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Apple Pay Expands to Support More Canadian Banks

Apple Pay Expands to Support More Canadian Banks

By Simon Hung

More owners of Apple Pay-supported devices will be able to take advantage of the service, as Apple has finally struck a deal with many of Canada’s largest banks to support their cards on Apple’s payment platform to make mobile payments up to $100.00 at participating merchants.

While Apple Pay has been available in Canada since November 2015, the service was exclusive to American Express cardholders, since Apple could not reach an agreement with financial institutions before the initial launch.

The following cards and institutions now support Apple Pay, as per Apple's support page:

  • American Express
  • ATB (MasterCard credit cards)
  • Canadian Tire (MasterCard credit cards)
  • CIBC (MasterCard and Visa credit cards, Interac debit cards)
  • RBC (MasterCard and Visa credit cards, Interac debit cards)

Integration with BMO, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust is planned for the coming months, likely to be completed by June.

One of the headlining features when the iPhone 6 was unveiled in 2014, Apple Pay is Apple’s digital wallet platform, aimed at providing a secure payment method with select Apple devices at merchants who support contactless (NFC) payments. MasterCard Canada estimates that 92% of Canada’s top retailers are currently equipped to handle payments without a physical credit card.

More Canadians will be able to make mobile payments using Apple Pay.

Our resident forums guru Tom has been using Apple Pay since its Canadian launch in November 2015. In fact, he signed up for an American Express card just so he could use the service and he couldn’t be happier with the expansion:

“I use it [Apple Pay] almost every day, mainly due to the fact that Tim Hortons and McDonald’s accept it...but I’ve also used it at Chapters, Staples, Indigo and the Apple Store. I’ve already added my RBC debit card and will add every other card I have as it becomes supported.”

The main benefit with Apple Pay is security, as Apple partnered with Visa, MasterCard and other financial services to develop a token system when paying with Apple Pay. Rather than transferring credit card information directly, Apple Pay uses an anonymous digital token to authenticate payments and verifies the user with their fingerprint via Touch ID. The entire process is quick and does not require an exchange with a physical card. There are a few of us in the office who want to try it, as many of us hope that this brings us a step closer to eliminating credit cards from our wallets and purses. Plus, the idea of paying for items with a smartphone does appeal to our affection for technology. As Tom puts it:

“My phone is the one thing I always have on me…getting that payment machine to beep using my phone is oddly satisfying!”

On the other hand, while Apple Pay is convenient, it’s only supported with select iOS devices. If you use other mobile operating systems, you’ll have to stick with cash, plastic or use alternative digital wallets. Major competitors like Android Pay and Samsung Pay aren't yet available in Canada and time will tell if Apple Pay's popularity will lead to widespread adoption of digital wallets -- according to a study by GfK Canada, mobile payments accounted for a mere 3% of all payments in 2015. Plus, those who bank with smaller institutions or credit unions may have to wait a while before they are supported by Apple Pay. In fact, many have reported that PC Financial cards are not currently supported, even though most of their services are provided by CIBC.

Apple Watch owners finally have a reasonable use for their expensive gadget.

Apple Pay is currently compatible with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, 6S and 6S Plus, iPhone SE, iPad Air 2, Mini 3, iPad Pro (iPads only support in-app payments) and for those who like to show off, the Apple Watch -- click here to learn more about how to set up your device with Apple Pay.

Will you be trying Apple Pay? Do you have a fiery hatred for all things Apple? Maybe you think mobile payments will be as successful as Rob Schneider's film career? Share your thoughts in the comments and let us know if you'll ever abandon cash or plastic in favour of digital wallets!

IKEA Pop-up Store Coming to Downtown Toronto

IKEA Pop-up Store Coming to Downtown Toronto

By Simon Hung

IKEA is one of the most popular stores on RedFlagDeals and one of the major gripes for those who live in Downtown Toronto is the inaccessibility of some locations. Sure, there are three IKEA locations in the Greater Toronto Area, but they each take at least an hour of planning and travel, making it a hassle for many city folk and condo dwellers living downtown.

Luckily, that’s all about to change...sort of. Starting Friday, May 13, IKEA will be opening a pop-up store in the heart of Downtown Toronto at 363 King Street West, but don’t expect to purchase a STOCKHOLM sofa or BRIMNES bed frame, because this store will focus solely on food.

IKEA previously occupied the space in 2011, where they showcased home décor and artist-inspired products. Since then, the store is frequently leased to companies such as Coca-Cola to showcase unique products and experiences.

IKEA previously occupied the King Street retail space in 2011.

Described by IKEA as “a space designed to take consumers through a culinary journey,” the store is part of their new food-focused #StartFooding global campaign and will feature over 50 IKEA products for sale.

Other neat features include a fully-furnished IKEA kitchen, two Google Cardboard viewers where consumers can experience four different IKEA kitchens in virtual reality and most importantly -- meatball carts with meat and veggie ball samples. Food sampling is available every day from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM, while culinary students from George Brown College will perform chef demos from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM on Saturdays.

The store will be open from Friday, May 13 to Thursday, May 26, from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM on weekdays and 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekends (the store will be closed on Victoria Day). You can learn more about the store here and view IKEA's official press release here.

Do you plan on visiting this unique IKEA store? Be sure to let us know in the comments and check back later to find updates about the space and what it has to offer!

Microsoft to End Free Windows 10 Upgrades on July 29; Will Cost $119.00 USD Thereafter

Microsoft to End Free Windows 10 Upgrades on July 29; Will Cost $119.00 USD Thereafter

By Simon Hung

Windows 7 and 8 make up more than 50% of the Windows market share and many users have had the pleasure of being harassed to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, as Microsoft has offered existing Windows 7 and 8 users a free upgrade to Windows 10 since July of last year -- you can read details about the free upgrade here.

