Problems with shattered glass on the Apple Watch

Here’s part of a Toronto Star column I wrote last year about a quality issue with a high-end manufacturer:

Apple denies watch defect that sees screen break,
but makes time to fix it

By Ellen Roseman
Personal Finance Columnist
Mon., Dec. 24, 2018

Holly Harris bought an Apple Watch this past August, a Series 3 product currently selling at $369 to $499.

Just 20 days later, she had a frightening problem.

While watching TV, she reached across her watch to press a button to check data. The screen was raised and she tried to put it back in.

“As I did, the glass started to break into smithereens. I cut my hand,” she says.

Harris, a former elementary school principal who lives in Mississauga, went back to the Apple Store, hoping to get a new watch.

Instead, the store manager said she must have banged the screen, causing it to break. She would have to pay $299 to get it repaired.

Here’s the happy ending:

I forwarded her complaint to Tara Hendela, an Apple Canada spokesperson, on Nov. 7.

“I can’t believe how fast Apple responded,” Harris said the next day, adding that she was instructed to take pictures of her watch and send them to the head office in Cupertino, Calif.

On Dec. 3, she got the answer she had been waiting to hear.

“Great news. My contact just phoned and said Apple would repair (or replace if necessary) my watch at no cost to me. She said it was a one-time exception,” Harris said.

When I asked readers about their Apple Watch experiences, I found that Holly Harris was not alone in dealing with a watch face that came off, often violently.

Some people received free repairs under warranty. Others did not. Apple Canada did not respond to my requests for comments.

Matt Caron recently told me about his problematic purchase.

“The same thing happened to me. I was walking, heard a pop, looked at my watch and saw it was cracked around the perimeter of the screen,” he said.

He bought his Apple Watch, Series 3, on July 16, 2018, at Best Buy, along with a three-year Geek Squad warranty for $90. The sales representative said it was like Apple Care, but better.

The crack occurred one year and three days later (July 19, 2019). Both Best Buy and Apple blamed him for causing damage to the watch and said he didn’t qualify for an Apple screen replacement program.

Here’s his update, as of Sept. 16:

“I received a full refund for the warranty after saying that when I tried to use the warranty I paid for, Best Buy denied my claim. They still were not willing to repair the watch.

“I was informed today by Apple that my watch had come back from the depot, but was not repaired. I will pick it up tomorrow from the Apple Store in the Eaton Centre.

“I appreciate your support. Even if nothing happens, writing about my experience has been very helpful as I go through this process.”

If anything changes after Apple and Best Buy review this complaint, I will let you know.

You can find more information on this story and a link to Apple’s screen replacement program at my public Facebook page, where I  posted comments from users last December.

Do you want to pick stocks?

As a result of new securities rules, you should be receiving annual statements from your investment advisers, showing how much you paid in dollars and cents for advice in 2016. It’s been called The Great Reveal.

Advisory fees can take a big chunk out of your retirement savings over the years. Is the service you get worth the cost? Are your investments growing quickly?

I like the idea of using passively managed index funds to get exposure to a wide variety of securities. They cost a fraction of what you pay for actively managed mutual funds.

Once you diversify your holdings with low-cost index funds, you can use some of your savings to buy stocks.

Is stock picking difficult? Do you need an MBA or undergraduate business degree to do it? No way.

I believe average people can succeed by reading a few books and newsletters, setting up a do-it-yourself brokerage account and using trial and error to develop their skills.

As someone who has managed my own investments for years, I hope to teach others how to do it. My online course at the University of Toronto starts March 1 and has six weeks of lessons.

Here’s a video where I describe the course, Called How to Value Companies & Pick the Right Stocks.

Please consider attending (the cost is $250) and spreading the word. I hope to see you online.

Why I started an Air Miles petition

Many large companies treat consumers badly. I pick up new examples every day.

But LoyaltyOne, parent company of the Air Miles program, crossed the line. That’s why I started a petition campaign at

Please read and sign, using the link above, and share with others. We have already reached more than 1,000 signatures. Momentum is building on social media.

I blame LoyaltyOne for creating a five-year expiry date for Air Miles points and failing to communicate to members as the deadline draws near (Dec. 31, 2016).

Why didn’t it keep in touch? The company said members should have known about and remembered the announcement of five years earlier. Bad faith!

I also blame LoyaltyOne for poor communication when introducing a cash rewards category in 2012. Members had to opt in to get get cash rewards. Many people said they knew nothing about it.

Finally, I blame LoyaltyOne for devaluing the existing dream rewards category. Members complain about lack of choice and inability to use their expiring points.

The company said Air Miles collectors can enter a sweepstakes. Is that the best it can do?

