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Family says Amazon shipped fake product, refuses refund until ‘correct’ item returned

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When Matthew Legault graduated from high school in June, his parents figured they’d recognize his hard work by buying the parts he needed to build his own personal computer.

They placed an order with Amazon and it arrived at their Calgary home quickly.

But when Matthew opened the graphics card — a $690 part — he discovered the plastic casing had been hollowed out and filled with a putty-like substance to give it weight.

“It was actually a bit of a shock,” he said. “Everything looked pretty official up to the point where I pulled it out and took a second look.”

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The real shock came, though, when Matthew’s father tried to get a refund.

François Legault followed Amazon’s return instructions and sent the item back, expecting a refund.

Instead, Amazon said in an email there would be no refund until the “correct” item was shipped back.

On top of that, the Amazon rep said the returned, fake item had been thrown out, to protect other employees.

“It was absurd,” said François. “It’s just a piece of plastic so I doubt there’s any danger to their employees. And secondly … now they’ve destroyed the piece of evidence.”

Amazon repeatedly claimed it had shipped the correct item.

Legault repeatedly explained he had received and returned “a complete fake” and attached photos to prove it.

Telling customers the item they’ve returned has been disposed of is a great way for Amazon to “end the conversation,” said marketing specialist Marc Gordon, who coaches both small companies and big-name multinationals on interacting with customers.

The fake graphic card, filled with a putty-like substance to provide weight, that Matthew says arrived from Amazon. (Submitted by François Legault)

But “that’s impacting the quality of service they provide.”

Service, Gordon says, may be affected as customers who flocked to the online retailer during the pandemic return to brick-and-mortar stores, forcing Amazon to re-organize.

“They don’t have the time or the resources to deal with every customer complaint, every inquiry, every problem,” said Gordon. “They want this done and they want to move on to something else.”

In an email, Amazon’s Canada spokesperson Ryma Boussoufa said: “Not every returned product can or may legally be resold or donated for hygienic or product safety reasons. In those cases, we will recycle products where possible.”

‘Slap in the face’

François says his history with Amazon should have stood for something — he’s been a loyal customer for years, and rarely returned anything.

“The box had obviously been tampered with,” he said. “We kind of expected that Amazon would have better quality controls, better procedures to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen.”

Amazon’s global profit growth slowed between 2020 and 2021. Industry experts estimate this trend will continue. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

“They’re basically saying that we’re trying to defraud them,” said François. “We’ve never had a pattern of returning things, or anything of that nature.”

An Amazon rep had, at one point, said the decision was final.

“That’s a little bit of a slap in the face,” said François. “They’re basically shutting this down and saying that there’s nothing else to discuss. And unfortunately, I beg to differ.”

After Go Public made inquiries, the company refunded François and apologized for taking almost five months to resolve the “unfortunate incident.”

Amazon reported global profits in 2020 of over $386 billion US, a 38 per cent increase over the previous year. It doubled its workforce between 2020 and 2021 and rapidly expanded.

But last year, growth was slower — a 22 per cent increase over 2020 — and growth for the current year is expected to be slower again, according to industry experts.

Matthew games on the personal computer he built with parts ordered from Amazon. The Legaults eventually bought its graphics card from a local store. (Colin Hall/CBC)

Last month, Amazon confirmed it would be laying off some 10,000 employees worldwide.

The returns customers make every day are a major expense for Amazon, Gordon says.

Online retailers in general lose an average of 21 per cent of a returned item’s original value — once costs for shipping, processing and restocking are factored in — according to a U.S.-based study by Pitney Bowes earlier this year.

Go Public asked what percentage of orders were returned last year, but Boussoufa wrote that the company doesn’t release that data “for reasons of commercial sensitivity.”

More returned products ‘disposed’

Go Public heard from more than half a dozen others who said they, too, were frustrated by Amazon’s policy of disposing returned items before a dispute was resolved.

Allan Papernick of St. Davids, Ont., ordered a $280 Citizen watch last April. But it was difficult to read the black hands on its black face, so he sent it back.

