Thursday, August 20, 2009

Human Ping-Pong: Made in Hong Kong, Distributed by Walmart

Dear Walmart Canada - Vancouver (Supercentre),

First and foremost, I would like to thank you for creating an environment, lacking of initiative and accountability, which would reaffirm my position that you really can't expect much from a place that sells itself on "cheap".

I was in your store a few weeks ago, looking to purchase a netbook. I should add, at this point, that your online catalogue search feature is, at best, completely useless. Why list a computer system and not provide any details beyond its brand and colour? It was only when I arrived at your store that I would find out that they were sold out.

I suppose I have only myself to blame for thinking that your company would extend simple courtesies that are common place in other major retailer outlets like Future Shop or The Bay - silly me. Clearly it was asking a lot to have an associate call another location to see if the item I was looking for was available there. Better yet, stick me with a kid, who probably barely legally able to sell rated R material, to help me out. A kid who told me that I would have to walk to the other end of your "Supercentre", roughly the size of 2 CFL football fields, to have Customer Service make the call for me because, supposedly, none of the phones in his department had an outside line. Sure. He shall henceforth be known as Kid McGreen.

After standing in line for 15 minutes, one of your more amiable associates told me that my inquiry had to be made department-to-department, meaning that I would have to walk back across the length of your football field store to have someone phone another store. At least I got an apology from him as I was escorted back.

But alas, your friendly associate was swamped and I was again left in the hands of Kid McGreen. After McGreen was able to flag down his manager, who would then point out the phone to use and told him to dial 9 and then the phone number, he made his first dial-out attempt. I call it an attempt because he picked up the handset, pressed 9, hung up, picked up the handset again, then dialed the phone number, and then just stood there in confusion. Sigh. Even when I tried to tell him how it worked, he dismissed me, in his haste, to go find his all-knowing Sensei Manager. When Sensei came back, she just did it for him, handed him the handset, and grumbled as she walked away. I sense your Sensei is disappointed, I would suggest counseling for her.

After that phone call resulted in no available stock in your Burnaby store, I asked McGreen if he could call North Vancouver. Again, Sensei was consulted and because she was lacking much-needed counseling, she simply told me they had a "one phone call" policy. Yes, that makes perfect sense to me when it's a weekday, and there are 2 customers in your area for your 5 associates and I'm asking 1 of them to use a phone line that never rings, in a low traffic area - that is certainly grounds for having a "phone call" policy. When I pointed out the atmospheric condition and if a breech of policy was possible, your Sensei made it crystal clear that every courtesy had already been extended to me and perhaps I was getting greedy. I disagreed but resigned myself to just obtaining a phone number that I would dial myself, on my cell phone, using my own minutes - even though a landline was within reach that would be free. Heaven forbid I breech department policy and spend $0.0000000000002 of your hard earned profit margin. After all, your Sensei had reached her courtesy quota for the day and I was out of luck.

So, again, I thank you for such an inspiring experience and for compelling me to share this with all of my friends, and those on the Interweb.

Yours truly,
Human Ping-pong

PS: If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm being facetious.

PPS: If you don't know what that word means, then you're probably related to Kid McGreen.

PPPS: And I wouldn't ask Sensei Manager because she's probably filled her pickle-hole quota for the decade.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bell: Strike 2 - One more, and I'm out.


I know some of you are wondering how things turned out from when I said below that I would be going to the store to fight to get a warranty, but I figured that it's pretty much a fruitless exercise because it's their policy and even after I called support later that evening, again, I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere.


August 20th Update:

My phone started acting weird this morning. It was doing all sorts of things which I will spare all of you from since most of it wouldn't make much sense unless you owned one. The point is, the screen was acting up *again*.

Fully aware that my warranty was a couple weeks from expiring, I phoned Tech support to see what could be done. In the end, they were unable to do too much because it was phone related and not network related. This would mean that I would, again, have to go back to the store and have a repair order placed.

The one useful tidbit I found out, thanks to a more knowledgeable agent, was that any repairs done had, in and of itself, a 3 month warranty, mutually exclusive from the manufacture's warranty. FINALLY, SOME GOOD NEWS! I have to go into the store, see if they can actually do anything without having my phone sent out...AGAIN. Oh, and don't worry, I'll be sure to let them know about their repair warranty policy.



