Under the thumb of the Wellington cartel

Trip Start Aug 25, 2013
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Flag of Canada  , British Columbia,
Tuesday, November 26, 2013



Some of you know I live in East Vancouver. And I love it.  Vancouver areas have their stereotypes, of course. The rich housewives of North Vancouver peek out at bears in their backyards from the high windows of their mansions. The smell of old money fills the streets of West Point Grey. The young, hip crowd of Kitsilano emerge from their giant stacks of organically grown Kale to hit the beach for yoga at sunrise, while the yuppies of Yaletown grab their caffeine hit to go – time is money.

East Vancouver, on the other hand, is gritty. From the streets of little India to the bustle of commercial drive and the independent stores and restaurants of Main Street… it's diverse. Alive. Home.

It has a reputation for being a little rougher around the edges… But in all seriousness, it’s nothing compared to the wider problem affecting the entire city. I can’t keep silent about it even one second longer.

You see… the entire greater Vancouver area exists under the thumb of a group of vicious cartels.

I’m serious. And I’m about to get a little ranty.

The first of these vicious cartels strikes you at your most vulnerable. Hungry, tired, wallet clutched tightly on a credit-card-melting visit to the local grocery store. Unless you are one of those unfortunate lactose-intolerant persons (God bless your poor cotton socks).

The dairy cartel. Whyyyy issss cheeeseeee soooo expensiiiiive!!?!? It’s a controlled market. Minimum prices set by the dairy cartel on dairy products in Canada, and heavy taxes on imported product driving up the price of even kraft singles to astronomical prices. For a country that has cheese curds as part of one of its national dishes… it sure is hard to get a hold of dairy for a reasonable amount of cheddar (baddom-tish).

Speaking of cheddar… that place you store it. The bank. Don’t even get me started on banks in Canada. It’s a conspiracy. It’s ridiculous.

DEAR CANADA. IT’S 2013. WHY FOR YOU STILL USE CHEQUES?!?

"Employers can now set up this NEW THING CALLED DIRECT DEPOSIT for your pay!" WOOAAAAAAAAH! WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY EH!!! You know how you set up direct deposit with your employer? YOU GIVE THEM A VOID CHEQUE. *Facepalm*

There are BANK FEES. Visa debit cards DON’T WORK LIKE CREDIT CARDS because the systems CAN’T HANDLE IT YET. What’s the point of making them Visa debit cards?!?! SOME STORES DON’T ACCEPT THEM AT ALL. ATM cards are super picky about what machines you can use. You have to tell the teller at the retail store if you’re using debit, credit or Visa debit because apparently they have to magically tell the machine what to expect at their end or it won’t work! Sigh.

All this bank drama is doing my head in. I need a glass of wine. Better take out a loan to get one, because wine here is SO EXPENSIVE. Due to the liquor cartel. AKA the Government. Yup, you heard me. The Government. Most liquor stores in BC are “BC liquor”. Who owns them? The Government! Liquor is super controlled here, there is Government price fixing, and no retailers are offered a wholesale discount. There’s a markup of over 100% so expect to pay about $10 for any glass of cheap wine here in BC. And to buy it, you need not one but TWO pieces of valid ID. I’m not even kidding.

Speaking of lack of competition and market control, I’ll briefly mention two other exorbitantly priced things in Canadia. The first being phone plans – they’ve only just outlawed THREE YEAR PHONE PLANS. Two year plans are new here! Imagine signing up for three years! There’s also a big furore because American phone companies are planning to cross the border and bring in *gasp* competition! The second thing is car insurance. You have a choice between one government owned provider and… nothing. Car insurance here is redoooonkulous.

But the final cartel makes me cry. And I can’t understand why it exists.

The strangest expensive thing here in Vancouver.

Gumboots. AKA Wellingtons, for you non-Aussies out there.

In Vancouver it rains a lot. You get by in your ole sneakers or ballet flats for awhile, fooling yourself that you don’t need wellies. You get a nice pair of work boots that keep you elevated enough to stay dry, right? Oh no. It wears you down, man. It starts with a little wet patch at the end of your toes and before you know it, it feels like you’ve strapped two full kiddie pools to your feet.

ALL I WANT IS FEET THAT ARE DRY.

So I go to a shoe store. And I have a choice of 'Hunter’ brand wellies… or… ‘Hunter’ brand wellies. Now don’t get me wrong. Hunter wellies are beautiful. But they’re not worth $150 - $200. So I move on. And the next store sells… Hunter wellies, or… Hunter wellies.

IT’S A HUNTER MARKET MONOPOLY. If you’re lucky you’ll find a store selling Das boots for $65 - $90 or stumble across some $40 gumboots in Real Canadian Superstore.

And you’ll convince yourself that $40 is a bargain. Or that if you’re going to spend $40 you might as well spend $65 to get prettier, warmer wellies, because well the rain and cold are different here right? You need them to last. You’ll wear them all the time. And then if you’re going to spend $65 you might as well spend $90 cos those ones are taller. And if you’re going to spend $90, $150 is ok because they’ll be HUNTER and you’ll have the option of so many different lovely wellie socks to slip inside them and fold over the top all lovely and warm and… well it’s a slippery slope, eh?

But it’s worn me down, friends. I have my $65 wellies which I love and adore on rainy, cold days. I bought them with my Visa debit card which doesn’t work as a credit card and costs me an exorbitant amount of bank fees. I wore them out when I needed cheering up on a rainy night and got my $10 glass of Yellowtail (to obtain it I handed over both my BC licence and my Australian credit card bearing my embossed name and my signature because I can’t POSSIBLY have forged TWO cards). It washed down my $15 hunk of dry cheese and a cracker.

But I let out a little contented sigh. Because despite living under the thumb of these vicious, vicious cartels… I love living here. It’s worth it.

And hey. My feet are toasty warm and dry. What more can I ask for?

You win this round, Vancouver...
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