Friday, December 31, 2010

End of the Toronto 5 Cent Bag Fee?

Recently Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has mused to the National Post about removing the 5 cents per plastic bag that Toronto retail outlets charge for.  Ford plans to bring this to Toronto council in January 2011 for debate.   One kudo to His Worship, is that he has gone on the record as saying:

"I am personally not in favour of it but I want the feedback from the councillors and the constituents." - Rob Ford in the Toronto Sun.

He told the Toronto Sun that also, before the vote, is looking for a city staff report before considering the item a council meeting.  Basically Rob Ford wants to do his homework on the issue and then bring it forth to be debated and voted on.

I've previously written about this issue before and do believe a reduction in the use of plastic bags needs to occur.  However, strategies in reducing the use of plastic bags need to be examined carefully.

There are a couple of questions that are behind the Toronto five cent bag fee that need to be addressed before the question can be brought forth to council.  These questions include the below:

1. Where does the money, collected as per the City of Toronto by-law, go?

The fee is not technically a tax as the money doesn't go to the City of Toronto. If the City of Toronto collected the fee then it would be a tax and, theoretically, would be illegal under the Province of Ontario's City of Toronto act. So where does the money go? Good question.

Many businesses, like Loblaws, donate the money to World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other similar charities.  Others just simply pocket the money as a new source of revenue.  This obviously angers some as the prices for products were never reduced as they used to cover the cost of providing free plastic bags and now the store charges for them.  This whole issue needs to be further investigated by the City of Toronto Staff for the report to be brought to council as this is definately "the homework" that needs to be done.

2. Should businesses have the five cents bag fee as a requirement by city by-law or remove the by-law and let businesses decide?

Currently the city of Toronto's by-law stipulates that all Toronto retailers must charge five cents for plastic bags.  Businesses have been taking a lot of heat from consumers over the charge for five cents per bag.  Business owners throw up the their hands and point to the by-law saying they have no choice but to charge the five cents.  

Businesses should have the choice of charging the five cents and not be mandated by a city government.  This could be perhaps done at the provincial or federal level in order to create a level playing field for businesses to compete in.  Currently only the businesses in the City of Toronto have to legally charge the five cents.  So businesses in Toronto have to compete against those outside of Toronto who do not charge five cents. 

It also means there are issues with programming computer systems in large retailers like Loblaws.  Loblaws must now program the option of charging for bags onto their cash registers in Toronto and not for the rest of their stores in Canada.  Loblaws got around this issue by charging for bags at all their stores accross Canada.  But what happens to Loblaws stores in a city where a city council sets the price per bag higher than five cents?  Does Loblaws raise the fee for the rest of the company's stores in the country?  So obviously this issue is larger than the City of Toronto and should be investigated by a higher level of government.

Businesses should be encouraged to provide incentives to customers in reducing the number of plastic bags.  It is in retailers interest to reduce the number of plastic bags in a financial way.  Less plastic bags used means there are less items to ship to the store and less source for in terms of finding plastic bag manufacturers that can handle the volume required.  For example, it is easier to find a plastic bag manufacturer that can handle an order for 100 plastic bags rather than 1000 and thus it would be cheaper to ship 100 plastic bags to store level than 1000 bags.   Loblaws, for example, already provides incentives for customers by giving away 50 PC points for every bag used.  Customers can cash in 20,000 PC points towards $20.00 for anything in the store. So this translates into Loblaws giving away five cents to customers for every bag not used.

If the bag tax were axed, then businesses could relook at their own bag fee policies.  Some policies are not well thought out. One commenter at the Toronto Star noted fast food delivery in Toronto can be a little  ridiculous in terms of the plast bag fee:

Just yesterday I wrote a note to Swiss Chalet Customer Service as they also charge the 5 cent fee for their small plastic bags. A normal size bag is one I have learned to accept but, come on, 5 cents for a 4” x 6” bag?? This is where I think a retailer is pushing the point and pocketing much more than they should. There is also no choice to a customer here. When you order in, you have to accept their way of delivery and subsequently pay for it. They responded saying it was automatic in their computers, it is a municipal law and to take it up with my city councillor. I think they missed my point. I just wanted them to stop charging for the small tiny bags they use for butter, etc.

The main issue here is did the customer have a choice to not use the plastic bags?  It seems in this case Swiss Chalet delivery didn't give him the option to use one plastic bag for his food and butter.  Instead the way Swiss Chalet normally packages items there is one large plastic bag with the food order and inside this large plastic bag is a smaller plastic bag with the condiments and utensils.  What is even funnier is the large plastic bag is clear plastic.  So it isn't like these items are going to be lost, you can see if the the bag is empty or not. But again, there is no alternative to the plastic bags, that I'm aware of, that Swiss Chalet offers.  Swiss Chalet will need to relook at this issue as obviously it doesn't make sense to charge a customer when there is no alternative given. 

3. Wouldn't charging for plastic bags be better handled by the provincial or federal government?

The provincial or federal governments should investigate a method of reducing the number of plastic shopping bags used.  The province of Ontario, as I commented before, has investigated ways of reducing the number of plastic bags used.  Another investigation at the provincial level, like the one done by Ontario in 2007, should be done.  Since 2007 the invention of the compostable bag has arrived.  Should the province mandate that the compostable bag mandatory?  This would obviously have major implications for the producers of plastic bags as the materials for the new bags would have to be sourced properly.  So a phase of compostable bags would be a must.

Overall, the City of Toronto needs to investigate several items before it can reconsider the bag tax.  The homework assignment has been issued by Mayor Rob Ford.  City Council and Staff need to get this assignment completed and report back for a vote.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Retail densities in...Richmond Hill!

So a while back while I was in New York City I did a little thing called "retail densities in NYC" which to a look at how many retail locations of various chains were within 5 miles of my then location in Downtown Brooklyn (Brooklyn Heights).

After returning to Aurora, I decided to revisit these totals with a comparison to Aurora.

And now within 5-10 Kms of my home in Richmond Hill!

So here are the results (in same order as previously posted here) from my current Aurora location:

Starbucks:  30 locations

McDonald's: 35 locations

Dunkin Donuts: 0 locations.

KFC: 7 locations

Barnes & Noble:  0 locations

K-Mart: 0 locations

Swiss Chalet: 7 locations
Tim Horton's: 30 locations

Second Cup: 8 locations

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I Subscribed to a Cleaning Magazine...Damn it!

A while back Rogers was offering free subscriptions for some of the magazine the company owns.  I looked through the list and figured, with a new house, a cleaning magazine would be the best option. 

I was eagerly anticipating the first issue to hit my mailbox.  I dreamt of easy ways to clean the dust off a refrigerator moter and grating, cleaning hardwood floors easily, and how to look like a million dollars while cleaning a toilet. 

A few weeks passed before the magazine arrived.  I cheered like a kid at the library finding a favourite book when the magazine arrived. 

Then things went downhill.  I read a column by Andrew Coyne about Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.  I put a little forshadowing in this after reading the first couple of lines.  I looked at the picture of a Canadian soldier holding his relatively large gun and the first couple lines about Afghanistan and figured...hmmm...perhaps they are trying out the best way to clean something in a country full of sand.  Great location.    I read on in the article and was dissapointed to find nothing on how to clean something.  Really, why was this cleaning magazine's National Editor writing about Canadian soldiers being in Afghanistan and not including the magazine's basic premise for it's existance, CLEANING!

I read a few more articles in the magazine and came up with the same problem, no mention of cleaning.  Sure the magazine was on nice clean glossy paper, but that was really the only thing close to idea of "CLEANING!"

The magazine even had a great title for cleaning.   It even fit the whole idea of the catchy slogan I came up for the magazine that I thought Rogers could use...

"Who better to learn cleaning from than your own mother?  Because "MA CLEANS!" 

Sadly this subscription has been a big let down.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And we are Finished!

Today we finished and wrapped all of our Christmas shopping.  

Every year on the first of December I start my engines and head off to the mall.  Sometimes I can do all the Christmas shopping for my immediate family in an hour or two.  Other times, like this year, it took a little effort.  What to get them? Will they like it? Those are both questions I need a definitive "YES!" to in my little head. 

