The troubles with Sunday Riley

Let this serve as an important reminder that we cannot always trust the reviews we read for products online. Take everything, and anything, said with a grain of salt and make the decision that’s best for you with respect to spending your money online.

Skincare brand ‘Sunday Riley’ has reached a settlement with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) of which the amount is not being publicly shared, for two violations made. Employees noted that they were instructed, for more than two years, to write fake positive reviews on Sunday Riley products and to dislike the negative reviews.

Why this is a big issue?

Sephora is a premier skincare and makeup retailer in North America and one of the biggest, if not the biggest seller of Sunday Riley on this continent. The Sephora website allows for people to search for products by ‘Highest Rated’ and ‘Relevancy’, relevancy of which being determined by how many times that product has been searched for.

If Sunday Riley has been driving up the relevancy and the ratings of their products on the Sephora website, to ensure their products stay at the top of lists for people searching, they are, in effect, falsely marketing their products to consumers and also, lying about the effectiveness of their products.

Employees noted being instructed by the CEO to not just leave a review talking about how great the product is, but to leave specific comments such as “This product completely cleared up my acne!” A completely unsubstantiated claim that misleads customers to a product’s effectiveness and also, undermines the entire product review section as a whole.

Product reviews are used for online shopping on a global scale. Why? Because if we’re not going to be able to see, feel and test a product prior to purchasing, the review section can allow us to get some sort of an idea that we’re purchasing quality. Reviews contribute greatly to how people spend their money online. Sunday Riley knew this and that is why they falsely propagated myths about their brand as a means to stay one of the ‘hot commodities’ on Sephora’s online ‘shelf’.

Reviews, are in a sense, marketing. They can either help or hinder the sale of a product or brand online. Sunday Riley’s actions really hurt all beauty/skincare brands in the process, and potentially a lot other industries as well. Their ‘slap on the wrist’ undisclosed fine from the FTC and being ‘told to not write any more reviews’ will cause a lot of people to seriously reconsider how they shop on Sephora’s website and elsewhere, if they’re a frequent Sephora shopper or not.

Note: I have purchased Sunday Riley products in the past. I just never really found them to be that effective. Sunday Riley products can cost anywhere from $30 Canadian (for a travel size) to more than $200 per bottle for one single treatment.

P.P.S. – I’d bet good money that ‘Influencer Marketing’ for this brand goes WAAAAAAAAAAAAY up in the coming months as they try to bounce back from this negative press. Every ‘Influencer’ is going to be talking this brand up the whazoo, and they’ll probably be paid thousands of dollars each to do so…

Sources:

Fast Company >

Global News >

One of my favourite books.

“It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself. It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty…” 

Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

If you’ve ever found yourself a book that holds a special place within your heart, that encapsulates all that you feel about the world and all that you feel within yourself, than you’ll understand how I feel when I read this book.

I first fell in love with ‘Into the Wild’ in tenth grade when I was given the book to read as a homework assignment. Over the years, I’ve probably read this book 100 times over. Each time that I read it, I get something new from it.

Synopsis:

Known for starving to death in the Alaskan wildnerness, Christopher McCandless was an ambitious man from a well-off family with an aching need for adventure and a stubborn penchant for self-reliance.

After graduating from college, McCandless leaves everything behind and begins on a several years long journey across America in search of a place to call his own. He changes his name and leaves everything from his former life behind so that his family is unable to find him. Eventually, McCandless’ journey leads him to the Alaska wilderness, where he believed he found the solitude he’d been searching for so long for.

It’s a real-life story of adventure and heartbreak, telling the tale of lost soul who only wanted to find his happy in the world and would stop at nothing to do so. McCandless was an intelligent, extremely self-aware, caring and kind man who lost his life in search of solitude.

The book weaves McCandless’ journal entries with letters, interviews and a few speculations as to his state of mind along the way. It’s filled with incredible passages of thought provoking stories and quotes that cause one to think about the world in the very best of ways.

My take:

Most seem to think he was crazy, but many also think he was quite smart and admired him for what he did even though he managed to succumb to a couple of bad choices along the way. Personally, I can understand it. I can understand how one would search to vastly, so thoroughly for peace in this world that they’d be willing to stop at no bounds to find it.

McCandless was a visionary, who spent his life chasing something many of us are too afraid to even consider. His words are well spoken, his thoughts a little skewed (perhaps) but extremely intelligent, and his life is definitely one worth knowing about.

It’s not a long read, but it’s a great read if you’re looking for a new book to check out this summer. And, if you need some more convincing, google “Into the Wild Quotes” and read some excerpts from the book. You won’t regret it.

Also, read the book first. Don’t just watch the movie. The book is a lot better than the movie.