Amazon repeatedly told Papernick he had sent back an “older model” watch, which it had then discarded. It asked him to return the correct item.

“If I was scamming them, then let them send that item back to me,” he said. “Getting rid of it is a weird business practice, to say the least.”

He threatened to sue for $10,000 and received a full refund the next day.

Amazon did not answer when Go Public asked whether all outgoing packages are individually inspected to confirm the contents. But every returned item is carefully inspected “to accurately determine its condition,” according to Boussoufa, the spokesperson.

Other customers, like Justin Tabbert of Ottawa, say they will never again order from Amazon after similar, frustrating experiences.

 

Advice from a customer experience expert

Marc Gordon shares a tip to give consumers the upper hand when opening an Amazon package. 

He spent about $700 ordering RAM for his computer last April, but says his package had been opened and was missing half the order.

When he sent it back, Amazon complained it was “missing components.” It ended up resending the full order, but the issue’s still not resolved.

“Now they are saying they will charge me for another [order], because in their view, they’ve sent two,” said Tabbert.

Make an unboxing video

Gordon says Amazon’s tactic of insisting a customer return an item they say they don’t have is designed to put the onus back on the customer to fix the issue.

“The problem is, it doesn’t work,” said Gordon. “You just end up with a really irate customer who feels that they’ve been taken advantage of, or misled or screwed over.”

He says anyone worried about not being able to get a refund if an online order has problems, should make an unboxing video. Have someone grab their phone and film when a package is opened.

“If it’s exactly what they ordered, great, they can delete the video,” said Gordon. “If it is, in fact, something that’s been substituted or fake or fraudulent, well, it’s right there in the video. There’s no denying it.”

As for Matthew Legault, the high school grad is happy his computer is up and running — he uses it to play games with friends and is learning how to write computer code.

His father says the Amazon dispute has taught him something, too.

“This whole experience has really motivated me to shop local again,” said  François.

Amazon has “lost a lot of business from us.”

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Shorten Your Job Search by Writing a Compelling Value Proposition Letter — Part 1

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Value Proposition Letter

This is part one of a two-part series on writing a compelling value proposition letter. 

There are many activities involved in job searching, such as networking, having an active result-oriented LinkedIn profile and resume, applying to jobs, interviewing, etc., to name a few. Aside from these job search activities, have you considered sending an unsolicited value proposition letter to potential employers?

What I am proposing is a networking technique that you should find comfortable. It is especially effective if you work in a niche industry (e.g., biofuels, pet insurance, medical tourism, hydroponic farming) where there are few players or if you possess a set of highly sought-after skills (e.g., cloud computing, network security, auditing, fluency in multiple languages).  

A value proposition letter’s objective is to show how your skills and experience can solve, or at least be part of solving, an employer’s problem(s) (READ: pain points).

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“Yes, in next week’s column.” (Answer to the question you are now asking yourself, “Will I be providing examples of a value proposition letter?”)

“Yes, actually, several.” (Answer to, ” Have you ever hired someone who sent you an unsolicited value proposition letter?“)

In order to write a value proposition letter that will resonate with your target companies, begin by doing some research while asking yourself, “What are some of the possible problems they are facing? How can I be of assistance in solving them?” For example, is it your belief that long delivery times are causing an e-commerce site you visited to lose customers to Amazon? As a supply chain analyst with 15 years of experience, how would you address this issue?

Writing a value proposition letter requires using your right brain, where your emotions, intuition, and creativity reside. This is not a fill-in-the-blanks exercise. It is essential that your letter appears human-written, something that is becoming increasingly rare with AI technology becoming more easily available. It is you, not AI technology, who is offering your skills, knowledge, and experience to help an employer address pain points they might be experiencing, according to your best guess.

Something to note; your “pain point guess” guess may point out something the company’s leadership team has never considered. In my above example, it is possible the company’s leadership team may not have thought their long delivery times discourage potential customers from purchasing their products. (Do they look at their cart abandonment rate?)

