No change for parking?

While I understand that providing change for parking meters can be somewhat annoying for downtown retailers, it boggles my mind that some flat out refuse to do so, even posting signs in their windows saying so. This is, if you ask me, a high water mark in “don’t-get-it-edness.” These people are your customers. They’re in the neighbourhood to spend money. Why would you shoo them away?

Retailers could argue that people come in looking for change and then go elsewhere to shop, but so what? That guy who just bought a pair of shoes from your store, or that lady who’s thinking about that leather bag might have gotten change from someone down the street. If that other shopkeeper hadn’t coughed up, your store would be empty now.

Retailers should think of themselves as part of a community of storekeepers and customers. When they provide change, customers can park and go shopping and some of that business will come to them.

What’s the alternative? Be an idiot by not providing change and end up sending the customers to the suburban malls where they don’t have to worry about parking meters.

Which makes more sense?

Whenever I see one of those “no change for parking meters” signs it makes me want to print up a bunch of stickers that say “…then no sales for your store.” At the very least, I tend to boycott such stores, and I encourage you to do so as well. But a silent boycott is not very effective, so I might just get those stickers printed up…

Thou shalt not door cyclists

Yesterday morning, on the same day that the Vatican issued its “10 Commandments for Good Motorists” in a 36-page document called Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road, a fellow Montreal blogger got doored by a pickup truck.

Not only did the Tinman get doored, he went down in a heap and then another car ran over his bicycle and his leg. He’s full of cuts and bruises but fortunately no bones were broken.

The Pope’s driving commandments are:

  1. You shall not kill.
  2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
  3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
  4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
  5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
  6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
  7. Support the families of accident victims.
  8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
  9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
  10. Feel responsible toward others.

While there is no specific anti-dooring commandment, I think numbers 2, 9, and 10 pretty much cover it.

I consider myself lucky that I’ve never been doored, although I’ve come close a few times. To my shame, I admit I almost did the dooring once, a long time ago, when I was distracted and not thinking as I got out of my car. Since then I am extra prudent when I’m on either side of the equation.

In the mean time, thank (insert mystical figure of your choice) the Tinman isn’t more seriously injured.

Zeke’s Gallery Blog has Gone Dark

Zeke’s Gallery Blog has gone dark as a result of the ridiculous “scandal” that has plagued him for the past few months. (If you’re not up on the issue, Fagstein provides an excellent chronological breakdown.) I spoke with Chris today and he assured me that the darkness of his blog is self-imposed, on the advice of his lawyer. The move is temporary, and he expects to be back online after the smoke clears.

I wish I had something new to add to the story but it’s been pretty well covered already (and nicely digested by Fagstein). Chris has another hearing on Thursday (June 21/07) at the Montreal Palais de Justice, in room 2.16 (file number 24) beginning at 9:00 AM.

Free digital camera!

If you want a free digital camera, just follow these easy steps:

  • Go to Cinema Guzzo in Greenfield Park.
  • Watch for someone who goes into the cinema, then goes back to his car for a minute, and then returns to the cinema.
  • Break into the car and steal the camera that he put there because he’s not allowed to take it into the screening room.

I would have been one of your victims on Friday night, except Martine and I opted instead to refund our tickets and leave. We had gone to see “Knocked Up,” only vaguely aware of the silliness brewing around Bill C-59, the “anti-camcording” bill. As a result of the bill (which has not yet been debated or passed), the cinemas are in a frenzy over the issue of “camcording” movies.

A bit of background: the media has been reporting that a lot of pirated movies seem to be coming out of Canada. Specifically, pirated moves of the “camcording” variety. That means pirate copies that were made by someone filming the movie screen with a video camera.

The cinemas are supposedly outraged over the practice, as they feel these crappy pirated versions keeps people from plunking down $12 to see the movie in a cinema. Cinema Guzzo in Greenfield park (and possibly other cinemas too, but Guzzo is the only one where I personally witnessed this), now have a security guard checking people’s bags for cameras. The guard is on the other side of the box office, with no warning signs outside. So you only find out about the bag checking after you’ve paid for your ticket.

They nailed me. I had a still camera in my bag (not a video camera). The guard gave me the option of putting my camera into a big cardboard box along with a bunch of other captured ones, or of going out to the parking lot and leaving it in the car.

Uh…

First, there is no way I’m putting my $600 Lumix DMC-LX2 into a box with no access control on it. It wasn’t even like a coat check – no chits or numbered tickets. Just toss it in the box and take your chances. (Oh, by the way, that’s another way to get a free digital camera and you don’t even have to break anything. Just go see a movie at Cinema Guzzo and on your way out walk over to the guy with the box and say “I’d like my camera back now” and grab one.)

Second, there is no way I am going to walk out to my car in front of all those people – people who are aware of the new camera policy – to pay a 15 second visit and then turn around and go back to the cinema. I might as well just pull out a bullhorn and yell THE CAMERA IS IN THE GLOVE COMPARTMENT!

If you think I’m being paranoid, I’ll remind you that there are plenty of people who make a living by hanging around parking lots waiting to spot people who park their cars, deposit something in the trunk, and then walk away. I’m not making this up, call your local police department and ask.

There are lots of things going on here, so let’s pause for a breath:

  • Parliament is about to pass a very stupid law based on flawed information from bone-headed lobbyists.
  • The cinemas are over-reacting to the issue, and acting as if cameras were firearms or something.

What really burns me about all of this is how over-blown the problem is. I can understand why the industry is upset over people distributing unauthorized copies of DVDs, because those are direct digital transfers with no loss of quality. They’re indistinguishable from the originals.

But what does a “camcorded” version of a movie look like? I’ve never seen one, but I’ll bet the image is shaky and blurry, and it’s probably twisted into a trapezoid because of the angle of the camera. The edges of the frame are probably clipped off, or there are large black borders because the camera isn’t zoomed enough. No doubt the sound is terrible.

So then the question becomes “who watches such a video?”

I can imagine it playing in a run-down cafe in some tropical jungle village, or at some beach bar in South-East Asia that’s full of Eurotrash pot heads. But no one who actually enjoys going to the cinema would bother with such a thing.

In other words, the “market” for camcorded movies is likely very small, and limited to people who wouldn’t spend $12 on a movie ticket anyway. So in fact there is no loss to the cinemas or the movie industry. It’s like screening a pirated movie to a wall of trees or a field full of sheep. It has no bearing on the box office.

Cinema Guzzo likely did not prevent anyone from camcording “Knocked Up” last Friday night, because it is unlikely anyone would have camcorded it anyway. Or if they had, the only people who would have watched the pirated version are people who wouldn’t have paid in the first place. But their ill-conceived “security” check cost them at least two tickets that night (mine and Martine’s). Cinema Guzzo is just shooting itself in the foot.

If the cinemas really want to prevent the loss of box office sales, I suggest the following game plan:

  • Stop charging $4 for a 79-cent bottle of water.
  • Stop charging enormous prices for popcorn and other “food” items.
  • Stop treating customers as if they were crime suspects.
  • Stop subjecting customers to 20 minutes of advertising and previews before the show starts.