Category Archives: Business

There Really is Still Good Service

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There are many posts in this blog criticizing banks, insurance companies, marketing ideas, and some agricultural commodity boards but I want this post to be direct evidence that I can and will write complimentary posts when warranted.  As my years of experience get bigger (that’s just a nice way of saying ‘as I get older’), I find fewer and fewer areas of experience that warrant recommending but I’ve actually found two separate stores, in two separate industries that I am willing to brag about today.

The first one is the Nike factory outlet store located on King Street in Kitchener, Ontario.  I desperately needed a new pair of running shoes as I threw my old, over-used and smelly Nikes out in Philadelphia after running and training for three half-marathons in them.  Without shoes and really needing to run, I would describe myself as a ‘sure sale’ in the retail world.  As the Nike outlet was some distance away, I decided to try a closer Nike retailer, SportChek in the hopes of avoiding a lengthy drive to Nike.  I was honest with the staff at SportChek, specifically stating that I hoped that they could give me a reason not to drive all the way to the Nike store.  I explained that I needed a shoe that supported over-pronation in runners, the sales clerk asked if I had looked at the shoes on the wall display.  I explained that I had but that I wasn’t sure which shoes were for over-pronators.  At this point, as if I had irritated or interrupted him, the sales clerk simply stated, “We don’t have anything for you here.”  I gave the clerk a look of amazement and asked, “with the hundreds of pairs of shoes you have in here, and the ones that you can have ordered in, you have nothing for me to buy?”  The clerk succinctly and quickly replied, “No.”  This clerk should be fired but thanks to him, the Nike store got my visit.  And what a difference!  A young male employee, Trevor, greeted me and asked me how he could help me.  This greeting certainly was a great start to improving my mood.  I then explained (as I had at SportChek) that I desperately needed running shoes and ones that supported over-pronation.  As before, I explained that I didn’t care what colour or style, didn’t even care if it was a women’s shoe or a man’s – simply needed a runner for over-pronation.  Trevor thought for a few seconds and said, “I’ve got two pairs that are on clearance that would work but I’m not sure they’re the right size.”  Unfortunately they weren’t the right size but Trevor went on to offer to check with another Nike store and see if they might have my size.  Really?  That was a great idea!  So he did that, had the shoes shipped in, called me when they arrived and I am the owner of a new pair of Nike shoes!  Thank you Trevor and thank you Nike!

After my Nike purchase, I was in need of supper so I headed to the nearby Pita Pit that was in the same plaza as the Nike Store.  For a second time in a very short period of time, I was given a very friendly greeting from Dylan and Jenna at the Pita Pit.  They asked what they could make for me and I began to check out the featured item.  Dylan quickly recognized my curiosity and pointed out the highlights of the featured item.  The feature had a chipotle sauce that normally would scare me off from ordering it, but upon learning that, Dylan automatically went to the sauce, prepared a small sample of the sauce for me and had it in my hands before we were even done chatting about my apprehension of the spice.  What a guy!  That was all it took.  The great service continued with explanations of other sauces that I had always been hesitant to try.  Thanks to Dylan and Jenna patience and informed suggestions, I had the best pita I have ever had.  It was a great evening and I am so thankful that there really is great service out there.

Have you had great service lately from a retailer, food or service provider?  Tell me about it.  I’d love to share it with other readers who are on the hunt for great service.

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Woolwiich Township Needs a Higher and Stronger Protective Wall

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I was pleasantly shocked at the recent Woolwich Township council meeting, where a decision was made to roll out the welcome mat for a casino, pending numerous conditions and receiving a green light from OLG.  In an earlier post, I had commented that I had looked forward to the ‘entertainment’ factor of these meetings as I am fascinated by some of the public speeches and presentations.  I was definitely not disappointed, however, there was one speech that didn’t really entertain me – it insulted me.  And the author and presenter of that speech was the Chair of the Region of Waterloo, Ken Seiling.

Mr. Seiling made it clear that he was speaking as a citizen of Woolwich Township, not as the Chair of Waterloo Region but I can’t imagine that the personal opinions that he provided on the Woolwich casino issue are much different than in his position of Regional Chair.  Mr. Seiling stated that many of Woolwich residents had “commonly-held principles” and that these principles were “built in our DNA” and “a part of our roots”.  His speech went on to convey that he didn’t think that a casino fit with those commonly-held beliefs and that “Woolwich should not be bought” by the casino proposal and Woolwich should not be a partner in this project.  He concluded by advising the voting councilors that approving this casino would make this their legacy for the township.

So if I disagree with Mr. Seiling, is he saying that my ‘roots’, being different than his roots, are for sale?  And can this be translated to say that my values are for sale?  I felt somewhat insulted by this and wondered if others perceived his comments in a similar manner.  Well, it didn’t take long before I got an answer to that as another resident, Richard Bradley, got up and said that he felt that there was a ‘prejudice’ evident in the comments made toward individuals who went to a casino or toward those folks that were in favour of the casino.  He elaborated, in a humourous way, that he wasn’t a gambler, nor was he a theatre-goer, or even a hockey fan but he felt that all of these activities were entertaining to the people who participated and that the money expended on tickets for the theater or a hockey game didn’t produce any monetary rewards but did provide an ‘entertainment’ reward – much as some people receive when they put money into a slot machine or spend it on a gambling activity.   It’s their entertainment.