Original Post:

I'm sure most of you are well acquainted with my nightmare of a story when I had my phone upgraded a year ago. If not, read this first.

Before reading on, it's important to know the following:
  • I now do all my business with the Oakridge Mall location
  • That when I was forced to switch my upgrade from the HTC Dual Touch to the Samsung Instinct, at no extra cost to myself, I was not offered the extended warranty. You can probably see where this is going.

So let's fast forward to today, August 18, 2009. I had just received some much needed repairs to my Samsung - namely the touchscreen just randomly stopped working. On the work order that came back from the repair company noted the following:
  1. Replaced major component part
  2. Full software upgrade/prl & phone reset
  3. Replaced touch panel/tpanel tape
In the past couple of weeks, while my phone was in for repairs, I searched the forums to see if anyone else had the same problem and if there was a work-around or fix for it - no such luck. The most common response was to get it repaired/replaced.

When I went to the store to pick up my phone, I asked what my recourse was, in the event that my touchscreen randomly died on me again. The associate said that it would be covered so long as the manufacture or my extended warranty was still valid, otherwise I would have to incur the entire cost. My mouth dropped. Then I told him that I didn't know there was extended warranty for the phone and asked if I could get one now.

He said, "Oh. Um. When did you get the phone?"
I told him, "Almost a year ago..."
He replied, "Uh. Well. There' of.....buying one now."
I looked at him with disbelief and then said, "But, it wasn't even offered to me. Now you're telling me your hands are tied and I'll be in the red if my phone flubs up again?"
He paused.
Then I said, "I know you're not aware of the hell I was put through with this other associate, but understand me when I say that his mistakes were so epic that your company ended up giving me close to $500 in features - for free - to apologize."
His eyes widened. He then said, "I'm really sorry, I don't have the ability to add this on unless it's a new purchase. If you've had a previous issue stemming from this other associate, I would suggest calling our customer service support and they can better asses your situation."

In their store, a landline is available in case customers need to contact the customer service support. Unfortunately, someone else was already using it and my phone was losing battery life, so I decided to just call when I got home.

When I finally called, the guy on the other end flat out told me that getting an extended warranty now was impossible. I explained my entire nightmare to this guy and he felt bad but still told me that nothing was possible because it would be considered insurance fraud. I then told him that I needed to know who I could speak with to file a complaint. He put me on hold and I soon found out that I was transferred to the Billing department.

I had to re-explain the reason I was calling, only to have the lady on the other end tell me that she was unaware of the policy for warranties and that I'd need to go to the store, speak to them, and if they were unable to do anything for me, to have them call their help desk support. I told her that I had just come from there and they had told me to call customer support and that I didn't want to waste gas. She told me that she was unable to add the warranty to my account and that it would need to be dealt with in-store.

And so, now I wait until the store opens tomorrow to get this figured out.

At this point, in the event that my phone dies, and it's after September 7, 2009, and I'm unable to get an extended warranty - I'll bite the bullet and cancel my contract. Because either way, I'll have to pay to have a functioning cell phone and I rather it be with a different provider with a better reputation who can give me a free phone with a contract.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

For whom does Bell toll?

This was originally posted in my Facebook profile and I've decided to add it to this blog for posterity. The original date of this post was September 10, 2008 and below is a follow up on September 24, 2008, and June 2009.
September 10, 2008:

On Sunday my girlfriend upgraded her phone with her provider. I was curious to see when I would be eligible for mine and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had qualified for a $250 credit towards a new phone upgrade.

The next day, Monday, I stopped into my local Bell Mobility store (at the corner of Broadway and Fir) and was approached by a sales rep. Being an informed customer helps you bypass most of the BS sales people tend to tell you and gives you a pretty good indication of how good they are. Said sales rep was nice enough, seemed a bit young to be selling phones but gave me the sense that he was knowledgeable enough. He showed me the phones they had to offer, etc. I had already done my homework and narrowed down the phones I was most interested in. Once I was pretty sure which phone I wanted, the next thing was to talk about my plan.

Before we go any further, let me fill you in on the facts: my current contract with one number would end in Feb '09. I changed to a new plan to add a second line in June '07 as a loop hole (at their suggestion) to get a new phone cuz I wasn't eligible for one at that time -- that second line is considered another contract but I can pick which line to cancel come Feb '09.