The bothersome notification that greets Windows 7 users upon start-up.

In a blog post published May 5, Microsoft has kindly reminded users that the free offer will be coming to an end on July 29 and will subsequently charge $119.00 for a full version of Windows 10 Home thereafter. It isn’t specified what currency the pricing is, but we suspect that it’s USD, since $119.00 USD is the current US price for a Windows 10 license, which means the Canadian price will likely cost $149.00 CAD. Those who have no plans to upgrade will also be delighted to learn that Microsoft will stop nagging you to upgrade once the date elapses.

In the same post, Microsoft boasts about the growing market share of Windows 10, as the operating system is now running on 300 million devices worldwide and has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any version of Windows. Despite its growth, Windows 10 only represents about 13% of the overall desktop market share, undoubtedly aided by the free upgrade offer. The upgrade period also coincidentally ends before the release of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which will add a slew of new features and fix many bugs.

While the end of the free upgrade period was announced last year, this friendly nudge to upgrade also seems to be an attempt to increase the Windows 10 market share, as many Windows 7/8 users have been putting off upgrading to the new operating system because change is always awful.

Microsoft has gone all-in with Windows 10, implementing it in their complete line of products, including Surface tablets, Lumia smartphones and the Xbox One. However, the operating system has also received some criticism for automatically sending user data to Microsoft -- a setting that is turned on by default. Nonetheless, they’ve been heavily campaigning for users to upgrade, including creating a video starring Microsoft executive Bryan Roper to outline ten reasons why you should upgrade to Windows 10.

Bryan Roper and Bryan Roper's hat outline the reasons you should upgrade to Windows 10.

If you’re currently running Windows 7 or 8, do you plan on upgrading? Let us know by voting in the poll below and sharing your thoughts in the comments!

Bell Acquires Manitoba Telecom MTS for $3.9 Billion

Bell Acquires Manitoba Telecom MTS for $3.9 Billion

By Simon Hung

It’s been a bittersweet week for the residents of Manitoba, as only days after the Winnipeg Jets won the #2 position NHL Draft, it was announced on May 2 that BCE Inc., parent company of Bell Canada, would acquire Manitoba-based telecom MTS in an all-stock deal worth $3.9 billion. In a subsequent transaction, BCE also sold one-third of MTS’ post-paid subscribers and retail outlets to TELUS in order to keep competition at a healthy level.

At the time of the announcement, MTS had roughly 50% of the wireless market share in Manitoba with nearly 500,000 customers. In fact, Manitoba was one of the few provinces in Canada (along with Saskatchewan and Quebec) who had a fourth major telecom provider in competition with the ‘Big Three’ of Rogers, Bell and TELUS. As a result, Manitoba had one of the lowest wireless rates in Canada, as the competition from a fourth provider drove down prices.

The news has some MTS customers worried about their telecom rates, as many have speculated that the loss of a fourth competitor will cause prices to increase. Back in January, we wrote about the unpopular decision by the Big Three to raise prices in response to a weak Canadian dollar and it looks like Manitoba may also feel the repercussions if prices do indeed increase.

Jay Forbes, President and CEO of MTS, was optimistic of the acquisition, saying "We've had a very competitive marketplace here in Manitoba and I don't see that changing…what I do see changing is that level of technology that our customers are going to have access to…they will enjoy access to better technologies, better internet access, better data."

That doesn’t have many convinced, as Michael Geist, an Internet and e-Commerce Law Professor at the University of Ottawa, wrote in his blog, “The deal therefore represents a huge blow to the government’s hopes for a more competitive wireless marketplace. Instead, one of Canada’s lower cost provinces is likely to see increased prices and the market continues to consolidate around the big three providers.”

As a result of this deal, Bell is expected to be the largest telecom provider in Manitoba, as their market share in the province will grow from 10% to about 40%, while Rogers and TELUS will both will hold around 30%.

The deal is still pending approval from the CRTC, Competition Bureau and Industry Canada, and is expected to close in late 2016 or early 2017. Until then, Manitobans can forget about this news by remembering that the Winnipeg Jets will (probably) enjoy the services of Patrik Laine for the next decade.

Manitoba's feeling of winning the #2 pick in the NHL Draft and Bell's acquisition of MTS.

If you're from Manitoba and an MTS customer, be sure to share your thoughts on the acquisition in the comments! You can also browse our Ongoing Deals forum, where you'll find a number of threads dedicated to finding the best Internet, television and wireless deals from the major providers.

Great Staycation Idea: Exploring Storybrooke in Steveston, BC!

By Michelle Hopkins

Steveston is renowned across Richmond and beyond for being a quaint fishing village filled with unique boutique shops and restaurants -- but Hollywood has also discovered this popular riverfront village! If you are a fan of ABC’s hit television series, Once Upon a Time, you might just recognize The Steveston Cannery Café. Once an old bunk house for cannery workers in the late 19th century, it now stars as Granny’s Diner in the picturesque mythical town of Storybrooke, Maine.

If you are in town at the right time, you might be lucky enough to spot some of the show’s big stars like Ginnifer Goodwin (Snow White), Jennifer Morrison (Emma Swan), Lana Parrilla (Evil Queen) and Robert Carlyle (Rumpelstiltskin).

You can also take home a little slice of Storybrooke. Merchants and coffee shops have embraced the fairy-tale show, one which transforms Steveston into an American town several weeks each year. Your first stop is the Visitor Centre at 3811 Moncton Street. This is where you will find the largest selection of Disney-themed Once Upon a Time souvenirs – everything from t-shirts, sweat shirts, fleece blankets, hats, mugs, magnets, posters and more.

