Thursday, July 01, 2021

Netflix Won't Take My Money

Fry from Futurama holing out a wad of cash saying 'Shut up and take my money!'

I want my own Netflix account. I don't particularely want most of the other streaming services for reasons beyond the scope of this post. I want Netflix.

A few years ago I had a roommate living here. When he moved in, he brought his Netflix account with him. My TV has a Netflix app built right in. He put his credentials into the TV, and set up a profile for me so either of us could use the account. Then he moved away, but continued to let me use his account. After a while he cancelled it. So I decided it was time to get my own.

On I went to and created an account. When it came time to pay, I noticed they no longer offered the free one-month trial. I was disappointed, but decided to carry on anyway.

As part of the registration process, I had to give an email and password, and it knew I was in Canada, but didn't ask for a postal code.

When it came time to make the payment, I selected the cheapest option ($9.99/month) and filled in the form. After filling in my credit card information and clicking "Submit" I got a vague error. Something like "There was a problem with your credit card. Try again later."

That's not very specific. I tried a different credid card, a different browser, a different device, etc. etc. Here are the different things I've tried: (Note Netflix Canada only accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and gift cards.)

  1. My laptop
  2. Two different desktops
  3. Firefox
  4. Brave browser
  5. Chrome
  6. The Netflix app built into my TV (which just told me to do payment details in my computer)
  7. The Netflix app built into my BlueRay player (which just told me to do payment details in my computer)
  8. MasterCard
  9. Visa
  10. Putting my middle initial at the end of my first name
  11. Putting my middle initial at the beginning of my last name
  12. Leaving my middle initial out completely
  14. My name with only the first letter in capitals

Here are the things I have not tried:

  1. A more expensive plan. Maybe this problem only exists on the cheapest plan?
  2. A gift card...which may always leave some money on the card.
  3. I switched from DSL to Cable Internet (temporarily) so I'm on a different network. Perhaps with this different network I can hit a different Netflix server that may work.
  4. I recently got an AppleTV and upgraded my iOS. I can install the Netflix app on each, and the app store says it accepts in-app payments. If I can get Netflix to charge my app-store account, which will charge me, then it's not ideal, but I'd go for that.
  5. Use a VPN to try to access Netflix in a different region to see if things could work there. (But they may block a lot of VPNs.)
  6. A friend once told me that you can get these "anonymous" credit cards online and use one of those to try. It seems super-sketchy....but perhaps it's something to investigate.

If you Google "Netflix won't accept my credit card" you see that this is a huge problem, and Netflix refuses to acknowledge that the problem may be on their end.

I called Netflix and they sent me a list of questions to ask my credit card companies (and along with the answers of both cards:

Are there enough available funds to cover the charge from Netflix?
For credit and debit cards, is the card still valid, or has the financial institution recently issued a replacement?
They're all still valid and no recent replacements were issued
For credit and debit cards, can the card be used for recurring billing?
Does the card or account support e-commerce transactions?
Was the transaction processed as an international charge? Does your account support this?
It was processed as a local charge, and I'll return to this question below.
Was the transaction declined for any security reasons?
No, it wasn't declined. More on this below.
Does your financial institution see the transaction attempt from Netflix? Can they explain why it was declined?
They see it as accepted. More on this below

I called both my credit card companies about this. And my cards are both properly set up to accept Netflix. The problem is 100% on Netflix's end. Above I mentioned that Netflix no longer offers the 1-month free trial. I think this may have something to do with it.

One of my banks told me they saw a few Approved charges from Netflix for $0.00.

Very interesting. Here's what I think is what's happening:

Netflix Canada, years ago, sets up a one-month free trial. But before they give out any free trials to a new customer, they need to make sure that customer can pay in the second month. So they ask for credit card details. They charge that card for $0.00 to make sure it works. I figure the psuedo-code could look something like:

At Netflix

// planRate and ccInfo would be from elsewhere.
// I'm just making them global here so you can visually see it.
global planRate = $9.99;
global ccInfo;

function checkCreditCard () {
  planRate = 0;  // temporarily set planRate to 0 for the free trial
  let approval = getMastercardApproval(ccInfo, planRate);
  // the 0 is the $0.00 for a free trial

At Mastercard

function chargeCard (Amount) {
  if (applyCharge(ccInfo, Amount)) {
    // It worked!
    sender.sendMessage(true, ccInfo.number, Amount);
  } else {
    sender.sendMessage(false, ccInfo.number, Amount);

Back at Netflix

function checkApproval(success, number, Amount) {
  planRate = 0;  // temporarily set planRate to 0 for the free trial
  if (success == ture &am;& number == ccInfo.number && Amount == planRate) {
      successFunction ();
  } else {
      fail ("There was a problem with your credit card.");

If you follow that code through you'll see that Netflix is charging $0.00 and then checking to see if $0.00 was charged. Then when the free trial ended, Netflix Canada removed the planRate = 0; // temporarily set planRate to 0 for the free trial from both functions, and somehow the first function didn't make it to every production server. So on some servers, the planRate (say $9.99) is being charged. On others, $0.00 is being charged. Then in the last function, it's checking if the amount charged is the same as planRate. It won't be on the servers that never got the updated code. Since some people hit a server with the updated code they're able to sign up. Netflix sees that some people can sign up, so they don't notice the problem. They see fewer people have signed up than before, but that's to be expected after prices go up, and a free trial goes away. And I suspect the tech support (no doubt outsourced to a private firm in India) has no way of telling Netflix "We're getting a lot of complaints about this. You might want to look into it."

If I'm right about this, then it's the loss of free trial that's the problem. Some people who have complained about this said that the tech support was able to put a one-time charge through and it worked. Someone else mentioned that using the live-chat feature, the tech support guy was able to have the customer fill out a separate form somewhere.

