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.



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

White Spot: Tea (Strawberry Milkshake) for Two

Dee and I are now recognized at the local White Spot (S.W. Marine Drive and Oak, Vancouver BC). Ever since I had a Rubik's Cube and solved it for our waitress, she immediately noticed us, greeting us with, "Where's your Rubik's Cube?" While it may not be a place where everybody knows our names, they've gone the extra mile and definitely earned their tip for the day.

As a youngish couple of people who are making way too little money for our education and job experience, it never hurts to save a few bucks here and there, and thankfully, White Spot's portions are fairly adequate (either that, or we don't eat a lot). So, last Sunday was spent at the local White Spot, ordering one order of Mushroom Prosciutto Cannelloni, one strawberry milkshake, and one ginger ale, with the intent of sharing everything (okay, not the ginger ale, because that comes with free refills and they're technically not supposed to allow that).

Typically, one would expect that they would just give us the one dish and then a couple of shared plates. In this case, they really went the extra mile and went to the trouble of splitting everything. As in, equally portioned plates, right down to the side Caesar salad and garlic bread (as a result, we probably ended up with slightly more). They even split the milkshake in half, instead of giving us the milkshake in a glass plus the metal mixing cup.

Who does this anymore?

Oh, and the food was pretty good too.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Subway: Strike Three

Human beings make mistakes all the time, although at a certain point it gets a little bit ridiculous. Take, for example, the Subway restaurant on 12391 Bridgeport rd. in Richmond, BC. Since it's the closest to where I work, they have gotten the vast majority of my business as of late, although I'm really starting to rethink that.

Since I often go there, I offer to pick stuff up on behalf of my coworkers. First time I went, I was able to fill an order for 8 people without any problems and they even gave me a whole whack of coupons before I left. But that Monday, I re-eally don't know what happened.

It's fine up until I get past the veggie topping station and I'm about to complete my order. I add on the bag of chips and I ask for cookies instead. I want "double chocolate" and "chocolate chip M&M." I know that I've been known to talk too fast on occasion, but even still, one would think that a fast food worker who hears the same orders all the time is familiar enough with the product that they can easily distinguish between "double chocolate", "chocolate chip M&M", and "Oatmeal Raisin." It takes her three tries to get it right. I let this one slide.

Then the girl at the veggie station, given the directive to "put everything on it," proceeds to wrap the sandwich after all the veggies are placed, but without additional seasoning, or without even ASKING what I wanted. Being that they fix this right away, I too let this slide.

Then it gets weird. I'm paying by both credit card and gift card ($10 balance), which SHOULD be relatively simple for most people. Considering what stuff costs these days, multiple forms of payment should be expected. However, the cashier doesn't know how to do multiple forms of payment, so I still have a $10 gift card and $10 is charged to my credit card. There had BETTER still be a balance on my gift card. But to their credit, they allow me to have a free bag of chips. STRIKE ONE.

Then it gets stupid. After I fill my medium drink cups, I reach over to the drink station and notice that not only are there drink trays (requisite for carrying multiple beverages in the car), there are no medium cup lids. Maybe if I was eating in, that wouldn't be a problem. But in a moving vehicle, a passenger wouldn't be holding an open cup in a moving vehicle, let alone the driver with one in each hand. After about five minutes of trying to locate medium cup lids (and even attempting to fit the coffee cup lids on the medium drink cups), they relent and allow me to upgrade to bottled drinks instead. STRIKE TWO.

Then I get back to work and bite into my Subway Club. The meat is a lot saltier than I remember and it tastes a little bit funny. Turns out that they put grated carrot in it. I know I asked for everything, but since when do they put grated carrot in a sandwich? STRIKE THREE. You're OUT!

Even though they tried to compensate me with free meal upgrades, this is not how you do business, and is very unsustainable. In the middle of a lunch rush, these guys were completely unprepared to do just the basics.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Translink: I'm paying this much for *what*??

Please. Tell me. Why am I paying 50% more for my bus fare than I used to? I thought this was for things like... 'good service'.

I swear.. there's nothing quite like... having your "comes every 10 minutes" bus service arrive HALF AN HOUR LATE... then have to listen to the bus driver complain (yes. Complain. Loudly.) about how passengers keep whining to him about being 5 minutes late.

No, buddy. It's not you. It's me... of course it's me... I have obviously *no* right to be angry that your buddies A & B who were supposed to come *before* you decided to pull a no-show, then buddy C was so full he had to totally skip our stop.. then to top it all of... YOU ARE LATE.

Give me a break. I'd expect this kind of crap from a FREE service... not one that I actually have to BUDGET for in my monthly spending.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shaw: This call may be recorded for training and quality control purposes.

With only one other television provider, there isn't a heck of a whole lot of choice when you want to watch television. But then, considering that we're amidst a writer's strike (stretching into 9 weeks, as of this writing), there isn't much choice PERIOD. That is, unless you like watching nothing but news, music videos, and reality based television.

While there is Bell ExpressVu, if you want to get a deal with high-speed internet, you probably want to stick with Shaw. But I am not really a big fan of their customer service, where it's pretty clear that you don't want certain services, but they'll continue to attempt to ram them down your throat as much as possible.

My first personal encounter came when I moved out of my mom's basement. All I wanted was basic cable and basic high-speed internet, at which point he continued to really push for additional channels and faster high-speed internet. He offered a free trial offer for the faster high speed internet. Conversation ensues:

Me: So, once the 30 day trial is up, will it be up to me to call to discontinue the service or will it be disconnected automatically?

Customer Service Rep: It will be up to you to call.

Me: Okay, that's fine. I know that you have sales quotas, but I'd prefer that you didn't attempt to upsell me on anything.