I’m afraid that Mr. Seiling’s comments are sounding like someone who isn’t keeping up with the growth and changes of his own township.  The ‘commonly-held principles to which he refers may be changing as new families with different ‘DNA’ and different ‘roots’ move into the township and the Region.  To my knowledge, there is no ‘application  process’ whereby someone wanting to move to the township has to demonstrate that they share Mr. Seiling’s ‘commonly-held principles’ and I’m thankful for that.  Get with the program Mr. Seiling.  Woolwich is more than Old Order Mennonites and more than religion and the principles that are associated with traditional religions.  There might even be an atheist, an agnostic, an ex-convict, or someone who gambles and drinks, or maybe someone who masturbates and heaven forbid, someone who is a homosexual and has children going to the schools of Woolwich Township.  However will we deal with that?  Guess we need to make that wall around Woolwich a little taller and stronger to keep those people out that don’t have our ‘commonly-held principles’.   Maybe the Region can use their portion of the casino money to take care of the improvements on that wall.

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Broken Eggs, Broken Rules, and Broken System at EFO

At the Zone 6 EFO annual meeting, Carolynne Griffith, retiring EFO Chairperson, quoted Federal Agricultural Minister, Gerry Ritz as follows with respect to their defense of supply management:  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  So is it broken – at least in the egg sector of supply management?  Decide for yourself.  Just check Jim Romahn’s  February 5, 2012 blog posting (www.agri007.blogspot.com) and anyone can quickly see that there are numerous ‘breaks’ (or should I say cracks or even rotten eggs?) in the egg sector of supply management.  Every egg producer should read this – especially since producers are denied access to minutes of their own Board’s meetings and your questions regarding this whole ‘break’ in the system is being hidden as much as possible.    The entire statement of claim is in Jim’s blog posting, stating what alleged events occurred that led to the current legal battle involving the two largest egg graders in Ontario (L.H. Gray and Son and Burnbrae Farms), EFO (Egg Farmers of Ontario) and Harry Pelissero (General Manager of EFO).   Maybe Ritz will see that the system is broken and the government’s defense of it isn’t warranted.  Just because customers still have eggs to buy and egg producers are getting paid handsomely doesn’t mean the system isn’t broken.

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Waiting for Superman of the Egg Industry

I’ve been doing some light reading – specifically a legal transcript from an interview that is part of the whole egg industry lawsuit scene.  This interview of Scott Brookshaw, an L.H. Gray Vice-President, dated May 9, 2011, provided me with some interesting information.

 

In answer to a question, Mr. Brookshaw stated that in one week, 35 egg producers that ship eggs to L.H. Gray contacted him, concerned about the contents of a document that they had received, alleging that Gray had been intentionally manipulating the grading of eggs in their facility, resulting in alleged false grading summaries and therefore inaccuracies in the amount of levies paid, payments received and other financial reconciliation errors as a result of the alleged manipulations.   These 35 producers represent over 50% of Gray’s producers and many have been Gray’s producers for decades.  Based on my knowledge of the industry, I’d say that group of producers has some clout in the industry and could lead the charge for change.  So what I want to know is: What are these egg producers waiting on?   Is a telephone booth required to change from your feathered chicken costume to your Superman costume?

This controversial document has been sent to numerous regulatory and government agencies in Ontario and is part of the core evidence that is the foundation for the egg industry lawsuits.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, have been spent on legal and other professional fees preparing this case thus far.  The document in question was compiled by the Whistleblower, Norman Bourdeau, a long-term former Gray employee/contractor.  There HAS to be SOME truth to this information.  There’s been way too much time, money, blood, sweat and tears invested in this journey for it all to be false.   And the longer that it goes on, the worse supply management looks allowing more damage to the industry – all because egg producers, who supposedly finance the entire egg industry are doing nothing.   Obviously the pocketbooks of egg producers are still full enough to allow them to do nothing.

The annual general meeting for EFO will be held soon.  Maybe the egg producers will get answers then.  But first somebody has to ASK!  And be prepared for the ‘management’ and lawyers to say that they can’t comment because it’s in the courts now.  That’s crap – but remember who let it get to that arena in the first place.  Offers were made long ago to make this whole situation go away – and were refused  by representatives of EFO.   More damaging information came out of the woodwork and that was something that EFO didn’t count on.  Cha-Ching! I think I hear dollar signs getting louder!  And that’s exactly what happened.

Questions about how much money EFO is spending on lawyers are definitely questions that can (and should) be answered. The ‘spending’ answers are not part of the court battle and can be answered at the meeting.  Don’t let the ‘management’ skirt the question.  Answers to legal questions are not the same as answers about spending producer’s levy dollars.  Producers can stop the spending – but you have to be prepared to demand that the spending be stopped.  Take charge of your own industry instead of letting lawyers, graders, consultants and bitter management run it.