Before I understood these facts here's how things progressed:

I inquired about deactivating my second line and after he confirmed with Customer Support Services (CSS), he told me that I'd have to pay $300 cuz it was the same thing as ending my contract and that it was best for me to "ride it out" until Feb '09. I then asked what would happen from today, since I was renewing my contract for another length of time, and what bearing it would have on my ability to cancel my 2nd line -- if any. He said, in that case, I'd have to wait until June '09. I stopped him: Excuse me? He retracted. I then said, "Well I don't want to cancel my contract, I'm just switching plans. They let me switch plans before without penalty. What gives?" He stumbled in his reiteration to me of what he said before but this time said that I could deactivate it any time after Feb '09. Point blank I said to him, "Well then don't say June cuz you're not making any sense." He says, "But it is June.." and I said, "You just said it was Feb '09" He then says, "Well, one of them is." Oooh. *One* of them is -- geezus dude, learn to communicate.

Anyways. So once that was figured out, I picked out my phone -- the HTC Touch Dual. Gives you the option of a touch screen with also a bottom slide out keyboard with the QWERTY keypad like they have on the Blackberry. He set it up for me and I even paid an extra $15 to have him transfer all my numbers over. When I was signing my new contract I noticed that there was one less feature on my new plan and asked about it. He told me it was a printing error but that I still had all of the same features, etc. Um. Ok. He seems to know what he's talking about. Fine.

I get home and start charging it up. Tried to check my voicemail but I got a busy tone. I chalked it up to the service not kicking in yet. I had to do some things around the house, so it was some time before I tried again. Still a busy signal. Weird. I decided that enough time had passed and something was up.

When I called tech support they told me that the reason I couldn't access my voicemail was because my phone was incompatible with the plan I had (called Fun 20 Clips) that offered unlimited internet, texting, tv clips, voicemail, caller id.

What. The. Fuck. I KNEW it. The technician on the phone told me that I'd have to bring it back to the store and get either the HTC Touch or the Samsung Instinct which would be comparable to the phone I currently had. He also told me that we should end the call so that the minutes used would be under 15 minutes and I would be eligible to return for a full refund under their Buyer's Remorse Policy. I said to him, "Oh it won't be ME who's going to feel 'remorse'..." He apologized and hoped I'd be able to get it sorted out, and then said again that we should end the call. Right, under 15...*click*.

I surfed their website that night to consider my next possibility. I had liked the Samsung Instinct but was leery of not having an actual keypad, which is why I picked the HTC Touch Dual in the first place. But, after some good reviews on reputable sites, I decided that phone would be my next choice. As a precaution, I also took it upon myself to clear the data off the phone -- I wasn't in a trusting mood by this point.

So that was my Monday.

On Tuesday, I headed back to the store with my new phone, the receipt, the contract, and my irritation. I was all set to demand that they not charge me a dime for needing to switch to the other phone cuz I was sure they were going to offer me something piddly like $20 off the Samsung cuz it was worth just over $80 more than the one I had just purchased.

I walked into the store and my buddy boy sales rep looks at me, undaunted and says, "Hey how's it going?". I put the phone, my receipt and the contract in front of him, looked him square and said, "Not good." I think I scared him. I said to him, "As it turns out, the phone you suggested isn't compatible with the plan I have. So I can't get my voice mail and I don't have unlimited use of texting, internet, etc."

He looks at me like a deer caught in head lights and says, "Uh, how do you know?" I look at him again and said, "Your tech support told me. I phoned them to ask why I was getting a busy signal when I called my voicemail and they said that's why." He then said, "Oh ok well, then we'll just add that feature back on. One sec." He goes to the back room where I know the store manager is sitting and then comes back and tells me they can add something called Fun 15. I asked what's in that one. He told me everything that I had before. I looked at him dead in the eyes and said, "Are. You. Sure. I'm not going to keep this phone or take on a feature, even at no cost, if I don't get EXACTLY the same features" He stops and says, "One second.." Goes to the back room again. Comes back out after 10 minutes and says, "Ok, so the plan that's similar to yours doesn't have unlimited internet [Geezus Murphy] so, because it was a mistake on our part [read: my part] and you've been inconvenienced [read: we screwed you a bit], we're willing to exchange for another phone that's similar, like the HTC Touch or the Samsung Instinct, at no extra cost." Aright, this guy just redeemed himself. I said, "Ok, I'll take the Samsung."

