Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Internet, Montreal, Opinion

Third Parties Just Aren’t What They Used To Be

Third

In the very early days of the COVID-19 pandemic my wife and I, like millions of others, went in search of hand sanitizer and latex gloves. Given the great demand, there were none to be found anywhere. 

… we understood it would take a bit longer to receive our goods under the current circumstances. That was three months ago and still no delivery

But, it is 2020 and we do live in an ever-growing online world, so we took to the smart box. On Walmart’s Canadian site we were able to place an order for both hand sanitizer (at a fairly exorbitant price) and appropriate gloves. The order was accepted, packed, and shipped. At which point my wife’s credit card was charged.

Fine and dandy.

We are reasonable folks; we understood it would take a bit longer to receive our goods under the current circumstances. Volume is no doubt many times what it usually is. That was three months ago and still no delivery. But it gets worse.

Local stores are now once again stocked with hand sanitizer and gloves. We no longer need the items we ordered that never arrived, we can buy them in person. An email to Walmart Canada customer service asking to cancel the order that never arrived and refund my wife’s credit card was sent. 

walmart

Walmart Canada was quick to reply, taking pains to point out its goal of customer satisfaction. But as much as they would like to be of assistance, the order was shipped by a ‘third party’, and so it was now out of their hands. We placed the order that never arrived with Walmart Canada. Walmart Canada charged us for the order that never arrived. Yet Walmart Canada wants to download the problem to some other group with whom we have never knowingly dealt.

(The third party) concept has become the Internet shopping era’s version of ‘the cheque’s in the mail’ or ‘sorry, this is not my section’

As far as I am concerned a ‘third party’ was a good night out as a university student. But now this concept has become the Internet shopping era’s version of ‘the cheque’s in the mail’ or ‘sorry, this is not my section’. 

I have no doubt that if we can get in touch with the infamous third party they will pass the blame back to Walmart. Meanwhile, the order still has yet to arrive.

Did I mention our order hasn’t arrived?

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Canada, COVID-19, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Montreal, News, Opinion

Will Downtown Montreal’s New Normal Become Just Normal?

StCath1

Downtown Montreal is all ready for the first weekend in the latest phase of COVID-19 related deconfinement; one that allows stores with dedicated street entrances to reopen. If your store is in a mall you are still out of luck.

Welcome to downtown Montreal. Please spend your hard-earned dollars in our stores. So sorry you had to drive around for a couple of hours before being able to park your car

The main shopping street, Ste. Catherine, has been reduced to a lane and a half for cars. The other side, significantly wider, has been turned into an extension of the sidewalk to allow for proper physical distancing. Not only has the right-hand lane been designated for cars and bikes, but to allow for some semblance of mobility, all parking spots have been removed. 

Welcome to downtown Montreal. Please spend your hard-earned dollars in our stores. So sorry you had to drive around for a couple of hours before being able to park your car.

I’ve been a lover of downtown Montreal since I was a young lad and would often take strolls, or ride the 15 bus, and walk back home. I now live on the same street so for the most part I still walk downtown. However, should I be shopping, I prefer to drive (I hate carrying anything when I walk). At this point in time, I would, therefore, probably, sadly, find myself driving to a suburban mall with ample free parking.

If I thought for a moment that this was a temporary measure brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic I would be in full support. But Mayor Valerie Plante has long been angling to reduce if not eliminate cars from the downtown core. The attempt to reopen the economy while still in the grips of the pandemic has afforded her an opportunity to move ahead with her plans to turn St. Catherine Street into a pedestrian mall. This, in my humble opinion, will be a death knell for the area I am so fond of.

(Men) may do a bit of online research prior to arriving, just to get proper colour, size, and occasionally SKU number so as to reduce in-store time to an absolute minimum

But on a brighter note, the infamous ‘new normal’ includes a style of shopping often equated with men. Perhaps it’s just a matter of stereotypes, but men and women approach the task of obtaining items in stores differently. Women prefer to enter the establishment with an open mind, known as shopping, and look around. Maybe they have an idea or two but will make the final choice once in the store. 

