Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Loyal-Tease - A Liz James Rant

I've had it! Had it up to my ears with retailers' plastic plugging up my wallet.

Had it up to my ears with having to produce a "club card" to qualify for a fair price, or for "points" that will get me little but the odd dollar off the price of a produce I don't want, five years hence.

What got me started on this rant?

The forecast was for rain all day today. So I promised myself a treat; this year I would buy myself a rain jacket at the beginning of the rainy season, rather than settling for a $14.99 job in a year-end sale.

Went to Work Warehouse, found nothing suitable. Went next door to Mountain Equipment Coop. Found a nice Goretex item. It fit. It was a good colour for winter visibility. Priced at $155 - $173.60 including taxes, it was not cheap, but not out of line, so I took it to the checkout counter and waited in line.

When I heard the customer ahead having a verbal with the clerk, after I saw him hand over a $5.00 bill, I had the first hint of what was to come.

Sure enough, "What's your telephone number, please?" the clerk welcomed me.


"Have you bought here before?" he followed up.

"No," says I.

"Oh - well we're a coop, " he explained, "you have to be a member to buy here; but it's only $5.00," he said brightly.

"In that case," I replied, "you'll need to return this to the rack, because I am not prepared to pay $5.00 for the privilege of spending close to $175.00 in your store."

What gives with us Canadians that we put up with these scams?

Safeway requires a club card to get a "member's price" that's often double the regular Walfart. Save-On also requires a card to rack up points whereby, if you ever get close to earning $5.00, they ask you to donate your points to charity - does it actually go to the charity?

Shoppers Drugs, Zellers, HBC - they're all on the same "loyalty customer" bandwagon - a bandwagon Indigo-Chapters excels at with, perhaps, the worst "membership" of all at $20 a shot...

And don't even get me going about gas stations and their 3.5 "savings" scam at the pump.

These schemes are nothing but rackets that, to my mind, fly very close to the line of fraud. The real purpose, of course, is to obtain personal information that we'd bitch loud and clear about, if the schemes were mooted by government. Retail establishments want to know who we are and how old; what we buy; how much we spend and how best to invade our space with telemarketing and email.

In many cases, "sale prices," "specials" and "20 percents off regular" are also spurious. How often must a store hold a Scratch n' Save weekend, or a "Senior's Tuesday", or a "Warehouse Sale" before its "regular" price becomes 30-40-50 percent lower than the sales tag indicates?

How many of last weekend's North Vancouver Sears Customers realized that the 25% off an $18.00 Alia top was beaten, hands-down, by the $7.99 price in the TanJay store just around the corner in the mall? No wonder the clerk was prepared to do a price-match - it was preferable to my having a discussion with her a couple of decibels higher.

Don't get me wrong here - that these scams continue is not the fault of the clerks. It is the fault of us customers who put up with it all -- and of the governments who fail, year after year, to tighten the rules.

So - if you readers out there agree with me, if you want things to change, if you are prepared to pay a fair price for goods but no more - then, for crying out loud, do something about it. Stand up for yourselves.

Send your concerns to Mark Startup, President and CEO of Retail BC at: mark@retailbc.org or to...

BC Minister of Economic Development at:

Hon. Ida Chong <ida.chong.mla@leg.bc.ca>

and to --

Sears Canada at: home@sears.ca

Shoppers Drugs at: ?? buried somewhere on its website?? or call your local store

Shell Canada at: questions@shell.com

Imperial Esso at: http://www.imperialoil.ca/Canada-English/About/A_Contacts.asp

Chevron Canada at: https://www.chevron.ca/Secure/Contactus/default.asp

PetroCan at: https://www.petro-canada.ca/en/independent/1449.aspx

and, to be fair, the best invite of all at: Chapters-Indigo - "If you are dissatisfied, write to us"


It is not my intention to "pick-on" these retail establishments. They are not unique. They are just those I've remembered from recent experience. Most stores operate on a variation of this retail theme. It is their effort to attract customers to their products.

What no corporate decision-makers seem to realize, is that the very best attraction of all is for a store to offer its customers -- quality products - fair prices - truthful warranties - and attentive but not cloying, well-informed/trained customer service.

That would have far better effect than forcing customers to wait in line while someone has to find and dig out their plastic club/points card.

And lastly, remember this -- If it looks like a store, behaves like a store, and sells items for sale to make money like a store - it IS a store - no matter what it may call itself on the door.

Elizabeth James

Paradise Found

Look no further.

This is the Ocean Wilderness Inn at Sooke, BC.

This is the view from your bedroom or the Japanese hot tub or any number of chairs and tables on the front lawn.

Hummingbirds, a peacock, apple trees, quiet, fresh air. A path to the beach.

And most importantly, Lori and Andy, the warmest and most gracious hosts.

Lori not only fed us sumptuous and delicious breakfasts this weekend, but she also booked us into extraordinary dinners at local restaurants.

Here's the website.


Go for three days. Go longer.

You'll be happy.

I Wanna Be Yours

Being elected to federal office must be quite the plum.

How else to explain geniuses like Hedy Fry, Joe Volpe and Scott Brison going deep, deep, deep into debt to finance their campaigns?

It is so nice of the government to give these exemplars more time to pay off their loans.

Could the government speak to the chartered banks on our behalves for similar kindnesses?

And Another Thing...

Yesterday, I kvetched about BC Ferries service and somehow I managed to forget my biggest complaint.

One of the the few rewards of getting older is DISCOUNTS.

But at BC Ferries, being 65 years or more will get you a free ride on Mondays, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.

What do the think will happen?

Hordes of senior citizens will storm the boats on the weekends and cause the ships to list portside? They'll need extra medical staff and diapers? The tuna salad will go in a flash?

Tony & Friends