It dawned on me at that point that I should get him to help me transfer the numbers again (and he wasn't going to charge me again) so I also told him that I had cleared the data off the new phone and would need to head back to my apartment, that was 2 minutes away, to get my old phone. He said that was fine and that he's start programming my phone, etc until I got back. Good deal.

When I got back he looked like he was done fiddling with getting my info on the phone and was getting set to transfer the numbers over. After a few minutes he realized that the phone was so new, they didn’t have the proper drivers for the data transfer device to have the phones send data back and forth. After a bit of fiddling he told me *I* would have to Bluetooth each number from one phone to the other. Sigh. Fine. I got a break on the phone. Whatever, I just wanted to get it and go home.

At this point I had been without a phone for 20 hours.

I get home, started charging it, and tried to call my voicemail. No busy tone. It’s ringing, then tells me that I need to call the customer service number from a land line. Odd. Ok, maybe they haven’t activated it yet – sometimes it can take an hour. One hour passes, I try again -- same thing. I tried again a half hour later and still nothing. I decide to go back and at the very least ask to use their land line cuz no one I knew was around that had a phone I could use.

I walk into the store and another sales guy is there and I ask him if I could use their land line cuz my phone wasn’t working and obviously they need to talk to the account holder. The guy asks me what was happening and I told him. He told me, “Oh it sometimes takes a couple hours for it to kick in, depending how busy they are and how many have to be activated.” I said, “Ok…..” then he said, “Hang on, I’ll get your rep.”[Oh yippiee.]

Good ‘ol buddy boy sales rep comes out and tells me the same thing. He says he’ll make sure my phone is programmed properly but that there wasn’t any way for him to speed up the process. Either way, it’ll be active within a few hours. Fine.

2pm – same thing.

3pm – same thing again.

I’m at work by this point and hoping that I could find out what the hell is going on during my break. I ask my boss to use a landline cuz I couldn’t get my phone working. I get tech support and they tell me that my Samsung phone hasn’t been registered in the system and that the HTC Dual Touch is still on there.

[Insert every curse word in every language in the known universe here]

I said to the rep on the phone, “Dude, I hear you but -- and I apologize for my language –- the guy in the store is a fucking moron. I have been without a phone and access to my voicemail for over 24 hours now.” He asks me if I have my phone’s packaging box with me so that I could give him a number to register the phone. I didn’t cuz why the hell would I take it to work with me. He then says I can open the back of the phone and under the battery the number is there too. Ok, I try and try and try but the muthafuckah isn’t going to open for me. It’s freaking Fort Knox. My break has already been over for 3 mins and I tell the guy that I’ll need to call back when I can open it or have the box in front of me.

H-O-L-Y F-*-*-K.

During my lunch break I call my girlfriend to see if she was home and able to read the number off for me. She was out, and not sounding great but she chalked it up to having a crappy day at work so I kept the call short cuz she sounded like she was kind of out of it and preoccupied at the time. I had guys who were on lunch with me try to slide the cover off, with no luck.

I spent the rest of my shift stewing in anger about the whole ordeal and hoping that their CSS would be open 24 hours and knowing in advance that I’d have to disclose my official complaint with apologies for the language I was about to use about the sales rep at the store.

I get home and noticed that something didn’t seem right. My girlfriend was in bed and passed out but lights were on. She was out of it and I couldn't wake her at that point.

I decided to try calling the CSS but only their repair department was open and couldn't activate the phone for me, only CSS could. On top of that, CSS closed at 9pm and I'd have to call when they open at 8am.

When my girlfriend finally got up she told me she was going to be sick. Later, when she was able to, she tells me she may have food poisoning and also tells me she tried to call me all night.

That did it.

I’ve snapped.

Up until I found out I had no phone registered and that my girlfriend couldn’t get a hold of me cuz of Mr. Fuktard's incompetence -– I was willing to let things go.

Not anymore. He’s getting one serious-ass complaint and I won’t relent until CSS can make me happy, some how, again.

