Sunday, December 16, 2007

Best and Worst of 2007

So this is Christmas … and what have we done?

2007 – The Product Year in Review

Well ladies and gents, it’s the end of another year here at Average Joe Consumer Product Reviews. We’ve had the chance to review some very interesting products in 2007 and are definitely looking forward at what’s to come in 2008. As usual this time of year as many of you are out looking for gifts to put under the tree this holiday season, here’s a summary of the best and worst products reviewed by your one and only Average Joe this year.

Best Product: GrandCentral “One Number for Life Service” (June)

OK, I’ll be the first to admit it: the best product I reviewed this year isn’t really a product, it’s a free service. However, I couldn’t help myself seeing that it’s a valuable asset for almost any computer-savvy consumers… not to mention its undeniable cool factor. In this day of multiple cellphone, work and home numbers, this service is useful, innovative and gets the job done.

Photo courtesy of

Where are they now?

Shortly after my review went up in June, GrandCentral was bought out by the almighty Google (I swear I had nothing to do with it!). If anything, this is a sign as to how good this product was… heavy-hitters like Google don’t just go out and add anyone to their team.

Since then, their new motto is “the new way to use your phones” and they have streamlined and upgraded their already snazzy website that I reported on. I’m sure there will be more to come in the future with Google investment dollars backing the whole production. The only setback? Still no service in Canada!

Great job to the Grand Central team for their communication and on building a fantastic service. We’re anxiously waiting for you up here north of border…

Honourable Mentions:

The Motomaster PowerBox (February) has served me well this year. I’ve inflated many a tire and it helped me out during a summer thunderstorm blackout.

Just for the record (no pun intended), the Sansa MP3 player (May) and the Reynolds HandiWrap (November) are still going strong. No regrets here.

Best Customer Service: Advanced Concept Innovations for the Limited Edition Oak Clock (March)

The product was simple, elegant and worked well - but the service was exemplary. I’m just amazed that such a small company can make a product like this in North America for less than $30 (including delivery right to your door if you live in US or CAN), process and send it off within one business day, and support you with a 24/7 online reference. Did I mention they are also in constant communication with you during the transaction (payment, confirmation, shipped)? They also guarantee delivery with a free-of-charge product replacement process so you know you will get your item. What more could I ask for from an online transaction? This is professional and timely service that you would have only expected from the big boys.

Where are they now?

You know these guys must have been hurt by the sudden rise in the Canadian dollar, but I see business has been steady on eBay (minus what appears to have been one hiccup… but why someone would ask for a refund when product replacement is free is beyond me).

Last word was of the expansion into new product lines in 2008 and the addition of similar ACI Outlet sellers on different marketplace websites. Best of luck to them too for continued success.

Worst Product: The City of Montreal’s Payez-Partez Parking Meters (July)

Ouch! What a fiasco! Tourists and residents beware; this feature-deprived lemon of a system is unfortunately here to stay, expanding and getting more expensive. Summarizing it again just makes me depressed, there are too many flaws to re-iterate so please just refer to my review…

Where are they now?

Besides prices going up (of course) the meters are still victim to the shortcomings I pointed out in my review. I have seen some flexible electronic scheduling around the Bell Center on game nights that allow people to load up the meter for 3 hours instead of the standard 2 (a smart move considering game warm-ups start at 6:30 and the meters run until 9:00). They’ve also added two metal binding posts on select meters for cyclists to lock up their bikes. Hey, if the meters have to be a pain in the neck for motorists, might as well help some other group out at least.

Biggest Product News Story of the Year: Overseas Imports

Whether it be a $1 item at Dollarama (April), counterfeit toothpaste or lead paint in Chinese toys (October), consumers were talking A LOT about cheaply priced imported goods and consequences to our health, safety and economy. Could 2008 be the year North Americans wake up and put national pride & safety before the bottom line like so many South American and European countries have already done? Wait and see: retail numbers and spending habits for this Christmas season will show if consumers were willing to vote with their wallets.

Honourable Mention:

The surge of the Canadian dollar opened some interesting options for consumers north of the border. Was it worth it spending $40 on gas to save $10 on a book? Apparently so - when the Canadian dollar flirted with a $1.10US exchange rate in November, domestic manufacturers and retailers cringed and consumers crossed the border in droves.

What was the result? To be honest, Average Joe found the hype to be… well, just overblown hype. The deals were OK – most big chains cut their prices in Canada fairly quickly, duties and high gas prices negated most exchange rate savings, people that bought cars got short-ended by warranty issues, and the dollar quickly fell back down to slightly below par.

In the end, I found the biggest benefits to Canadian consumers to be from mail-order items / internet purchases, as well as the spin-off domestic price cuts and promotions… not the cross-border shopping. My suggestions? Forget the long drives, line-ups at the border and silent prayers that the customs officer doesn’t pop the trunk. Shop at home for the big ticket items, lock in those US magazine subscriptions of yours and see what’s for sale online from those American sites.


So as you have seen, 2007 was quite the year for the average consumer, filled with hits and misses. Reviews are wrapped up until January as your Average Joe will no focus his attention to a different type of wrapping.

In the meantime, I would like to give a big thank you to all my readers for coming to check in, their support and always interesting emails. I will also take this opportunity to wish everyone and their families happy holidays and all the best for the new year. See you in 2008!


Your Average Joe