Cheap phone and free beer

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Kerry Knudsen

I’m going to tell you something I am doing. It should go without saying that this is not a veiled ad. I am getting nothing and expecting nothing. It’s just part of the story at Wood Industry.

I have known Tom Caringi at Toronto’s Bimen Business Consultants for over 20 years. He started his business in IT with a partner and they called it Bimen after the then-current quip, two men and a truck. I hear some people read it differently. Bimen has been handling our IT since we started.

Like many others, Tom and I used to chat occasionally about the irksomeness and arrogance of our respective communications companies — in our case, Rogers and Bell. I assume I don’t need to say anything more. If you are happy with your service, skip to the bottom header under Canada Night.

So…. Several years ago, Tom wanted a change on his carrier account and was told he could not have one. It was over only about $60 a month, but the attitude was so regal — so imperious – that Tom had had it and started following up on information he receives as a part of the mix of his IT world.

Tom found, as have others, that if you have a data centre that is advanced enough to handle the switching and loads, you can actually bypass the main carriers and become a carrier, or hook up with a carrier, yourself. He did, it worked and he started offering it to his current customers. Me, for example.

Those of you that know me know I’m a skeptic, and I am very skeptical of issues that can affect communication. Communication is how we pay our bills here, so I stewed over it for a few months. Then, however, I decided to jump.

In my case, I did not move my regular, personal and business cell phone. I could, and it could then act as a main line into any corporation, and ring through to sales, production, circulation and editorial based on the respective numbers. Maybe I will, and if I do I’ll report. However, that is another story for another day.

What I did, though, was to “port” my land line and fax through Bimen and its carrier, Sip Canada. I get billed once each month for the connection fee, which is five dollars for the two lines, together ($2.50 each) and I get billed about two cents a minute, which has dropped our monthly rates to a minor fraction of what they were. Those rates are rarely over five dollars a month (250 minutes).

There was also a one-time set-up cost for a unit, which I believe was $75 — still well below any normal month with Rogers.

Six months in, it works. I see no difference in quality or reliability.

To me, this is fantastic. We are saving money, but we are also letting Rogers know that new options are in the mix and a bit of customer service and proportional value are in order.

If you are interested, I encourage you to contact Tom at caringit@bimenbusiness.com, look up SIP or do your own research on other such carriers. They are out there, and they work.

Any provider can program your unit, send it to you and you just plug it in configure it to your wifi and go. Note: it is wifi, so if your wifi goes down, so does your phone. However, in our case, that’s pretty much true, anyway, and my cell is still on cellular with Rogers (for now). Let me know what you think.

Canada Night 2020

Let’s push the elephant out of the room. The former manager at IWF decided to form an alliance against the readers of Wood Industry with our competitor and did not advertise with us for the past several cycles. If you check, you can see that did not matter. We believe in IWF and the need for a show in North America, and we promoted it in the absence of any advertising. As has been a popular saying of late, “No quid pro quo.”

Along with the advertising affront, we had started Canada Night to promote the presence of Canadians at the IWF and AWFS shows, and the former manager tried to take it, leading to some learning experiences delivered by Wood Industry’s legal counsel.

Well, all that has changed. IWF is open under new management, and here comes Canada Night.

What’s Canada Night? Many years ago our partners and associates pointed out how difficult it is to identify a Canadian at the shows. We may not all look alike, but our diversity matches about anybody else’s, and we have a tendency to fade in a crowd. However, it is critical at international shows that people know whether Canadians are there. International companies rely on evidence when they decide whether and where to spend promotional dollars, whether to open or support national and regional distribution, how many people to assign to sales, and so on. If we appear invisible (which is dicey), we become irrelevant.

Canada Night happens immediately upon the closing of the show on one day (usually Thursday), and Wood Industry supplies hot hors d’oeuvres, Canadian music, a chance to meet and greet and— wait for it — free beer. Yes; we are serious about gathering Canadians. This is an ad-free environment. No sales guys grabbing the mike and no salesmen interrupting your conversations to make a pitch. The whole rest of the show is for that.

We will take photos, write a story and prove to the world that we are not transparent grey. In the past, it was great fun, and the very advertisers that are not bothering you are also supporting the event to make sure it happens, is free and is the high point of your day.

We break up around 7:00 and everybody has a chance to visit their social engagements of the night, or head off on their own to a show, dinner or their room.

Naturally, Wood Industry staff will be on-site to field questions and comments, take suggestions and keep the night moving. In the past we have not taken the microphone, ourselves, but there is always that possibility.

For what it’s worth, we have been doing this same event, Canada Night, every January in Las Vegas for our sister magazine, Coverings, at The International Surfaces Event. It has been running non-stop since it began because that industry has seen its value and not tried to mess it up.

We will make an announcement when we open registration. You do, after all, need to be Canadian.