Friday, March 28, 2008

'Rolling Up the Rim,' but forgetting to roll out the red carpet

'Roll Up the Rim To Win' is an annual ritual in Canada, courtesy of the Tim Hortons coffee shop chain. You drink your coffee, roll up the rim, then read underneath what you have won. Usually, naturally, you have won nothing. Occasionally, you might win a free coffee or a doughnut, or even a TV or a car. It so happens that I have won a bunch of free coffees and doughnuts and so . . .

As I do nearly every working day while I am in Canada, I approached the drive-through window of a local (Highbury Avenue, near Cheapside) Tim Hortons this morning, and this is the conversation that ensued:

Disembodied Speaker Voice: Tim Hortons, may I (blah, blah, blah)?

Caffeine-starved Me: Extra large coffee, one cream, and a raisin biscuit, please.

Disembodied Speaker Voice: That will be $2.21. Please drive through.

Caffeine-starved Me: Can I pay for that with my 'Roll Up The Rim' thingie?

Disembodied Speaker Voice: What?

Caffeine-starved Me: Can I pay for that with my 'Roll Up The Rim' thingie?

Disembodied Speaker Voice: Pay for what?

Caffeine-starved Me: (Stunned silence, as I wonder if I have accidentally stumbled into 1.) a parallel universe even more screwed up than our own, or 2.) some weird church where a female priest was asking me for which of my many sins I wished to buy absolution.

Disembodied Speaker Voice: Pay for what, the coffee or the biscuit?

Caffeine-starved Me: Oh. Both

Disembodied Speaker Voice: You can only pay for the coffee with Roll Up the Rim , not the raisin biscuit.

Caffeine-starved Me: Never mind, I'll just pay for everything with cash.

Disembodied Speaker Voice: OK.

OK. Courtesy of Roll Up The Rim, I have a bunch of free doughnuts coming, but I don't eat doughnuts any more. I am trying to cut back on my sugar consumption. As far as I know, a raisin biscuit costs about the same as a doughnut, perhaps less, so why can't I get what I want, instead of having to take something I don't want? Who makes up these rules? Is there a Tim Hortons enforcer who drives around and cancels the lucrative franchise of any operator who breaks the rules? Do store managers or franchisees have any discretion over these matters? Is it worth pissing off someone who spends probably $1,000 annually at Tim Hortons over a ten or twenty cent issue?

I don't think so.

I don't care about saving a few cents. I am long past that stage. What is at issue for me is that no-one thinks creatively any more. Employees aren't trusted enough to act with any discretion and rarely get the training they need. Training should encompass not only how to pour the coffee but also cover the fact that customers are valuable and need to be cultivated and appreciated. That is a fact that few business establishments and their employees really understand any more.

Rant over. I just finished my coffee and, naturally, rolled up the rim. What did it say underneath? "Please Play Again." That's probably a good thing. What would I do if I won yet another free doughnut? The ones I have already are no good to me.


  1. With you all the way on the "cut sugar consumption" idea.
    I bought a dozen of the buggers for the department this morning to cushion the blow since we're losing one of our most valued employees to another department...There's nothing better at the end of a Friday to look over and see an empty donut box and know you're NOT responsible for it!
    I think I would have just given my cup away to some sugar-craving kid and been done with it. Trying to get value out of the valueless is sometimes a lost cause.

  2. You're right, Ted. I'm sure there will be no shortage of takers for any free donut cups I have, including my wife and son who both love chocolate donuts. It is more the principle of the thing that gets to me.

  3. Our McDonalds here sometimes run a "2 Big Macs for $2" promotion. Some years ago, being alone for a weekend, I got on the speaker thingee and ordered ONE BM. Back came the attendant's voice. "That will be $2.37 cents. Please drive ahead."
    What? "Hey, the sign says 2 for 2 bucks. That should be a dollar."
    "Oh, no sir. You have to pay the regular price if you only want one."
    Shaking from laughter, I told him to make it two BMs.

  4. Agreed - such inflexibility has an odd effect on my blood pressure. I wonder if idiot-proof computerized cashier and merchandise control systems throw a wrench into providing for such minor variations?

  5. The simpler things get via gadgets and one-size-fits-all mentalities, the more complicated our lives get sometimes. Weird.

  6. There are not a lot of things I miss from Canada, like the cold and the snow, but "Timmy's" is certainly one of them. It amazes me that in a country famous for its coffee, that it's so hard to find a coffee shop here. With the "Americanization" of David, with TGIF, Dominos, Pizza Hut, and, soon, a Dairy Queen, maybe it's time for some "Canadianization" with a Tim Hortons?

  7. Maybe we should seek franchise rights? I find it amusing that in Panama, with so many great coffees grown in the Chiriqui area, it is nevertheless difficult to get a really consistently good cup of coffee.