My wife, early on in November, got the Christmas gift buying itch.  She demanded people forward their Christmas wish lists.  If not...a bag of frozen peas for you!  Coal?  Forget it, with today's home heating costs?  Coal is a valuable resource!

Then comes the worries of December.  Do I have enough time before Christmas or is Dad getting a melting slushy (again!) bought the night before from the local Mac's store? Did I get enough for the person on my list monetary wise?

Next comes the relief from the worries.  This usually follows the wrapping of the presents.  One of the things I dislike about Christmas, is wrapping.  I'm not the neatest wrappers in the world.  At a Secret Santa party you can tell the present I wrapped from a mile away.  It looks like an eight year old did it. No clean lines or folds.   Thus, one of the best things about my wife is her wrapping abilitities.  She solved my Secret Santa wrapping problem.  After she moved in with me everyone wondered which present was the one I brought...they couldn't tell!  Today, I left her with a roll of tape, wrapping paper and scissors and dissappeared off to clean the toilets and start the laundry.  When I came back she was working on wrapping the last present.  All I had to do was write the tags and stack the presents in our basement awaiting transport to my Dad's house.  Finally, everything bought and wrapped... RELIEF!

Except for what to bring for Christmas dinner that is....but that is for another day...until then I will sit back and enjoy a cup of tea while resting my feet....Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Licked for Money at Lick's

Tonight we headed to Lick's (8187 Yonge Street, Markham) for my first time visit to this chain.   On the way in, my wife pointed out we were the only ones in there at this time.  This would come back to haunt me. 

We approached the till and were pleasantly informed that the Debit machine was down and that the credit card machine was just lost as well.   I inquired, with a smile on my face, if they still accepted old cash still.  The cashier replied they did. 

The Order: Two Homeburger Combos.  One with fries and one with Onion Rings and two cokes. 

The total for two of a regular boring old hamburger was, including taxes $19.64...yup...almost twenty bucks!

So the burgers must have to be good then...right?  Heck no!

The burgers were topped just like they do at Harvey's, with the person behind the counter standing behind a bunch of toppings and topping them for you.

The burgers themselves weren't, as my wife put it, "much to write home about".  She noted they were just like Harvey's burgers.  My reply: "except for the price."

So based on the price, one would think that there would be excellent fries in both quality and quantity.  Wrong again!  The fries were exactly like Harvey's in both quality and quantity.

But wait, things get worse:

In the Men's washroom one of the toilets was bagged and not in use. 

In the dining room, it is rimmed with neon lighting that wasn't illuminated and the seating and wood panneling looked quite dated.  

On the side door out to the parking lot there was a sign requesting people exit via the front door.  I dared not wondered why.

The only other diners there appeared to be pretty chummy with the servers behind the counter.  It seems the only people that eat at this location know the workers or work there themselves.

Overall, this Lick's location provides burgers and service like Harvey's but at more inflated prices with worse decor.   After this visit, I will think again before returning.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Basket of Good Customer Service

Earlier in 2010 we moved into a new home in Richmond Hill.  We saw over fifty houses in the area with our real estate agent, Roy Eveleigh, before choosing one and putting an offer down. 

Fast forward to now and we are pretty well moved in...sure there are pictures still to put up on the wall, and some storage issues in the basement that a little shelving wouldn't hurt...but we are here!   Roy stopped by earlier this week to see how we were making out and to get a quick tour to see what we had done with the place.  But he also brought with him a basket full of goodies!

 Our resident furry feline, Garf Man, was of course interested in what was inside.
Sorry Garf Man, no lasagna.

A better look at the goodies from Roy.

Overall, a good piece of customer service by Roy for bringing this by to us.  We still enjoy talking with Roy about everything good and bad about the house. Happy New Year and Merry Christmas to Roy, our awesome real estate agent.

Of course we now have our nibbles for the Christmas season to munch on too...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Toronto Paper Comparison: A Reader's Perspective

Newspapers periodically release circulation numbers and various readership studies. The release of the numbers includes percentage increases, number of readers and comparisons to previous years. The papers obviously try to portray the numbers in a positive light towards their readership that basically says "hey we are number one!". So many numbers and bragging it makes a reader's head spin.

This past October my wife found on a free subscription for the Saturday Toronto Star and Monday to Saturday delivery of the National Post and the Globe & Mail.  So each Saturday until next weekend we will receive three newspapers on your doorstep.  I've found this to be a great opportunity to investigate which newspaper I prefer to read based on various aspects that I, as a reader, look for in a paper. I explore these various aspects below for the deliveries of the Toronto Star, Globe & Mail and National Post.

Delivery: The first and most obvious is delivery of the newspaper itself.  For each of the papers I requested front door delivery and all promised delivery before 6:00 A.M.  Thus, every morning of delivery I should have a copy of the paper at my front door at 6:00 A.M.  Here is how the papers ranked:

1. National Post - Only had one missing paper the first Saturday.  After that, I've never had an issue with the paper not being there.   The paper has always come dry and on my front porch.

2. Toronto Star - The carrier on our route delivers the paper closer to 7:00 A.M. on a Saturday since subscription started.  On weekends this may not be such a big issue.  However, for some this may be an issue if they leave for work early before 7 and hope to take the morning paper with them on their commute (e.g. subway, bus, etc.) or to work. Otherwise the paper has been properly delivered. 

3. Globe & Mail - Over the past two weeks the paper has failed to show up on first attempt and sometimes many after that:

a) The first time my wife called circulation.  Circulation had an automatic recording saying there would be no delivery for the Globe & Mail that day and two copies would be delivered on the next day.  Well we waited for the paper to show up the next day and there was only one edition.  

b) The second time it didn't show up I called at 6:50 A.M. and was promised delivery within 90 minutes.  Nothing showed up after 120 minutes (i.e. 2 hours).  So I called again. I was promised again delivery.  Nothing.  The third call, the Customer Service Representative said I was basically out of luck and the next day I should have the regular paper. 

c) Then third time this past week I called and the Globe & Mail Circulation had an automatic recording saying there was an emergency situation at their place and they couldn't pick up the phone.  I called back 30 minutes later and there was a recorded message saying delivery of the paper was delayed until at least 11:00 A.M.  By 10:00 A.M. we had the paper delivered.

If we were paid Globe & Mail subscribers, we obviously wouldn't be pleased.  But as a free trial, the Globe & Mail fails miserably on delivery.

Customer Service:  We've had to call all three Customer Service Centres for the papers. Each paper was ranked based on, how annoying their automated systems were, how long after we dialed in we had to wait to speak to a live person and were the Customer Service Reps able to assist us in resolving our issues.

1. National Post - Called once about a missed delivery.  The Customer Service agent picked up within 30 seconds and had a new paper delivered within an hour. 

2. Toronto Star - Called to cancel our trial subscription.  The Customer Service agent was more interested in figuring out why we were cancelling and then offering us another paid trial offer.  Bottom line, if we were interested in continuing we would inquire about another offer to further our subscription.  

3. Globe & Mail - Called around five times to have the paper delivered in the first place.  An automated voice recognotition system picks up and asks you a bunch of questions in appearance of trying to help.  One time I called and told the automated systemd "missed delivery".  The system responded if I would like to add the Sunday New York Times to my subscription. I responded "no" and then it kept asking me what I was calling.  After repeating the "missed delivery" fiasco above two more times I hung up and retried.  Bottom line, every time I called in with questions on my account (i.e. to cancel the trial subscription or a missed delivery) I end up at a live person anyway.  Is it really hard to train a live customer service person to answer simple questions like: 1. "How much longer do I have on my subscription?" 2. "The paper didn't come today, can I have a redelivery?" After all the Globe & Mail has been around for over a hundred years, newspaper delivery on specified days to subscribers homes on time shouldn't be rocket science anymore.   To make matters worse, I can't remember ever waiting less than 5 minutes to talk to a live person,  but again I kept being reassured that "your call was important to us" and that there were "higher call volume".

Ottawa Bureau Coverage (Parliament Hill):  Newspapers that provided in depth coverage of the House of Commons and other goings on at Parliament Hill tended to rank better.  This coverage included the day to day goings on by the reporters to analysis and opinion by columnists.  

