Skip to main content

Life is good. What Is there to rant about?

The Rant Man in his glory!

The Daily Rant is about the trials and tribulations of everyday urban life living in Edmonton, Alberta. We live in modern times where life is a blur so we need to slow things down.

Bit of an introduction is in order: No, I’m not the raving, ranting “Looney Bird by any stretch of the imagination. I’m rather a mild-mannered, sensitive computer geek and family man: I will share my quirky comments, opinions and noisy rants on various subjects on my blog.

My daily commute by bus and train allows me observe life and express my opinions on various topics: World news, sports, technology, music, entertainmentcomputerspolitics, environment, social issues, lifestylebusiness etc.

Check out other sections including My Top 10 Rants, TV Movie Rants and Quotes.

As I vocalize on these topics that pique my interest, I hope you find it engaging and informative. Feel free to leave comments and share some constructive feedback. Thanks for reading!

More about my website and me can be found here.

Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Trade Dispute Ensues…. What’s Next Down The Pipeline?

Nothing like a childish kindergarten brawl between politicians involving our precious liquid: oil and wine. The B.C. government stalls the development of Kinder Morgan pipeline and now a inter-provincial trade dispute ensues with Alberta Premier, Rachel Notley. I thought it was a signed “done deal” back in 2016? Not sure boycotting consumer goods and services in retaliation is the right answer.

The pipeline is economic boon for all of Canada

Premier John Horgan, B.C. premier may have a “cooler head”, but his idea to delay the pipeline is ill conceived. Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is delayed due to the proposed ban of increased bitumen shipments from Alberta. Seriously? I believe the legal document was signed and federally approved so tad late to be changing your mind. I don’t care if a re-election is pending and you need more votes. I can understand the potential environmental impact, but bitumen has been safely traveling down the pipelines for 65 years. Besides, there are over 50 stipulations, conditions and clauses attached to the agreement. Got it covered. Maybe B.C. citizens don’t mind being gouged at the gas pump? Cut off their supply of oil and gas and they will be in trouble. Not to mention Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline will produce thousands of jobs that are desperately needed for the battered industry.

Retaliation..Tit for Tat

All this back and forth retaliation seems childish. Rachel Notley and the Alberta government suspended power purchase talks with British Columbia. Take that. It will cost B.C. Hydro roughly $500 million. This may affect my electricity rate in Alberta. Last Tuesday, Alberta banned the import of B.C. wine through the Alberta Gaming And Liquor Commission. Does the Alberta government still have control over the flow of liquor since they privatized it? Hardly. This will mostly hurt Alberta consumers and small wine retailers, not the B.C. economy. Compare that to the oil and gas industry which makes up about 20% of Alberta’s GDP. I’m glad I stocked up on a some B.C. wine. Time to switch to one of Alberta’s excellent craft beers or switch to something from the Niagara region. At least my wine is flowing into my glass while the oil and gas industry stands on shaky ground.

Other boycotts?

In the meantime, what other potential retaliation can we explore? I have to hand it to John Horgan for not retaliating with his own set of trade bans and suspensions. British Columbians could close up theirs fruit shops, markets and orchards to Albertans. No more fresh B.C. fruit for you! Maybe Albertans can stop vacationing in B.C. and retiring in B.C. interior. No more clogging up the Trans-Canada highway with RV’s, ski bums and semi-retired baby boomers making their trek through the B.C. Rockies.  Edmontonians will be forced to stay home and shudder in the cold. There goes B.C.’s tourism, retail and hospitality industry. Besides B.C. is too expensive anyway. Doesn’t B.C. stand for “Bring Cash”?

Can’t the federal government intervene?

Notley believes the boycott is unconstitutional and she is mostly right; You can’t simply ignore the law and stall the pipeline expansion. You can’t really blame her for reaching out to Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. Legal action and injunction may be the answer unless the federal government can do something. Trudeau vows that Trans Mountain pipeline project will be built, but should we trust his word? Don’t forget he committed to climate change so it sends a mixed message to climate campaigners, environmentalist and aboriginal people. So far he has done little, but speak and be heckled at forums across the country. Pretty controversial project so he needs to find a middle ground.

All we can do is wait for this trade dispute between B.C. and Alberta to ends peacefully. Bit of stalemate. Consumers and retailers shouldn’t be caught in the middle of the political power struggle. Lets hope that oil ….and wine starts flowing again. Where’s Trudeau when we need him?

Online shopping with credit card is the norm

Is Human-less Self-Serve Shopping Here To Stay?