"Since the show started filming in 2011, the increase in local visitors and visitors from all over the world, who come specifically because of the show, has gone up by 60 per cent,” says Lori Getz, visitor services manager, Tourism Richmond. “We sell all sorts of Disney licensed merchandise and it sells extremely well."

It doesn’t stop there. Several other merchants have jump onto the show’s craze. A couple of storefronts down from the Visitor Centre is the Candy Dish. Besides its dizzying array of sweet treats, this old fashioned candy store sells chocolate Evil Queen and Wicked Witch apples, Rumpelstiltskin castle, Emma’s dark swan, Prince Charming sword and homemade Snow White fudge and more.

Then, head over to the Village Books & Coffee House and sip on a Dark Swan latte. Or go to the Steveston Coffee Co. for an Emma or Henry (named for Henry Mills, who is played by Jared Gilmore) hot chocolate.

The store It’s Posh doubles as Mr. Gold Pawnbroker and Antiquities Dealer. In this gift shop you’ll discover an assortment of items that celebrate the show -- from replica jewelry such as Mister Gold’s dagger necklace, Emma Swan’s necklace, Regina’s Tree of Life (Evil Queen), Storybrooke pocket watch, candles, postcards, wooden signs and more.

So next time you plan a visit to Steveston, pick up your Once Upon a Time free self-guided walking tour map and bring home mementos from one of the most popular fairy tale shows on television.

Netflix Titles Available in Canada But Not in the United States

Netflix Titles Available in Canada But Not in the United States

By Simon Hung

It’s easy to feel a little jealousy towards our neighbours in the United States. After all, they have NHL playoff teams, Google Fiber Internet, unlimited McDonald's fries and perhaps their most enviable asset -- a larger Netflix library.

Some Canadians aren't happy that Netflix is cracking down on the use of VPN services to circumvent geo-blocked content. Plus, the news that they’ll be increasing monthly rates on grandfathered plans has many subscribers in a tizzy. In fact, over 40% of users who voted in our poll said that they’ll be cancelling their Netflix subscription once the rate increases.

Before you send a tube of glitter to their headquarters to show your frustration, take solace in the fact that the Canadian Netflix does have content that’s unavailable to Americans. It's a small victory, but we've listed a few titles below to help make you feel a little better about our humble Netflix catalogue.

24

24 -- otherwise known as the Jack Bauer Power Hour.

Canadian Netflix users have the pleasure of hearing Kiefer Sutherland utter “damn it” hundreds of times, as the popular series 24 is not available to Americans. The first eight seasons are available to stream, including the seventh season prequel 24: Redemption. However, Netflix does not have 24: Live Another Day, the mini-series that aired in 2014. This shouldn’t bother too many fans, as the series was must-watch TV during its first five seasons, while the later seasons were drawn-out and less engaging.

Batman Begins and The Dark Knight

Infinitely better than Batman & Robin.

Canadians can stream the first two films from Christopher Nolan’s iconic Batman trilogy, which means only you can enjoy Christian Bale’s hoarse Batman voice, Heath Ledger’s legendary Joker portrayal and Katie Holmes’ magical transformation into Maggie Gyllenhaal. Nolan’s Batman trilogy set a new standard for Hollywood superhero films and these two are must-watches for any Batman fan. Nolan’s 2014 science-fiction film Interstellar is also only available in Canada.

Various Leonardo DiCaprio Movies

Unconfirmed footage of Leo's reaction to (finally) winning an Oscar.

Now that Leonardo DiCaprio has finally won his Academy Award, be sure to watch a few of his films to show your support, as he's starred in some incredible movies before his big win. Plus, almost all of his movies on Netflix are not available to stream in the United States, including The Beach, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Titanic and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Community

Community is streets ahead. If you don't know what that means, you're streets behind.

Remove your evil goatee, grab a "baggle" and enroll in a Spanish class at Greendale Community College, because this isn't the darkest timeline since the first four seasons of Community are only available to Canadians. One of the easiest shows to binge watch, the show aired for five seasons before a sixth season was aired exclusively on Yahoo Screen. Despite losing momentum after the earlier seasons, the show has a cult following, hoping they'll make good on their promise of six seasons and a movie.

Ant-Man

What is this, an billboard for ants?!

This is a big small one, as Ant-Man, along with some other movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Iron Man) are available to stream in Canada but not in the US. In fact, Ant-Man is the one of two titles on our list (the other being Titanic) that is currently 100% exclusive to Netflix in Canada.

Happy Gilmore

Adam Sandler's latest movies make us angry, but Happy Gilmore is a classic.

Before Adam Sandler made questionable career choices with Blended, Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy (all of which are also available only in Canada), there was Happy Gilmore, a movie about a mediocre hockey player with a wicked slap shot who goes on to become a golf phenom, inspiring dozens of amateur golfers to seek revenge on their personal incarnations of Shooter McGavin.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Fans of Brooklyn Nine-Nine can stream all three seasons while waiting for the fourth.

An RFD office favourite, this is another easy-to-binge series that is not available to stream in the US. The turnaround time between television broadcast and Netflix availability is also very impressive (Season 3 was on Netflix the day after the season finale aired on television), meaning you won’t have to wait an agonizingly long time to enjoy this series.

Dredd

Do we want to see a sequel to Dredd?

A criminally underrated movie based on the comic book character, this film adaptation was well-received by critics but under-performed at the box office. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel and while a film sequel is unlikely, rumours of a television series have gained steam recently, including a pitch from star Karl Urban. As a Canadian, you can see what the hype is about by streaming the film on Netflix.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop

Slide into this silly comedy the next time you're browsing Netflix.

Before you discredit this entire list because of the inclusion of this movie, note that Paul Blart: Mall Cop currently holds a higher Rotten Tomatoes rating than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (33% vs. 28%). Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a silly comedy with a ridiculous plot and clueless logic, look no further than our favourite Segway-riding goofball.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

We did a Carlton dance when we discovered Fresh Prince wasn't available in the US.