1. Toronto Star: The Star excels at covering Parliament Hill with in depth articles written by veteran newspaper reporters who know the workings of Canadian politics.  From the day to day coverage by Bruce Campion-Smith and Allan Woods  to the columns by Chantel Hebert and James Travers and in depth coverage by senior writers Susan Delacourt and Linda Diebel, it is hard to beat this coverage. 

2. Globe & Mail:  Not to be outdone, the Globe & Mail has a decent set of writers as well (e.g. Gloria Galloway, Jane Taber, John Ibbitson).  They are close to what the Toronto Star has in terms of quality.  However, being a "national focused" newspaper instead of a "Toronto focused" the coverage doesn't really tell me how the parliamentary decisions really affect those that live in and around Toronto.

3. National Post: The Post has gobbs of commentary by John Ivision (not to be confused with John Ibbitson of the Globe & Mail) but the straight news isn't really lacking.   There really is no memorable writers from the National Post that seem to be able to bring the straight goods from Parliament Hill without some sort of "analysis" or "comment" label being associted with their name.   However, the commentary by John Ivison and the odd feature article from the National Post's writers or associated writers from the Post's sister papers do provide some interesting reading.  But overall, the National Post needs to either grab a writer from somewhere else or grow a Parliamentary Bureau reporter that can dig into the goings on at Parliament and give the readers the straight goods without the bias that a columnist would present. 

Greater Toronto Area (GTA) News: Like the Ottawa Bureau Coverage, the GTA should have both reports of what is going on at City Hall (i.e. Toronto City Hall) and analysis provided by columnists. 

1. Toronto Star:  Obviously a Toronto based paper like the Toronto Star would have better coverage of the Toronto area than the other two national papers like the Post and the Globe.  The Star even has better local GTA coverage than it's main Toronto area coverage competitor, the Toronto Sun, as well.  The Star has the lead stories on the front page, letter to the editor on the comment page and a full "GTA" section everyday except on Sundays included in the paper.  The coverage is quite complete from Royson James and Christopher Hume providing their commentary of items both at City Hall and in the community to Jack Lakey taking on City Hall in one of my favourite columns "The Fixer" and of course the usual staff writers investigating the day to day goings on at Toronto City Hall.

2. National Post: On most days the Post has two pages and one or two letters to the editor on Toronto issues.  The Post really only ranks higher than the Globe & Mail as I've found a new columnist, Chris Selley, who I enjoy reading.  Otherwise, the coverage is focused on city hall and matches the same coverage provided by the Globe & Mail.

3. Globe & Mail: The Globe only provids two page on Toronto goings on and some letters as well like the National Post.  However, like the National Post, most readers want the national news instead of the local.  But for myself, Toronto and national coverage together better. 

Comics: The papers were ranked based on the number of comic strips in the paper (i.e. space taken up), are the comics humourous most days and were there comic strips that provided "reliable" (i.e. almost guaranteed to provide at least a smile on a daily basis).

1. Toronto Star:  The Star beats the others hands down.  The Star has really invested in being the number one spot for newspaper comics by having such reliables as "For Better or for Worse, " "Sherman's Lagoon" and others on a daily basis.  But the Star also expanded their Saturday paper's three pages of comics content by picking up  "Garfield" and "Baby Blues" from the Toronto Sun. Also, the newer strips like "Retail" have been a hit as well.

2. Globe & Mail: Beats the National Post because they have six strips and the Post has none. Although these strips are nothing to write home about.

3. National Post: Comics?  None.  Hence last place finish.

Overall: What do the papers bring to me overall that I appreciate.

1. Toronto Star: The Star has great local coverage of the Toronto area and compliments it's local sister paper, The Liberal, with local Toronto area coverage.  A full page of comics is a great asset to this paper that it probably doesn't get the recognition it deserves.  Specialty columnists like Jack "The Fixer" Lakey going after simple day to day problems around town and Consumer Columnist (and blogger!) Ellen Roseman provide good tips and provide an interesting read.

2. National Post: Reliable delivery!  I've never wondered where the paper was after the first phone call.  Every time the front door is opened int he morning there the National Post is guarenteed dry and ready to be opened and explored.  I've also enjoyed the City Hall Musings of Chris Selley as well and may look him up more often after our free trial subscription ends.

3. Globe & Mail: Poor delivery performance  and Customer Service issues seem to be major problems at this publication. After one hundred years in existance in the Toronto area, one would figure that delivering a paper to subscribers reliably wouldn't be an issue.   Otherwise the paper is a decent read for both it's National politicial coverage and business news.

Finally, the main question, will I subscribe to one of the above papers?  No it's not worth having a paper land on my doorstep every morning to read.  Not at a cost of over one hundred dollars a year for a subscription.  Besides for commuting the Richmond Hill area is well served by the freebies of Metro and 24 Hours that easily help to pass the time on the bus.  For news and information in the evenings and weekends I can usually turn to the newspaper and television websites for nothing more than the cost of an internet connection.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Campaign Everyone Can Support...

Normally the word "campaign" is associated with "politics" and "politicians".  Thus, the words "campaign," "politics," and "politicians" tend to leave people with their eyes rolling and wanting to leave ASAP. 

However, I finally found a campaign completly devoid of "politics" and "politicians", or at least so far it is, that everyone can support. 

The Cookie Monster on SNL

Convinced?  No, didn't think Cookie's Youtube video...
Finally convinced?  Support the campaign via posting Facebook here.
Now finally there really is a campaign we all can support.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Usual at Harvey's

Headed out for a hamburger and decided to head to an old reliable name in hamburgers in Canada.  No not McDonald's, but Harvey's (9471 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill).  

When I entered it was about 11:45 A.M. and there appeared to be one person working at the grill and not much else going on.  Turns out this location has a drive through and two ladies were working there when there was no one at the front counter.  

Within a minute one of the ladies kindly wandered over to take my order at the counter (i.e. when you arrive you go up to the counter and order like at McDonald's).

The Order: 1 Original Hamburger with fries and a Pepsi.

The burger came quickly and the server inquired what I would like on my burger.  Harvey's does have it's advantages.   Instead of having a prepackaged "here is what you get now go away" attitude you get at McDonald's, you get to choose your toppings.  Then the server puts on the toppings as you tell them what you want on it. 

Following the topping of my burger I headed over to a table with my meal.   The burger, as per usual, was delicious and, amazingly enough, topped just the way I like it.  The fries on the other hand have been better.  Normally at the Aurora Harvey's location there seems to be slightly more fries and better tasting too!  Perhaps at this particular location the fries had been out for a while and hadn't been sold.  Still that is no reason to give them to paying customers. 

Overall, for a decent lunch place Harvey's is pretty good.  However, the Richmond Hill location should pull up it's socks as they do have increasing competition in the area from McDonald's, A&W, Hero Burger and, a local institution, Steer Inn Burgers.  There is also a "Chef Burger" coming soon to Richmond Hill on Yonge Street just north of Highway 7, or at least that is what the sign in the storefront says. It seems Richmond Hill, Ontario is at the centre of a mini suburban burger war.  I think my tummy will have to decide who will win.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What I Expect at a Restaurant

Recently I had a comment come in reply to my review of Casey's Restaurant at Upper Canada Mall in Newmarket.   I've held off in publishing this comment to the post as I felt a reply was duly needed, hence this post.  Also, there should be clarification on what I'm looking for when posting a Restaurant Review on this blog and thought that the below response would also do that nicely.

So first the comment:

"you have obviously never served before... and reading your post is an absolute unreal complaint or even aspect. first off if a server is busy god forbid she drop everything for your table she has 7 others... they try and treat everyone as a guest in their own home but unfortunately there are tables much more needy then others. For you to insult a server at that and not tip... you realize they make less then 9 dollars an hour?? how about you take a step back next time pull your head from you but and realize your not the only table in the place.... ESP if they are understaffed or busy.... people like you make our job as servers so much harder. maybe try serving or realize our jobs are much harder then you think thanks to dicks like you. Iv never been to caseys but im sure as hell to go just because of your stupid complaint."