Retail shopping experience continues to evolve with human-less self-serve and customer service. Buying stuff through websites involves little human interaction and we have largely adopted this shopping experience.  Should this be the same for customer service and buying something from a brick and mortar store? Self-serve checkouts and “Grab and Go” grocery services are getting popular, and may replace actual cashiers. Amazon Go, a revolutionary self-serve, checkout-free grocery store, changes the way we shop for products and services. Employees can essentially be replaced by smart technology that can track and record your purchases through a cellphone app. With advances in AI and automation, we may even see more robots replacing humans in concierge, delivery and customer service.

Self-service at checkout

Pretty common to find self-service checkouts at your chain supermarkets. When it works, it is great and hassle-free. Most customers are largely happy to scan their own purchases, pack their own bag(s) and make their way home. Not sure about you, but I find the machines finicky at times or they need to be refined. I feel like I am always under scrutiny if something goes wrong with essentially human-less retail experience. Once in awhile, there is a glitch and I am humiliated by a loud computer voice: “I am sorry you have an unexpected item in the bagging area. Please remove it.” Goodness, I don’t know how that piece of garlic missed your sensor. don’t blame me! You have to wonder about the one person assigned to the self-service area watching the customers like hawks. I don’t envy their thankless job.

Amazon Go

Amazon Go is a new kind of retail store in Seattle with advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. Use your Amazon Go app with your phone when you enter the store and take advantage of their “Just Walk Out Shopping experience”. Pretty amazing! Just take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout or chatty cashier to deal with! Not sure about you, but I get tired of exchanging awkward, insincere pleasantries with the cashier anyway. That brings up the point of a system of cameras, scanners and infrared sensors tracking you and your movements. Big brother is watching! Forget about attempting to steal or pocket an item. what about the cases where some products were not charged on your bill? Blame it on the “smart” technology or technical glitch. However, if you were shoplifting, remember they may have you on tape. Just comes to sense of morals- Whether it was intentional or not, I have a feeling that box of Tampax will be on the house. Tencent recently opened an unmanned pop-up store in Shanghai with a similar concept.

The rise of online shopping and “grab and go”

App-based digital payments are the way of the future whether you buy something on an eCommerce website or buy a coffee from your Starbucks mobile app. No more nefarious customer stealing or shoplifting, but you have to wonder how sound and “smart” is the technology. You buy most things online nowadays with little or no human intervention. Bound to be glitches or human error. When something does go wrong, you still have to phone a 1-888 number. Hopefully, you will talk to a “real” person on the line and not a robot. You can use a ride-sharing app to schedule a ride to the airport, or order a pizza to be delivered to your house.

Easy to shop online with shopping cart

Okay, you may have to tip and exchange pleasantries with the driver. Several shopping chains like Real Canadian Superstore, Wal-mart and Save-On Foods, have “Click and Collect” checkout-free shopping experience. Again, little human interaction. There is still a ‘human error’ factor in the equation, but from a customer’s standpoint, it is “grab and go” or “point and click”. This is mostly about saving money and time for the customer.

Web self-service and live chats

Who needs human touch with traditional customer service by telephone, when we have live chats and web customer self-service? The main advantage is once it has been created, it can replace a number of customer service agents and support staff. Okay, it is not the same as talking to a real person, but this is the disturbing trend. Many companies are using employee self-service web portals so there is little contact with human resource personnel. The problem is it may take more time to get the proper context and find the right answers. Granted most things can be answered through FAQ’s on the website or through a live chat with an agent. Cellphone, utility providers and automobile dealers are some of the few businesses using this technology. Does it allow to skip the queue and save time? No, not really, but it does allow you to multi-task while you work away at your computer.

Robot concierge and customer service

Hotels around the U.S. are introducing robots to handle repetitive tasks like room service deliveries, entertaining guests, and even giving directions. Seriously. Savioke’s Relay robot was debuted in 2014 at a California hotel. The 3- foot tall autonomous robot, nicknamed Botlr, weighs 90 pounds and makes deliveries. How do you give tips? Does it “flip you the bird” if you short-change it? I can imagine it using several sensors, 3D cameras and Wi-Fi to operate the elevators and navigate the halls. I can see robots enhancing the guest experience and increasing efficiency for some things. There is always going to be demanding and annoying guests that will request the same things. If they get out of line, shoot them with a stun gun.

As companies downsize and find ways to save money, self-service and human-less customer service seems inevitable. Little or no human contact is the norm when shopping for products or services. Online shopping and automation continues this trend. It is happening now with human-less, checkout-free shopping at Amazon Go. This is a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but it is plausible that your next job could be filled by a robot.