Josh Freed: Readers weigh in on what irks them the most


From plastic produce bags to text message scams, Montrealers have no shortage of pet peeves.

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Several months ago, I wrote about my biggest pet peeves, from the proliferation of self-checkout supermarket cashes, to customer disservice phone lines, to adult-proof drug bottles.

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I suggested readers share their own peeves, and many people did — often ones that peeve me, too. So here are a few that topped the charts:

one – “Those rolls of flimsy, see-through plastic bags in supermarket produce sections you can’t open. Especially ones without handles,” writes reader Diana B.

You’re not alone, Diana. Almost no one can open them. First, you have to figure out which end actually opens, then the real struggle begins, as your fingers try to pry the invisible ends apart.

I’ve spent a lot of time silently swearing, embarrassedly trying to bag a lettuce with my fat, fumbling fingers.

I’m tempted to ask nearby customers, but most are hard at work trying to bag a bundle of asparagus, and the last thing they want is to try opening someone else’s bag — especially during a pandemic, when many people are still scared to touch anything you’ve touched.

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two – Some years ago, Quebec made it mandatory for stores to hand out receipts — presumably to avoid black-market sales — even for a 95-cent chocolate bar.

The trouble is none of us want them, including supermarket cashiers who are always fobbing five-foot-long receipts off on us.

You can’t just leave your receipts littering the counter, so “often you end up sticking them in your wallet” or purse, says Peter Z. “On days you’re running several errands, you can’t close your wallet because of wads of extra-long receipts.”

And if you’re like me, your swollen wallet gets stuck in your back pocket at the next store.

Why don’t supermarkets have small containers at the cash where we can dump them? Maybe they can be recycled into paper receipt bracelets. Or necklaces. Or confetti for Canadian games, if they ever make the playoffs again.

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3 – Several readers complained about what Margaret B. termed “password purgatory,” where we’re forced to constantly change our security passwords.

“We’re tormented and exasperated with passwords they ask for, but when I enter them, they’re unacceptable to their system.”

Too true, Margaret! I recently mistyped my last name as “Freef” when trying to access my online bank account. When a message popped up announcing my “user name or password” was incorrect, I didn’t notice the typo and just retyped my password. In seconds, they’d blocked my account and ordered me to change my password, again.

Yikes! Only months earlier, tired of being warned my passwords were “low-security,” I’d managed to memorize a series of 14 random letters, numbers and special characters that almost no one could crack.

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Now they wanted me to change it. I tried massaging the password by changing one letter or number. But more messages popped up to tell me it was either:

a) Too similar to my last password

b) Not secure enough to be accepted

c) Someone else was already using that password. That was obviously me, because I invented it. Only they wouldn’t let me use it.

My brain doesn’t have enough hard disk space to keep memorizing new 14-character secure passwords. So I gave up and switched to a low-security eight-character password I can easily remember, until they make me change it again.

Now, I have less security because they forced me to change my password for security reasons. It makes me feel like making my password: “AieeearghGrrrr27!!!!”

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4 – For years, we received endless email scams from self-appointed African princes asking to lend them $5,000 in exchange for bars of gold bullion that would soon arrive in the mail.

To escape this, we switched to texting, where you didn’t get as much junk mail. But Schools for Scammers have adapted, and classrooms of global graduates from 127 countries have found our cell phone numbers, laments Sophia W.

Now, every second message promises us a free prize, trip, cruise, space voyage — or warns us about an unpaid, expensive package delivery we don’t remember ordering. But to cancel it, we must give all our credit card info online. You know, so they can empty your account.

“Blocking their number is useless,” says Sophia, “as they just keep using different ones.”

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The best you can do is text them back with a pre-set message, explaining you are a Montreal prince who’s about to inherit billions, and you just need a brief $5,000 loan you’ll pay back a thousand-fold in gold bullion.

5 – Many of you have similar, serious Montreal peeves, whether it’s loud music in restaurants (Diane M.), or our “overflowing city garbage cans” (Linda P.), or the “unstoppable, horrible graffiti defacing our city” (Lawrence L. .).

Several complained about “parking hogs” who take up two spaces instead of one, so they have 10 feet of leeway to cruise out later.

But I was most tickled by a guy named Guy, who asked why Montrealers can’t “reserve our winter parking spots after we dig them out,” like some US cities where “you put a chair down to claim it.”

It’s simple, Guy: Try that here, and you’ll definitely lose your parking spot. Plus, you’ll also lose your chair.

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