It is much more easier to reply to the comment when it is broken down into repliable bits:

"you have obviously never served before...and reading your post is an absolute unreal complaint or even aspect. "

Very true, I've never been a waiter in a restauarant before.  But I've had a lot of experience being a restuarant customer throughout southern Ontario, New York City, Vancouver and Las Vegas.  I've watched  many a server do their jobs.

"first off if a server is busy god forbid she drop everything for your table she has 7 others... they try and treat everyone as a guest in their own home but unfortunately there are tables much more needy then others."

No, I'm not expecting the server to drop everything and serve me.  I do have patience.  Where I get a little irritated is when I've duly requested my bill and she has served the other table with 8 people on two occassions before dropping off my bill.  At this particular restaurant, as stated in the review, she spent an large amount of time serving them:

"We watched our waitress first take the drink orders of a new large group (8 or so people) seated near us. Then come back with their drink order and return to take the order. A brief stare from myself as she was taking orders brought an apology that our bill was coming. The waitress dissapeared soon after taking the order."

It took at least 3 minutes for her to stop by and take their drink order and dissappear.  Another three for her to pull the drinks together and return to drop them off.  Then she could have easily excused her self by saying "I will be right back in 2 minutes to take your food order, I'm just going to drop off the bill to that table over there" and done that before scooting back over to the table to take the order.  All I was basically asking was to get the bill in a reasonable amount of time.  At a restaurant like Casey's where there was a host at the front and a couple of other servers around who could have helped, I wasn't asking for rocket science.

"For you to insult a server at that and not tip... you realize they make less then 9 dollars an hour?? how about you take a step back next time pull your head from you but and realize your not the only table in the place...."

Again, I realize I'm not the only table at this place.  However, when I visit a restauarant like Casey's I'm also paying for decent, not necessarily the best, service.  Thus, I could care less as to what the waiter/waitress is making.  That is a contract between the restaurant owners/managers and the server themselves.  As a customer I could care less what the serving staff is making in wages, here is what I'm looking for:

1. Decent timely service with a smile when taking the order, bringing the food out and attending our table to ensure our meal is satisfactory.

2. Decent tasting food that is not over or undercooked. 

3. I do appreciate value for money.

4. Timely presentation of the bill when requested (i.e. it shouldn't take 10 minutes to figure out how much a customer owes the restauarant).

5. Clean amenities (e.g. entrance, bathrooms, floors, etc.)

For all of the above I ensure I tip.  However, if I get irritated with some or all of the above (i.e. at Casey's Sweet Potato fries that taste like cardboard and 10 minutes to even present the bill), I do leave less to no tip.  I feel good service from serving and support staff should be rewarded, but bad service should not be encouraged.  Hence the tip I choose to leave will reflect this. 

"ESP if they are understaffed or busy.... people like you make our job as servers so much harder. maybe try serving or realize our jobs are much harder then you think thanks to dicks like you.".

I attended Casey's on a Saturday evening.  Most restaurants in that area of similar value (e.g. Swiss Chalet, Boston Pizza, etc.) are normally lined up out the door.  So Casey's would not be understaffed for this evening as customer volume is expected to be higher on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the year.  I would expect more customers on those nights in comparison to a Tuesday evening.  Thus, the staffing should reflect the need for more service due to more customers. 

If a restaurant on a Saturday is so run off it's feet because it is understaffed this is a reflection on poor management and the workers should be complaining about it as the tips will obviously be lower. This is because people are less likely to tip and return to a restaurant if they receive rushed poor service. 

A server's job isn't easy, I fully admit it.  But a customer has the right to expect a certain level of service, food and atmosphere.  This is after all what a customer pays for and tips.  So if a server wants that tip, they had better show a decent effort for it.  As for the waitress at Casey's, she seemed more interested in the tip from the table of eight than she did in finishing up a decent experience with us. 

"Iv never been to caseys but im sure as hell to go just because of your stupid complaint."

Congratulations! I hope you get/had better service than we did. 
So hopefully that clears everything up in terms of what I expect at a restauarant. I've nearly seen everything from the great (Swiss Chalet service) to the worst (also Swiss Chalet) and everything in between.  My wife and I obviously provide repeat business to places we like (Jonathan's Fine Foods in Aurora) and rarely return to places we have had issues with (recently at London Pub).  However, we do allow places to improve by returning in six months to a year to a place with a bad review.  We also return to a place we can't decide if we had a mediocre time (i.e. can't figure if we like the place or not) to give it another try.
Bottom line, if you want our business you have to give us a good time and decent food.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's Going on at Yonge & Tyler?

Did you ever drive by a place and wonder what is going on inside?

Did you ever drive by a church and wonder what the people in side are up to? What draws them there?  What they believe in?  

Recently Aurora United Church released a video outlining some of the different groups and asked people what draws them to the building on a regular basis.  People of all ages responded and gave their thoughts and insights and this video resulted:

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How to Improve YRT/VIVA: Part 2: A Success Story

This past Friday I left work on time and started walking along the route of the TTC 107B Keele North Route that YRT contracts the TTC to do through the southern end of York Region.  As I rounded the bend in the road, I noticed a YRT Supervisor sitting in his vehicle with a clipboard in his lap. 

I inquired if the bus I was looking for had gone by yet. 

His answer was "Yes" four minutes before the scheduled time.  I did a double take and hung my head.  It looked like it was going to be the usual walk up to Rutherford Road to catch the next bus on my commute home. 

The YRT Supervisor signalled to hop into his vehicle and offered to drive me to Rutherford Road.  I hopped in and off we went.   But before doing so he promised to talk to the TTC Supervisor for the TTC 107B on Monday about the earlyniss of the bus and the fact there was no excuse to be that early. He dropped me off and swung around to talk to the TTC driver who was waiting at the end of the route to turn around and head back south.

YRT, after a year of complaints from myself (including to the Mayor and Regional Councillor of Aurora at the time, Phyllis Morris) with very little to show for it results, is finally listening to it's riders on this route.  Often the TTC 107B is either really early or late in comparison to the posted schedule along the northern sections of its routing.  Since YRT pays the TTC under contract, YRT should be investigating this end of the route a little better than it has.  However, they have been a little better than the TTC.

When a complaint is filed with the TTC, the call centre contact takes the message and nothing is done, not even a call back to say they are investigating or whether any changes are going to be made.  

To make matters worse the schedule in the two years I've taken the route has never been fully revised.  Contrast this to the Route 85 which has had it's schedule changed at least three times in past two years.

For a little while I was quiet on this route. I figured since YRT basically refused to take action after complaints through YRT Customer Service and inquires from a Regional Councillor, Phyllis Morris, that there was no hope.  But a couple of weeks ago I was miffed that I saw at TTC 107B bus go roaring past me as I was crossing the street to the bus stop.  The bus was at least five minutes early.  So, with a walk ahead of me, I called on my cell phone to relay my anger to the YRT Customer Service line. 

Funny enough, a week later I had again lost hope.  There was no call back from YRT Supervisors or the TTC on the issue.  I called, the Friday before voting day, again letting my displeasure be heard.  On Monday I got a call from a YRT Supervisor who promised some follow up on the route.  He promised that periodically there would be a YRT Supervisor monitoring the route for schedule adherence.  The results that I've seen from one day show the bus is anywhere five minutes early to seven minutes late.  Out of seven buses headed northbound there were only one really on time (at plus 1 minute up) while there were three late (3 to seven minutes late) and three way ahead of time that they should have stopped to let the clock catch up to them on the schedule.   So obviously some supervision to ensure schedule adherence is required.

Hopefully with YRT Supervisors reporting the issues to the TTC the route will improve. This will come one of two ways:

1. Either the TTC will improve the service by better monitoring of the route drivers to ensure schedule adherence (i.e. having the bus hold at a stop to ensure it is not ahead of schedule). Also, hopefully the TTC will revisit adjust the schedule to better reflect actual travel times and make more timely revisions to the schedule on this route.

2. If the TTC fails to do this, perhaps YRT can take over the route at least in York Region and fix the problem themselves.  Although rumour has it that YRT doesn't have enough vehicles to replace the TTC vehicles on this route and others like it.  But perhaps in the future as YRT grows and purchases more buses that this issue will change.  

