The longer I’m a global citizen, travelling the globe and finding what differences there are between countries, the more amazed I become. Today’s object lesson came from those jape-a-minute practical jokers, the main Canadian cell (Mobile, whatever) phone companies. Let me enlighten my one remaining reader. I have a GSM phone. One that works in just about every country on Earth. Tri-band, three frequencies, great range. Yet GSM phones are only supported by one Canadian company, Rogers. Bell, Telus, and all the sub variants of these companies, including Virgin Koodoo and Fido don’t support GSM-only phones. They have gone straight to LTE, 3G and 4G networks. So if you need a SIM card for a retro GSM phone, don’t waste your time with at least three of the ‘big four’.
There’s also the bit of news that GSM phones are being phased out in Australia. Vodaphone is the last supplier of GSM pre-paid SIM cards down under and will be shutting down their last GSM network in March 2018. So there’s just enough of a window for me to have a working phone while I’m there. In the new year I’ll be in the market for a new phone because otherwise I’ll have no means of emergency contact. Not that I’m that bothered, but Mrs S does fret when she can’t get hold of me in ten seconds flat. Besides, I like to talk to people rather than text at them.
One of the issues up here in the not so frozen north is that Canada is so mired in protectionism it acts as a direct hit on the bank accounts of the general populace. Calling long distance is a credit killer, and you would be amazed how short a distance that can be. Every cell phone ‘plan’ I’ve come across is designed to get at least CAD$50 out of a users pocket every month as a bargain basement figure. Then there are all the other little charges that hungrily suckle on your financial teat that were abandoned in Europe back in the early 00’s. I’m loathe to say ‘rip off’ but it’s funny how the layers of costs mount up.
As for those who trot out “Well, Canada is a big country…” to justify the cell phone companies glaring omissions and excesses; that’s a very poor excuse. My considered opinion is that Canadian monopolies and their subsidiaries just can’t be bothered to cater to the market sector that neither wants nor needs to upgrade their cell phone every three years. Indeed, they could be missing out because at present there is a very strong ‘retro’ movement. Even if the planned shut down of 2G networks goes ahead. A lot of people only want their phones to make calls and texts. To them, Data is just a character from Star Trek- the next generation played by Brent Spiner in heavy makeup. Besides, who wants to ruin their eyes staring at tiny screens all the time? Do your eyeballs ache a lot? That could be a clue you spend waaay too much time checking the mindless garbage on Twatter.
By way of a personal observation, two of the people served before me at the four cell phone stores I visited today bought old style flip phones. That’s two out of seven people in total without me going after a GSM compatible prepaid SIM card. With my input that’s just over a third of the total customer base in a random Sunday sample. Now there’s a message in there for those who would but see.
This sort of thing is true for many other services and goods this side of the border. Especially when every attempt to import has certain folk raising their arms in horror and shouting about ‘protecting Canadian Jobs’, which probably don’t really exist because Canada has huge manpower overheads and a relatively high minimum wage, which means many goods are simply too expensive to manufacture this side of the 49th parallel. Then the Government gets lobbied into leaving economic power with a few large companies who have had what some might call a stranglehold on the Canadian economy since the early days of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Take for example cheese. A recently successful motion to allow specialist French imports raised a loud outcry because, claimed the protectionists, it would ‘cost Canadian jobs’. Even when Canadian dairy manufacturers can only just managed a very average Brie or Camembert. Although they can manage a halfway decent Aged Cheddar, but not much more. But don’t ask about the near tasteless ersatz yellow rubber substance called ‘Monterey Jack’.
Now when it comes to cheese, the French rather bake the quiche, with the Italians and Germans coming in a close second and third and the British finishing a very creditable 4th, having clawed their back way up from the bottom of the cheese producing pile where they had languished for far too long. Well, that’s my estimation, having spent quite some time around British, French and German street markets and the local fare on offer. Same for beer. It’s only since the mid 00’s that we’ve seen a proper resurgence of what are called ‘craft’ beers over here.
Talking about markets, that’s another thing Canadians don’t really understand. Street markets, which are found throughout the rest of the civilised world, are almost unknown up here. The last time I went into a Vancouver Christmas street market, it wasn’t really a market at all as I understand them. It was a theme park designers idea of a street market. It was fenced off, you had to pay fifteen bucks each to get in to get in and it was full of tourist trap garbage. Nothing like the open access, noise, bustle and sheer doggoned fun of a proper street market. Far too twee. Far too restrictive, and there lies the crux of the matter. Something will have to give.
Anyway. I now have what I need, my tomato plants are beginning to develop fruit and the deadline for stepping onto that plane for a sunshine filled festive season in the fabled land of Oz draws ever closer. Yeah.