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.

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