This is also why I’m publishing this note. In the spirit of my inspiration, Stephen Colbert, I’m giving a Big fucking WAG OF THE FINGER and naming buddy boy who’s messed with my life for the past 36 hours – AND COUNTING.

Sales Rep: Kern Sidhu
Dealer Number: BC803
Bell Store Location: 124 - 1588 West Broadway

If any of you have the urge to walk into that particular store, request that you NOT be served by this Sales Rep.

It’s now almost 3 am and I have to wait 5 hours to get a hold of someone to fix this bullshit. By that time, I’ll have been without service for 41 hours.

But who are we kidding, it’s almost 3 am and I’m not going to be able to get my ass up that “early”…and so the time ticks.

I’ll post a follow up and hopefully you’ll hear from a more happy Jenn by then.


PS: My girlfriend has finally settled and is sleeping now. I think she'll be ok. She ate at Saffron Indian Cuisine in Burnaby on Kingsway -- in case you were wondering.

PSS: If you got to the end of this, congrats and thanks for letting me rant. Feel free to share it. I don't care.

PSSS: If any one of you happen to know this guy who I just named, seriously nothing against the guy, but look at the chain effect of his incompetency. Be upset with me if you want for calling him a douche or whatever, but I won't offer any apologies. He needs to get his shit together.


September 24, 2008:

After I posted the original note, a friend of mine, who also happens to be a lawyer who studies legislation on how to screw with corporations during his free time, messaged me on facebook and gave me some sound advice on how I could go about getting justified compensation. After doing some thinking, weighing my options on how to approach the call, at 5am I had to sleep.

The next morning I called CSS on my girlfriend's cell at around 10am. I got this guy and I think based on my own experiences of being on the other end of the phone, I just didn’t have the heart to rip into the guy. So I decided to take a different approach.

I started by telling him that I had a phone that needed to be activated. He asked me the basics and he soon realized that the phone I had wasn’t the one that was on their system. This gave me the opportunity to shed light on part of the horrible experience I had the day before. I only gave part of it cuz I was cognizant of the fact that if I was going to get anything out of this call, the agent on the other end would have to come to their own conclusion on how much they seriously screwed up.

After he learned that I had to go back and change phones cuz one wasn’t compatible with my plan, and then learned that the idiot at the store didn’t register my phone, he felt bad and told me I could file a complaint. So, I did. When I started to tell him the entire story, he realized how long I had been without a phone. I also mentioned about my sick girlfriend failing to reach me. He felt even worse and offered to give me free evenings after 6pm - a $10 feature for the duration of my contract (3 years). Hmm…$360 – not bad.

Once he had my phone registered, I asked about getting my voicemail messages. He paused. Then he told me that when douchebag at the store switched my phones, the first time, he (in essence) killed my voicemail service and everything was gone. I asked him to repeat what he just told me. He repeated again, much more reluctantly because he knew what was coming.

I flipped.

I told him that I was part of a family business that relied on my ability to receive messages (which was true), that I knew I had messages waiting for me (also true), and that I hadn’t been accessible for 48 hours. I also noted, loudly, that I had been on the phone with him for over an hour, using my girlfriend’s minutes trying to get this situation resolved.

It was at this point that the agent told me that I would be able to get more immediate resolution if I were to go back to the store and speak to the store manager directly. I responded, “Do you REALLY think that I want to even step into that store? For all I know, the store manager, who HIRED this idiot, is just as incompetent and hasn’t been nailed this hard in the head until now!”

Dude was clearly poopin’ his pants on the other end when he asked me to hold again and after 5 minutes he came back and told me that his supervisor was making a personal call to the store manager and the agent who had been so helpful in tampering with my phone features. He tried to reassure me that they would take appropriate action and work with the agent to ensure that this would not happen again. I said to him point blank, “Well I’m glad to hear that he has such a wonderful support system, but if you don’t mind me asking, is this not CUSTOMER support? Where is MY support and compensation in all of this? Fine, I understand that you have your own internal resources to improve quality of service. But really, how does THIS help ME right NOW?” He paused and said, “Well I can waive the $35 phone activation fee…” I responded, “Well considering that NOTHING was activated and I was without service for 48 hours – I should damn well hope so!” – “Yes, it’s off. We’ve credited your account.”