The most common pain points employers face today are:

  • Keeping and expanding market share.
  • Enhancing profitability.
  • Increasing productivity and efficiency.
  • Keeping up with and implementing technological advancements.
  • Supply chain issues causing order fulfillment issues.
  • Managing employee benefits and payroll costs.
  • Recruiting and retaining qualified employees with the right mindset and attitude.

If you have the skills and experience (READ: a proven track record) to address any of the above-mentioned pain points, then most employers will view you as gold.

With all the talk about a recession on the horizon, how can your skills and experience help employers weather the predicted economic slump?

Once you have identified your targeted employer’s potential pain points, you can start crafting your value proposition letter to sell your skills and experience to address those pain points.

There are four elements to a pain letter.

  1. Hook
  2. The employer’s pain point, which is either explicit or you believe exists.
  3. Persuasively describe how your skills and experience can address the employer’s pain point.
  4. Closing

It is essential to show that you understand the company’s goals and values. For instance, not every company is concerned with increasing its market share. Some companies are more focused on becoming environmentally sustainable or being seen as socially conscious. With this understanding, you will be on point explaining, confidently, how your combination of skills, experience, and knowledge can help the company achieve its goals.

Also important is being specific! Use numbers to quantify your achievements and results. Your opinion has no place in a value proposition letter. Likewise, your opinion has no place in your job search. At all times, you need to provide a solid, undeniable reason why you would be a value add to an employer, not your opinions of yourself, which is what most job seekers do. Numbers, the language of business, helps employers see your impact in your previous roles.

TIP: Throughout your job search, you do not want employers struggling to figure out what value you can add to their organization, hence why they should hire you. Therefore, use quantitative numbers throughout your LinkedIn profile, resume, cover letter and when interviewing… and in your value proposition letter.

A compelling value proposition letter convincingly conveys to potential employers how you would be a value add to their company. In my next column, I will provide examples of a value proposition letter, as promised earlier. In the meantime, compile a list of employers you would like to work for (Why not go one step further and find the contact information of those most likely to make hiring decisions, such as managers, directors, and C-suite executives?), their possible pain points, and how your skills and experience can ease their pain.

______________________________________________________________

 

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to artoffindingwork@gmail.com.

 

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All You Need to Know About Book Translation

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Book Translation

If you’re considering translating a book or other written material into another language, it’s important to understand the process behind successful book translation. To translate books is not as simple as switching out words from one language to another; instead, the nuances of tone and meaning must be carefully captured in both languages for the full effect of the original work to be preserved.

 

What Is a Literary Translator?

A literary translator is a professional translator who has studied the particular language and culture of the source material, as well as the target language. This specialized training helps them to accurately capture both the meaning and spirit of the original work in their translations. They must also be able to read complex texts quickly and recognize subtle nuances in language that may not be immediately obvious.

 

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What Does Book Translation Involve?

The process of book translation starts with a thorough review and analysis of the source material. The translator must identify key concepts, understand the context, and recognize any potential ambiguities in order to provide an accurate translation. It is also important for the translator to have a deep understanding of the target language, including idioms and cultural references.

Once the source text is analyzed, the translator begins translating it into the target language in a way that preserves both meaning and tone of the original work. This process can be time consuming and difficult, as the translator must ensure accuracy while conveying subtle nuances. After completing their translation, the translator then proofreads and edits it to ensure accuracy before delivering the finished product.

 

What Are the Benefits of Book Translation?

Book translation has many benefits, both for authors and readers. Translating books can help widen an author’s reach, allowing them to connect with a larger audience around the world. Translations can also help readers access texts they would otherwise be unable to, as not all languages have the same wealth of published material.

Book translation can also be an important tool in preserving and sharing cultural heritage. Translating books from one language to another helps keep traditions alive while providing a new audience with access to knowledge and ideas they may not have been able to experience otherwise.