Take a trip to Bel-Air and spend some time chillin' out, maxin' and relaxin', because Canadians can relive this classic 90s sitcom starring Will Smith while Americans are stuck in West Philadelphia, unable to stream the series. All six seasons are available in Canada, which is something that’s worth dancing to.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

"Matt the Radar Technician" recommends streaming Star Wars: The Force Awakens later this year.

The latest Star Wars film isn't technically available to stream on Netflix yet, as it's due to be available about eight month after its theatrical release (around July). But, we know that once it is available, Canadian Netflix will have exclusive streaming rights, so you can re-watch the movie as many times as you like to prepare for the upcoming Rogue One.

Those are some of our favourite Canadian-only Netflix titles, but there are even more great titles that we didn't mention -- Flubber, The Place Beyond the Pines, Gone Girl, The LEGO Movie and Suits are just a few more that Americans can't access. So while the United States may have playoff hockey, affordable fibre optic Internet and a lifetime supply of fries, Canadians do have one thing that beats all of those perks -- a political leader who isn't Donald Trump. Checkmate, Americans.

Note: we used Flixsearch.io and Netflixable.com to search and compare title availability across Netflix regions. Netflix rotates availability on a regular basis, so exclusivity may change depending on when you read our article.

Aeropostale Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Closes All Stores in Canada and 113 in the US

Aeropostale Files for Bankruptcy Protection; Closes All Stores in Canada and 113 in the US

By Kate Musgrove

Aeropostale -- a casual apparel retailer that's particularly popular with teens -- has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US and announced plans to close all of its Canadian stores as well as 113 stores in the US. Store closing sales will start on May 9 in Canada and on May 7 in the US.

Overall, this isn't a huge surprise -- the financial health of Aeropostale has been poor for several years. They lost money for each of the last 13 quarters, and in April, the stock was delisted from the NYSE after dropping to $0.27 US a share, a drop of more than 95% from its value two years ago.

Although they are pulling out of Canada completely, their current plans are to close only 113 of their 739 US stores and ideally move out of bankruptcy protection within six months.

Did you shop at Aeropostale? Will you miss them? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Amazon Quietly Expands Amazon Logistics Delivery Service to Canada

Amazon Quietly Expands Amazon Logistics Delivery Service to Canada

By Simon Hung

We recently wrote about our woes with delivery couriers (which you can read here) and it looks like Amazon is throwing their hat in the delivery ring, as they’ve recently began shipping some orders in Canada using their own delivery service, Amazon Logistics.

Amazon has been testing their delivery service in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York since 2014, contracting their own personnel to deliver Amazon packages instead of using a third-party courier like UPS or FedEx. The company has invested heavily in the service, including purchasing thousands of delivery assets like trucks and leasing 20 Boeing 747 freighter jets in order to expand this venture beyond the United States.

The company has stated that their goal isn’t to compete with other couriers, but to offer a faster delivery option for their customers. The move has worried some financial analysts, as they’ve questioned Amazon’s intentions and fear that this move will increase the struggles of major delivery couriers.

You may see more Amazon-branded vehicles on the street delivering your packages.

On the other hand, the move does make sense for Amazon, as having their own courier service will help alleviate their costs of outsourcing shipping, especially with growing popularity of Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on all orders for subscribers at the price of $79.00 per year.

This move will also help Amazon customers, as it eliminates steps in the logistical process when ordering from Amazon. Instead of having to wait for a courier like UPS to pick up packages from an Amazon warehouse and sort it in their facility, Amazon can sort and expedite packages directly from their own warehouse, bypassing steps that can typically take a couple of days.

Delivery time for our test order via free super saver shipping was an impressive 12 hours.

We tested this new service by placing an order with Amazon.ca on Tuesday, April 26. The account we used was not subscribed to Amazon Prime and we opted to use free super saver shipping. Although a day passed before we received a shipping notification (Wednesday, April 27 at 5:30 PM), the package itself was delivered the next morning at 6:00 AM. The 12-hour delivery time was impressive, especially when compared to previous orders shipped with free super saver shipping via Canada Post. However, our shipping address was located relatively close to a major Amazon warehouse, so your mileage may vary.

Amazon won’t abandon third-party couriers, as they’ll continue to use Canada Post, UPS, FedEx and others to deliver most orders. We aren’t sure if there’s a specific method to have an order delivered with Amazon Logistics, but we speculate that it’s determined by a combination of order size, product availability and address.

The service is in its infancy in Canada, but we can’t help but wonder if they’ll make this service an Amazon Prime exclusive in the future if it does prove to be better than third-parties couriers in an effort to gain more permanent Prime subscribers. Plus, this venture may also be a precursor to Amazon’s crazy yet brilliant plan of delivering packages with drones.

In the meantime, you can click here to learn more about Amazon Logistics or look for the courier abbreviation AMZCA in your Amazon shipping notices to identify if your order is being shipped by Amazon Logistics.

Have you had an Amazon order shipped by Amazon Logistics? How do you think this new venture will affect the other major delivery couriers? Tell us about your experience and share your thoughts in the comments!

May 2016 Video Game Release Dates

May 2016 Video Game Release Dates

By Ambia Staley

May is almost upon us, and that means a brand new month of video games to look forward to! While the release list for May is quite a bit shorter than those in March and April, there are still a few highly anticipated titles being released this month, including Ray Gigant for the PS Vita, Uncharted 4 for the PlayStation 4, and Disney Art Academy for the Nintendo 3DS.