Customer Service Rep: But it's much faster than the regular...

Me: I. Just. Want. The. Basic.

There's a certain level of desperation when it comes to CSRs over at Shaw, as if they're in danger of losing bonuses or their jobs. If people were treated better, they wouldn't be resorting to tactics like that, don'tcha think?

Flash forward to present day. I was paying $60/mo for basic cable and high-speed Internet, but with the Writer's Guild strike, I haven't been watching television, so I made a point of disconnecting basic cable. Considering that the last WGA strike caused a 10% drop-off in American television viewing (which apparently hasn't recovered), I'm definitely not the first one to think of this.

The girl on the other line still tries to convince me that it's still worth my while to continue getting basic cable, saying that I'll be saving a lot of money, because as it is, I'll be paying $40/month for high speed internet.

So, let me get this straight. They want me to pay $60/month for one service I'm using, vs. $40/month for one service that I'm using.

Somehow, I'm thinking about the blogger who attempted to cancel his AOL account but was on the phone for a good 15 minutes when the CSR refused to honour his request.

Follow up: I received my bill in the mail today (January 17th) and they didn't actually take the cable off the bill, even though the request was placed December 24th. Apparently, they weren't able to access the building and nobody bothered to tell me, so in the mean time, I'm still getting cable and paying for it even though I asked for it to be disconnected. I politely talk to the girl on the other line and she is gracious enough to credit me the difference and she doesn't try to sell me any more service.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Superstore: It's on the shelf... but YOU CAN'T HAVE IT

Dear Superstore,

I would like to say thank you for one of the most frustrating yet incredulous times of my entire life as a consumer. It has been two weeks and I'm still reeling from the amazing incompetence and unhelpfulness your staff displayed.

The item was on your shelf. Not only was it on your shelf... it was in a *DISPLAY* on your shelf... numerous little packages in an attractive display... screaming "Buy me. You'll love me!" with no price tag. My actions were simple. I picked up the item that was on a display... took it to the first cosmetic section employee I saw, and this was the conversation that ensued:

Me: Pardon me...

Employee: *blah blah blah blah blah* heehee I love this shampoo too!

Me: *ahem* PARDON ME...

Employee: *shooting me an annoyed look that I've interrupted her personal conversation* Yes?? Pardon me. I *have* to help this customer.

Me: Yes... I saw this item on your shelf and was wondering what the price was?

Employee: Oh. Isn't it on the shelf?

Me: No. That... would be why I'm asking you.

Employee: Well I don't know.... let's ask her *walks over to the demi-manager of the cosmetics section*

Demi-Manager: What... what item is this?

Me: It's an item I saw over there *pointing to display 1 foot away* and I just want to know how much it is... so I can buy it.

Demi-Manager: *scans item comes up with error message* Oh. yeah. I can't find it in the system. It must be discontinued. You can't buy it. Sorry.

Me: Is it defective?

Demi-Manager: I don't know. But... if it's not scanning... it's not something we sell or stock.

Me: So you're telling me I'm not allowed to buy this item that is prominently displayed on your shelf as for sale.

Demi-Manager: Uhh... hmm... uhh... no... *turns away*

I don't know about you... but this seems a little strange... and.. very unhelpful. So. I decide to take this to a cashier... who might know what better to do.

What ended up happening was that a GROCERY CHECK BOY was called to check on the price... and then HE went to the *same* demi-manager who tried to tell him the *same* crap she told me.

I then asked:

"Well. If it's not an item you stock, then can I simply take it, seeing as it's not your item anyhow?"


and she looks at me all goggle-eyed and says "NO... of course not!"

... and only after prompting from the GROCERY CHECK BOY... does she say "Fine. I'll call my manager to find out." (because obviously... doing this very simple, logical step was faaaar too complex 20 minutes ago). She calls the manager of the Cosmetics department... who of course... doesn't answer.

In the end... I had to get... the GROCERY CHECK BOY's manager to figure sh*t out. Through all this too... it took about 45 minutes... and during that 45 minutes... the "discontinued display" was still up 'n' running.

INCOMPETENCE extraordinaire. No wonder they call it "Stupidstore".

Future Shop: No, we will NOT extend the warranty.

One of the lifebloods of the consumer electronics industry is the extended warranty. Having worked for almost two years at a consumer electronics retailer (which is on its way to becoming a business, I'll just say it. "A&B Sound"), one of the things that was firmly drilled into us was how at least 5% of our sales had to come from extended warranty.

In theory, this is a good thing. Considering the failure rate of most electronics these days, and the fact that the manufacturer only gives you one year (or as little as 90 days), it could be worthwhile to consider. But, when you consider what actually is covered, that's when it'll give you pause.

The policies on extended warranty are what make them a pain in the butt. For the first year, you are still covered by the manufacturer, so if something goes wrong within the first year, you are not subject to the benefits of the extended warranty. And then when it finally is, then you're subject to scrutiny. Therefore, if something goes wrong on the device and the warranty people determine that it was due to neglect or abuse (whether it was or not), then you're SOL.

I went into Future Shop to exchange a pair of Sony headphones. These failed less than 90 days after the purchase date, but being that I was unable to obtain a receipt, I had to go through this huge song and dance number (involving finding the credit card invoice), only to find out that I'd have to wait three days for them to make a decision. Eventually, they allow it, but then they decide to sell me on the warranty.

So, what are they telling me, that the unit is so crappy that I'll need it? And considering the hassle that I went through, they still think I'm going to be receptive to the idea of buying extended warranty?

Incidentally, there is 50% profit margin every time a salesperson sells extended warranty.