Aside from the list of questions to ask my credit card companies, tech support suggested I use gift cards. I don't want to use gift cards because the amounts you can buy are never exact multiples of the plan amounts! As of this writing, a basic plan in Canada is $9.99 + HST: $11.29/month. If I could get a gift card for $11.29, or $22.58, or $33.87, etc. then okay. Instead I could get one for $30 and charge 2 months to it and have $7.42 left over. If my above suspicions are correct, then I'd be beyond the free trial part so I could switch payment details to my credit card and it would work. Is it worth $7.42 to find out? If it doesn't work then I'll be forever buying gift cards and always having a bit left over.


In order to get the actual text of the credit card error for this blog, I decided to try signing up again. Just to get the error! But the registration worked! I now have Netflix!

I don't know why. I must be a poor scientist. I altered two variables:

  1. I used Chrome instead of Brave or Netflix (maybe Netflix only specifically supports Chrome and not Chromium browsers like Brave. If this is the case, I should abandon Netflix.)
  2. I tried using my Cable Internet connection (different networks could hit different servers. I'm now on TekSavvy's network instead of Bell's. (I'm not linking to Bell because I don't want to give them any more traffic.)

Now I'll never know if my suspicions about the new code not making it to all servers are correct. Nevermind! I have some serious watchin' to do.

Saturday, February 06, 2021

My Basement Issues - Part 2


This post is a continuation of two posts: My Basement Issues - Part 1 and My avoision of Covid-19.

In My Basement Issues - Part 1 I told the story of how a broken furnace exhaust pipe had wrecked a section of my basement ceiling, and how some shoddy work from a condo siding project caused a section of my basement drywall to be torn out. In My Avoision of Covid-19 I told the story of how I was hoping to get through the pandemic with as little human contact as possible, and how I thought "As long as I can make it through the next few months without any service people coming into my house, then I should be a-okay. And I've hardly had any service people in the house since I bought over 5 years ago, so I should be fine.

Old Basement Damage

Due to the pandemic I had to (or got to?) start working from home every single day from Monday, March 16, 2020 until [insert date here]. My office was down in the drafty, dirty, messy, disrepaired basement. And now that Zoom calls were all the rage, my colleagues got to see the inside of my basement. I tried to keep the damage out of sight, but I wasn't always successful.

One day on a Zoom call, a colleague asked about my basement, and made the comment "Didn't insurance cover that?"

Insurance?! Why didn't I think of that?! I have insurance! Of course, this will mean having people into the house. I wonder, given the time that's passed (about a year) if I'm beyond the window of being able to make a claim?

New Basement Damange

Well, I didn't have to worry about that last part because one morning in April I came downstairs to hear a drip drip drip. "Oh no. Not again!" Thankfully I still had my plastic sheets and buckets around from the last basement issue, so the carpet wasn't getting wet. I looked around to see where this water drip was coming from. Remember the furnace exhaust pipe, and the hole in the ceiling to the valve to the pipe going to the back of the house for the hose? That water pipe to the house is about a foot and a half over from the furnace exhaust pipe — right where a lot of the water damage was. Well, that pipe had sprung a leak. Just a leak. It hadn't burst. There was no flooding. just some drips. But listening to that all day was annoying.

I called for a plumber. They weren't able to send one for a few days. So I did what I could to slow, or stop the dripping. When I didn't need running water, I turned the water to the house off. This would slow the drip significantly.

When the plumber got there (This is service person #1. Long story, but two other plumbers came out for another issue. I'll count them here. We're up to 3 service people.) He cut out a bit of the copper pipe and replaced it with a plastic alternative. Problem solved.

(As an aside I learned something very valuable in this process of constantly opening and closing the main water valve that I'll pass along to anyone here who needs to read this. It's normal for bits of debris to get into your water lines. If this debris makes its way to a faucet with a filter, then it gets stuck there and the waterflow of that faucet will be severly hampered. This was happening with my upstairs bathroom sink. To fix this: shut off the water to your house, turn on all taps in the house to drain the pipes. Once all water stops flowing, close all taps in the house except the laundry room sink faucets. These faucets aren't filtered, and they're typically the lowest faucets in the house. Turn on the water. As the water rushes in and fills the pipes, this will cause the debris to go to the lowest point in the house and get flushed out your laundry room sink. That knowledge alone is going to save me hundreds of dollars in plumber calls.)

In July I decided to stop procrastinating and get the house back into a sellable condition. I had gone through a whole year, a whole winter of constant basement monitoring. No new floods from last year's issue. I was now confident that part was fixed.

Now for the fun part: I called my insurance company. I've never had to make a claim before. I didn't know what was ahead.

The Repair Saga Begins

I told them the whole story; the exhaust pipe, the siding project, and the leaky pipe. They told me that typically you have to make a claim within a year of the damage. So it was too late for the exhaust pipe issues, and the wall, but I'm still good for the leaky pipe. This works out. They both caused the same amount of damage. As for the wall, since that was from a different incident (same time, different cause, different area) it would be a separate claim. So I made two claims: one for the wall and one for the ceiling. And, yes, that meant paying the deductible twice - and the deductible for water damage is high.

They sent out a contractor (non-appliance service person #4) to take a look and give me an estimate. When the contractor came out he took a look and said "Yeah, we'll have to fix up the ceiling. But the wall? That'll be easy to fix. That'll be well below your deductible, so it won't be worth making a claim." And he was right. So I closed that claim. But there was still the ceiling.