It was time to put the pressure on, “I hope you understand, in the last 20 years as a consumer, I have NEVER had such deplorable service. This entire situation is inexcusable. I am so livid – I honestly don’t know WHY I should continue being your customer.” To which he responded, “Well I don’t know what else you want – there’s nothing more I can do.” So I said, “Well if there’s nothing YOU can do, let me speak to your supervisor.”

I think he was relieved to get me off the phone. While I was waiting for the supervisor, I decided my next course of action. I knew there wouldn’t be much more I’d be able to get out of them, but I wanted at least one more break.

The supervisor comes on the line and tells me that a formal complaint has been forwarded to their Director of Operations and repeats that they have given me a free feature and credited me for the activation fee. I repeated again the gravity of the situation, how it affected my personal and professional life, and how dissatisfied I was. He asked me if I had any other concerns – bingo.

I said to him, “Well you tell me, I don’t trust all that I have been told about this phone that I now have and what features I can and can’t use. Because, as far as that agent was concerned, I could use everything. So can you confirm that for me?” He reviewed the plan I had and told me that I wouldn’t be able to use the Instant Messaging or the GPS feature because they were subscription services.

I got exasperated again, “Oh c’mon! Who is this idiot? Are you kidding me?! He told me I could use all of that!” He calmly said, “I’m sorry, you were mislead. You can use those services, but at an additional cost.” So I said, “You don’t think, after the crap I’ve been through, that I shouldn’t be given those features?” He said no.

Alright, time to negotiate:

Me: “Well then give me a year for the GPS service.”
Supervisor: “Well we have a current promotion that will give offer one month free for the GPS service worth $8. Would you like that?”
Me: “I want a year.”
Supervisor: "We can't do that."
Me: “You’re not willing to give me a year?”
Supervisor: “We’ve already given you a free feature for the duration of your contract. I can take that back and give you one year of free GPS if you want.”
Me: “No. How about 6 months of GPS?”
Supervisor: "Sorry, again, we can't do that"
Me: “Really. You can’t afford 6 months?”
Supervisor: “Would you like the free 1 month?”
Me: “2 months.”
Supervisor: “1 month.”
Me: "Seriously? You can’t afford $16?”
He sounded visibly annoyed and I could hear his teeth grinding when he said, “ONE. Month.”
Ok, Ok, free is free – so I said, “Fine. One month.”

So the call ended pretty much after that.

A little while later I tried to use the GPS and it wasn’t working. ARGH. I wasn’t even going to wait and I called CSS back….again.

This time I got a woman. She got the basic info out of me and asked how she could help. I told her that I had just been through a whole episode with CSS not too long ago and that I was supposed to get GPS service but it wasn’t working. She asked if I could hold for a minute while she looked into the situation.

After 5 minutes, she came back and her demeanor changed from “you’re just another customer” to “holy fuck, ok I need to not piss you off because I just read your file” – she said, “Ms Jay, I sincerely apologize for the delay in your GPS service. Normally, we would send you through to our technical support to resolve the issue. However, I am going to contact them personally to help you resolve this issue as soon as possible.” My response, “Oh. Well thank you. I appreciate that. I’ll hold.” Her reply, “Thank you very much. Please realize this may take a bit of time but I will let you know if there will be any extensive delay.” I said, “Not a problem. Thank you.”

Wow. I had to chuckle to myself. Having worked in a few different customer support positions before, I know there’s some kind of note or alert on my account that says something like, “Customer has been screwed over – put on your kid gloves.”

She comes back on the line and tells me that there was a mistake in how the promotion was applied to my account. She noted that because it was normally a $10 feature and they had only deducted $8 from my plan, it did not activate properly. She then quickly added that she was deducting an additional $2 and it would allow the service to activate, at no extra cost to me.


So let’s do some math:

What I would've paid

GPS NAV - $288.00
Free after 6pm - $360.00
Phone - $229.95
Activation - $35.00

Total $912.95

What I'm paying instead

GPS NAV - $278.00
Free after 6pm - $0.00
Phone - $149.95
Activation $0.00

Total $427.95

That's a savings of $485.

Pretty good, I’d say.


June 2009 Update:

Remember in my first post when I was told that one of my contracts would be finished in June 2009? Yeah he messed that up too. It's actually June 2010.