While men go into the store with the item they want already sussed out. We may do a bit of online research prior to arriving, just to get proper colour, size, and occasionally SKU number so as to reduce in-store time to an absolute minimum. The mere thought of meandering aimlessly around a retail outlet has been known to cause palpitations in the hearts of heretofore healthy men.

Now, with restrictions on touching and, possibly tainting, items, the emphasis is on the get-in-get-out approach to retail buying, the way we men have been doing it for years. I spoke with someone who had gone to buy a pair of shorts at a popular retailer in downtown Montreal.

You are well-advised to know your size because in a time of COVID there is no trying-on of items and no returns!

There was a short line. Each customer has a salesperson with them at all times. They ask you first-off what you want to buy. If you say you’re just looking, they suggest you go home and check out their website. When you tell them you want to buy, in this case, men’s shorts, they bring you directly to that item. They wait while you look at the options – and as kids used to say you look with your eyes, not your hands. 

Once you have decided on, let’s say, the dark blue cargo shorts, the salesperson takes out one in your size and it’s off to the cash we go. You are well-advised to know your size because in a time of COVID there is no trying-on of items and no returns!

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Canada, DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, History, Marketing, Montreal, Opinion, Public Transit, Quebec, Wordpress

Sucking The Life Out Of Downtown Montreal One Parking Spot At A Time

Union

We are now well into the month of December. While many may lament the too early appearance of Christmas decorations in stores in November (October?), all bets are now off. Seasonal shopping is in full swing; decorated windows, street lights, and pretty much anything that does not move are now deemed fair play.

But now Sunday is the second busiest day, after Saturday, for shopping in downtown stores.

I can recall a time when downtown Montreal was a ghost town on Sundays. That was prior to 1985 when the Lord’s Day Act was struck down allowing stores to remain open. The streets were deserted with no stores open, and subsequentially no restaurants given the lack of sidewalk traffic. It goes without saying parking spots were plentiful.

But now Sunday is the second busiest day, after Saturday, for shopping in downtown stores. Not surprising really, most people have the day off, our society is more secular and restaurants eagerly await tired shoppers.

Yesterday I drove my wife downtown, dropped her off, and went in search of a parking spot. It was 11:30 A.M. which meant I had a full ninety minutes until the parking meters kicked in. In an ironic twist, when Sunday first became a shoppers’ dream, the parking meters were free all day. But it was soon discovered that taken spots were, for the most part, store employees who, arriving earlier than shoppers, snapped up the spots and held them all day. So the city broke-down – he said with tongue in cheek – and enforced the use of parking meters on Sunday. This led to downtown houses of worship crying foul that members of their congregations now had to pay to pray. So the city went back to the drawing board and decided that parking meters would only come into effect at 1:00 P.M. on Sundays to allow church-goers a chance to park free.

… why are so many evidently free streets reserved for something that may or may not occur?

Alas, at 11:30 A.M. yesterday there was not a parking spot to be found. Actually, that is misleading, there was in fact street after street of parking meters that were, for reasons unknown, deemed out of use (capped with the dreaded red bag). Other streets had been reserved for movie-making crews to park trucks and set-up equipment.  While many of the already rare parking spots were serving as meeting points for seemingly countless police vehicles keeping watch over a couple of demonstrations.

Did I mention this was one of perhaps three prime Sunday shopping days?

I understand that routine maintenance work is a necessity, but why are so many evidently free streets reserved for something that may or may not occur? I spoke with a contractor not so long ago. This gentleman is a foreman for a company that does much road maintenance for the city of Montreal. He told me that his company had been awarded a contract to carry out repairs of some sort on a downtown street. He explained that his company got the contract because they guaranteed they could do the job in one day. Only one single day of traffic disruption would be tolerated, or fines would be levied.