Please let me know what you think. Even this trade magazine blamed LoyaltyOne for poor communication. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the best and simplest ways to begin rebuilding trust would be through a public apology. Since the program changes were announced, Air Miles has been quiet, letting the customer complaints pile up.

By acknowledging and owning their customers’ dissatisfaction, Air Miles could help re-establish their brand as one that understands and appreciates their customers.

An obvious fix would be to ‘make things right’ and exceed customers’ expectations with some kind of corrective action. This could be removing the policy, extending it or something similar.

My course, Investing for Beginners

Are you fed up with low interest rates? Want to learn how the stock market works, where to find reliable investment advice and what is required to trade stocks on your own?

Check out the popular investing course I’ve taught for the past decade at the University of Toronto’s school of continuing studies.

Classroom sessions start Sept. 8, from 7-9 pm, at Sidney Smith Hall (St. George St.) and run weekly to Nov. 3. There are no textbooks to buy or exams to write. The cost is $370 for nine weeks or about $40 per class.

My goal is to help you understand stocks, bonds, mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, RRSPs and TFSAs. without bias, jargon or bafflegab. I also try to protect you from slick sales pitches, pitfalls and scams.

To sign up for Investing for Beginners, call 416-978-2400 or write to

MoneyShow Toronto: I’m speaking Saturday, Sept. 17, 2.45-3.30 p.m., at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where you can hear 50 investment speakers during a two-day period.

My topic: Investing for dividends or growth. Which strategy is better? Thanks to Canadian MoneySaver magazine for sponsoring my free talk.

Lawn care services can lead you down garden path

When you sign up with a lawn care company, you give it the freedom to bill for services you don’t receive — and to continue billing for the following year without your consent.

A reader told me about his experience with a company called TruGreen, beginning in 2014. Here’s his story.


Our 100 foot frontage property is about 300 feet deep. We answered a “cold call” at the front door and met with a sales representative, who offered a no obligation quotation for weed control and fertilizer treatment.

I did a “walk about” of the whole property, pointing out the weeds that were stubborn and the parts that posed a particular challenge.

TruGreen was the only local company with equipment and hoses that could cover the entire property, the salesman said. He assured us a good response to fertilizing and weed control throughout the property.

Since he gave us a good price with a discount for prepayment, I signed a contract. Pretty soon, I noticed favourable results in the front area, but not at the rear.

Concerned that part of the property was not responding, I called to confirm that the whole property was treated each visit. I was suspicious because of a fine-print disclaimer on the invoice, saying that treatment was offered for a maximum of 3,000 square feet.

The whole property was being treated, I was told, adding that the company would put a special note on file to ensure that the technician did so.

In the end, after several conversations, TruGreen acknowledged that the whole property had not been receiving treatment, after all. The costs would be significantly higher than my contract specified if the whole property were to be treated.

I was not satisfied. Knowing of the continuous service language in the contract, including “your plan continues from year to year without any action on your part,” and “your plan will continue unless you contact us to cancel,” I made clear at the end of the season that I was cancelling the arrangement.

The following season, I was lucky enough to be at home when the technician arrived to begin treatment of my lawn for the second season. This happened despite my clear communication on the matter.

I noted that TruGreen was named in several press articles surrounding billing practices, such as this one in The Record.

Now that spring has arrived, consumers can expect any number of cold calls from roofing, window, eavestrough, siding and pool contractors, as well as lawn services. We need to be vigilant and protect ourselves with measures such as the following:

* Secure all understandings in writing, signed by a service representative who is authorized to bind the service.

* Review and act, as needed, on all the contract terms including contractor provisions for “continuous service” and customer cancellation privileges.

* Take special note of waivers and guarantees.

* Look for professional credentials and memberships (TruGreen has not been a member of Landscape Ontario, for example).

* As much as possible, monitor the service and be satisfied that you receive the service you contracted for.


Great advice and thanks to the reader for sharing his experience, to which I will add a final point.

You have 10 days under Ontario law to cancel contracts signed at your door. Use this cooling off period to do your research and pull the plug on lawn care contracts with big holes in them.

Customer urges switching banks to save fees

Adam Mayers of the Toronto Star wrote about bank fees going up again. When he asked readers how they felt, 88 per cent said their bank fees were too high.

He suggested five ways to reduce them:

Go into your branch and ask. It’s the best way to figure out if you’re paying too much based on how you bank. The more business you have with the bank, the better the deal should be.

If you’re a student or your kids are students, a no-fee deal should be available.

Those over 60 should expect discounts, but not freebies. There are too many people in the demographic now to expect something for nothing. TD’s basic discount, for example, is 25 per cent for this group.