For now there is at least some success in getting YRT to pay attention to this route they contract from the TTC.  As a taxpayer and rider of YRT, I expect YRT to watch to better watch their contractors, even if it is the TTC who should be running a similar operation in the first place.   At least now YRT has taken notice and has so far refused to slough off the issue as a "TTC issue".   I look forward to improvements on this route in the future as a follow up on this first success.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halloween Candy

Sometimes I'm left wondering what is going on in the world these days.   Halloween night was one of those days.  My wife and I dutifully bought one hundred pieces of candy and waited to see how Halloween night would turn out.    I had previously done a little observation of the local neighbourhood and watched kids come and go from the houses. 

But to my chagrin, things started at 6:45 P.M. with kids running next door to us for Tricker Treating.  Then the kids would run by our door and up the street skipping a bunch of houses.  The next group did the same thing.

 I studied this whole phenomenon by going for a walk around the block.  I noted the kids travelled in groups up and down the street hitting houses they seemed to know and skipping ours.  I also noted that barely one in four houses had their lights on and were accepting Trick or Treaters. The kids seemed to be all clumped with a few parents tailing in behind.  

At 7:20 P.M. we turned our lights out a little dejected.  What a difference a year makes.  Last year at my parents house in Aurora things were pretty much like they were in previous years.  If you had your porch light on and your place lit up, not necessarily with pumpkins, you would have forty to fifty kids show up looking for some loot.

Fast forward a year and instead of handing out candy to the kiddies in costume, I'm at home watching The West Wing on DVD while eating the overpriced Halloween candy I purchased.   Overpriced candy?  My wife says it is because as of November 1st the price for the Halloween candy drops in price big time for some reason.  

Well at least I've learned something for next year.  Enjoy a nice quiet evening at home or if I wish to see some fancy costumes, head to my parents place in Aurora.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who to Vote for...

If you live in Ontario Monday is the day of municipal political reckoning.  This is the day that the past four years of municipal politics has come down to.  This is the day the future of municipal government hinges on. Monday is municipal voting day.  

The lead up to the day leaves voters with the main question of "WHO TO VOTE FOR?" 

Also other variations of these questions come up as well with voters including:

"Which idiot do I vote for?"

"Rob Ford: To be or not to be? That is the question"

"If I hold my nose and vote, does it make the entire process of voting smell better?"

But usually the first question ("WHO TO VOTE FOR?") is the one many people struggle with.  Normally the answer to this key question is answered by what issues voters care about and how the candidates for election stand on the issues. Over the past couple of months I've watched the races in a number of municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  From these races I've narrowed down the issues that matter to me in how I'll be voting in Richmond Hill and York Region.

Government Cohesiveness: As recent former resident of Aurora, I'm deeply concerned about the fractious council relationships of this past current council.  Aurora Mayor Phyllis Morris has lead a fractious council over the past four years and was part of the previous council before this this current outgoingoing thone.  Respected Aurora Journalist and former Aurora Mayor Dick Illingworth called the 2003-2006 a  "dysfunctional council" and other such terms on many occasion in his columns in The Auroran.

This past term under Mayor Phyllis Morris has found every single department head of senior staff, except for one, resign and either retire or move onto other opportunities at another municipaltity; a "Code of Conduct" be launched outlining rules on how Aurora's Municipal Politicians should abide by even though there is more than enough rules in Ontario's Municipal Act and the Canadian Constitution (including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms); a lawsuit by one councillor against five councillors and the mayor; an Integrity Comissioner Removed from Office;  a lawsuit against 3 Aurora Citizens launched by the Town of Aurora on the Mayor's behalf over Thanksgiving Day weekend; and Campaigning without a permit at the Aurora GO Station by Phyllis Morris.  All of this fractiousness, dysfunction and lawsuits have left Aurora residents wondering what is going on and if the they have a right to speak out on Aurora politics at all.

Voters need to isolate who on council causes the fractiousness and dysfunction.  In Aurora there were two key players who have been on the past two councils, Phyllis Morris and Evelyn Buck.  Phyllis seems to be up to her eyeballs in the issues in Aurora as she is at the centre of two lawsuits and seems to be a member of the previous council that was labelled "dysfunctional" by members of the community and the media.

Evelyn Buck was also a member of the two previous councils as well.  This term she is well known for her open and frank blog about where she stands on the issues of the day on council. The blog has landed her at the centre of Code of Conduct complaints including this one.  However, at no time in any of the complaints that she was highly critical and/or disparaged senior staff do the complaints isolate any single blog entry or Buck's comments as examples.  In fact the first complaint was totally dismissed by respected ethicist and then Aurora Integrity Commissioner David Nitkin as "wholly political".  Funny enough, Nitkin was dismissed within days of filing his report on this complaint.  Eventually another Integrity Commissioner was hired, David Tsoubouchi who accepted a similar complaint about the blogs and again no defining evidence was brought against her and somehow succeeded.   The result of all these complaints to the Integrety Commissioner?  Nothing more than a written reprimand (read: slap on the wrist) and gobs of lawyers fees paid out. 

What would I like to see of the new council coming soon in both Aurora and Richmond Hill?  One that works cooperatively on the town's business.  This is what used to happen before the previous two terms Aurora council.  It was an era where ideas are brought forth, doesn't matter by who, honestly and positively debated to get the town's business done.  All of the town's business should be done cordially and without petty bickering between members of council. An idea brought forth, the idea studied and amended as requried and then implemented.  This is called good governance and how things get done. This is what I'm looking for in the next term of Richmond Hill, Aurora and York Region Councils.

Transit Improvement: Currently YRT/VIVA operates local municipal bus routes throughout York Region.  Also, YRT contracts some TTC Routes to service some of the southern sections of York Region as well that cross the southern border of Steeles Avenue. 

As things are currently, YRT has some work to do to improve transit.  The small items include poor schedule adherance on some of the TTC Routes that seem to have major issues of showing up on time.  I've laid several complaints about the TTC 107B both to YRT and the TTC.  All you get in return from both transit agencies is:

YRT: We've contacted the TTC about the issue and the TTC controls the schedule and the buses on this route. We just handle the service frequencies.  We can't take over the route with our buses as we do not have enough vehicles to do it right now. 

TTC: We'll take a look at the route and call you back.  Then nothing until the next complaint is returned.

It seems to me neither the TTC or YRT care about fixing the TTC issues in the southern end of YRT territory.  Why should YRT care? Because the Bus Stop posts, the tickets and the passes accepted in the southern part of York Region all say "YRT" on them.  Thus, I'm paying my fare to YRT for service that doesn't seem to come when it is supposed to.  As far as not having enough buses?  Well the TTC doesn't have enough either as it seems most of the busses we get on the north routes are the old TTC GMCs from the 1970s that have been rebuilt ten times over and held together by duct tape.  Perhaps over the next four years we can see YRT take over routes like the TTC 107B with some of those brand spanking new YRT buses or run them in tandem with the TTC like YRT used to do on Route 77 with Brampton Transit. 

YRT/VIVA needs to get back in the game when it comes to customer service.  The Management right down to the agents and drivers need some education. Two things need to be completed, more thought given to Customer Service to Customers calling into the YRT/VIVA Call Centre and YRT/VIVA employees following the rules and/or laws that are enforced on passengers.  

Hopefully with a little Customer Service Education and knowledge of YRT Operations situations like I ran into this past April do not occurr again (as described here and here).  Further the trouble in purchasing YRT fares at authorized ticket locations reared it's ugly head back in November 2009.   Bottom line, YRT/VIVA needs to ensure Customer Service issues are easily resolved and fares easily to obtain from authorized agents. Prospective transit riders do not need uneducated staff (never mind Managers) and out of stock fare media to hamper their ride.  Bottom line, these issues should be easily taken care of and not allowed to fester

YRT/VIVA operates under the By-Laws and Policies duly passed by Regional Council of the Region of York.  An example of this is comes from 2007 when the Region of York Council passed a By-Law stipulating there be No Smoking at all YRT Transit Terminals and properties (Regional Municipality of York By-Law No. R-1415-2005-028).  Soon after proclaiming the new By-Law on, one of YRT/VIVA's finest is found smoking on the platform at the GO Transit Bus Terminal at Finch Station.  Now that was 2007, have things improved at all?  From this past week (starting Sunday October 17th and ending October 23rd) I've made note of YRT Drivers smoking at Bernard Terminal and at Rutherford GO Station.  Both of these I would consider to be YRT Terminals although a case could be made for the Rutherford GO Station bus loop being on GO Transit property and thus not part of YRT Terminal.  But, GO Transit has a By-law stating:

No person shall smoke on Authority property, except in designated areas designated as smoking areas.

and at the Rutherford GO Station bus loop there are at least two No Smoking signs clearly posted on the street lamps that overlook the bus loading platforms.