Unfortunately, it took the city at least two weeks to get around to removing the red bags. That’s two weeks of parking revenue lost …

His crew arrived early on the appointed day and found that both sides of the street had parking meters with red bags indicating no parking. They were able to get down to work right away and by day’s end were done and dusted. Unfortunately, it took the city at least two weeks to get around to removing the red bags. That’s two weeks of parking revenue lost (except for the tickets given to those frustrated drivers who took the chance and got nailed), and two weeks of inconvenience.

It is no secret that Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante is at odds with downtown merchants and drivers with her massive restructuring of Ste. Catherine Street which, when completed, will have eaten up several hundred parking spots. The work is not yet complete and already long-standing businesses are going belly-up due to drastically reduced access to their establishments.

I fear this will backfire and only lead to shoppers taking their business elsewhere, to malls and outlets that provide ample free parking.

I believe the mayor has an image of Montreal that is comparable to several European cities, Madrid and Oslo among them when it comes to reducing the number of cars. However, Montreal is a whole lot closer to US cities where the car is king.

If it is the current administration’s intention to wean people off their cars by making them less welcome downtown, (i.e. getting rid of parking spots ) I fear this will backfire and only lead to shoppers taking their business elsewhere, to malls and outlets that provide ample free parking.

As the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. If the city has any desire to see downtown Montreal flourish, they should encourage people to shop there by providing adequate parking, instead of trying to force them to use public transportation.

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DCMontreal Commentary, DCMontreal Light, Humor, Montreal, Opinion, Wordpress

Exceptional Enforcement of Supermarket Rule

If you read this blog regularly you know that I have had my share of supermarket incidents including the BBQ chicken knock down. I am quick to criticise so it behooves me to be equally prompt in praising those who do the correct thing. Yesterday I witnessed an exceptional display of the proper enforcement of supermarket regulations.

On the way home yesterday I stopped by the same supermarket that has been the bane of my shopping experiences. I had four items. I also had to have lottery tickets validated which ruled out all but the customer service cash as this store does not allow cashiers at other check-outs to process tickets.

I am quick to criticise so it behooves me to be equally prompt in praising those who do the correct thing. Yesterday I witnessed an exceptional display of the proper enforcement of supermarket regulations.

At the eight or fewer items service cash the scene was: one woman was finishing the payment process; next was a woman with at least 15 items in her cart; then a woman with just one product and me. There were people behind me but they did not factor into the incident.

As the first woman was completing her transaction and moving off, the next in line began placing her items on the conveyor belt. The one-item woman in front of me caught my eye and drew my attention to the number of products in the cart. I shrugged and chose not to get involved, lest I really make a name for myself in this store.

The lady put exactly eight items on the counter, placed an order separator and proceeded to put more items. Here’s the good part; when the cashier finished with the paying customer, turned and saw how many items were there she pointed out that it was eight or less at this cash. The woman, evidently ready for this said I am shopping for two people. The cashier, God bless her, stood her ground and told the woman she could not do that unless the other person was with her.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ogre; 9 or ten items at the eight or less cash is no big deal.

Annoyed, the woman left her items on the counter and said, are you going to make me take them off and go to another line? Yes ma’am, said the cashier. Sure enough, the woman swept her items back into her cart and made off for the end of another line, but not before glaring at me for some reason (has my reputation grown to that size?). I merely shrugged but could not contain myself entirely, saying nice try. She mumbled something about it not being a try but an honest attempt. As many kids say these days, whatever.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an ogre; 9 or ten items at the eight or less cash is no big deal. But the deliberate attempt to skip the line was too much. I thanked the cashier for imposing the rules and thereby ensuring the smooth flow of the express cash.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Checkout Scoundrels: Coin Counters and Over Shoppers!

Checkout

I was moved to blog today by the comic below that appeared in my morning newspaper. One of my favorite pet peeves has to do not with actually shopping, but with checking-out afterward. I don’t mean just the pain of parting with my hard-earned dollars, but the agony of having to wait in line to do so.