Didn't come Chop-Chop

Sunday evening was spent at Chop, a casual dining restaurant that opened in Richmond (really close to the Steve Nash Sports Club). Admittedly, this was not one of the best nights we've had out for steak, but the level of service we were provided did improve, so we felt obliged to let the manager know what was going on. However, this did not occur without a little bit of prodding.

As the late afternoon/evening was relatively sunny and warm, we chose patio seating over indoors (as well, indoor seating would've meant an additional wait). After choosing our own seat, we made notice of the decor, but started to notice that things were taking an inordinate amount of time to happen, and out of order at that. Our starter is a plate of mussels, which somehow manages to arrive before cutlery and before the complimentary bread. And where the heck is our server?

We finally do get our meals (steaks and prime rib with Alaskan crab) and the food is good. The steak can be cut with a regular knife (ie: not a steak knife), the presentation is good, and the previously mentioned starters are delicious. However, Denise seems to be missing the 3-pronged shellfish fork, forcing her to pick at it manually.

Our requests for certain things ultimately goes unfulfilled...a ginger ale refill fails to materialize, wet naps for after handling seafood are unavailable, and our server is nowhere to be found. And then a wasp decides to pay us a visit.

Something like this is generally expected during a warm summer day, but this one is particularly persistent, not attacking anyone else except for us. So far, we haven't been stung, but since the service up until this point has been rather mediocre, a wasp sting would've ruined the evening completely (that, and they can sting you through two layers of clothing). With us avoiding it and me wielding a napkin like a rolled up newspaper (I am lacking practice and precision in towel whipping), we make a big enough scene that we are moved inside.

Once inside, the service dramatically improves. We get everything we ask for, our new server actually wants to know how we're doing, and we get our drink refills. After assuring our new server that our complaint is not with her, we request to see the manager, telling of the things we've experienced since showing up. Because even after all that has been experienced, the food was pretty good and we wouldn't mind coming back. That, and the manager was very appreciative of our feedback and suggestions (which included the means to get rid of pesky insects). The manager admits to several shortfalls (they were also short-staffed, which he admits is not an excuse), and applies a discount the bill.

We write a small note on the bill that the tip is to go to our new server and not the unhelpful guy we had before.

Monday, December 22, 2008

BCAA - My (santa) hat is off

First off, my hat is off to Ash, the BCAA roadside assistance guy who came to my help when my car got stuck in the driveway, due to the snow that got piled up. Of course, I am completely humbled because he simply rocked the car in and out a few times, helped me shovel some snow out of the way. And, slightly embarassed, and I realize I came across as a complete ass as I blurted out, "I should've been able to do that."

My hat is off and please accept my humblest of apologies and I hope those glove and boot warmers help you get through your day and all the verbal abuse from the customers.

And an extended middle finger to Main Road snow removal services, went up the street where I live and simply drove on by without moving the actual plow down. I guess we're out of their jurisdiction.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"I don't wanna grow up, I'm a ToysRUs kid..."

Store: Toys R Us (Vancouver Broadway location)

I really hate putting a dollar value on friendship, which is why I'm never sure what's an appropriate amount of money to spend when it comes to a gift registry, whether it's for a wedding or a baby shower. And since I'm of somewhat limited means (not exactly starving, but not rolling in the hookers and blow either), I tend to forget that that I can't start living like I'm not.

So, needless to say, I ended up spending a bit more than I budgeted, and upon my significant other's reminder of the fact that I'm not rolling in hookers and blow, I took one item back. This is where it gets interesting.

As expected of registry gifts, it's typical to include a gift receipt. So, I politely ask the guy behind the counter if he can update the gift receipt to show the items purchased.

Of course, the purpose of the gift receipt is to tastefully and graciously allow for exchanges of gifts without getting into the awkward discussion as to how much was actually spent. You don't want to be seen as a chintzy scrounge and you don't want to make a huge show about blowing a large amount of money on a gift to make it look like you're expecting something in return.

Guy Behind the Counter: "Uh, I can cross it off the gift receipt."