Take a look below to see the full list of May 2016 video game releases:

  • Battleborn (PS4/Xbox One/PC) - May 3
  • Ray Gigant (PS Vita) - May 3
  • Shadow Complex Remastered (PS4/ PC) - May 3
  • Superhot (Xbox One) - May 3
  • The Park (PS4/Xbox One) - May 3
  • Coffin Dodgers (PS4) - May 3
  • Fragments of Him (PS4) - May 3
  • Table Top Racing: World Tour (PS4) - May 3
  • Tropico 5 (PS4) - May 3
  • Kathy Rain (PC/Mac) - May 5
  • Coffin Dodgers (Xbox One) - May 6
  • Ecotone (PC) - May 6
  • Stellaris (PC/Mac/ Linux) - May 9
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End - May 10
  • Goliath (PC) - May 12
  • RefRain - prisim memories - (PC) - May 12
  • Doom (PS4/Xbox One/PC) - May 13
  • Homefront: The Revolution (PS4/Xbox One/PC) - May 17
  • Shadow of the Beast (PS4) - May 17
  • Valkyria Chronicles Remastered (PS4) - May 17
  • htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary (PC) - May 18
  • Lastfight (PC) - May 19
  • The Way (PC) - May 23
  • Overwatch (PS4/Xbox One/PC) - May 24
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (PS4/PS3/Xbox One/Xbox 360/PC) - May 24
  • Total War: Warhammer (PC/Mac/Linux) - May 24
  • The Last Blade 2 (PS4/PS Vita) - May 24
  • Tropico 5 (Xbox One) - May 24
  • Kittypocalypse (Oculus Rift) - May 25
  • Excubitor (PC/Mac/Linux) - May 26
  • Daydreamer: Awakened Edition (PS4) - May 31
  • Dead Island: Definitive Edition (PS4/Xbox One) - May 31
  • The Elder Scrolls Online - Dark Brotherhood (PC/Mac) - May 31
  • One Piece: Burning Blood (Xbox One/PS4/PS Vita) - May 31

Dates TBA:

  • Shadwen (PS4/PC)
  • The Solus Project (Xbox One/PC)

Are you looking forward to getting your hands on any of these titles? Let us know in the comments!

Courier Conundrums: What is RFD's Least Favourite Shipping Courier?

Courier Conundrums: What is RFD's Least Favourite Shipping Courier?

By Simon Hung

Online shopping is one of the pillars of RedFlagDeals, as the convenience of being able order electronics, clothing or unhealthy amounts of candy without having to leave the comfort of your home is wonderful.

Despite the convenience, one of the things that drive us crazier than frigid office temperatures is the ineptitude and inconsistency of shipping couriers. It seems as though bad experiences commonly outweigh the good, whether your expensive gadget is left haphazardly on your porch, your parcel gets brutally damaged, your delivery estimate is delayed, or you receive a slip telling you to go to a warehouse to pick up your package.

A FedEx driver hand-delivered a package to me. I gave him a word of thanks but he dropped it.

Delivery mishaps are all too frequent and after one of our editors experienced a traumatic courier-related catastrophe, we set out to find out if there was any correlation between specific couriers and service.

Shipping couriers are an enigma more puzzling than the blue/black/gold/white dress and seem to be a lightning rod discussion topic in our Shopping Discussion forum (Exhibit A, B, C, D). In an effort to solve this enigma, we conducted a completely unscientific, informal survey within our office. The final results were interesting, though unsurprising, as every participant has had at least one issue with most major couriers.

Purolator and UPS each received 30% of the vote for worst courier (L), while Canada Post received 60% of the vote for the best (R).

Purolator and UPS shared the distinction of being the least favourite couriers among our staff, with each company receiving 30% of the vote. When asked why, a common issue with Purolator was the fact that they often left notices to pick up the package from an inconveniently-located depot (in Toronto, the main Purolator depot is located in Etobicoke, a suburb that requires an hour of travel from the downtown core). One person was even charged extra after asking for a re-delivery:

"They told me they attempted delivery twice, and then told me to pick up the package in a depot 45 minutes away from where I lived. I asked them to deliver it again and was slapped with a $10.00 fee. After calling them, I got the fee "waived" and delivery the next day, but they never credited the $10.00 fee and I had to call twice to get my money back."

Meanwhile, those who voted for UPS were flummoxed by their odd delivery windows and lack of awareness or effort when delivering expensive items. One staffer had a particularly memorable experience, for all the wrong reasons:

"They never ring the doorbell…they just put the item on my doorstep and leave. One time I bought a monitor during a Boxing Day sale and they left the item out in the snow. I was home and randomly checked the front door just in case and discovered my package was half covered in snow."

On the other hand, Canada Post was the popular choice for best courier, garnering 60% of the overall vote. However, many of the votes were merely by default, as the abundance of post office locations makes it less of a headache when you have to pick up your delivery. As many participants pointed out, they were the best choice in a pool of bad choices:

"It's sad that Canada Post is the best but the others are so awful that I know no other choice."

"They can get into my building. I live in an apartment."

"It's a pretty narrow win, but I can't say that Canada Post has actually provided better service than the other couriers, honestly."

"I can pick up at the post office near me. I don't worry about my packages being left on my doorstep and I can pick it up at off hours."

What’s interesting about our in-office results was the disdain for Purolator and tolerance of Canada Post, even though Canada Post owns 91% of Purolator. Conventional wisdom would hope that one day, maybe (just maybe), we’ll be able to pick up Purolator packages from Canada Post locations, but that may make too much sense for it to ever happen.

It's okay. He's a professional.

You've heard what we think, how about you? Answer our polls below to express your opinion on the worst and best couriers and be sure to share your shipping horror stories in the comments!

RFD Shopping Survey -- You Could Win a $50 Gift Card!

RFD Shopping Survey -- You Could Win a $50 Gift Card!

