This page provides my Edmonton-based perspective on where to acquire goods and services, for the best combination of price, service and quality.
While I am the first to admit that personal taste influences my decisions as a Consumer, many of my choices documented here are based on the kinds of positive experiences that everyone is looking for, most notably:
- Quality of the Product or Service; and
- Customer Service
Of course, my needs, and tastes, may not match yours.
Electricity and Natural Gas – Regulated Rate from EPCOR and Direct Energy has always worked out cheaper over the long run.
Furnace and Air Conditioner – McKinley Heating installs Lennox with Honeywell controls, and services all makes and models. Hard to find consistently reliable residential service in the HVAC industry, but McKinley stands out as outstanding on four different houses since 2002. They also do commercial work, though Gateway has the largest share of that market and is also highly recommended.
Plumbing – all Star Mechanical plumbers have their own EPCOR “key”, eliminating the need to pay $80 to EPCOR to find and turn the main (outdoor) water valve to your home off and on. Not to be confused with Blue Star Mechanical, which is a completely different company.
Water Heater – both McKinley and Star install and repair water heaters. McKinley has been my choice, though Star make sense if the shut-off valve for the cold water coming into the water heater is old, of poor quality or non-existent, because Star plumbers have an EPCOR “key” (see above).
Security – dealing directly with ADT, not through a dealer, since 2002. Chosen originally based on commercial experience in the early 1980s when ADT was the only reliable choice of the three major companies in the Edmonton market at that time. Has maintained service quality despite ownership changes* in an industry plagued by low quality and free installs. You buy the initial hardware, with free wiring and installation labour. Charges are monthly with no cancellation fees.
*Note that TELUS has purchased ADT, and will probably merge it with the previous security company they purchased, making the situation worth watching.
Insurance – AMA (Alberta Motor Association) requires a membership, which includes Road Service, but offers high quality auto and home insurance at a reasonable price. If you have a clean driving record. Otherwise, not so much. Likewise, with home insurance, it is important to qualify for their maximum 40% discount. AMA hires the best lawyers, which can mean the difference between being At Fault and Not for auto accidents.
Computers and Monitors – Dell Canada on sale for their lowest end price for state of the art technology and no bells and whistles. Free delivery and one year warranty. Most recently, however, Intel NUC has been chosen over Dell Desktops, initially for their dual HDMI ports on the motherboard.
Radio – Amazon.com offers the best price for C. Crane products delivered to Canada, when shipping, duty and import fees are factored in. The CCRadio-EP has an external antenna switch that disables the internal antennas, allowing an unamplified tuned loop like the TERK ADVANTAGE to be used to prevent overload near local AM transmitters, though Sangean may be a better choice, including models HDR-16, HDR-18, PR-D15 and PR-D5.
Books, CDs, DVDs – Amazon.ca is always the best place to start looking with free shipping on most orders over $25. Amazon.com is priced in U.S. dollars, but, in 2014, began to offer inexpensive deliveries to Canada with their Import Fee Deposit, half of which is usually refunded shortly after delivery.
Pre-Disco CDs – Oldies.com frequently has Sales and often has the best price, especially on the less common material. They also own is the Collectibles label, which reissues hard to find material. Purchasing several items at once makes the most sense since their shipping fees to Canada do not include import fees.
Amazon – no matter what country’s Amazon is involved, they offer different types of distribution, and any comparison needs to take into account the level of Amazon involvement:
- Ships from and sold by Amazon
- Sold by ___ and Fulfilled by Amazon – Amazon warehousing and shipping goods sold, on Amazon, by Individuals and Companies
- Available from These Sellers – Individuals and Companies selling and shipping their own used and new goods, quite often from a different country