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Sick and Tired of Bank Fees

As I await the egg industry lawsuit Statement of Defense positions to be revealed, I’m taking a peek at a different industry – one I’m sure is near and dear to many readers – the banking industry.  In Canada, every quarter I read the astonishing profit reports for all the major banks in Canada such as the most recent quarterly report from my bank, TD Canada Trust that reported its fourth-quarter profit was up 58% compared with the same time last year, an increase of 1.57 billion.  I know that I’m just a small cog in their big wheel, but these huge profits, piss me off, especially since customers of every bank get ‘service charged’ for everything.  I have often commented to my bank manager that I’m sure there will come a day when there is a jar with a slotted lid where customers are required to drop a fee in the jar just for going through the bank door.  Sounds ridiculous but no more ridiculous than paying a fee to take MY money out of MY bank account!  And don’t get me started on the fees applied if someone is applying for a mortgage!  First there’s the cost of an appraisal which is a joke, especially if it’s simply the process of a bank employee driving by the property to value it.  Really!  How can banks charge for this?  And why do customers tolerate it?   And don’t forget the title report, title and/or mortgage insurance, administration fees out the rear end, annual ‘review’ fees, mortgage registration fees, annual renewal fees of the mortgage and the list goes on and on!

Day to day banking fees include lovely items such as:

–        Withdrawal fees

–        Transaction fees

–        Cheque charges

–        ATM fees

–        Utility payment fees

–        Bank Draft fees

–        Certification fees

–        Cash handling fees

–        Wire Transfer fees

–        Debit Card Fees

–        Overdraft Fees

–        Closing Your Account Fee

And this is just scratching the surface!

On more than one occasion, I have discovered errors that my bank has made in the day-to-day operation of my bank account.  Most of these errors were minor but still needed correction.  My bank manager was surprised when I invoiced him with an ‘Error Fee’ when I reported the error to them and asked for a correction.  He didn’t seem to understand why I was entitled to collect a fee.  Was he kidding?  Regardless, I proceeded to tell him why I expected a payment for reporting the error and had the discussion in front of many of the staff and customers.  Maybe that explains why some of the bank staff go for a break when I enter their doors?  And this is the bank that is supposed to ‘greet’ customers when they arrive.  Am I paying a ‘greeting fee’ for that too?

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A Defining Moment – Redefined

My blog posting from yesterday (December 29/2011) has an error in it.  The letter regarding the proposed definition change for Ontario eggs was sent to graders, not producers.  At this point, I’m not sure if the letter went to all graders.  It would appear that only some of the graders received the notice.  Wonder how that works?  Regardless, I’m sorry for the error, but having the error pointed out begs even more questions.  What is the real role of EFO?  Does EFO staff work for the grading stations too?  Who pays EFO salaries?  Is it the graders or the producers?  What about the taxpayer-funded staff that are involved at Foodland Ontario?  How many people have to get paid to arrive at the definition of Ontario eggs?  Is that question like, ‘How many people does it take to screw in a light bulb?’

Based on my knowledge of the egg industry and after having reviewed the Foodland Ontario website, it would appear that there are eggs being marketed under the Foodland Ontario logo that don’t meet the current definition.  Can anyone say fraud?  So now that the current egg industry lawsuit has EFO and the graders front and centre, maybe it’s time for them to protect their back sides.  That would explain this sudden interest in the definition of ‘Ontario eggs’.  Wonder what the new Ontario Agriculture Minister has to say about all this?  I’ve got nothing but time – guess it’s letter-writing time.  Where’s my roll of stamps?

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A Defining Moment for Ontario Eggs

Looks like Egg Farmers of Ontario (EFO) think they’re Noah Webster, author of the Webster dictionary.  That’s right – they get to define the term ‘Ontario eggs’.  Seems rather self-explanatory to me but here’s the current definition:

‘Ontario eggs must be laid on egg farms in Ontario’

The EFO Director of Public Affairs is proposing the following new definition:

‘More than 90% of fresh shelled eggs must be sourced from Ontario egg farms.  Up to                         10% of fresh shelled eggs can be sourced from outside Ontario.’

Why is there a need for a new definition?  Though it’s not explained in the letter to Ontario egg producers (Surprise! Surprise!), could it have anything to do with the fact that changes in supply management are right around the corner?  Is someone reading between the lines as a result of Canada’s desire to participate in the Trans-Pacific Trade Talks?

Egg producers were notified of this proposal in a letter in early December.  Also included in this letter is a sentence telling egg producers where to send comments or feedback for this definition proposal.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I thought I was experiencing Aspartame overdose!  The management staff of EFO is actually ASKING the producers for feedback!  Wow!  Talk about a Christmas miracle!  Now the real question is whether the producers will actually ask questions about the need for a new definition and what it means for the industry.  Maybe it’s time to re-define EFO?

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