We talked about options. My basement celing is drywall with this swirl pattern that was somewhat popular in the 70s. That makes it harder to fix than flat, or popcorn drywall because the pattern and finish have to match. So one option is to tear out the drywall and replace as it was. Another is to tear out the drywall and replace with flat drywall: no swirls. A third option is to install a suspended ceiling. I like this option if it can be done. Basement ceilings have a lot going on behind them. There are pipes and electric boxes, wires, and who knows what else. You want to be able to access that. And, by code, you have to be able to access to electrical boxes and valves. But with a suspended ceiling, you can just take out tiles. I have that in my laundry room. It's great!

Another advantage of suspended ceilings is that if one gets damaged, it's waaaaaaay easier and cheaper to repair than drywall! (I even helped friends install their suspended ceiling, so I kind know how to do it myself.) If my exhaust pipe issues had happened with a suspended ceiling, when I first saw that discolourization, instead of wondering about it and ignoring it hoping it was nothing, I would have just popped out the tile, and took a look. Finding the break in the pipe would have been easier. And I wouldn't be writing this post!

Anyway, I made the inital call to the insurance company on July 23rd, 2020, and here we are, January 20th 2021. There's been a lot of back-and-forth with the contractor; a few esitmates, and revised esitmates. They took samples of the wall and ceiling to test for asbestos (non-appliance service person #5). Thankfully the asbestos tests came back negative. Today I sent one final question to the contractor ending with something to the effect of "...if this last peice falls into place, then just let me know when you can start!"

For context, all of Ontario has moved from a Lockdown to a stay-at-home order until February 11th. Since I've lived with a damaged ceiling and wall for nearly 2 years, I'd hardly think of this as essential work. I can live without it for a few more weeks. Even if it has to wait til April (when I predict Covid-19 case counts will start dropping due to vaccinations and warmer weather and people spending more time outdoors), then that's fine with me.

After a week, I finally heard back from the contractor saying that the last peice isn't falling into place. The last peice being the cost of replacement. If I go with a full replacement (drywall with swirls), then all costs are covered by insurance (minus the deductible). But, if I do anything else (such as suspended ceiling), if it's more expensive than a full replacement, then I pay the difference. During the inital estimates, the suspended ceiling was about $600 less than the full replacement. In revised estimates, it's more expensive by about $150.

Thinking the suspended ceiling (what I want) was going to be significantly cheaper than a full replacement, I was ready to just go with that option. Even if it turns out to be more expensive than the estimate, as long as it's less than $600 more than the estimate, it's still covered by insurance. Now that it's more than the estimate, then if it turns out to be even more expensive than the estimate, then that difference comes out of my pocket.

So, it's a question of one risk over another. If I go full repair, the risk is in further damage causing another insurance claim. After a certain point, insurance may no longer cover me, or it may get more expensive. So that is a risk for the future. This could come back to bite me in 4 or 5 years. Wheras taking the suspended ceiling option reduces risk from the future, it places risk today that installation could be more expensive than the estimate.

So, I'm not sure what to do here. I am leaning towards the suspended ceiling option: Take the risk right now.

I'll keep updating this post as things progress.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

My avoision of Covid-19

Towards the end of the year 2019, a new virus appeared in China, called CoV-SARS-2 which causes a disease called Covid-19. This caused a world wide pandemic in 2020 through at least 2021.

Covid-19 came to Ottawa in early March, 2020, and really started to take off in mid-March. On Sunday, March 15th I was told by my team lead at work that unless one was required to physically be onsite to do their jobs, they shouldn't come in. And only those deemed essential should log into the network the next day. And I was deemed essential.

So, on Monday, March 16th, 2020 I began working from home. (As of this writing, Wednesday, January 20th, 2021 I have not seen my office since then.) To me, that's the start of the pandemic.

Now, I hate being sick. No matter what. I can tolerate colds, but that's about it. Everything else is just the worst. And Covid is all of that! It's respiratory! It's gastrointestinal! It's neurological! It's vascular! The list of potential symptoms and effects sounds like a drug commercial. It's deadly in some cases!

I think that the scariest part of Covid-19 is the wide variety of symptoms. Two people get it, one gets a little tired. The other ends up on a ventilator. Another two people get it. One has no symptoms whatsoever. The other has a stroke. "Most" people recover in two weeks (which is really long, when you think about it. The Flu is typically 1 week and is only respiratory. Gastro is usually 24 hours.), but as many as 1 in 3 take longer to recover. Then there's the long-haulers: those for whom symptoms can last for months, or as far as we know, never go away. But since these people don't die of it, they don't show up in the death statistics, and people don't pay attention to them. So it makes look not as bad as it is.

If everyone reacted the same way to the virus, then we'd all have similar-ish levels of caution towards the virus. If it had a 30% fatality rate, we'd all be scared of it. But because of the wide range of symptoms and severity some people say "It's no big deal!" Others are like "We have to shut everything down!"

As for me, ultimately it comes down to: I'm a huge introvert who hates more than anything else being sick. So, yeah. Stay home? Not a problem? Avoid other people? My pleasure.

When this first started, they were telling us to not wear masks "because it can provide a false sense of security, and will cause you to touch your face more". They also thought you could get it from surfaces. Everyone was being really cautious.

As I started thinking through the implications of everyone stay[ing] the blazes home. Short term wouldn't be a problem. But what if something broke down, and you needed a service person in the house?

Since I bought the house in 2014 I've had into the house: 2 plumbers, the air conditioning guy with his assistant and electrician in to install the unit (as well as three companies to give bids), and an annual furnace maintenance person. Plus some guys sent by the condo to deal with the siding, which, yes, required some inside work (as explained in My Basement Issues - Part 1). That's 17 that I count. Or, 3.4 per year.

"Okay, this shouldn't be a problem then."

Well, My Basement Issues - Part 2 has caused 5 (and counting) service people, and Appliance Troubles has caused 6 more, totalling: 11 - and counting.