What $83 a night gets you in Calgary, Alberta.

I recently found myself in Calgary, Alberta for some job interviews and a need for somewhere to stay. Over the years, I’ve stayed in a few dozen hotels in Calgary and never been fully satisfied with the stay that I’ve had, so, knowing that I was going to need to book a hotel room, I decided to try something different.

Though my job interviews were right downtown, I decided to look outwards. In all honesty, the hotels in downtown Calgary seem to all be heavily overpriced for what you get.

Within just a two minute drive of the Calgary International Airport is a group of hotels, really nice hotels, with really reasonable prices per night. After doing my research on Expedia (always read hotel reviews before booking!), I settled on the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North.

*FYI – All photos were taking with my Iphone. The mismatch of quality between photos does not escape me.

Cost: $83 per night.

Amenities: Indoor gym for guests, laundry room, kitchenette in each room (with dishes included for your use), a ‘Pantry’ stocked with any foods you could possibly need for a hotel stay at VERY reasonable prices, a beautiful lobby with plenty of couch space to meet/interact with people, a computer station for guests (for if you don’t have a computer or need to print anything off) and a full kitchenette in every room.

The Hotel Gym. (You can see in the mirror reflection on the right that there is cardio equipment just out of view. As far as hotel gym’s go, I was impressed with this one)

I was impressed with the fact that everything was so readily available and so well thought out. I really didn’t need to even leave the hotel if I didn’t want to. This provided a great sense of relief as all I wanted to do was ‘hold-up’ in my hotel room and prep for my job interviews.

Having the gym just down the hall was appreciated. I found I was more inclined to get up in the morning and hit the treadmill knowing it was just a few steps away from me.

The hotel’s ‘Pantry’ cupboard, stocked with junk food as well as food that could be cooked in your room’s kitchenette.

The room itself was perfect. Upon walking into mine, I was pleased to see that the photos online provided an accurate representation of what each room is actually like.

My room’s kitchenette (which included a dishwasher).

Each room has a kitchenette included, making it convenient for travellers who might be staying for longer than a few days. There were dishes in the cupboards and cleaning supplies under the sink. The appliances included: a toaster, a coffee maker, a dishwasher, a microwave, a fridge and a stove-top. Shy of being able to roast a turkey, anything you could possibly need to make could be cooked in this kitchen.

Ample closet space for any storage you might need.

The room was equipped with a massive closet that I could actually walk into. Something that I really appreciated about this hotel was that the small details were thought of, including the providing of guests with a laundry hamper for storing dirty clothes. Small details like that make me appreciate a hotel just a little bit more because I know they’ve thought of how they can most help their guests.

Ample desk space with built-in storage.

My room, being a very accurate representation of the photos the hotel shows online, had a ton of desk spaces so that I could lay out all of my work, set up my computer and still have plenty of space for making a mess. Honestly, a desk like this is something I could only dream of having in my own home. And, the TV was conveniently located up in the corner of the desk so that it was out of the way, but still in view from both the bed and the bathtub.

A clean, pristine, all white bathroom with plenty of storage that I quickly cluttered with all of my things! lol

As mentioned in the last paragraph, something that I really appreciated was the fact that I could lay in a bubble bath and watch tv while doing so. When it comes to staying in a hotel, it’s really the small details that seem to make all the difference. Being able to watch Frasier from the tub felt like one of life’s simple luxuries.

Clearly, making the bed is not my strong suit!

I booked a room with a single queen bed. Room’s are available with two queen beds for just $87 per night (a five dollar increase) or one king bed for $95 per night (a twelve dollar increase). The bed was exceptionally comfortable. The pillows were dreamy to sleep on, and I bet if he could attest to it, Knight would agree with me.

The room also came equipped with a lazy-boy style chair next to the bed, which was probably the only downside. It was not a comfortable chair. I’d probably rather sit on a slab of cement than that chair. That being said, that is the only negative I found to the room.

Worth noting: Though it was next to the airport, I did not hear one single plane landing or departing during my stay. The hotel was completely sound-proof. Noise is not a factor you need to worry about when staying near the airport if you choose this hotel.

Verdict: If you’re ever in Calgary, Alberta, I highly recommend the Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport North. Whether you’re flying in, flying out, or not using the airport at all, staying next to the airport can provide you all of the amenities you need with an impeccable price tag. The staff were friendly, the convenience was appreciated and the reviews online were 100% an accurate representation of the hotel and the staff who run it.

I’ll definitely be back there the next time I’m in Calgary.

I travelled to the Honeymoon capital of the world… alone, and this is what happened.

Travelling alone is freeing. Truly.