So if YRT and GO Transit both have duly implented By-laws are these only for GO Transit bus drivers and passengers and not for YRT/VIVA drivers?  Some days is sure seems so, because I've even seen the YRT/VIVA drivers light up with their supervisor around.

Thus from this coming election I'm looking for better operated transit services in terms of Customer Service, on time performance of TTC Bus routing in the southern part of the region and a concentration of having YRT/VIVA Drivers and other employees or contractors to start following the rules or facing the punishment we all must bear for breaking the law.

Proper Tax Dollar Spending: All governments, not just municipal, collect money from taxpayers.  Taxpayers earn their money mainly through working.  In Canada almost half of all workers income is taken by the government via taxation (e.g. property taxes, income taxes, etc.).  Governments, in turn, spend the dollars on various items including roads, defence, garbage collection, health care and other items.

From all governments I expect them to spend tax dollars wisely as well as continue to review how these dollars are spent.  Through implementation and reviews of spending new ways can be found to provide the same or improved services at reasonable costs.  Tax dollars should be spent properly and efficently as possible.  Thus words like "gravy train" and "boondoggle" should never have to be brought forth.  If these words do come forward there is obviously something wrong.  Tax dollars should be considered sacred and spent only as needed and never wasted.  Thus, in this coming election I will be looking for representatives that not only promise to be fiscally accountable but also have they proof they have been fiscally accountable in the past.

This election voters should be looking for people that follow the rules and get along with others, improved transit that actually operates on time as per the posted schedule and ensuring that tax dollars are spent wisely and efficiently.   Lawsuits, petty bickering, boondoggles and such do not belong at the council table.  As easy as it seems, this is what I will be looking for in the upcoming election.  Nothing less is simply unsatisfactory.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Good Service Needs to Be Rewarded

Sometimes great Customer Service goes unnoticed, especially at restaurants. Sometimes the kudos go unnoticed. 

Is this because the bad experiences scream louder?  Most people rant and rave about bad customer service or experiences.  I'm guilty of that.  But usually bad customer experiences can be amusing and leave a smile on the face of the reader as to how something so simple ended so badly.  This is not one of those stories.

My Wife and I wondered where to go on Friday night. We hummed and hawed over where to go.  We searched for coupons for inspiration and savings.  We came up empty.  We settled on Swiss Chalet (9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill)

Now the local Swiss Chalet, as I have said before, is a hit and miss location.  Sometimes it is a long wait to even get a seat or you walk in and sit down immediately.  Sometimes the service can be sluggish and other times outstanding.  Really it is like going to Vegas and spinning the wheel. 

This past visit though was simply outstanding.  My wife and I were immediately sat at our table.  It took a little while for the waiter to come over, but I don't really blame him.  I first disappeared to the washroom to wash my hands and when I returned my wife did the same.   

As good Swiss Chalet Customers, my wife and I took a quick look at the menu and when our waiter, Ahmad, finally came by, we ordered our drinks and our food order.

The Order: Half Chicken dinner with fries and white roll with a Pepsi and a Quarter Chicken Dinner with a multigrain roll and a refreshing glass of water.

In less than five minutes our food was being brought out from the kitchen!  There were copious amount of fries, the sauce was hot and not watery and the chicken was excellent!   This was truly Swiss Chalet goodness at it's finest. 

Ahmad came by a couple of times and refilled my Pepsi glass in minutes.  He also inquired, while offering to refill my glass if everything was fine and if there was anything he could do.

Complaints?  The only one we have after this Swiss Chalet visit was why can't all Swiss Chalet Visits be like this one?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dropping Some Coin at 3 Coins Restaurant

On this fabulous Thanksgiving Monday holiday my wife and I headed out to downtown Richmond Hill to try out the 3 Coins Open Kitchen Restaurant (10140 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill).   This restuaraunt is considered to be mainly "the greasy spoon" of Richmond Hill. What better way to enjoy a greasy spoon than to venture into this local for a little brunch. 

We arrived shorlty before noon and the small dining room (barely 10 tables) was nearly full.  The friendly waitress wandered over to take our orders.

The Order: 3 egg breakfast with sausages, bacon, toast and coffee.  A BLT Sandwich on White with fries.

The order came within 10 minutes.  The breakast, unlike some other greasy spoons, came all on one plate.  However, this works for my wife as normally I end up eating a lot of what she can't finish.  The best part was the home fries, nice, hot and tasty.  The wrest of the breakfast seemed average for a greesy spoon.

The BLT sandwich was delicious.  I noticed first that the bacon was so well packed into the sandwich it started to fall out.  No worries, scoop it up eat separatly and continue on with what is left.  The fries however were a different story. These weren't anything to write home about.  The fries were thin and stringy and luke warm at best.   The Cole Slaw was decent but could have been a little more creamier for my liking.

Overall for portion size we could have gone to Daybreak.  For better tasting food I would have visited somewhere else.  But for a decent meal at a decent price, 3 Coins Restaurant is a decent place to be.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Duffs a DUD but Menchies is MMMM Good

My wife and I headed out for some chicken wings and frozen yogurt at Duff's Famous Wings and Menchies Frozen Yogurt (both at 9360 Bathurst Street, Vaughan, Ontario).

At Duff's Famous Wings we were seated immediately at a table for two.  The next table over sat about four people.  The seating seemed a little to cosy (i.e. too close to the table next to you with little room to manouvre to get out of your table).  

The service at Duff's was fantastic.  The waitress, who seemed to have a male trainee in tow all night, was fast and efficient.  We ordered our drinks and 20 wings right away and everything arrived at our table within ten minutes of ordering.

The Order:  20 Wings (10 Mild and 10 Honey Garlic) + Lg Fries + Sm Pitcher of Pop (Coke)

The Wings and Fries though were a different story.  The Mild BBQ sauce Wings were luke warm at best and had obviously been out of the oven for a little while.  The Honey Garlic Wings were a little warmer.  Both types of wings seemed rather dry tasting as well.  

The fries were just average for any bar and nothing to write home about. 

Overall Duff's Wings just aren't that famous.  There are only thirteen types of wings and most of them are BBQ or spiced hot.  For those that want neither hot nor BBQ there is Honey Garlic or Hot Honey Garlic (Read:  It's honey garlic or hit the road!).

Over at Menchies (right next door to Duff's Famous Wings) we had a little more luck.  We shared a strawberry frozen yogurt and added some chocolate chips.  The frozen yogurt was quite good in consistancy and taste.  The service? Excellent considering you make your frozen yogurt creation yourself.   The only real worry is that nowhere did I find a list of ingredients on their website or in store as to what is in the yogurt itself.  Considering allergies of everything from milk to gluten to peanuts out there, the ingredients should be better displayed.    But since I do not have any allergies, I'm more than happy to partake in a little frozen yogurt action.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Memories of My Mom

Over the past month I've had several people tell me how much they appreciated my Mother.  I've heard lots about her smile, joy of life and hardworking nature.  I also provided many memories as well to others.

Also, I can't remember the number of people who I've met this past month who've said, what I've come to learn, the "usual things" during times of mourning:

1. My Condolences

2. My thoughts are with you

3. My prayers are with you.

4. I'm thinking about you

and on and on. These I know are all heartfelt as you can see it in people's faces. 

I also have received hundreds of hugs from my Mom's friends, family and coworkers.   The stack of cards at my Dad's place takes hours to read and sort through.  Each time I look I find something new to learn about my mother or others appreciation of the kindness my Mother provided. 

Perhaps this past week the school she worked the past two years at as an Educational Assistant at published the notice of her passing in their September School Newsletter complete with a poem by one of my Mom's coworkers.  It is definately worth a read. 