But so far, I've kept healthy.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

My Basement Issues - Part 1


I live in a townhouse condo. (ie: I, along with the mortgage company, own the inside and the condo corporation owns the outside.) A few years ago the condo corp determined that the siding on the condos was getting old and needed replacement. So we had this big siding project.

The siding project took forever and could be a series of blog posts on its own. But that's not this story. There were lots of problems with the siding project. A one year project turned into two. When they started the project they found a lot of rot underneath the old siding. And a number of units had rotting rim joists behind the back steps. This required workers to come in, put support stands in the basement to keep the house from falling apart when the old rim joist was replaced/repaired.

Sure enough, my house had a rotting rim joist. I have a finished basement with drywall ceiling (why?! Why would you ever put drywall ceiling in a basement?!). They didn't have to tear out the drywall, thankfully. But they did put up their supports in my basement to do the joist work. They also found a lot of rot on the wall of one of my bedrooms which caused them to have to rebuild the whole wall. (Turns out there was a lot of problems with that wall too, but that's another story.) So, they ended up doing a lot of work on my unit.

Something's Amiss in the Ceiling

During the siding project One day I went down to the basement and noticed a slight discolouration on the basement ceiling. "Has that always been there and I've just never noticed?" I wondered. There are a few places in my house where the ceiling has discolourations, largely due to bad paint jobs. They're not moist. They're hard. They've always been there. They haven't changed in years. Was this just one of those? Was this a left over mark from when they had to support my house with the rim joist work?

I came down again a few days later, and it had grown.....I think?

Not too far from that spot is a hole in the drywall where there's a valve for a water pipe for the backyard hose. One day I was sitting at my desk in the basement and I heard a rapid "tck tck tck pshhh". Water was dripping out of that hole onto a cardboard box.

Ohh crud. "Where is that water coming from!?" My strategy of ignoring the situation and hoping it would go away wasn't working very well.

I called a friend to come over and to take a look to see if he could figure out what's going on. It was the middle of the winter. He happened to notice that when my furnace came on, nothing was coming out of the exhaust pipe in the back of the house. The exhaust pipe looks like an elongated S. It comes out of the back of the house, turns up 90 degrees for about a foot and a half, then 90 degrees again away from the house. Except this time instead of turning up after coming out of the house, it turned down.

Back to the basement. A line of drywall, starting from that initial spot to the backwall was now soft. There are parts I could just put my hand through. I tore a lot of that drywall out. Behind that drywall was the furnace exhaust pipe. It was wet. "What's going on?"

I had a protection plan for my furnace where I paid every month so that certain repairs and an annual service are covered. I called the company. They sent someone out. He arrived at 10:00pm on a Monday night. He took a look. He poked his head up into the ceiling.

"Ahhhh, I see what's going on. Somehow the exhaust pipe broke just this side of the furnace room. Now, when the furnace comes on, it's blowing exhaust into the ceiling area, which is warming up the exhaust pipe — which is bringing in cold air from the outside. So the pipe is getting cold, and that's causing condensation around the pipe, which is dripping onto your ceiling.

"Now here's the thing. It's blowing exhaust fumes into your basement. I'm getting really low carbon monoxide readings, but you want lower. So we either have to fix this up tonight, or I have to shut this furnace down until you get it fixed."

It was about -20 out and getting colder. So I said we should do it tonight. (And by "we" I mean "he".)

It took two or three hours. He had to cut out more drywall to get to where the break happened. He fixed it. He told me "This isn't really covered under your plan, but it looks like you've got a big, expensive job ahead of I'm just going to say I did work that was covered."

"Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!!"

I did whatever clean up I can. I got some mold killer. I sanded down areas with obvious water damage. Then I continued to procrastinate doing something about this. This is way beyond my skills as a home owner.

A Puddle on the Floor

Then one morning I came down to the basement and the floor underneath the pipe was wet! "What is going on?!" I checked the exhaust pipe. It was working as expected. It wasn't wet. None of the left-over drywall ceiling was moist. I had a plastic cover on the floor, and it was wet underneath that.

I called the condo corp to ask for them to send somebody out. I really had to wonder if these issues are caused by the siding project. (There had been a number of issues which lead me to wonder, a few of which I'll get to in a minute.)

They sent someone out. They took a look around. The broken exhaust pipe was likely a coincidence since it broke pretty far from the outer wall. But this puddle.....

What was happening was that in the course of a few cold spells and thaws, ice had built up right by the rim joist. Somehow the insulation that should have been there had been brought out away from the rim joist, which allowed that area to get cold. Moisture got in, froze, then thawed. When it thawed, in dripped down the foundation wall behind the drywall, and came out onto the floor below.

The eavestroughs (part of the siding project) had been hung horizontally. Eavestroughs should be hung at an angle so that water flows down towards a downspout and out away from the house. But these were horizontal. This caused melting ice to collect, overflow, and drip down the side of the house. This dripping was happening right above the furnace exhaust pipe. The furnace exhaust pipe was shoddily sealed with tape. When they guy from the condo corp looked at it, he said "I can see right through that. And if I can see through it, water can get in."

To recap: we had the perfect storm: Water was overflowing from horizontal eavestroughs and dripping down right where there was an opening into the house, right at a point where there was no insulation to keep that area warm. At least two of these problems was the fault of the siding company. (The insulation part wasn't their fault.)

I was told that neither the condo corp, nor siding company was responsible for damaged finished basements. "We don't fix basements." I thought that was ridiculous. If a roofing company negligently threw old shingles off of a roof onto a parking lot and damaged cars, it wouldn't matter that they're not a car-fixing company. Their actions would have caused the damage, and they'd be found negligent. Same thing here. If the eavestroughs had been hung properly, that water wouldn't have dripped down the side of the house right at the point where there was an opening. If the exhaust pipe had been sealed up properly, then water wouldn't have been able to get into the house from outside.