I’ve often found that when I travel with people, I struggle to be able to do the things that I want to do. I cater to what the person I’m travelling with wants, and it always seems to happen that they won’t cater to what I want. As such, I find myself giving up on the things that I want and dealing with a sub-par trip when I know it could have been better.

This past week I tried something different. It’s something that I’ve read about, quite frequently, but never dared to do. I went solo-travelling.

Let me tell you, if you ever get the opportunity for solo travel, DO IT. DO IT and don’t ever second guess it.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

For me, Niagara Falls isn’t anywhere exotic. There were no beaches, no bikinis, no foreign folk speaking foreign languages (unless a Boston accent counts). But, the jaunt across Canada meant a great deal to me, being my first dive into solo travel.

I’ve always been fascinated by natural wonders. Mountains that reach the sky, forests that go on forever, beautiful pristine (untouched beaches) that stretch as far as they eye can see, these are the pieces to our world that make me feel obsolete in the very best way. I admire things that are the way they are, not because ‘man’ made them, but because nature made them that way.

Niagara Falls, formed naturally at the end of the last ice-age by the receding of glaciers, is located on the Niagara River, which drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. There are three falls, The Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls. The three combined falls form the highest flow rate of any waterfall in North America and has a vertical drop of more than 50 metres (160 ft).

The view from my hotel room on the 30th floor in the Tower Suites, Niagara Falls.
(The Horeshoe Falls are on the right, American Falls on the left of this photo)

The Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls.

When I was looking for a hotel in Niagara Falls, I knew that I wanted to stay on Fallsview Blvd. because I wanted to be as close to the falls as I could be. The Tower Hotel stood out to me online due to it’s odd shape compared to every other hotel on the strip. The Tower Hotel is a tall, skinny tower with rooms only on the 25th-30th floors.

The Hotel itself was quite basic. There was nothing overly fancy about it. The view from the hotel was exceptional, though. When you’re guaranteed a room on the 25th floor, or higher, there’s a fair chance you’re going to get an exceptional view. And, the view from The Tower Hotel did not disappoint .

*Point of note for booking hotels in Niagara Falls – on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hotel rooms cost (at least) $100 more per night than they do on Sunday – Wednesday. Purchasing a hotel room on ‘off-days’ (Sunday-Wednesday) will save you some big bucks when it comes to accommodations. And, if you can afford it, book a hotel on Fallsview Blvd. You won’t regret it.

The view from the Keg restaurant on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites, Niagara Falls.

The Food

One of the things I most wanted to do while I was there was eat at ‘The Keg’ in the Embassy Suites hotel. This Keg restaurant is pretty famous for it’s views, and for the fact that every table in that restaurant has been strategically set up to have a view of the falls. The restaurant sits on the 9th floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel.

I called ahead and made a reservation for 7:30, asked if I could sit as close to the windows as possible and hoped for the best. And honestly, the view did not disappoint. Nor did the food. The Keg, known for it’s steak dinners, was very accommodating to my dietary needs, ensuring that my food was cooked separately as to have not touched any gluten, nor to have any dairy in it. I’m not a huge fan of red meat – only eating it once every blue moon – but this dinner was absolute perfection.

*Point of note for the Keg – While the restaurant is situated to have nice views from every table, if you call ahead and make a reservation you can get seated at the windows, where the seats point towards the falls. It’s a romantic setup, and there were a lot of people there on dates/anniversaries that night.

Walking along the falls edge on the Canadian side to view the light show.

The Light Show

The light show of Niagara Falls was something that I have been dying to see. After the sun sets, the illuminate different coloured lights onto the falls to create a light show, in representation of the charity they’re bringing attention to that evening.

I’ve seen incredible pictures of the light show online and always wanted to see it in person. So, I bundled myself up in warm clothes and wandered down to the falls at 10 pm to wander.

I ended up spending over two hours walking up and down the pathway alongside the falls. The Horseshoe Falls were illuminated in beautiful, rainbow arrangements, flashing on and off and the American Falls were illuminated in yellow. The lights themselves lit the pathway for walking, and, because it was so late at night, there were a lot less tourists on the path. (I guess people chose to just not venture out after dark)

Honestly, the night was so freeing. It was almost as though nothing else existed in the universe but me, there, in that space and time. Quite a few people stopped to talk to me along the way, many of them with Boston accents, but overall, the night was filled with the most peace that I have had in a long, long time. I just walked along the edge of the falls, listening to millions upon millions of gallons of water pouring over the edge, rushing down the river into the great lakes. Nature is incredible.

