Archive for October, 2012

Volkswagen Golf TDi

October 26, 2012

I drive a fair bit, about 40-50 thousand kilometers each year, three-quarters of it highway.  My last car got reasonable mileage, but when it was time to replace it, I opted for a Diesel due to the superior highway mileage.  There are not many companies making Diesel-powered cars for the North American market.

Why didn’t I choose a hybrid?  First, the price differential on the hybrid and a regular engine is far greater than the Diesel-gas spread.  Second, hybrids sacrifice a lot of trunk space to fit the batteries.  Third, there is the uncertainty with the life of the batteries and when they need replacing, I cannot imagine that they are cheap.

My Golf TDi came with VW’s Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) Automatic transmission.  Yes, I know that a stick is more fun to drive, particularly with the amazing torque that the Diesel engine has, but when I get stuck in stop-and-go traffic (“Hey Toronto, have you driven the 401 lately?”) my left hip gets quite sore.  Yes, I drove a stick for seven years.  Back to the DSG.  If you are an aggressive driver, the DSG is an amazing transmission.  There was an episode of the British driving show “Top Gear” that staged a drag race between two identical VWs, save for the transmission:  The host, Jeremy Clarkson, drove the DSG and Stig, a professional race car driver, drove a stick.  The DSG won handily.  It’s a dual clutch automatic that times its shift perfectly.  It is a derivative of a Porsche design for race cars and is an engineering marvel.

However, if you are a middle aged, careful driver who is adverse to racing along residential streets at more than 50 kph, the DSG will drive you bonkers, if not shake the living crap out of you.  The DSG cannot decide which gear to be in and shifts back and forth, doing its worst to simulate the effect of a 16-year-old attempting to drive a standard for the first time.  I’ve asked my dealership to do something about this every time I’ve been in for service and the problem persists.  I even had one service adviser say that nothing could be done, that’s just how the DSG is and get used to it.  One time when I pushed for a solution, a service adviser decided to check to see if there had been a programming upgrade and found that there had been one issued months earlier and had been available during several of my service appointments.  (It’s nice to see the other advisers had been so attentive.)  The programming upgrade did not alleviate the problem.

The last time I was in, the service adviser said, “You’re overdue for a transmission flush,” suggesting that would cure the problem.  (It didn’t.)  I knew nothing about this service requirement.  When I buy a car, I ask about the full required service routine and was told nothing about the transmission flush.  In fact, it wasn’t even on the board outlining the required service and maintenance that hangs on the wall of the service department.  This service is required on the DSG every 60,000 km and costs $500.  I drove my last three gasoline-powered cars between 250,000 and 300,000 km, and I expected to drive the Diesel about 50% farther, given how Diesel engines last.  This transmission is going to cost me more than twice what I paid to get a Diesel.

Don’t bother speaking with the Service Manager.  It seems that their sole responsibility in life and to the dealership is to make lame excuses.  I’ve never met a service manager that could manage to produce service or had a clue what customer service is.  (My last four cars have all been different brands, and I’ve encountered close to a dozen service managers;  they’re all cut from the same cloth.)

And here is a final, minor annoyance.  In my past three cars, each driven 7+ years, I have only needed at most two sets of floormats,  The VW mats have worn through in under two years!

The dealership will not be getting me for any more service calls, unless a recall or warranty repair, and Canadian Tire will be my source for floormats.

“Das Auto? Nein, Das Scheiße”

Shoppers Drug Mart

October 26, 2012

Most SDM stores have been renovated so that when you enter, you have no choice but to go through the Cosmetics Department.  Why is that necessary?  It is an assault on my sinuses and sometimes, when I forget to take a deep breath, I have an allergic reaction.  I suppose they want me to run over to buy an antihistamine!  Many workplaces have restrictions on the wearing of perfumes and colognes, but SDM needs to inflict this on every customer.  I suppose with the insanely high margins are on this crap, it makes sense to try to direct traffic to entice people into buying.  Department Stores like The Bay do the same thing:  The first few acres as you enter from the mall are cosmetics.  Narcissism is hugely profitable for the retailers.

Lately, it seems like SDM has replaced all their personnel in supply chain management (SCM) with the people that messed up Loblaws SCM and were recently laid off.  I cannot believe how many empty spaces there are on the shelves.  I swear, at least half, maybe two-thirds of the razor blades were out of stock and many that were there did not have shelf tags to tell you the price.

SDM’s house brand, Life, has two 908g bottles of Whey Protein.  One has a big “24g” on the upper right corner of the label and the other has “37g” in the same spot.  I normally buy the 24g product, but one day, it was not in stock so I bought the 37g product.  Guess what I discovered?  The only reason there is 37g of protein in each scoop-sized serving of the 37g product is that the scoop is 50% bigger.  I compared the nutritional  labels:  Calories, Sodium, Potassium, EVERYTHING, was 50% higher.  The products are identical, except for (1) the scoop size and (2) the price.  Yes, they charge $5 more for the same volume and weight of product with the larger scoop.  What a ripoff!

Finally, customer service is non-existent, except in cosmetics, of course – those products have the margins.  I looked for someone on the floor to help about something that was not on the shelf and I was directed to the pharmacist.  I was reasonably sure the pharmacist wouldn’t be able to help me, but she dutifully paged a merchandiser, not just once, but three times (!) before someone came out from the back to assist me.  In the meantime, there are two cosmetics consultants standing there chatting with each other.  Heck, if I couldn’t find my mascara, I’d have been helped in no time!

They should change the store name to Shoppers Cosmetics Mart and Wannabee Grocery Store (Oh, and we do have a Pharmacy at the back)