I told my story to a lawyer friend and he just kinda said something to the effect of "Yeah, that sort of thing is really hard to fight." It sounded like I'd spend more in legal fees than it would cost to fix.

So I spent the next few months procrastinating doing anything to fix this situation. I had a huge, ugly hole in my basement ceiling, and a big section of drywall beisde the hole with some insulation held in by a clear, plastic sheet. This caused the basement to be somewhat drafty and more uncomfortable than usual. And I didn't want to start doing repairs until I went through a season of snow and meltage to make sure the problem was fixed.

This story will continue in a future post: My Basement - Part 2.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Appliance Troubles


This is a semi-continuation of My Avoision of Covid-19 which explains that I hate being sick, so I want to avoid Covid-19 for that reason alone. Plus the risk of complications, being a "long-hauler", death, etc. To avoid Covid-19, one must avoid people, and that shouldn't be too much of a problem as long as I don't need any service people to enter my house.

Unfortunately, I ended up having more service people into my house since Covid-19 than before. I ended up breaking the story down into 3 posts: My Avoison of Covid-19 where I give an overview and do a count of total service people entering my house; My Basement Issues - Part 2 where I tell the story of some water damage to my basement and how I had to have contractors in to fix that.; and this post explaining all the service people who had to enter my house due to my appliace troubles.

The Appliances

The problems

One day I did a load of dishes in the dishwasher, which has worked fine up until this point. When I walked past the dishwasher, I got a bit of a soaker. I looked down and water was dripping from the overhanging part of the door. When the load was done, I opened the door to see that the door seal had come loose. I tried fixing it, and got one good load out of it. When I did the next load, there was a leak on the other side of the dishwasher.

I had also noticed that the elements on my stove stopped working. The small elements were good, but the front elements weren't. The one on the right would never get up to 10. You coudln't boil water. The one on the left was unpredictable. If you put it at 3 to simmer, it would go to 3 and the thing would simmer. For a while. Then the thing on the stove that was simmering would turn into a violent boil. If you set the dial back to Off, then back to 3 it may simmer, or it may boil. You just never knew what that element was going to do. (I guess you could say that it was the element of surprise!)

Furthermore the fridge (which still worked) started getting really noisy. It had always been noisy, and I had enjoyed its white noise blocking out other unwanted noise from neighbours, or the cars outside. But it had gotten worse. It started making a high-ish pitch humming noise which made its way upstairs into my bedroom keeping me up at night. That had never been a problem before.

The Solution

When Black Friday arrived, I decided it was time to take advantage of sales. The pandemic was still going on, and I've been a pretty cautious person. (If everyone lived like me, we could have eliminated Covid-19, as well as probably a few other communicable diseases months ago.) So I did my shopping online. I found this frustrating. It turns out that most stores that sell major appliances leave it up to you to get rid of your old appliances. Why? Most people don't have means to do that sort of thing. Some places (ex: BestBuy and Costco) offer removal and recycling services.

I didn't think it was worth getting a Costco membership just for this, so I went with BestBuy. And that's when things got interesting. A few years ago my washing machine needed to be replaced. I bought a new washing machine from BestBuy. I went to a local store and bought one there. I setup delivery, installation, and removal of my old unit at that time. But this time, I did not want to to go a store anytime near Black Friday during a global pandemic. So I went online.

They had sale, and a deal that if you bought three items from one manufacturer, you'd get $300 off (and free delivery). It turns out that the pandemic put a real bottleneck on the supply chain. Many units had delivery dates of "At least April". I didn't want to wait that long. So I looked for appliances from the same manufacturer, with a near-ish delivery date, that would fit in the areas in my kitchen. And the fridge doors must either open to the left, or at least be reversible. (I didn't want to break the bank too.)

I found some stainless steel Whirlpool units. Expected delivery: December 12th. Right measurements. The only issue: The fridge doors opened to the right. But they were reversible. Okay, sold!

Delivery, Installation, Removal, and Recyclying

As I checked out, I kept looking for the "Installation and removal" options. None were presented. Eventually, there was a note saying "Before delivery, you will receive a call from BestBuy to give you a delivery time window, and set up options for removal and installation." Oh okay. I just have to wait til I get that call.

When December 12th came, I remembered I still didn't get that call. So I called them to set it up. It turns out they needed at least 24 hours to do that. So I asked if my delivery could be delayed until later that week. "No problem! We can deliver Tuesday!"

"Okay, good. I don't need them right now. It's totally worth it if I can have my old appliances removed."

"Yes, of course, sir. Just give me a minute to set everything up."

After he set everything up I confirmed the new day (Tuesday), and that since that was 4 days out, that installation and removal services could be added.

"Oh no, sir. It's too late. It needs to be added earlier than 24 hours before delivery."

"Yeah, but it's Saturday today. Tuesday is 4 days away."

"Yes, but they're already at the warehouse ready for delivery."

"But the only reason I delayed was so I could add those services! What am I supposed to do with my appliances?"

"Well, that's what those 4 days are for. You can arrange something."

Okay, whatever. I'll Google something.

Turns out there are people on Kijiji who will take working appliances and give them to low-income families. But I have come to not trust Kijiji people. They're unreliable. They say they're coming and they never do. I'd rather just have the service.

It was still Saturday. I got a call from the delivery people saying "We're 5 minutes away." And I told them the story. The guy says "Okay, the way it's written here is unclear if you've got removal services or not. I'll call email BestBuy and see what's going on. I'll let you know when I know." (Spoiler alert: he never called me back.)

So after a while I called BestBuy and got someone else. I explained the story, and he said "Oh we can totally add removal services if you want!" Okay, so I did that for the fridge and oven. (I had already gotten rid of my dishwasher. I took it out to the curb on garbage night and in the morning, it was gone.) "Okay, I'll make a note of that, and your credit card for the original purchase will be charged. Also, you won't get your appliances today. Let's set up another day. How's Tuesday?"