The Honeymoon Capital of the World

It’s worth noting that Niagara Falls’ claim to fame is that it is ‘The Honeymoon Capital of the World’. There are couples EVERYWHERE. Which, is adorable and sweet. If you’re painfully single, though, I could see it being a bit of a nuisance to you. It’s definitely not a place for the faint of heart.

I crossed paths with many a people who were wondering where my better half was, asking my why I was alone or why I didn’t have a man with me. While I know they were just being friendly and talkative, it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for next time. Maybe I’ll bring a man back with me next time. HAHA!

The Niagara Skywheel by night.

The Niagara Skywheel

The Niagara Skywheel is the largest ferris wheel in Canada that, at the top, reaches 175 feet in the air – providing truly breathtaking views of the Horseshoe and American Falls for the very reasonable price of $14 (adult ticket).

Having a love of ferris wheels, I actually wound up on the skywheel twice. Once, during the day, and a second time after the sun had set to see the light show from the top. To add to the list of romantic settings there are in Niagara Falls, the view from the top of the Skywheel is unmatched. Had I had someone to take with me, I am sure it would have been the perfect spot for that ‘romantic movie moment kiss’ if you know what I mean.

The Skywheel is located at the edge of what is kind of a theme park in Niagara Falls. To be honest, I didn’t really venture into the theme park. Things like bumper cars weren’t really going to provide me the peace I was searching for with my trip. But the Skywheel, that is a must-see stop.

Other touristy activities (that I didn’t take part in):

  • Helicopter tours of the Falls (I would have loved to do this, but it’s quite expensive)
  • Riverboat cruise of the Falls
  • Winery Tours (the southern portion of Ontario is known for being wine country, and there are a lot of Winery’s you can tour)
  • Skylon Tower (a rotating restaurant and observatory)
  • Marine Land

General Tips:

  • Parking at hotels is EXPENSIVE. Just two blocks up from the Falls you can find parking lots that charge $10 for 24 hours. If you choose to park your car with the hotel, it’s going to cost you anywhere from $40-$120 per day/night.
  • Take warm clothes with you, for night. The mist of the falls can make it feel a lot cooler out than the temperature actually is.
  • Niagara Falls has a 13% tourist tax that exists solely within it’s boundaries. Be prepared to pay more in tax while visiting.
  • There are tourist markups the price of virtually EVERYTHING. Something as simple as your coffee at Starbucks can be $2-4 more when purchasing it at Niagara Falls. Those extra expenses add up quickly, so be prepared.
  • If you book a ‘city-view’ hotel room, there’s still a good chance that you can see the falls from your hotel room, anyway. The reasoning for this is because many of the hotels are built diagonally facing the falls, as to be seen from three sides – instead of just one. So, if you’re looking at room prices and you’re worried about the price of a ‘Fallsview’ room, a city view room might provide you just what you need.
  • Though there are towns on both sides of the river, I noticed that the Canadian side was filled mostly with Americans. I think this is largely due to the fact that the view from the falls is sooooo much better on the Canadian side of the border. While there are attractions on the American side, I’m a little biased in saying that you’ll enjoy yourself more on the Canadian side of the border.
  • Make friends! There are so many wonderful people in town. I crossed paths with so many American tourists who were so excited to talk to me when I told them I was Canadian. One, from Ohio, even gave me his email address. He says that he’s travelling to Vancouver this summer and wants me to provide him some tips to make his trip amazing. I mean, sure, why not? There are nice people everywhere, but making friends on vacation can just make it seem so much more memorable.

Overall

The trip was incredible. It was everything that I had hoped it would be and so much more. I went in search of some peace of mind, calm and adventure and I found it. All of it. I did a lot of reading, a lot of writing and a lot of thinking.

I have so many plans for my life that have become so clouded and convoluted the past few months with everything that has gone on. Being able to travel on my own and really stop to think about what my goals are and where I am going with my life was an invaluable experience to me.

ALSO – I survived! Not only that but I thrived. I looked after myself just fine, didn’t get into any trouble, have any issues or struggle at all. I was seriously doubting my abilities to do so prior to leaving, so the fact that everything went so smoothly for me was a huge relief.

I’m ready to go on my next adventure. And honestly, I’m somewhat already planning it.

Niagara Falls, thank you. Thank you for your beauty, your hospitality, and the peace of mind that you gave in just a few short days. I felt a great sense of calm being there, which meant a lot to me. It was just what I needed at this point in time and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I highly, highly recommend solo travel to anyone who has been thinking about it or wanting to go somewhere. Going on your own allows you to do things on your terms and choose your own itinerary. You don’t get wrapped up in the likes of what your travel companion wants, so the trip becomes solely about your desires and inspirations. It’s an empowering feeling, and one that I will seek more of in the future.