By RedFlagDeals.com Staff

Hi, RedFlagDeals.com readers! We're running a short survey to ask your opinions on shopping in Canada! After you complete the survey, leave a comment letting us know and we'll enter you in a random draw to win a $50 gift card!

Create your own user feedback survey
Big Heart, Small Budget: 10 DIY Mother’s Day Gifts She’ll Love

Big Heart, Small Budget: 10 DIY Mother’s Day Gifts She’ll Love

By Amanda Aikman

Remember, when you were a kid, and your mom would say the gifts that meant the most to her were the ones you made yourself? I am a mom, and I know she really meant it. But by now, she probably has her share of macaroni art and pipe cleaner roses, so it’s time to up your game a little.

With that in mind, we present 10 of our favourite DIY gifts for moms. Some are better suited to crafty types who are well versed in the glue-gun arts; others are aimed at beginners looking for impressive results with minimal effort. All will brighten your mom’s Mother’s Day and remind her why you’re her favourite child.

1. DIY Frame Vases

This one requires power tools and a little know-how, but the end result is a lovely one-of-a-kind piece she’ll be proud to display next to your graduation photo and softball trophies. And once you’ve made this cool frame vase for her, you’ll know what to get her for all subsequent occasions…flowers to put in this cool frame vase!

2. DIY Kitchen Tablet Holder

photo courtesy of TipHero.com

When is a cutting board not a cutting board? When you transform it into this cool kitchen tablet holder, that’s when. Your mom can conveniently reference all of the latest online recipes while she whips you up an amazing family dinner. Win-win.

3. Tub Teas

If your mom likes tea and taking baths, she’ll love these adorable and calming tub teas. After all, you’ve spent years contributing to her stress; the least you could do is contribute to her relaxation now.

4. Egg Carton Roses DIY Lamp Shade

Got an eco-friendly mom with a soft spot for roses? Than this one is for you. Plug in your hot glue gun and start eating a lot of eggs. Before you know it you’ll have a lovely lamp shade fit for the Queen of Hearts (or at least the queen of your heart).

5. 52 Things I Love About You Deck of Cards

photo courtesy of CountryLiving.com

Nothing melts a mom’s heart like her children telling her how much and why they love her. This project might be a little time-consuming, but it’s guaranteed to trump the bouquet of flowers or Pot of Gold chocolates your siblings are going to show up with…and really, isn’t that the point of Mother’s Day?

6. Mason Jar Picture Frame Vase

From candleholders to snow globes to artisanal cocktail vessels, the versatile and affordable Mason jar is constantly being repurposed. This time, it’s donning a coat of paint and a family photograph and becoming a cheery new vase for mom.

7. Fizzy Scented Bath Bombs

photo courtesy of PlaydoughtoPlato.com

What mom wouldn’t love a pretty, sweet-smelling, fizzy bath bomb or two? This project is easy enough for young children to help with (or do for you) and gives you an opportunity to play with shapes and colours to create a customized gift your mother will love.

8. DIY Photo Pendant

For a nostalgic twist, create a pretty, personal gift with photographs of your mom in her youth, of you as a child, or of your mom’s mom. Attach your custom pendant to a charm bracelet or chain, or if your mom’s not into jewellery, turn it into a magnet.

9. Brown Sugar Exfoliating Scrub

Treat your mom to a natural beauty treatment with this handmade brown sugar exfoliating scrub. With just a few ingredients from your pantry, a cute jar and some ribbon, you can whip up a pampering experience that will leave her skin feeling soft and smelling sweet.

10. DIY Vintage Teacup Candles

photo courtesy of HeyGorg.com

Vintage teacups are too lovely to stay packed away in the cupboard waiting for teatime. Pick a favourite to transform into a pretty homemade candle and impress your mom with your refined style and inventive craftiness.

PJ's Pets To Close 27 Stores Across Canada

PJ's Pets To Close 27 Stores Across Canada

By Ambia Staley

Some more bad news on the Canadian retail front, as pet store chain PJ's Pets and Pets Unlimited announced earlier this week that they will be closing 27 stores across Canada.

PJ's currently operates 39 stores across the country. In a press release, company Vice President Brad Hamilton did not give a reason for the closures, but stated, "We are saddened to say that we are closing our doors after almost 50 years of serving the pet community across Canada". The closures span 6 Canadian provinces, including 11 stores in Ontario, 6 in Nova Scotia, and 5 in British Columbia. You can view a full list of closing locations here.

Most locations are expected to begin closing on April 29. Between now and closure, the affected locations are offering 30% off all food, pet supplies, and accessories.

Le Chateau to Close 40 Stores Over The Next 3 Years

Le Chateau to Close 40 Stores Over The Next 3 Years

By Ambia Staley

Struggling Montreal-based retailer, Le Chateau announced this week that it plans to shut down 40 stores over the next 3 years in hopes of recalibrating the brand.

After closing 11 stores in 2015, the retailer still reported a $12.8 million loss over the last year, making it the 5th year in a row that the brand has reported losses. However, this is an improvement over the $38.7 million loss reported in 2014.

The news may come as a surprise to some, as Le Chateau's recent efforts to turn the tide -- including the closures of less profitable stores, renovating others, and refocusing the brand on a more mature audience -- seemed to be a viable plan. Last year, the brand also went to its founder, Herschel Segal, for a $15 million loan in hopes of elevating some of the financial problems.

The news isn't all bad, as online sales increased 34.8% in 2015. However, online sales only account for approximately 10% of Le Chateau's total income. Realizing that retail trends now largely lie with e-shopping, Le Chateau hopes that closing even more under-performing stores and putting more effort into online sales will help turn things around.

Out of the 40 stores to be closed over the next 3 years, 14 are expected to close in 2016. There is still no word on which locations are slated for closure.