"Oh good, thank you. Tuesday works."

Tuesday came, but the appliances didn't. I called BestBuy, and it turns out that they couldn't deliver Tuesday, so they moved it to Thursday, December 17.

Okay, Thursday.

On Wednesday I got a text giving me a delivery window which was to from 2:24 to 5:24. On Thursday, at about 4:51 I got a call from BestBuy asking permission to charge my credit card for removal of 2 items. I said "Go ahead. But my delivery window is almost closed, and I haven't heard from the delivery people."

5 minutes later, the delivery team showed up. But they had no record of removal on their worksheet. So, they offered to move the appliances to another room, or out to the curb where "it won't last the night. Some scavenger will come and take it for scrap.". So I asked them to move the fridge to the curb, and I'd get the guy on Kijiji to come and take it to a low-income family.

"Also, there's a problem with the oven. One of the knobs broke off. It came like that. It's damaged. If you want, just refuse delivery, and I'll make a note, and you'll get another one later."

"Okay, yes, I refuse delivery."

"Okay, I'll leave you with your old oven so you at least have that. And I'll take the old fridge to the curb. And I'll wheel the dishwasher and fridge into their spots." (There were 2 delivery people.) Since they didn't, and wouldn't, take the fridge I called BestBuy to get half the removal and recycling fee refunded. I was told the charges would be reversed on my credit card soon.

(Incidentally, the fridge didn't get taken in the night, and the Kijiji guy waited til the next day afternoon to get it. Shortly after he took it, the condo property management company called me because someone complained.)

Fridge Door Reversal - Part 1

Before putting all my food into my fridge, I decided to do the door reversal myself. I quickly ran into problems. At the bottom of the fridge there's a doorstop that must be moved. This doorstop is a metal plate with 2 screw holes. On the front metal piece of the fridge there are two screw holes on each side, and behind them is a little casing with the fridge wheels that also have metal holes. You have to get all three sets of holes aligned to screw the doorstop on. I couldn't get them aligned. I had tilted the fridge back and it was resting on a box so all the weight was off the wheels. It was no good. I still couldn't do it. So I put the doors back on the original way for now. I needed to get the food in the fridge soon, and I needed to eat something, and go grocery shopping before the store closed.

Later on I decided to try it again, but first I'd have to take the rubber stoppers out of the top of the fridge. The rubber stoppers sit on the side of the fridge opposite to the side of the door hinge. You have to take them out, so you can screw the hinge in when you switch sides (and presumably put the stoppers in the other side where the screws used to be.) I tried taking them out. I tried screw drivers, a plastic putty knife, a metal putty knife, thin blades just to get them up a little so I could pull get them out with another tool. I could get them to budge at all. All I was doing was ruining the finish.

Dishwasher Installation - Part 1

Okay, defeated by the door, I decided to install the dishwasher. Uninstalling the old was was easy enough. Installing the new one should just be like that, but in reverse. Nope. It turns out you need a special dishwasher installation kit that doesn't come with the dishwasher. Why not?! They know I'm going to need one! (Ugh. If Apple ever gets into major appliances, Whirlpool better watch out.)

Oven Delivery and Fridge Door Reversal - Part 2

Okay, December 29th. Back on the phone with BestBuy to get my new oven. They gave me a date of Saturday, January 2nd. "Okay, that's fine." I ask about the cost of dishwasher installation, and fridge door reversal. I decide that it's probably worth it. I also mention that I had paid for 2 appliances to be removed, but only one was. I tell them I had called to get the second fee refunded. I'm told "You will see the charge reversed on your credit card in 7 to 10 business days. Due to holidays and weekends, we're at day 6. So wait a few days." At this time, I asked for dishwasher installation service.

"Okay, the dishwasher installation will have to happen a week later, on Friday, January 8th. We'll try to get the door reversal done when the oven gets delivered, but no guarantees. It may be a separate thing."

So on Saturday, January 2nd (as I write this) the delivery people show up (well past the end of the window, without having called me.) (Now we're up to 4 service people.) They take away my old stove, and bring the new one in. I ask them if they have "door reversal on their worksheet." Indeed they do. So I quickly empty the fridge. I figure for them it'll be a 15 minute job.

It took over an hour. And they had the same problems I did. They wound up breaking the rubber stoppers and having to just drill new holes. They had to turn the fridge on its back. The guy was like "I don't believe this! The holes don't line up!"

Eventually, with a lot of grunting (and probably some French swearing) they got it done. The guy appologized and took some pictures and said "I'm going to put this in my notes. This shouldn't have been that hard. You should get a discount or something."

I really don't want to get on the phone with BestBuy again. But I have a feeling the fridge door won't completely close on its own to make the seal. I imagine I'll be making a warranty claim.

Let's see how the dishwasher installation goes!

Update: The dishwasher guy called on the day he was supposed to show up on Friday, January 8th to ask if he could delay until Saturday, January 9th. That was fine. So, he shows up on the 9th and asks where the dishwasher will plug in. I show him. It's in the basement. (There's a hole in the floor behind where the dishwasher is.) The guy looks at it and says "Oooohhhh. The cable won't go that far. Do you still have the cable from the last one?"

"No because I'm an idiot and I assumed that an electrical appliance would come with its own cable."

"Yeah it's just dishwashers."

"If Apple ever gets into the home appliance game, Whirlpool is done."

"Okay, anyway if you order a cable from Home Depot, then text me and we'll set up another appointment. It'll take 20 minutes tops."

