Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A Long Lost High School Friend

I had a bit of an odd dream a couple of nights ago.  An old friend from high school made an appearance - just bumped into her, exchanged a few pleasantries and we each went on our way.  We had, as I said, met in high school.  If I'm being truthful, she was probably my first adolescent crush, but once I realized nothing romantic was going to happen, we fell into an easy friendship.  She was just a great person - very caring and always happy and a smile that just made you feel better.  We spent a lot of time together - in person and on the phone.  Then, I think in our final year, we drifted apart.  In part, if memory serves, because she started dating someone outside of our mutual circle of friends and acquaintances.

I remember seeing her once a few years after graduating from high school.  I was in a local drinking establishment with some university friends in my home town of Chateauguay and I saw her alone at a table.  We nodded to each other, but her body language said "stay away".  She looked sad and tired and somehow hardened.  That was probably 25 years ago and that was the last time that I saw her.

I wonder why she decided to pop up in my sub-conscious after all these years.  I'm glad that she did.  She was a definite bright spot in my teens.  I've been thinking a bit about her these past couple of days since my dream.  I searched for her unsuccessfully on Facebook and Google.  Anyway, I hope that she's somewhere good and happy.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Ongoing Service Frustrations

Earlier in the week, I wrote about some problems we have had with some local retailers and our frustrations carried over to this week.  As Fall settles in in the capital, we are accustomed to seeing our fair share of rain and this week hasn't disappointed.  So, imagine my frustration when every day we've seen rain this week, my newspaper has been soaking wet because the carrier doesn't see the need to close the lid on the mailbox.  Now, I'm sure carriers work hard for meagre pay but, all the same, I doubt anyone would mistake the job as being high-knowledge and high-skill.  If it looks like it may rain, close the damn lid.  In fact, close the damn lid regardless.  I called to complain and get a dry paper each time and the guy who manages delivery in our region told me the problem would be fixed, but this morning the lid was, as always, left open, though the rain had not started falling yet.  Gadzooks!

The other frustration this week has been Lena's school bus.  Pretty much since school started, the bus has been varying degrees of late.  Rarely were the kids getting to school before class started.  Two days in the past two weeks, the bus came 30-60 minutes late.  This is highly disruptive to the teachers who have to stop what they're doing as kids file in late to say nothing of the safety issues when parents are leaving their kids at a bus stop for what they think will only be a  few minutes only to have them stand there unattended for up to an hour.  Earlier this week the Catholic school board had a cross country running race for which Lena has been training since school started five weeks ago.  She takes these events very seriously.  This was the day the bus was nearly an hour late.  Fortunately, I got home from the gym early enough to get her to school in time to catch the bus to the event.  She would have been devastated if she had missed it (she finished 27th in a field of over 100 kids, by the way).  Numerous phone calls to the bus company over the past few weeks yielded little improvement.  Finally, after this last one hour wait, I e-mailed the school board, the school and the bus company to complain and I gather I wasn't the only one.  This seemed to do the trick.  The bus has been on time since.

Anyway, I feel better having got that off my chest.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Retail Blues - the Sequel

I continue to be amazed by the poor service offered by so many retailers in our little part of the world (See my earlier post).  I understand that many in the retail sector may not be very well paid, but if you agree to do a job, then try to do it well and if your company makes a promise, fulfil it.  This all brings me to two recent negative experiences.

Back in August, I somehow managed to break one of the rear wheels on my Craftsman lawn mower.  So, I went to the Ottawa location of the Sears Parts and Service centre only to find that it has closed.  So, we're off to a bad start.  I came back home and after spending a half an hour on the Sears website trying to find a number I could call to order the part (I imagine this is a pretty significant part of their business, you would think they would make the number easier to find) I managed to reach someone at what is clearly an offshore call centre.  This always makes me laugh because the guy with the thick, nearly incomprehensible Indian accent on the other end inevitably says his name is some plain vanilla-flavoured English name like "Bob".  After telling "Bob" what part I needed, he told me it is on back-order and will take a month to ship.  So, here we are, a month and a half later and still no part.  I have just fired off an e-mail to Sears and I will see if I get a reply.  Stay tuned.

The second incident is far worse.  A little background:  Our daughter, Lena, wears glasses.  Her eyesight has reached a level where she now has to wear them to play soccer.  This past season, she wore her regular glasses on the pitch, but Kate and I were not entirely comfortable with this because if she got a ball to the face, or was otherwise struck, her glasses could shatter, possibly causing serious injury and, less important, significant expense.  So, we started suggesting that we buy her a pair of sport glasses, which are impact resistant.

To say the sports glasses sold in retail outlets are not fashionable would be understating the point.  So, for an 11 year-old girl trying to fit in with her peers, wearing these things would rank up there with getting her arm hacked of with a butter knife.  After weeks of resistance (and many shed tears) we relented a little and reluctantly let her play the remainder of her season with her regular glasses, figuring she was due for an eye exam in the fall, and her enthusiasm for the sport seemed to wane a bit, so we would see how things played out.  Finally, she decided she wanted to do the winter development program, so now we insisted she get a pair of sports glasses, or try contact lenses.  She agreed.

So, one day we were walking past the New Look Optical store in the St. Laurent Shopping Centre and I suggested to Lena that we go in to try on a couple of pairs just to get her used to the idea of wearing them.  As I've said, she is extremely insecure about wearing them,  The woman who served us got Lena to try on a pair.  Lena turned her back to us so she could watch in a mirror as she tried them on and when she turned around, the woman burst out laughing.  Indeed, she had a hard time controlling herself.  Lena hung her head but seemed to take it okay.  I didn't make a big deal of it at the time, but the more I thought about it on the way home, the more it bothered me.  This was the worst possible reaction for a girl who already had serious trouble bringing herself to wear these things.

By the time I got home, I had worked myself up pretty good.  When I told my wife, Kate, about the incident, she was similarly offended.  So, I left a comment on New Look's Facebook page.  To their credit, they responded quickly and within two business days the woman who served us called to apologize.  But, I'm afraid that's too little.  I can't see myself going back to that location and I may even boycott the chain altogether.

I should say that we have been to this location several times in the past and have had very good service from our favourite optician, Kaylee, but she doesn't seem to work there any more and so we have less than no incentive to return.

The upside is that just two days ago we got Lena her sports glasses at the St. Laurent location of Lens Crafters and we got very good service.  So, New Look's loss is Lens Crafters' gain, I guess.

Would love to hear about your own retail experiences - good and bad.