The Memories of my Mom will no doubt continue.  That I will appreciate forever.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

No Frills "Will Be Beat" 2

Today my wife and I returned to the scene of the crime, Enzo's No Frills in Richmond Hill. 

This time we came armed with the latest Wal-Mart flyer hoping to price match some Mr. Christie Oreo Cookies and Nabisco's Ritz Crackers.  Why the Wal-Mart flyer...REWIND to last time!

"I asked if Wal-Mart was a competitor. She said yes..."

So we thought we would see if Wal-Mart was still a competitor this week because, as you know from last week and to test my theory that No Frills "Won't Be Beat" marketing sham actually is:

"We Won't Be Beat by a select few competitors who we refuse to provide a clearly publicly posted list of because they may beat us in price in the future and we wouldn't want to have to admit we have to keep this list a moving target due to several factors...Read: the list changes as it suits us and screw the consumer with a valid case". 

So after finishing our grocery shopping I ventured forth to cashier with the Oreo Cookies, Ritz Crackers and Wal-Mart flyer in hand.  The cashier inquired if I wanted to price match.  I replied that I was.  She said that if I was going to price match I needed to go over there, and she motioned to where the cashier supervisor was standing.  I said this is the checkout and there is nobody behind us, lets do it all here.  She called over the Cashier Supervisor and she reviewed the Wal-Mart flyer and quickly put through the price match transaction without any fuss.   

Lesson:  This week Wal-Mart is still considered a competitor by No Frills.  Zellers? Don't ask even though they maybe across the street.

The Cashier took over and quickly rang the rest of the groceries through without any issues.

So on the third attempt, we finally got No Frills to price match.  We now have a list, courtesy of the Cashier Supervisor at Enzo's No Frills from our last visit and Paula from No Frills Customer Service of competitors they are willing to price match with.  This this list in hand, all by doing a little bit of research on our part because No Frills still refuses to post the list of competitors online, we cruise the flyers on Fridays in preparation for Saturday's shopping trip.  

The moral of the story here is No Frills and LCL Companies provide an awesome marketing campaign on "Won't Be Beat" with flyers, instore cardboard signage everywhere, t-shirts, websites and much more.  But when it comes time to the actual price matching, it gets complicated...who is a competitor (SECRET!), why won't you price match with this chain (SECRET!) and where can I find the list (SECRET!).  Thus it is hard to nail them down.   It makes one crazy. 

In the end though, LCL Companies still adheres to the Scanning Code of Practice at least.  How do I know?  In the past two months I've walked out of Enzo's No Frills with free Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent, No Name Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips and, today's score, No Name Smooth Peanut Butter. All of this because of the shelf tag in store doesn't match what comes out on the cash register receipt.

Gotta love Enzo's No Frills, there's always something good going on there!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

No Frills "Will Be Beat"

Last Thursday (a week ago today) the local paper The Liberal hit my front doorstep.  I brought in the paper, pulled out the flyers and watched my wife devour the flyers looking for deals.  

One of the deals was from Zellers for any Peak Frean Cookies for $1.79 on Saturday and Sunday only.  So we headed over to Zellers to see if we could find any.  But it was not to be, they were sold out on Saturday by 10 A.M. (i.e. the shelves were bare).  

So later that day we took our Zellers flyer to Enzo's No Frills (Loblaws Companies Limited Store #770) on our regular grocery trip in order to price match the Peak Frean Cookies.  No Frills, on their website, throughout their stores and in their flyer say they "Won't Be Beat".  The details of this marketing program is on their flyers.  A copy of this legal jargon can be found here on the No Frills website.  

We finished our grocery shopping and at the cashier I sent my wife ahead with the flyer and two boxes of Peak Frean Cookies for the price match while I loaded the rest of the groceries onto the conveyor belt.  The cashier, as expected, called the Cashier Supervisor over to authorize the price match.  The Cashier Supervisor said that Zellers wasn't a competitor of No Frills. 

I took over the price match issue at this point with several pointed questions.  The Cashier Supervisor basically said that LCL Head Office sets who their competitors are and the details are in the flyer. I basically did a line by line deduction of the flyer legal jargon.  I inquired as well if Metro was a competitor. She said yes.  I asked if Wal-Mart was a competitor. She said yes.  I asked if it made sense that Wal-Mart is a major competitor of Zellers and yet her No Frills store refused to price match.  She said it was up to Head Office.

I inquired with the Cashier Supervisor where one could find a list of the competitors.  Her reply was that the competitors were listed on the No Frills website.

The Cashier Supervisor would obviously not bend, so I requested a meeting with Store Owner, Enzo Tatangelo, right away over this issue.  Enzo was paged but the call back, via the Cashier Supervisor, was that Enzo was in a meeting.  The Cashier Supervisor did receive authorization to price match one box of cookies but that the other one I would have to pay full price.  I replied I would take the one box but they could reshelve the other box as they refused to honour their price match. 

I also requested the Customer Service Line for No Frills at Loblaw Companies Limited Head Office.  This was provided. I called the number while leaving the store and the awesome LCL Head Office Customer Service line is not open on weekends.  I have to "call during regular business hours" (whatever that means) in order to speak to someone.  So I checked the No Frills website for "regular business hours" and called on Monday early in the morning.

I spoke to the Customer Service Representative and told her the story of what happened.  Her first reply was that they don't price match with Zellers and I was basically out of luck.  I replied that I was told by the Cashier Supervisor at Enzo's No Frills that there is supposedly a list of competitors on the No Frills Website for the "Won't Be Beat" guarantee.  I also said that for someone with two University degrees I couldn't find a definitive list.  The Customer Service Representative directed me, step by step, to their website on their Won't Be Beat.  She then had me select my store (i.e. Enzo's No Frills in Richmond Hill, Ontario) and then on the next screen had me click on a link in the "How We Choose Our Competitors."  Um...full stop right here.

The section "How we Choose Our Competitors" is used not for their flyer price matching guarantee.  It is for their "We Won't Be Beat" because we checked the prices at the other stores marketing campaign.  Sorry the list on the ensuing link doesn't work.  I pointed this out to the Customer Service Agent and also pointed out that the list of stores for price comparisons had geographical areas next to it and "Richmond Hill" was never mentioned.  In fact the closest place on the list was "Etobicoke, Ontario" thus No Frills in Richmond Hill, by her flawed logic, doesn't have a competitor in Richmond Hill then.  Thus, the No Frills Richmond Hill "Won't Be Beat" marketing campaign was worth less than the paper they printed their flyers and in store glossy cardboard signs on. The Customer Service Representative then promised a LCL Customer Service Manager would call me back within 48 hours and took down my address and phone number.
Well, it is now Thursday, over 48 hour later, and I finally received a voicemail in the morning at 10:39 A.M.  The Manager, Pauline, said:

 "Good Morning Mr. Suddard this is Pauline calling from No Frills Customer Relations. You called in regards to our Won't Be Beat program. The agent that you spoke to correctly informed you that Zellers is currently not part of our program currently.  It might be in the future but as of right now it is not part of our Won't Be Beat program.  You can go to...we do price match with stores like Food Basics, Price ChopperMetro, Foodland, Longos, Highland Farms, Freshco, Sobeys, and our Banner Stores. But as of right now we do not price match with Zellers.  If you need to speak with me please feel free to do so at 1-800-296-2332..."

Well I have no intention of calling back Pauline at No Frills Customer Relations.  Bottom line is the "Won't Be Beat" concept at No Frills is a sham.  I've been to Enzo's No Frills on two occasions. The first with the Concord Foods advertisement from The Liberal and the Cashier Supervisor at that time refused to price match claiming "Concord Foods is not a National Competitor".  The second time, as detailed above
with the Zellers flyer, they claimed it was because Zellers was not on their list approved by No Frills Head Office and that the list is on the website (which is not the case).  

As for the whole "Won't Be Beat" promise, as posted on the the No Frills Website, here is breakdown at how Enzo's No Frills and LCL Companies limited refused to honour their ""Won't Be Beat" promise using my experience with a current Zellers advertisement and a box of Peak Frean Cookies.

Title: "Won't Be Beat"
No Frills will not be beaten in by price by anyone!

