Tag Archives: service

The Idiocy of Retail

On one of the writers’ lists, we ended up discussing shopping experiences this week. It began with someone going into Chapters and being asked no less than twelve times in as many minutes if he was finding what he wanted. Most people decided they’d rather have no service than service that killed any joy in shopping, or more in a bookstore, browsing.

I had the reverse experience in Future Shop where the CDs were so mixed up I could find nothing. The store wasn’t that busy but when I looked for a clerk, he was watching TV. I didn’t buy anything there.

Service has always had its ups and downs. You either have overly helpful clerks who don’t know when to give you space (like the overattentive waiter) to those that are too busy chatting to each other or fixing makeup or watching TV to actually do their jobs. And then there are the ones too clueless to hold the job: they don’t know their stock or as was the case in Calgary at a restaurant, the waitress didn’t know what alcohol was besides beer.

There are the clerks who are truly helpful. They’re visible but they don’t crowd you. They stay alert and notice when you start to look around for help or have that bewildered deer in the headlights look. It seems rarer these days. I’m more likely to go back to a store that has good service and have walked out of stores with no service or bad service.

Like at The Bay. I was looking for skirts and carrying a couple on hangers as I walked around. It seems one was touching the floor and this clerk with no manners came up and said, “You’re dragging the skirts. You’ll ruin them,” and wrenched them out of my hand. Where was the mud? She could have said, “Can I put those in a room for you,” but she didn’t. I turned around and walked out. When I tried to find The Bay’s address/email online so I could write a letter of complaint, could I find anything pertinent or even a customer service line? Nothing. This way The Bay is assured of only having good reports. I didn’t shop there for many months because of the rude behavior. After all, there are plenty of stores.

I might just be a crank but I do expect to be treated with the same attentiveness I would give someone if I had those jobs. And I have, in the past. I’ve been a waitress. I’ve been a store monkey.

Another aspect of idiot retailing is the lengths stores will go to help perpetuate a myth. The myth of the ideal body. Women are supposed to be caricatures of the ideal female. We’re supposed to have large puffy lips, large but not pendulous breasts, narrow waists and boylike hips. Botox will give you the lips and implants will give you the breasts. But should you want the cheaper way of getting the larger bustline, the stores have helped. I’ve not changed in inches but I now wear a C cup because it is far more desirable than a B cup. Bras are also padded in a variety of ways to increase the illusion of bustiness.

Le Chateau has taken sizing to ridiculous heights where no one wants to be seen as wearing large. You’ll be lucky if you find a large in the store but you’ll find medium, small, extra small, extra extra small and extra extra extra small. WTF? I’ve bought an extra small and still found it too big. Petite is better in their books where a small would probably equate to a size 10. Even stores that have numbered sizing have changed it. A size 8 is now larger than it once was. I find that depending where I shop, I can wear anything from a small (or extra extra small) to a large, or a size 3 to a size 12. Perhaps everything should just be a free size these days because the numbers don’t matter.

Starbucks takes this in the other direction. No one wants to pay five bucks for a small coffee so the small is a tall, the medium is a grande and when they ran out of words in common English usage for large, they went to venti. What’s that, Italian? So there is a small English, a medium French and a large Italian. When it comes to food we want grande, super size, mega large, but when it comes to fitting ourselves into clothes we want petite and super extra mini small. Unless you’re a man. Maybe shoulder widths on jackets have expanded as well for those manly, super hero broad shoulders.

But as one person pointed out on the list, there is a plethora of interesting names for condoms including iron grip and super strength. The sizing is hidden but there is never a small.

May all your shopping experiences have medium attention from the clerks and the prices be super extra extra cheap and the bargains be mega uber mondo grande.

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Why I Won’t Buy Saturn Again

I have a 2003 Saturn Ion 3. When I bought it in 2004 it was a demo model with about 4,000 km on it. That the salesperson changed three times before I bought it should have been an indicator to me where Saturn was headed, and it seems to be…out of the world.

The dealership then closed. I had a VIP membership for lifetime free oil changes but had to go to the Morrey dealerships for that; Morrey Nissan in Burnaby. But the car was on warranty and I had to go to a Saturn dealership for any warranty work, in Richmond. I live in Vancouver and work in New Westminster.

Under warranty, I took the car in four times because the back passenger door didn’t seal correctly and was most noticeable at high speeds. Four times and they never did fix it correctly. Now, if I open the door I have to push the loose molding back into place before shutting the door to minimize the air blowing through.

Under warranty, I took the car in at least four times because it would idle high when the weather was cold. It would not start this way but after I’d driven it even a few minutes it would idle high when stopped at lights. If I shut off the car, it would reset. It only happened when cold, which told me that there was something wrong with the idle or throttle and cold weather caused it to freeze or stick. I took a small automotive course in high school and have enough of a logical mind that I can figure out basic mechanical. Somehow though, mechanics can’t seem to use a brain to figure out car problems now unless they plug it into a computer.

So I drove the car in one day and didn’t shut it off and lo and behold they could find the problem. It was fixed but then the weather turned warm and I couldn’t test it until the fall when it was cold again. And guess what, problem not fixed. Oh and the car, no longer under warranty and the part isn’t working right and I was told the part has no warranty. So why would I bother to fix the part again, knowing that if it blows it’s still not under any warranty and that I can keep paying and paying for the same part? That’s what the service people told me.

Now my car was at about 70,000 km when the fan in the car stopped working. I could get heat but no fan to blow it around. But of course it wasn’t the fan itself that wasn’t working. It was the computer component and would cost over $600 to fix. On top of that, I made an appointment and had to wait over four hours for them to check the car. Then they charged me $60 for telling me it would cost $600. The car’s warranty ended at 60,000 km.

I contacted Saturn/GM Canada and their generous offer was to go 50/50 on the fan part. That’s it. Nothing on the other things they never managed to fix. And basically they’re saying, well we won’t make money on this part but we won’t go out of the way to satisfy you.

Although the service guys were nice and friendly at Lansdowne Saturn in Richmond, the service wasn’t that great and one day, while waiting in Richmond to get picked up and taken back to my car, it took them over an hour. I was no more than ten minutes away. One service guy condescended to me in explaining that the car might just be idling high because it was cold. As if I’m not aware of the difference between a cold idle and a stuck throttle.

So, this is why I won’t buy Saturn again. Poor service, poor repair record, a very short warranty and no customer satisfaction from Saturn Canada.

Of the car itself, its mileage was okay, it has a huge blind spot for turning corners, the visors only work if you’re six feet tall. I loved the adjustable heat vents that could blow right on my hands. The door locks are stupidly designed and the pockets on the side doors are smaller than any map, should you want to store them there. But a car under warranty comes part and parcel with the dealership and I wasn’t convinced that with Saturn’s lagging sales that I’ll ever buy another Saturn again.

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