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Missing the points: Cardholders frustrated with PC Optimum

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Bob and Carol Bye pulled out their PC Optimum card to pay for their purchases at the grocery store in their hometown of Hanmer, Ont., but couldn’t believe it when the cashier told them they didn’t have enough points.

« I was dumbfounded, » Bob Bye said about the missing points, a problem that seems to be happening to Canadians from coast to coast, but something Loblaws says happens only rarely.

The experience of the Byes in September was the start of a five-month attempt to recover 300,000 points, worth $300, from PC Optimum.

It’s disappointing for Bye and his wife, who like the program and have used it for so long that they can’t even remember when they started collecting.

Bob Bye and his wife Carol said they lost $300 worth of PC Optimum points. The company said he used them but was unable to provide proof. (Submitted)

After his experience at the checkout, Bob Bye immediately called PC Optimum and was told he had used his PC MasterCard to redeem the points in July in two separate transactions at a store where he shops.

He said he was told the company could not investigate because the points had been used more than 45 days earlier. PC Optimum said that is the limit of the timeline of transactions that can be viewed on its website.

He said PC Optimum asked why they hadn’t reported the missing points sooner, and he said they only made the discovery in September after returning from a summer vacation.

« I made numerous phone calls to them, » Bye said. « We’ve emailed a dozen times and no one ever got back to us when they said they would. »

After he asked for proof he had made the purchases, he was told they included items he never buys because of a food allergy.

In a later conversation with another customer service representative, he said he was told that information was wrong and he had purchased a different product.

« I didn’t do it, » Bye said.

Earlier this month, the couple was informed they were not getting their 300,000 points back because his transaction « does not resemble characteristics of fraudulent redemption. »

Instead, they’ve been given 50,000 points valued at $50, a far cry from the $300 worth that they had lost.

« It’s disgusting, » Bob Bye said.

Carol Bye said she understands how things like that can happen, but « that’s not the way to deal with your customers. »

‘I don’t think much of the customer service’

Their complaints are echoed by others across the country.

In Bridgewater, N.S., Gary Smith said he had $240 worth of points stolen in November, but he didn’t receive calls he was promised.

Gary Smith said he had to call every week for weeks to get his stolen points back. (Submitted)

He called weekly until the points were restored early this year.

Smith said he likes the program, but said, « I don’t think much of the customer service. »

In Vancouver, Jennifer White fought for almost a year to get back points that disappeared when she switched to PC Optimum.

« It’s been frustrating, » White said. »It’s been a challenge. It’s taken up a lot of my personal time. »

Jennifer White’s points disappeared when she switched to the PC Optimum card. it’s taken her almost a year to get them back. (Richard Grundy/CBC)

She said there have been a lot of unkept promises to call back. « They are very quick to want to close the case. »

In fact, her case was closed three times. Each time, she called back and opened a new complaint. Her points were restored last week.

She’s still helping her mother-in-law, who also lives in B.C., in her efforts to get back points that she said were stolen and redeemed in Whitby, Ont.

Where are the points going?

It’s not clear how points are being stolen.

Smith still doesn’t know how someone accessed his points, but he was told they were used in Quebec.

Halifax resident Robin Arsenault has some idea.

She received a notification that people in her « household » had been added to her account, which is allowed by the program.

Arsenault immediately checked her points, only to discover they were already gone.

She was told her case would be investigated and called several times, but was always told the investigation was continuing.

After CBC brought Arsenault’s situation to the attention of Loblaws, the company apologized, returned her points and gave her an additional 50,000 points.

PC Optimum said Arsenault’s case was « a rare occurrence » where people gain access to a member’s email and password in order to add themselves and redeem points.

PC Optimum issued a warning to card holders in November about a text, purportedly from PC Optimum, urging people to log onto a linked site and confirm their information.

‘Strong security measures’ in place

PC Optimum declined an interview but issued an email statement.

« Our members can be assured that the PC Optimum program has strong security measures in place and we take any sign of unusual activity very seriously, » company spokesperson Catherine Thomas said.

Thomas said the company continually reviews security and routinely adds safeguards.

She urges any customer who believes there has been unusual activity on an account to immediately contact customer care.

White has a recommendation for card members who have collected a lot of points.

« Spend them, » she said, believing that keeping them risks having them stolen and a fight with PC Optimum to get them back.

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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