* If a competitor offers a lower price on any item that we carry in our store simply show us an advertisement or receipt and we will sell you that item at the same price.
Zellers Store Number 321 (located at 9350 Yonge Street, Richmond Hill, Ontario) advertises via a flyer in The Liberal newspaper that Peak Frean Cookies on Saturday and Sunday are $1.79 then No Frills will match that price guaranteed!
We will match the competitor’s price only during the effective date of the competitor’s advertisement or within 7 days of the date of the receipt.
That with the Zellers flyer and 2 boxes of Peak Frean Cookies, both boxes would be rung through at the cheaper Zellers price by No Frills on the same Saturday that the Zellers flyer is valid for.
Item must be identical (defined as same brand, size and attributes) and for produce, meat and bakery items, we reserve the right to determine a comparable item.
Michael's belief: A same sized box of Peak Frean cookies as advertised in the Zellers flyer would also be the same price at No Frills.
‘Our major competitors’ and ‘geographical trade areas’ are determined solely by us and are based on a number of factors which can change from time to time.
That national chains with locations in the local area would be honoured.  Since there is a major Zellers store (a Canadian national chain of HBC) right across the street from Enzo's No Frills that this would be honoured as obviously this would be within a "geographical trade area".  Also, since Zellers, in their grocery section and advertisements has a lot of similar food, drug and grocery products (i.e. a measure of a number of factors) as No Frills that this would be deemed as "a competitor."  If no competitors are listed on the No Frills website (i.e. a clearly posted list of major competitors No Frills is willing to match prices with) then a customer has to assume which competitors No Frills will price match with.
Excludes ‘multi-buys’ (eg. 2 for $4); ‘spend x get x’; ‘Free’; and discounts obtained through loyalty programs.
Peak Freans were on sale as a single item at Zellers, thus, it No Frills could honour the same price (i.e. 1 box of Peak Freans at the same size would be the same price for the same size box at No Frills). 
In the end I learned something.  No Frills marketing campaign of "Won't Be Beat" is a SHAM!  What No Frills refuses to mention is that really their campaign should read: "We Won't Be Beat by a select few competitors who we refuse to provide a clearly publicly posted list of because they may beat us in price in the future and we wouldn't want to have to admit we have to keep this list a moving target due to several factors...Read: the list changes as it suits us and screw the consumer with a valid case". 
So in future, I will continue to flyer shop as normal.  If a competitor of No Frills has a deal on, like Zellers had with Peak Frean Cookies, I will gladly go to that store.  This decision is based on my experience with as, obviously, No Frills doesn't want to live up to their marketing campaign. 
As for the cookies, my wife and I returned to the Zellers location and picked up three boxes of cookies last Sunday at $1.79.    Why Zellers?  "Because the Lowest Price is the Law!"
And Congratulations Zellers, you proved that No Frills "Will Be Beat!"

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Oskee Wee Wee, Oskee Wa Wa, Holy Mackinaw! Tigers ate the Argos Raw!

Been a while since I had time to download my photos from last Monday.  Ah the Labour Day Weekend in Canada.  One last breath of fresh summer air, one last weekend before the kids head back to school and one last weekend minnie vacation.   Where would one go in Canada on Labour Day Monday? 

Why not the Labour Day Classic football game at Hamilton's Ivor Wynne Stadium between the evil Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.   It was a great day for an outdoor football game between the two archrivals with Hamilton hosting. Hamilton won the game 28-13.  

During the game I got to visit my uncle, Bob Young, of the Ticats and noticed the Lieutenant Governor David Onley was also taking in the game.  My father got to talk to David during the second half of the game.   

Below is are some photos and video I took during the game. 

From Hamilton

From Hamilton

From Hamilton

More photos can be found in the Hamilton Album in the Scrapbook Section of my Website.

Finally, a big OSKEE WEE WEE to Uncle Bob for allowing us to have such a good time.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

How to Improve YRT/VIVA: Part 1: Scheduling

Sunday mornings are not really York Region Transit's strength when it comes to transit service.  Along Yonge Street heading Northbound from Sixteenth-Carrville to Aurora the first VIVA bus doesn't leave until 8:41 A.M.  This is awesome if you are looking to Aurora for 8:00 A.M.

So one is forced to take a look at the YRT Service to get one from Yonge Street and Sixteenth Avenue to Wellington Street and Yonge Street in Aurora. This involves taking Route 99 from Yonge Street & Sixteenth Avenue to Bernard Avenue and Yonge Street and switch over to Route 98 to continue the trip onto Aurora.   This is where YRT makes things even more interesting.  On September 5th (today) YRT updated the schedules for both Route 99 and Route 98 that make up YRT service on Yonge Street.

Before today, the schedules for Route 99 and Route 98 worked quite well together.  I would board Route 99 and take it to Yonge Street and Bernard Avenue.  I would then wait ten minutes and then continue my journey to Aurora.  This trip used to take me about 40 minutes on a good day. 

Today YRT implemented the update in schedules.  Today, I got up earlier and ended up on an earlier Route 99 bus and disembarked at Bernard Avenue and Yonge Street.   I took a look to see when the Route 98 bus was going to show up...GRET...a forty minute wait for the first Route 98 bus Northbound in Aurora that leaves at 7:41 A.M. according to the posted schedule at Bernard Terminal.  So I waited the forty minutes, via a quick trip to McDonald's, and boarded the Route 98.  The bus pulled out onto Bernard Avenue and was waiting in the right turn lane to make the turn into the Northbound lanes of Yonge Street.  

At the time I was looking out the window to find another Nortbound Route 99 pulling into Bernard Terminal. I later checked the new YRT Route Navigator for Route 98 and 99 to see what the official posted schedule was for the connection between Route 98 and 99 at Bernard Terminal on a Sunday morning around 7:45 A.M.

Apparently, there is not supposed to be any connection between Route 99 and Route 98.  The first Route 98 is supposed to leave at 7:41 A.M. to go Northbound on Yonge Street towards Aurora and Newmarket.  Route 99 is supposed to arrive at 7:43 A.M.  To those who are trying to go Northbound on Yonge Street through the Bernard Avenue area to Aurora by 8:00 A.M., YRT gives you the finger.  YRT does this by:

1. Providing No Northbound VIVA Service on Sunday mornings.  This is understandable considering the low numbers of ridership for that early in the morning.

2. By not providing adequate connections between Route 98 and Route 99 that make sense.  One is forced to wait 30-40 minutes at Bernard Terminal after disembarking Route 99 in order to wait for a Route 98.   If you've arrived on the Route 99 at 7:43 A.M. be sure to wave at the Route 98 as it turns the corner on to Yonge Street, because you're now stuck until 8:06 A.M. to wait for another Route 98 to arrive.

3. By being dumb enough to print both Route 98 and Route 99 Schedules on the same sheet of paper for Customer Consumption (found here) and not even noticing the poor connection between the two routes.  The connection is so obvious between these two routes at this time of day, with a two minute gap between, one could almost taste the convenience.  But sadly, YRT Planners couldn't even "smell" this connection to even allow their customers to taste it.

4. When boarding Route 98 and going to Aurora, the driver requests that you pay an additional $1.00 fare upgrade becuase your about to take a "2 zone trip." Well contratulations YRT, not only do you make it almost impossible to get to Aurora from Yonge & Sixteenth Avenue on a Sunday morning,  without taking almost an hour in duration, you even insist on an extra whole dollar! A 2 zone fare this early in the morning? What for? To give a raise to the craptastic YRT planners who thought of this awesome revision to the Route 98 and Route 99 schedules around the 7:45 A.M. hour on a Sunday morning?  If the connection was actually made, then a YRT Customer might be able to stomach the extra $1.00, but as it stands now the extra buck makes us want to barf.

This, my friends, is what we call awesome transit scheduling courtesy of those in the glass office building home of YRT Administration. One would think those updating the schedules of both Route 98 and Route 99 would investigate the obvious need for a connection at Bernard Terminal between these two routes and make it work.  Apparently this would be too practical for the schedulers and didn't happen.

Mike's Golden rule of Good Transit Customer Service: if you want to attract ridership, make sure your simple scheduled connections between two routes serving the same major street are coordinated no matter what time of the day.

Popular Posts