 

Reason to Hire a Professional Literary Translator

Ensure Accuracy

When translating a text, accuracy is paramount. When you hire an experienced professional literary translator, you can rest assured that your text will be translated accurately and with an attention to detail that cannot be achieved by machine translation or even less experienced human translators.

Professional literary translators are familiar with the nuances of language and how certain words, phrases, and expressions can be interpreted differently depending on the context. They will craft each sentence precisely to ensure the intended meaning is accurately conveyed.

 

Time Efficiency

Hiring a professional literary translator helps you save time and energy when translating complex texts. Professional translators specialize in executing projects quickly and efficiently, so they are more likely to provide you with a completed draft sooner than if you were to attempt it yourself.

Moreover, they are well-versed in the tools of their trade, so they will be able to quickly identify any potential errors or discrepancies that may arise during the process. This helps to ensure that your project meets deadlines and is delivered on time and of the highest quality.

 

Preserve the Original Intention and Meaning of the Text

One of the most important benefits of hiring a professional literary translator is that they can preserve your text’s original intention and meaning. Professional translators have an in-depth knowledge of both languages, so they can craft each sentence with precision to preserve the authenticity of your text.

By considering the cultural, linguistic, and literary differences between both languages, they can accurately convey the intended meaning while ensuring that it is relevant and appropriate for its intended audience. This ensures that the translated version of your text preserves its original message and intent.

 

Guarantee Quality

When you hire a professional literary translator, you can rest assured that the finished product will be of the highest quality. Professional translators are highly trained and have years of experience in the industry, so they know how to deliver high-quality translations that meet your expectations.

In addition, they usually employ a range of quality control measures to guarantee the accuracy, so you can be sure that the translated version of your text is free from mistakes and inconsistencies. This guarantees that the finished product is up to your standards and conveys the intended meaning accurately.

 

Cost Effective

Although hiring a professional literary translator can be expensive, you can save money in the long run. Professional translators offer competitive rates and flexible payment options that make it easier to budget for your project. In addition, their experience and expertise mean they are likely to complete projects faster than if you were to attempt it yourself, so you can save on time and labor costs.

 

Cater to a Variety of Genres

Professional literary translators are versed in a variety of literary genres, including novels, short stories, plays, and poems. This means that they can accurately translate texts from one language to another no matter what genre it is written in.

This expertise enables them to adjust their translation style according to the book’s genre they are working with, ensuring that the translation is accurate and appropriate for its intended audience. This is especially important when it comes to taking into account subtle differences in language use between different genres.

 

Conclusion

Book translation can be a great way for authors and publishers to expand their reach while also providing readers with access to knowledge and ideas worldwide. When finding the right translator for your project, be sure to hire a professional who is experienced in their field and understands the industry standards for quality control. With the right translator, your book will be accurately translated and ready to reach a new audience.

With that said, hiring a professional literary translator is an important step toward book translation success and can make all the difference in how your project turns out. By following these tips, you’ll be able to find the right translator for your project and ensure that it is completed accurately and efficiently.

 

 

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Kevin Carmichael: High interest rates bringing balance after years of housing overspending

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Housing starts
Housing starts

Higher interest rates hurt, but they might be bringing some balance to Canada’s economy after years of overspending on housing.

Statistics Canada on Jan. 31 said gross domestic product increased 0.1 per cent in November from the previous month, evidence the economy was approaching stall speed at year-end, just as the Bank of Canada predicted it would be.

It was the weakest month-to-month increase since January 2022, and there’s little reason to anticipate a re-acceleration in December. Statistics Canada said preliminary data suggest GDP was unchanged last month, which implies the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.6 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter.

That would be a slightly faster pace than the 1.3 per cent rate the Bank of Canada predicted in its latest economic outlook, but still considerably slower than the 2.9 per cent rate in the third quarter and the 3.2 per cent rate in the first quarter. The Bank of Canada’s interest rate increases — four percentage points between March and December with an additional quarter-point lift last week — are starting to bite.