He left and I went to and found a good 10 meter cable and ordered it. I picked it up (curbside pickup) the next day. Then I texted him and told him I got a long cable. (We're up to 5 service people for appliances.)

No reply.

Maybe just telling hime I got a longer cable wasn't enough. Maybe I needed to actually ask for an appointment. I texted back.

No reply.

Now, as of January 14th to at least February 11th Ontario has moved from lockdown to stay-at-home. So, he may not be able to even come for another 4 weeks. Not that I can know until he gets back to me.

Update: The dishwasher guy came and installed the dishwasher on Monday, January 18th. (Same guy as before, but who knows who he's been in contact with in the last week, so I'm counting him again. 6 service people for the appliances.)

But my removal fee has not been refunded. So I called BestBuy (Wednesday, January 20th. I'm told "You case has gone to the head office on January 15th, and you should get an email about it by Friday evening."

Yeah. Right. Okay. Whatever you say.

I also tell him the story of the door reversal, and how the delivery guys had such a hard time doing that and took pictures and said they'd send them in. I asked if there was anything in the file about that.


Final Update (hopefully): I did get the email from head office on Friday that said the refund should show up on my credit card in 3 to 5 business days. It did show up on Monday, the th of January. So now, this chapter is complete. The appliacens have arrived, been installed, paid for, registered, and reviewed on And the whole process only took 2 months, and caused 6 service people to come into my house during a global pandemic.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Open Office Environments

Today there's a real move in the office world to move to open-concept offices: offices with either very low walls, or no walls at all. I think the idea is that it fosters collaboration. There's the often-cited example of how the idea for the iPhone (or something equally revolutionary) coming out of a chance encounter in the hallway.

But there is so much wrong with this that seems obvious to me (but apparently not to decision makers). For example, using the iPhone-hallway-conversation story, the idea likely came before the hallway conversation; it was simply first expressed then. Who knows under what circumstances the actual idea happened under? (I'd wager it was when someone was taking a shower.) Then, that's just the idea. The implementation would take hundreds of hours of engineering, which would require a lot of concentration.

Sure. Ideas can take place in the hallway. But don't bring the hallway to my office. I can't concentrate with you collaborating all around me.

To me, this is obvious. I don't work as well with constant distractions. Neither do you.

Dilbert's boss announces the move to an open office environment. Dilbert sarcastically agrees it's a good idea and asks for some dripping water and crying babies. The boss calls him stupid. Dilbert counters that maybe he'll be smarter with more distractions.

For a lot of people I talk to, this is far from obvious. Whenever I hear someone say "I think I'd work better in an open-office plan" I want to alert HR. If someone thinks they work better with distractions, they probably cheated to get into the organization because they probably aren't smart enough to have earned it.

But, like the person who thinks they do their best work under pressure (who is probably confusing the feelings of accomplishment and "phewf" after completion, rather than evaluating hurried work against a control situation without the pressure), there are a lot of people who seem to think they work better with distractions. People are notoriously bad at knowing these sorts of things. Luckily we have science to tell us what really happens in an open-office plan.

Hearing someone say "I think I'd work better in that kind of environment" is like hearing someone say "I think I'd enjoy a diet of Pepsi and Doritos.". Yeah, it would be nice in the moment, but over time the effects would be horrible. How do we know? Not feelings; Science!

It seems I can't go two months without seeing another article repeating the same obviousness: open-plan offices are bad for productivity. I want to keep this blog post as a place to collect them. I'll add them as I find them. Feel free to add any other articles, supporting or not, in the comments.

Before I get to the list of articles, I'll post this above. In fact, this one article sums up everything in the list. There are lots of links to specific articles and studies in this one article. It's kinda all right here:What Science Says About Open Offices. FTA:

To start, a review of over 300 papers from 67 journals found that open office layouts “were found to be highly significant in affecting occupant productivity.” It added that “sound and acoustic strategies should be given high priority in office design to achieve a high degree of occupant productivity.” In a similar vein, another review of more than 100 studies on open offices found that the layout consistently led to lower rates of concentration and focus, and a third paper, which analyzed more than 50 surveys on open offices, found consistent complaints about noise and interruptions.

And now for the list:

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Dad Jokes

Puns get a bad rap in our culture. Someone makes a pun and some people laugh while others groan and tell the teller of the pun to shut up.

Since people hate puns so much, it's easy to see why we call them "lonely forever-single guy jokes".

NO! We call them "dad jokes".

Why do we associate this particular brand of humour with men who have (presumably) won the love of a woman, successfully procreated and stuck around? Does becoming a dad give you a bad sense of humour? Or do men with that sense of humour have an easier time attracting women for long term relationships? Is it correlation or causation? And if it's causation, what causes what? Is there an evolutionary explanation? Instead of Googling it, I'll offer my suggestions.

What's interesting about this question is that girls develop verbal skills earlier than boys do. Women are generally considered to be more verbal and talkative than men (whether true or not). If this is the case, shouldn't women have more word-based humour? Shouldn't we associate puns and groaners with moms instead of dads?

Note that I am not saying that non-dads can't make "dad jokes". (I'm not a father, but I am an uncle, so my brother-in-law tells me my jokes are "puncles".) It's just that we associate these jokes so strongly with dads.

First let's define some terms:

Dad joke
Genereally a bad pun - word-based joke. Example:

Child: "Dad, I'm hungry."

Dad: "Hello, Hungry. Nice to meet you."

A male who has procreated
A father who has stuck around and loves his kids and his kids generally see as a fun guy. (This last part is highly debatable.)

Second, some self disclosure: One part of fatherhood that I've almost always felt prepared for is the dad jokes. Those who know me well know this. Recently someone said to me "Andrew, with all your dad jokes, I have to wonder how many illegitimate children you have out there!" Exhibit A: see my There Are No Anchovies blog post.