Does this new development come as a shock to you? Do you think Le Chateau can prevent succumbing to the same fate as Danier, Mexx, and other failed retailers in Canada? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Microsoft to Stop Manufacturing Xbox 360 Consoles

Microsoft to Stop Manufacturing Xbox 360 Consoles

By Simon Hung

It’s the end of an era. The Xbox 360 has received its final Red Ring of Death, as Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, has announced that the company will stop manufacturing Xbox 360 consoles, effectively discontinuing the console worldwide after ten years of service.

Microsoft has halted production of the Xbox 360.

The move doesn't come as a complete surprise, given the fact that its successor, the Xbox One, has been on the market for almost three years and sales have been lackluster when compared to its competition. Plus, with current generation games having better graphics, the decline of exclusive first-party content and popularity of PC alternatives like Steam, the older hardware was dated and it was only a matter of time before Microsoft would shift their focus solely on the Xbox One to try and regain momentum in the console gaming market. In fact, you could argue that one of the signs of its demise was the fact that Microsoft was offering a mere $4.50 for a functional Xbox 360 console through its trade-in program.

Originally released in November 2005, the Xbox 360 was the first of the seventh generation consoles to come to market and has sold more than 84 million units as of June 2014. Its main competitors, the Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, were introduced one year later and are still currently in production.

It’s a bittersweet move for some, as the console is still popular in North America due to its vast library of games, affordable price and versatility with features such as Netflix streaming. However, Xbox 360 owners shouldn’t worry, as you’ll still be able to play games and use Xbox Live normally. In addition, Microsoft will continue to support the platform:

  • Xbox 360 owners will continue to receive Xbox Live services for their console, such as online multiplayer gaming and parties, access to the apps they use today, and Games with Gold and Deals with Gold.
  • Xbox Live servers that support Xbox 360 services will also remain online and active. Xbox 360 fans can continue to play their favorite games with the full support of Xbox Live.
  • Gamers will also be able to continue to buy over 4,000 Xbox 360 games or Xbox 360 accessories at retail and through our Xbox 360 store online, while supplies last.
  • Any Xbox 360 hardware will still be supported via Xbox Support.
  • Xbox One owners will be able to continue to enjoy available Xbox 360 games through Xbox One Backward Compatibility at no additional cost.

Remaining stock of Xbox 360 consoles and first-party accessories will be sold normally until depleted, so if you want to own a console for nostalgia or stock up on accessories like Xbox 360 controllers, be on the lookout for sales and promotions from major retailers like the Microsoft Store or Best Buy, as they could mark down the console in an effort to clear stock.

How do you feel about the end of the Xbox 360? Will you hold a candlelight vigil? Fire up Halo 3 one final time? Re-tell this classic joke? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Free Earth Day Events Happening Around Canada

Free Earth Day Events Happening Around Canada

By Ambia Staley

This Friday, April 22 marks the arrival of Earth Day. It's the one day of the year where everyone joins together to clean up nature, reduce their emissions and learn more about the awesome planet we live on!

If you're looking to do your part this Earth Day, there are plenty of events happening around the country -- many of which are free! For your convenience, we've gathered a few of the free events happening around Canada in the list below!

Toronto

Ottawa

Hamilton

Montreal

Calgary

Vancouver

How will you be celebrating Earth Day? Are there any special events in your area that you'll be attending? Let us know in the comments below!

Great Books You'll Want to Read This Earth Day

Great Books You'll Want to Read This Earth Day

By Ambia Staley

Earth Day is nearly upon us once again. It's that time of year where environmentalists and scientists stress the need we have to preserve the Earth, while the rest of us sit back and watch them on TV with all the lights and appliances simultaneously turned on in our houses.

If you're looking to appreciate the finer points of nature this Earth Day, or simply to learn different ways you can reduce, reuse and recycle, you'll want to check out our list of great books you need to read this Earth Day!

1. The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague

If you want to help preserve nature, it's a good idea to get out there and appreciate it in its full glory. What better way to do that than by observing one of nature's most majestic creatures, the shopping cart! This book includes pictures of various shopping cart sightings -- from within the deep forest, to the ditch around the corner from your house. Along with the great photos, there is also a detailed manual that will help you learn how to classify each and every cart you come across. With this book, you can easily give up fake hobbies like bird-watching and switch to observing a real creature.

2. The Pet Poo Pocket Guide: How to Safely Compost & Recycle Pet Waste by Rose Seemann

Anyone who has a pet knows that the amount of waste, as well as the plastic bags and cat liter used to contain it, can really add up. Instead of throwing your pet's poop directly into the garbage, this book comes with a list of detailed instructions as well as illustrations for all the different ways you can recycle your pet's waste!

3. The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society by David Waltner-Toews

If the subject of poop piqued your interest with the last title, then you'll absolutely love this book! This book goes into detail about the excrement from a variety of creatures, including beetles, cats and even humans, as well as the ecological, cultural, and health effects it has on our world.

4. Farming with Dynamite by E.I. Du Pont De Nemours & Company

Originally printed in 1910, this brochure is one of many sales pitches from Du Pont, in which they list the benefits of their "Red Cross" brand dynamite in an attempt to raise sales. If you've ever thought about reducing your carbon footprint with some extreme farming or gardening, this may be one title you want to add to your library! Within its pages, Du Pont discusses various uses for their dynamite, such as stump clearing, blasting holes for planting, or regenerating tired out soil.

5. Making Pigeons Pay by Wendell Mitchell Levi

No, unfortunately this book is not a manual to help you exact revenge on that pigeon that pooped on your shoulder last week. This 1946 book is all about breeding and selling pigeons for profit! Why do you need this book, you ask? Well animal conservation one of our many responsibilities in preserving the Earth -- and if there is one thing the world needs plenty more of, it's the graceful and majestic pigeon.