Many fee-free options relate to minimum balances in your account. If you keep a large sum in a savings account that is earning next to nothing, consider moving that cash to a chequing account. The fee savings may more than offset the interest earned.

Branch out. A credit union or low-fee option like PC Financial, Tangerine and EQ Bank can work for some of your needs.

Michael, a Toronto Star reader, grew tired of facing increases in TD’s minimum balance required to avoid fees. So, he moved to online bank Tangerine. Here is his story.


My wife and I were frustrated with TD’s ever-increasing minimum balances. We made a few attempts to argue that our $100+ a week mortgage interest outweighed the $11 a month service fee we were paying on our chequing account (since we were challenged to maintain the new $3,000 minimum).

Since we didn’t get anywhere, we made the bold leap to Tangerine Bank. There were two reasons for the switch:

1. The large majority of our banking is done online. We make infrequent branch visits (generally, to renegotiate the mortgage or to buy U.S. cash for bi-yearly trips south) and we did not believe we should be paying $11 for what was perceived as a subsidy for branch staffing.

2. Tying up $3,000 as a cost-avoidance method made no financial sense to us.

While our experience in changing banks was fairly smooth, it did have some moments of frustration.

· With Tangerine being an online-focused service, working through the mortgage transfer involved a few ‘real’ people. Communication between these people was not always great and we had a couple of moments wondering if the transaction was processing properly.

· Tellers at TD could not perform some of the transactions (mostly to do with transferring and closing our trading accounts), which meant we had to revert back to online and over-the-phone transactions.

· Transferring preauthorized payments began smoothly. Tangerine has a robust ‘switch assistant’ and a couple went without hitch (utilities mostly). Others involved going directly to the payee and updating the database personally.

We were thrilled when it was all complete and we were actually paid interest ($0.26!) at the end of the first month. This was a novel concept with a chequing account, but a satisfying one!

If you feel the increasing fees and minimum balances are outrageous, I urge you to investigate moving to one of the growing number of alternative banking solutions.

The big banks should all be taking notice, as I am sure more Canadians will be choosing these online options (with in-branch affiliations), especially given our penchant to embrace online and mobile tools.

How to estimate costs of post-secondary education

Here is a guest post from Alfred Yang, a co-founder of a new website aimed at helping parents plan for the bills when their kids reach college or university.

How a Small Team is Helping Canadians Plan Finances for Post-Secondary Education

By Alfred Yang

I received my undergraduate degree in engineering in the year 2000. Without a doubt, my post-secondary education gave me an edge in the job market and opened up incredible career opportunities.

Today, the financial barrier to the same credential is much higher. Annual tuition for the engineering program has gone up from $4,500 in the year 2000 to over $13,000 in 2016. For a four year program, that’s a whopping $52,000.

To put it another way, this amounts to an annual increase of over 7%, well beyond the rate of inflation. If you add living expenses and school supplies, the cost becomes even more alarming.

Today, the average new grad from university or college owes $28,000 in student debt. Canada’s outstanding student loan balance has been steadily climbing in the past two decades and there are no signs of it going in the opposite direction.

While I can’t do much about rising costs, I joined forces with Aly Hirji and Scott Moore to build awareness and encourage sound financial planning.

The cost of the engineering program I described is just one example. Everyone’s situation is different and we want to find a way to help Canadians on a more personal level. That’s why we created is a tool that forecasts the cost of post-secondary education and helps students and parents plan finances accordingly.

Let’s say you have 10-year-old daughter who is fascinated by animals. You think she may want to study life science one day. You want to give her the best shot at attending a great post-secondary institution.

But even with that goal in mind, there are a number of crucial questions that need to be answered:

– How much money do you need to be saving?

– What is the cost difference between studying locally and out of province?

– What financing options besides the family’s savings are available?

– If a student loan is required, what kind of financial burden will that create for my child? is designed to help. It starts by asking you a few simple questions, then makes predictions on tuition, cost of living and expenses, based on historical data.

The end result is a good estimate of the financial target you or your family should be aiming for when planning for post-secondary education.

Our team also wants to build awareness of the many funding options available, including the Canadian Learning Bond (CLB) and Canadian Education Savings Grant (CESG), and the impact they have on your overall RESP savings.

We are building up a database of scholarships, student aid services and borrowing vehicles. We hope can become an end-to-end tool to help Canadians create a strong financial plan for post-secondary education.

Since our pilot launch in October, we’ve received a lot of feedback. We’ve seen a desire to understand trends in the job market to assist with decisions on academic studies.

We know that university or college is not the only path to a fulfilling career, so we are looking into adding forecasts for trades and apprenticeships.

While our team is making great strides towards these objectives, we can get there a lot faster by working with individuals and organizations who share the same passion for educating students and families.