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“Growth has come to a crawl,” Charles St-Arnaud, chief economist at Alberta Central, said in a note to his clients.

Canada is coming off a long high of housing-led growth. It was fun for a while, especially for those who thought they had purchased a place to live only to discover they are now sitting on fortunes.

 A crane stands between condo buildings in Toronto. A crane stands between condo buildings in Toronto.
A crane stands between condo buildings in Toronto.

Population growth and limited supply were responsible for some of the demand that drove housing prices to rare heights over the past decade, but much of it was caused by ultra-low interest rates and a decision by households to pile up dangerous levels of debt. Now, interest rates are higher than some new homebuyers have ever seen, and the housing bubble is deflating.

One of the main causes of the decline in GDP in November was residential building construction, which dropped 1.8 per cent, the seventh decline in eight months and the biggest since unionized construction workers went on strike in May 2022.

Canada could have used two periods of ultra-low interest rates and extraordinary levels of fiscal stimulus to turn itself into a modern economy. And perhaps it took some steps in that direction, as some of that money will have sloshed into productive enterprises and provided backing for some talented entrepreneurs. But we mostly bought existing homes and condos, enriching the real estate industry, perhaps the economy’s least productive sector.

A notable moment in Canadian economic history occurred in December 2008. As the Great Recession gathered force, and central banks pushed borrowing costs to zero, the “real estate and rental and leasing” industry generated output equivalent to 11.7 per cent of GDP, surpassing the contribution from manufacturing for the first time, according to Statistics Canada data.

The country’s brokers, agents and landlords didn’t look back. Their share of GDP climbed to 14.8 per cent in April 2020, when many other industries were forced to shut down, and central banks had once again dropped interest rates to essentially zero to stave off deflation in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. (Manufacturing’s share was 8.5 per cent.)

Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem told the House finance committee in November that he intends to conduct an analysis of how monetary policy was deployed during the pandemic. The central bank for the first time used quantitative easing (QE), an approach to stimulus that involves creating money to purchase financial assets.

Macklem was one of the most active users among the major central banks, and it’s fair to wonder whether he was too active, given the additional froth that was whipped up in housing markets. Shelter costs were an important contributor to the inflation surge that prompted the most aggressive series of interest rate increases in the Bank of Canada’s history.

Canada’s central bankers dislike taking responsibility for what happens at the micro level in the economy, saying their only job is to keep inflation at around two per cent. That’s true, but the problem with that dodge is that there is now sufficient real-world evidence to suggest the distortions created by zero interest rates should be considered against the desire to achieve a certain inflation target.

In some ways, last year wiped out more than a decade of such distortions. The benchmark interest rate is now back to where it was in 2008, before the Great Recession. And, perhaps as a result, economic gravity is reasserting itself.

Manufacturing will probably never be the economic engine it was a generation ago, but at 9.4 per cent of GDP, it’s still below its pre-pandemic level of around 10 per cent. There’s room to grow, although higher borrowing costs and an economic downturn will make that harder in the short term.

A more positive sign is that a couple of industries that will be key to future growth — and probably geared to structural changes in the economy rather than short-term interest rates — continue to claim a bigger share of the economy.

Companies that provide services related to information technology — think Montreal-based CGI Inc., which builds computer systems for companies and governments — now generate about 5.6 per cent of Canada’s GDP, which is more than oil and gas and the most since Statistics Canada started measuring the industry’s output in 2007, when the percentage was about 4.3 per cent.

At the higher end of what is very loosely described as the innovation economy, companies that provide professional, scientific and technical services generated output worth $136.8 billion in November, the equivalent of 6.6 per cent of Canada’s $2.1-trillion economy and a record.

Combined, IT services and professional and technical services now account for about 12 per cent of the economy. That’s getting close to real estate, which has dropped to 12.9 per cent, the lowest since February 2020, and nearing the 11.4 per cent recorded in early 2008. We’ve almost worked off the excesses of one crisis. There’s still some rebalancing to do.

• Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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