6. Reusing Old Graves by Douglas Davies and Alastair Shaw

Looking for a unique recycling idea? Why not recycle an old grave? This 178 page book details the results of an extensive survey funded by the University of Nottingham and the University of York, and looks into public opinion regarding the reuse of old graves. Unfortunately this is not a how-to manual, but the authors' spadework has unearthed some interesting facts worth thinking about!

7. How Green Were The Nazis? Nature, Environment, and Nation in the Third Reich edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier

When everyone thinks about Nazis and the Third Reich, what's the first thing that always comes to mind? Their effect on nature and the environment, of course! This book asks the important questions as some of the most influential German history scholars discuss how Nazis created nature preserves, curbed air pollution, and more in the early years of the Third Reich.

Bonus: Everything Is Going To Kill Everybody by Robert Brockway

Have you already given up hope that the world can be saved? Then you might want to spend Earth Day confirming your belief with this uplifting book that details just about every way that everything on this planet will kill you. Containing 20 illustrated essays, Everything Is Going To Kill Everybody will have you running for the cellar in fear of a oncoming hypercane hurricane!

Will you be turning off the computer and TV and doing some reading ahead of Earth Day? How do you do your part? Let us know in the comments below!

Recall Roundup: Costco Berries, The Children's Place Sleep Sets, IKEA Gothem Lamps + More

Recall Roundup: Costco Berries, The Children's Place Sleep Sets, IKEA Gothem Lamps + More

By Kate Musgrove

We think it's important to be informed of all the latest safety recalls -- after all, your health and safety might be at risk! Here's a quick roundup of what's been recalled in Canada recently.

Costco is offering free Hepatitis A vaccines (PDF) to consumers who may have been affected by the recall. The Hepatitis A vaccine is effective up to two weeks after exposure.

Walmart Ups Shipping Costs for Orders Under $25

Walmart Ups Shipping Costs for Orders Under $25

By Kate Musgrove

Many RFD readers were disappointed last year when Walmart.ca stopped offering free shipping on every order and unfortunately, their shipping and handling prices have gone up again. Originally, Walmart offered free shipping to your home on every order. After the changes last year, you could get free shipping on any order as long as you were shipping to a Canada Post or Walmart Grab & Go location. Now there's only free shipping to Canada Post or Walmart Grab & Go for orders over $25. Any order under $25 will be charged a $5 handling fee if they're shipped to Canada Post or Walmart Grab & Go. If you want your order under $25 to be shipped to your home, you'll be charged the $5 handling fee plus a $5.97 shipping fee. Those extra charges can really add up! For a real-life example, I tried ordering this $9.97 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figure a few different ways -- here's how it priced out:

To home:

That's right -- a $9.97 item gets hit with $10.97 in shipping costs -- did I accidentally order this item from overseas?

To Canada Post or Walmart Grab & Go:

$16.92 to get the item delivered to a Walmart location. It is less money than shipping to my home -- but they're also basically charging me $5 to.... go to Walmart and purchase something.

Obviously, for shoppers, the most frugal plan of attack is to place orders over $25 or $50 -- that will save you the $5 handling fee, at least. But spending $25 just to get free shipping to store (or $50 to get free shipping to your home) isn't very frugal if you just don't need the other stuff. Either way, the massive increase in shipping charges -- they've gone from offering free shipping to your home on every order to charging a $5 surcharge simply to pick up an order in-store in the space of a year -- indicates to me that Walmart might be struggling to profit on the ecommerce side. Do you think we might see Walmart moving back to in-store sales only? It could be possible!

Netflix to Increase Prices on Grandfathered Plans

Netflix to Increase Prices on Grandfathered Plans

By Simon Hung

Netflix has become an essential staple in many of our everyday lives, with an abundance of content available and access to phenomenal Netflix Originals like Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House of Cards, The Ridiculous 6 and more.

However, Netflix subscribers who have grandfathered $7.99 HD plans will have to pay more for their subscriptions, as the company will end the grandfathering period and phase out those old plans in favour of their new pricing tiers.

Netflix's current pricing structure.

Netflix expanded its streaming services to Canada in 2010 at a very appealing price of $7.99 per month. In May 2014, the company increased the price to $8.99 per month, but members who had subscribed earlier were grandfathered and were able to keep their existing plan for $7.99 per month. In October 2015, new pricing tiers were announced -- a basic standard definition plan was introduced at $7.99 per month along with a new premium plan with 4K streaming for $11.99 per month, while the price of their standard plan was increased to $9.99 per month. Like before, early adopters were grandfathered and were able to access the features of the $9.99 plan for $7.99.

Grandfathered subscribers were able to enjoy the features of the $9.99 plan for $7.99.

Starting this May, those early adopters will have to pay more to watch content in HD, as Netflix is ending the grandfathering period and converting all of these subscribers -- 17 million of them worldwide -- to their new pricing structure. Curiously, the company has not notified these subscribers of this impending change, even though it’s been widely reported by many news outlets.

Subscribers on grandfathered plans will have the option to continue to pay $7.99 per month with Netflix’s SD plan, but with that plan, you lose the ability to stream in HD and on multiple devices simultaneously. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month to stream in HD or $11.99 per month if you want 4K playback. No official date has been announced for the change, although a footnote on grandfathered accounts does mention that these plans are guaranteed until Monday, May 9, 2016.

An account footnote indicates that the grandfathering period ends Monday, May 9, 2016.

Though inevitable (Netflix has reportedly been planning for this change for over two years), this new strategy won’t sit well with some, especially in conjunction with the recent news that Netflix will aggressively crack down on members who use VPN services, although their rationale is that many grandfathered members will be willing to pay extra since they’ve been with the company for a long time.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber on a grandfathered plan, what are you going to do? Let us know by answering the poll below and sharing your thoughts in the comments!