RLA_CheckoutI still believe retail outlets should be fined if they don’t have enough checkouts open. There should never be line-ups at the open checkouts if there are closed checkouts is my mantra. It is bad enough to have to pay often inflated prices for items, making customers wait to pay is just salt in the wound!

Aside from having a sufficient number of cashiers in place to process the goods, checkouts need to be organized into sensible categories. We already have checkouts that are designated as Less Than Six Items Only and Less Than 12 Items Only. This is a good start, but why stop here? Based solely on my many jaw-tightening, teeth-grinding experiences, we are often in dire need of a Credit Card/Debit Card ONLY line!

There are few things in the realm of shopping that are more irksome than the abominable coin-counter.  In Canada we have one- and two-dollar coins, so you can pay a $10.67 bill relatively easily using just coins – if they are the right coins. We also round cents up or down – in this case the amount due is $10.65 –  thereby banishing the poor penny to it’s other role in life, that of a prominent position in certain loafers. That’s all fine and dandy, but getting stuck in a line behind someone who is counting out dimes and nickels – keeping the quarters for laundry no doubt – is nothing short of cruel.

… in my experience those who go hunting in search of change, and wasting everybody’s time, usually come up a few coins short and end up paying by card anyway.

It’s time for a Paying by Cash or Check? This Line Only checkout because in my experience those who go hunting in search of change, and wasting everybody’s time, usually come up a few coins short and end up paying by card anyway.  I include checks in this line because of the evident requirement for umpteen initials from various Head Cashiers or managers – who are always on lunch –  to be accepted is another great time waster.

By designating checkouts according to payment method the system would be streamlined; those with cards would zip through the No Cash or Checks line, even the once deadly coupon redeeming process has been expedited by bar code scanning. Those opting to use checks or cash would only delay each other. Problem solved. But I fear there is still one annoyance that is out of the hands of retailers; the Over Shopper!

They have the cashier scan everything, figure out how far over their limit they are, then start making decisions as to what can be deducted.

An Over Shopper is a person with a finite amount available for shopping, regardless of cash, check or card, who pays no attention to that limit while actually shopping, filling their cart to overflowing, only to have to remove items once they are at the checkout! They have the cashier scan everything, figure out how far over their limit they are, then start making decisions as to what can be deducted. Meanwhile a line of tired, impatient shoppers is kept waiting.

Which brings me to the relatively new concept of the self checkout. In theory this is a fine idea, no need for cashiers, just scan and bag your own items and off you go. Spot checks keep shoppers honest, mostly. Just make sure you don’t find yourself in line behind someone with a cart full of non-scannable items. Fruits and vegetables, particularly of an exotic nature, delay things. Missing code stickers are fruit flies in the ointment. The self-checkout can be a great way to get out with one or two scannable items when there is no line. Just approach with caution.

Ready, set , done!

 

Me DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Advertising, Blogging, Humor, Montreal

Black Friday and 300th blog post – two reasons to celebrate

Please see news release below regarding 300th blog post and celebratory retail sales:

(Montreal – November 23, 2012) Today I am pleased to present this,  my 300th blog post. There have been some funny posts and some sad ones, short ones and long ones. Thanks for all your “likes”, I hope to continue to merit them as I blog.

And to celebrate this anniversary North American retailers have gotten together and decided to put virtually everything on sale. Don’t believe me? Hop on down to your nearest big box store or almost any store for that matter (unless you already have considering many stores were going to open at midnight last night or even earlier in anticipation of this 300th post). You’re sure to see your neighbors taking advantage of unbelievable sales; they may be referring to it as Black Friday, there may even be a sign or two with that on it, be we know better, don’t we?

So go on and tell them DCMontreal sent you – it couldn’t hurt!

Hey c’mon … a guy can dream a bit!!

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