If you have any feedback at all, we’d love to hear from you.

Financial literacy month winds up soon

This is the fifth year for FLM. You can find events at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website or go to Twitter and use the hashtags #FLM2015 and #CountMeInCA.

Jane Rooney, Canada’s first financial literacy leader, goes to almost everything. I can’t imagine how she keeps up the pace without flagging.

I moderated panels at a few events, such the ABLE Financial Empowerment Conference and Credit Education Week’s launch.

I also went to a conference organized by the Financial Literacy Action Group, a nonprofit coalition working to improve Canadians’ knowledge, skills and confidence in managing money and advance the national strategy.

There I met a remarkable entrepreneur, Teresa Cascioli, who has written and published a series of books for children, age four to nine, under the brand M is for Money. Here is my column about her.

Tomorrow morning, I’m invited to attend the Economic Club of Canada’s financial literacy panel discussion.

Next Monday (Nov. 30), I’ll be the keynote speaker at Toronto’s financial learning forum. It is a free half-day event, featuring workshops on tax and financing for small business, repaying student loans and qualifying for benefits.

Why has Canada embarked on a national strategy in the first place? I recommend reading this 2012 article in the Walrus magazine about our national deficit in financial intelligence.

I want to spotlight the Investor Be Aware video contest, run by the Small Investor Protection Association to show the hidden dangers of dealing with financial advisers. Here is a link to the three winning YouTube videos.

Finally, many statistical studies are released this month, designed to show the level of Canadians’ financial capability. Here is one of the most interesting surveys sent to me.

The Global Financial Literacy Survey

Canada has one of the highest financial literacy rates, ranking among the top five in the world and scoring above countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and France.

However, the study also found that Canada suffers from one of the largest gender gaps, with 77% of men financially literate against just 60% of women.

In almost every country, there is a material gap between men and women. Worldwide, there is a five-point gender gap, with 35% of men being financially literate compared with 30% of women.

Country averages include the U.S. with a 10% gender gap, Germany 12% and Italy 15%.

In Canada, however, the situation is far more pronounced with a 17% gender gap – twice as large as the gap in major advanced economies, the so-called G7.

Get Human and 800 open doors for you

You want to call a big company, but you can’t reach a real person who can resolve your problem. Welcome to the modern world.

It’s a common dilemma in an age of automated phones with multiple menu options. Most of the time, you get a recording and a long wait on hold, accompanied by messages to use the company’s website to get better service.

Going online is not always a solution. Sometimes, you really want to speak to someone and tell your story, rather than using a live chat at a website.

If you find it impossible to get through to some firms, you can try a website called Get Human. When calling Apple, for example, you can find the quickest way to reach a real person.

This U.S. site lists many Canadian companies, as you can see from my Star column about it in 2013. A useful page tells you how to get through to Bell Canada.

Now I’ve learned of another website, 800, which has a few Canadian toll-free numbers. Here is how to get through to Air Canada— a company whose phone numbers are always a challenge for customers to find — and TD Bank.

“The numbers are accompanied by written transcriptions of the company phone menus, so that users can get what the help they need quickly,” says Webmaster Melissa Clark.

It is great to know that such services exist. They are breaking through the deep, dark channels of corporate communication and making it easy for customers to talk to their suppliers.

A consumer’s guide to stock market volatility

Another day of stock market losses around the world. Every commentator has a list of reasons why it’s happening. Can you believe them?

On The Media is one of my favourite podcasts. It enlisted Felix Salmon, a blogger with Fusion, to explain why journalists are wrong to cover falling stock prices so intensely. Here are some excerpts:

One day’s activity — up or down — may seem dramatic, but has little significance and foretells nothing.

Billions of shares of stocks are traded every day. Attributing the day’s results to any single factor is ridiculous. In fact, there are millions of factors and, therefore, no explanation.

The media treat the market going down like a passenger plane going down. A plunging stock market is not a tragedy. For the vast majority of investors, it’s an opportunity to buy stocks more cheaply.

Though “stocks going down” makes news, that doesn’t reflect broader reality. Look at historical trends. Over time, the equities market steadily goes up.

Felix Salmon’s articles at Fusion continue on a contrarian track. In a Aug. 24 piece, “Three cheers for the plunging stock market,” he emphasized that the economy is going to be fine even if the market goes down.

The stock market is NOT the economy. Instead, it’s a measure of wealth, showing how rich rich people are.

“If the rich are getting a little bit poorer, that’s fine. It means reduced inequality and an ever so slightly more level playing field for everybody else.”

Do you want to learn about investing? My nine-week course at University of Toronto starts Sept. 10. To sign up for the Thursday night sessions, go to Continuing Studies and search for Investing for Beginners.