Friday, September 28, 2007

Shopping for good customer service

I like it when my friend, Mark Jeftovic, gets riled up. When that happens, he writes one of his all-too-infrequent blog posts. His latest rant is here: Screw you, you're just the customer, go to hell.

I have the same problems that Mark writes about. The absolute worst place for customer service, in my experience, is Canadian Tire. Because they have big stores and lots of selection, you can usually find what you are looking for. That must be why they are still in business. It can't be good customer service. Their employees are poorly trained, often surly, and can't manage to connect the dots linking good customer service to their paycheques.

It's getting worse. Maybe if every time each of us had a poor experience while shopping we reported it in our blogs, someone would get the message and start paying more attention to us. I don't like being snarled at or ignored. I don't expect anyone to genuflect when I enter a store, I just expect common courtesy and just enough attention to get what I need. That's it. Simple, no?

Evidently not simple enough for the simpletons from management on down in a lot of our stores and service businesses. It's a pity.


  1. In the majority of cases, the employees you speak of are insulated from the realities of life by unions, reams of government red tape, and various well-heeled "advocacy" groups ready like fighter squadrons to scramble at a moments' notice.
    I suggest you start a website called or something, and visit various stores to put them to the test, reporting your results there. Maybe send them a postcard to notify when you put up a new report.
    If Canadian Tire is - as I suspect - a government-licensed monopoly, good luck changing anything...You'll need it, along with an act of Parliament!

  2. Actually, Galt, Canadian Tire is a publicly traded corporation with no monopoly status. In certain respects, Wal-Mart is giving them great competition. I recently bought a self-propelled lawnmower at Wal-Mart, marked down from $349 to $299.00. Canadian Tire had a model two steps down for sale at $349.00 or so and I estimate that the identical model I bought, had they had it, would have retailed for $449.00 or more.

    The problem is that Wal-Mart service is going down hill too. Training is the biggest problem everywhere. Complacency is like a disease and it spreads everywhere.

  3. you know, it's a pain in the butt to pay the prices, but one thing I love about shopping at Neiman Marcus and the like is the fact that I am waited on respectfully, staff know their products, and there are no squalling infants stressing me out. Yeah, it's a bitch paying those prices, but I savor that experience. I suppose that's what I'm paying for, and if you don't have to go into hock to shop there, I don't see why one shouldn't...

  4. No Neiman-Marcus here, I'm afraid, or at least not where I live. Maybe somewhere else in Canada, I don't know.

    I think what would please me is if customers could use a cattle prod to get surly clerks to focus on actual customer service.

    In a Canadian Tire store recently, a male and a female clerk flirted and joked while my wife and son and I stood right beside them, looking at them, waiting for them to come up for air and ask how they could serve us. I didn't say anything to them because I was curious to see how long it would take for them to acknowledge us. In the meantime, their department was being paged over the store's intercom and they continued their mating dance without paying the slightest attention to either us or the page. I didn't want to wind myself up by pointing out to them the error of their ways, so we left. The store in question, in case any Canadian Tire sleuth is reading this, is the Hyde Park store in London, Ontario.

  5. We have something like Canadian Tire in the U.S, now that you mention it: It's called Lowe's, and the company I work for does business with these dopes all the time, which means I have to shop there for maintenance/home improvement gear.
    They are a bit cheaper than most similar outfits, but unless you get there before 10AM, you're screwed: No one will wait on you, unless you frequent the Illinois Road location (We've got three of them in "Hometown").
    And God help you if you go to the one on Lima Road, because nobody else is going to, unless it's another customer or the check-out clerk!
    It sounds to me like Canadian Tire staffs a lot of young'uns.