You might suggest that "dad" rhymes with "bad". To that I'd answer "Okay, but why not just call them 'bad jokes'?" Why do we associate those jokes specifically with dads?

Now let's take a look at some potential reasons dads make dad jokes:

Women love puns

If you've ever seen any listicles on what women like in a man all kinds of qualities come up. But one seems to be very high on the list in just about any survey: a sense of humour. (It's often said that men also want a woman with a sense of humour, but women are looking for a man that can make them laugh, and men like a woman that they can make laugh.)

Based on my personal, non-scientific observations women tend to read more fiction. They talk and text on the phone more. They appreciate - nay - are moved by poetry. They probably have a larger vocabulary. They're more word-oriented than men are. It makes sense that word-based humour would appeal to women.

So a man who can come up with puns on the spot would be hot stuff in a woman's eyes. She should marry him faster than he can make another pun.

It has been my experience that women find my jokes a lot more funny than most men do. Back in college I would make a pun and guys would say "Shut up, Andrew. You're just not funny." But they had to raise their voices to be heard over the laughter of the women around. The laughter of the women encouraged me to ignore the men. (Perhaps the men were just jealous?)

Women hate puns but assume that other women hate puns more than they do

Perhaps my above observations about women being word-oriented was just generalization? The idea that women have twenty thousand words to say in a day and that men only have five thousand has been debunked. Perhaps the laughter of women I mentioned above was from polite women? Perhaps women don't like puns all that much. Perhaps a woman may think "He thinks he's funny. He's not. In fact, his puns kinda drive me up the wall. But you can't have everything. I'm going to have to put up with something unattractive. I guess I can put up with his jokes. At least our kids will find him funny. For a while. And until then, his chances of cheating are pretty darned small. I mean, what woman would find him funny?"

If this hypothesis is true, then a lot of women are using this strategy.

It's also worth noting that this is the hypothesis most consistent with my observations and experience.

Being a dad creates that kind of humour

Look at the different ways moms and dads deal with their kids - especially very young kids. Dads seem to have a fun streak. They fly their kids around like an airplane. They hang their kids upside down and make their kids giggle uncontrollably. They blow on their babies' stomachs making a farting noise. Laughter ensues. Generating laughter feels great. It's addicting. They want more. So, in a positive feedback loop, dads do more of this kind of thing.

But what's a dad to do when their kid becomes too big to fly around like an airplane? When peek-a-boo looses is lustre?

They go cognitive. Dad jokes are pretty safe. Less chance of injury to the self than slap-stick. (And let's face it, you're getting too old for that kind of thing.) Teasing runs the risk of hurting your child's feelings. But puns? The only victim there is the helpless, innocent English (or other) language.

(Side note: I'm told that in Quebec dad jokes are called "Joke de papa". So, this isn't just an English thing.)

At first, kids find these puns funny. But then they grow up, and instead of laughter, they cause groans. (I guess you could say that when that happens the kids are all "groan up". (Exhibit B).)

It's an age thing

Earlier I mentioned that in college my male peers did not appreciate my particular brand of humour. But women did. A few years later, and I've noticed that many more men appreciate my humour. I am hanging out with older men than I did in college - both non-dads of dad age, and dads. (They're probably stealing my material. They're welcome to it.)

So, either I've gotten better, or older men appreciate my humour.

I don't think I've gotten better. In fact, I'm still using the same old material. To me, the best puns are the ones that occur to me on the spot. They don't necessarily get the laughs, but they make me feel the best, like I've beat a hard level in a video game. There's a sense of accomplishment.

It could be that I remind college-age people of their dads. The boys groan and the girls laugh as they're reminded of their own dads. Then eventually, men grow to appreciate their dads as much as the women did and start to find my puns funny.

Or it could just be that the 20 year old male brain hasn't developed enough to appreciate puns.

Either way, it seems that eventually men grow to appreciate dad-jokes. By that time they may have kids of their own, and they start making their own dad jokes.

The Repeated-Exposure Effect

Coupled with the "It's and age thing" hypothesis, it's possible that many people of a certain age make "dad" jokes, but you've mostly heard them from your dad. Same with your friends; they heard them from their dads, and yours whenever they hung out at your house. But you didn't hear them from non-dads because you didn't hang out with many non-dads (of a certain age) when you a kid.

A "wrongly persecuted group"

This is not my reason, but a friend suggested that his may be the case.

As I write this, I realize I forget what that means. All I can think of is a re-wording of the Repeated-Exposure effect. Ie: lots of people make puns, but you mostly hear them from your dad, so using the Availability Heuristic, you mis-attribute them specifically to dads.

The Vicious Cycle Effect

It is often said that women are attracted to men that subconsciously remind them of their fathers - or at least some aspect of their fathers. It could be his hair, or lack thereof. It could be his nose, or the exact position or colour of his eyes. And it could most certainly be his sense of humour.

Long ago, some guy who was strong and fast enough to become head of his tribe also happened, by mere coincidence, to have a terrible sense of humour. ("How did cavemen say 'goodbye' to each other?" "I'll B.C.-in' ya!"* Nyuk nyuk nyuk.) Despite those kinds of jokes, he did manage to attract the cave-women in his group and procreate to his heart's content. While passing on his survival genes, he also passed on his joke-generating genes, likely on the Y-chromosome. (The joke-appreciating gene is likely on the X-chromosome allowing everyone to know how bad dad jokes are.) His sons also managed to survive and pass on the joke-generating genes.

Meanwhile his daughters were subconsciously attracted to other men who carried the joke-generating gene.

This continued for many years, each generation exacerbating the problem continuing on the vicious cycle until we arrive at our current situation: dads can't help but to tell bad jokes.

* (Exhibit C)

So there are my hypothesis as to why we associate puns and groaners with dads.