And most of all, you REALLY don't want the gift recipient to know the details about how you obtained the gift, and really, a person's income level and ability to pay for stuff is not really something that you discuss out in the open. And as much as I like to think that I'm on equal terms with my friends, it's safe to say that we're not. He's financially prepared to deal with the responsibilities that come with raising a child. I am not. And really, he does NOT need to know that I had to return one of the items.

Upon hearing the clerk's suggestion, I immediately counter with, "Don't you think that's a little bit tacky?"

After a bit of back and forth, the clerk tells me that he can do it, and it involves refunding every single item purchased and then ringing it through again. But, it'll take "a long time." "What's a long time?" I ask. It's apparently about ten minutes.

Guy Behind the Counter: "Do you really need a gift receipt?"

I look at my watch. It'll take at least ten minutes to get to my next destination and I have to be there in twenty. And I gotta go to the bathroom really bad.

I take my refund and I leave, but I actually say "thank you" as I go.

Maybe the guy is having a bad day, but couldn't he just THINK a little bit before suggesting that I give my friend a gift receipt that clearly shows that I had to take one of the items back?

UPDATE (May 10th): The day of the baby shower, I have a little more time (relatively speaking) to get a proper gift receipt and I return to the Toys R Us location, this time to speak to a manager. They honour my request without any question, even though I'm pretty eager to tell them the story about what happened and assure them that I'm not mad at them per se, although I do think that they should be aware of what's happening in their store. And, it happens to take significantly less than 10 minutes. And icing on the cake: it turns out that two if the items that I previously purchased actually went on sale the day I returned. Turns out that the first guy being too lazy to process a return properly and reissue an updated gift receipt was a blessing in disguise...that netted me back $10 plus tax.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Don't look like it HURTS you to serve me, SALATHAI

Dear Salathai,

I think I have now had one of the worst service experiences in my entire life at your restaurant. A tip... when your restaurant sells pint-size portions... no refills... no bonuses... maybe you'd better think of making up for that with superior service.

Tonight, your server looked at me... like it actually *HURT* her to ask me what I wanted for dinner. When I asked if any of the drinks were refillable she flat out told me "The Soda Water". SO ... I said "That sounds fine... I'll have that... it's refillable, right?" she said, "yes"... gave me an annoyed look and then looked back at my dinner partner to get the order.

She didn't even LOOK at us while hurriedly gathering up the menus... with an incredibly sour expression on her face... at which point I asked her ONE more time "The Soda Water is refillable?" and she impatiently nodded at me.


it strangely took a whole 20-odd minutes for the DRINKS to arrive... I got exactly *one* ice-cold glass of soda water and my partner got his one glass of ice coffee....

Another 15-20 minutes later... the tiny portions of food arrive. We looked at the food... and knew instantly... we would still be hungry when the meal ended.

We then tried to savour the meal as long as possible. During the *entire time* we were eating, the server didn't check on us once. In fact... didn't even look at our table, smile our way or even acknowledge that there were people AT the table.

All the while... at the table *right next to us* I notice... that they put their drink orders in place... and it took about 1 whole minute for their drinks to arrive... and they didn't get just a single glass of soda water... they got the *entire bottle*... along with an icy-chilled glass.

Finally, frustrated that my "refillable soda glass" had stood empty for the entire meal... we had to flag down a server for one of the OTHER tables in order to ask him "Is the Soda water refillable?" at which point... he says "No. None of our drinks are refillable".

Great... so now... I've found out... that the server LIED. COMPLETELY LIED. Not once... but *THREE* times.

However... *second* our plates were empty... she materialized out of nowhere and asked "So will there be anything else" ... which came out so quickly and almost snarled... she had made it painfully obvious that she really hoped she just would not HAVE to serve us anymore... so we simply asked for the bill.

half a second later... BAM... the bill is on our table... and the moment my partner pulls out his card... BAM.. there she is to take it and ring it through! Just couldn't WAIT to get rid of us!

Appropriately enough, since there was absolutely no service to speak of (besides the bare minimum of *actually* bringing the food to the table)... we did not leave a tip. She simply had not earned any sort of service award.

No. I'm not a believer in tipping "just because". This server had managed to turn what was a very good day... into one that made me feel ripped off.

So... Thank you SalaThai... I now know what bad service truly is... and I will *never* recommend anyone I know or anyone who reads this blog to go to your restaurant. Change your servers or maybe give them a little hospitality training.