warranty coverage for units and common elements, but common elements condominiums only have unit coverage.

How could this affect you as the owner? If your condo complex has underground parking and, for example, there are problems with leaks or a faulty door, the condo designation will determine whether there’s warranty coverage.

If your unit is a standard condominium development, then the common elements warranty may cover the repairs. If it’s a common element condominium development, then repairs might have to be covered by the condo corporation’s insurance, which could impact your condo fees or require a special assessment on all the owners.

To avoid surprises, you should have a real estate lawyer review the Declaration and Description attached to your purchase agreement to be sure that you know the designation and boundaries of the unit you’re looking to purchase. Find more information on the types of condos and their coverage at tarion.com.

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