When the price isn’t right – do companies care about customer service?

17 Jul

I’ve had two experiences lately that make me wonder about whether some companies even want to keep their customers.

The first happened at a Loblaw grocery store in Montreal.

I was having a dinner party. My budget was tight so I was thrilled to see a box of buffalo chicken wings priced at $8.99.

The box was on a shelf at the bottom of the freezer and the price jumped out at me because everywhere else I’d shopped the price was closer to $12. That should have made me read the price label below a little more carefully.

But I didn’t and when I finally got to the cash, after waiting in line for 15 minutes, I discovered the price was actually $11.99. I protested, saying the price was $8.99. The cashier went to check and she found it, higher up on a shelf on the other side of the freezer, but didn’t see the boxes I saw near the bottom. She said I was mistaken and suggested maybe another customer had put the box in the wrong place.

Instead of paying, I took back my items and headed back into the store to find out what was going on. I went back to the freezer and read the listed price more carefully. It seems the item at $8.99 was identified in French as “morceaux de poulet” (chicken pieces) and not Buffalo wings. There were at least four boxes of the Buffalo wings on a shelf above the tag listing the $8.99 price and no boxes of the chicken pieces or nuggets or whatever they were in that spot. I suppose they were out of stock of the other item and were using the space for their reserve. But they didn’t remove the tag.

I complained to the manager but nothing happened. It seems it was my responsibility to check that the item on the shelf above the price tag matched the price tag. His apology was disappointing. He made no effort made to remedy the inconvenience the store had caused me.

I remember when every item in a store had a price sticker on it. Sure there were mistakes sometimes but I don’t remember having to verify prices as much as I have to do now.

My second recent experience happened at IKEA Montreal.

white and orange cat sleeps on balck office chair that's showing its grey underbelly

The cover of my son’s office chair is disintegrating. The chair is super comfy (Max the Cat sure likes it!) but its black cover is coming off in tiny pieces. I’m finding the situation fascinating in a strange way. Who makes chairs with covers like this?

I’ve decided to rescue the chair by reupholstering it. It’s easy to do. You take the chair apart, put your fabric over the sections you’re covering and then you staple it on the chair and trim the extra fabric before you put the chair back together.

I was in IKEA’s textiles section when I saw several rolls of a cool black-and-white striped design for $3.99 a metre, a very good deal. Or at least I thought the price was $3.99 since the sign above suggested everything in that bin was $3.99 a metre.
Ikea black-and-white striped Sofia fabricI trusted the guy who cut the fabric and never checked with him whether I’d understood the price. I didn’t check what he wrote on the label.

As it turns out, the fabric was on sale for $5.99 a metre, down from $7.99 a metre. From what I can tell on the label, the guy was going to charge me $3.99 a metre but corrected himself. I wish I had noticed it when I picked up the fabric.

I complained to IKEA but got nowhere.

Here’s their response:

Hello Ms. O’Hanley,

Thank you for contacting IKEA Canada.
We regret to hear about your recent experience at our IKEA Montréal store. As we strive to offer the best in product quality and customer services, we not only appreciate but encourage customer feedback so as to make necessary improvements.

After verification, please note that the SOFIA fabric (001-600-22) you purchased is currently on sale for $5.99. We apologize that this information was not visible at the time of your visit. In some cases, items are moved from one bin to the other, therefore we encourage customers to check the article numbers against the tag on the said bin.

Please note that your feedback will be shared with the appropriate department.

We truly value your opinion, as well as the opinion of all our customers. We look forward to serving you in the future.

If you have further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.


IKEA Canada Customer Service

My advice to shoppers:

  1. Verify prices carefully before heading to the cash. If you’re not sure about an item’s price, ask a store clerk to verify the it for you or visit the store’s price checker machine.
  2. If you’re in Quebec and it’s clearly a case of sloppiness on the store’s part, make a fuss. Quebec consumer law says that if an item costs less than $10 and the wrong price accompanies it, under the price accuracy policy the consumer is entitled to a refund and gets the item free of charge. If it costs more than $10, they’re supposed to give it to you for the price shown, i.e. the price you understood as the correct price.
  3. If you can find what you’re looking for elsewhere, then head to the competition, provided they’re better at labeling items.
  4. I prefer shopping in person but maybe you’re better off shopping online. Mind you, this doesn’t always lead to savings. In terms of my IKEA example, the fabric was listed online at $7.99 a metre so savings only happened in store.

I realize stores are having a hard time finding people to stock shelves properly but I don’t understand why store managers think customers will put up with incorrectly listed prices. I expect stores to label their shelves and bins in a clear way so there is absolutely no confusion.

If I’m going to do a store’s work for them, I want a discount!

Hey Montreal pet lovers, don’t forget the BEA Foundation’s fundraiser this Saturday

18 Jun


I’m in the middle of a slow move, literally. Moving is taking forever (will post about it soon) and I’ve been swamped with decluttering, painting and cleaning as I get ready to leave my apartment.

But I wanted people to know about a fundraiser that’s happening across Quebec tomorrow (Saturday June 20, 2015).

The Montreal area has a lot of animal rescue groups and I don’t know much about the BEA Foundation (Fondation BEA Québec), which is dedicated to the well-being of Quebec’s companion animals and supports animals in need. While it’s a relatively new player, it’s connected with established groups that work to better the lives of animals.

This Saturday’s “La grande journée BEA” offers people a chance to donate to a worthy cause while they get their furry loved ones’ nails clipped free of charge. There will also be activities and pet items and services for sale at each participating location.

In the Montreal area participating stores include Animal Expert, Nature Pet Centre and Croque en bol locations but there are also a number of vet clinics taking part as well.

You’ll find the full list here.

You may want to call ahead, in case they’re taking appointments or for individual details of a store or vet clinic’s event. And be sure to check the store or veterinary clinic’s Facebook page or website (on the list above) for more information.

If you head to the Nature Pet store at Place Alexis Nihon in Westmount tomorrow, I’ll probably see you there. Our cat is having too much fun avoiding the scratching post and shredding my office chair, paper, cardboard boxes and anything else she can dig her claws into.

Tomorrow & Saturday: Don’t forget Concordia Greenhouse’s Epic Seedling Sale

14 May
Concordia Greenhouse plants

Photo from The Concordia Greenhouse’s website

It’s that time of the year, folks.

If you didn’t start your plants from seed or you could use a few more seedlings to round out your garden plantings, this sale is not to be missed.

Concordia’s City Farm School interns have been busy. This year there will be more than 140 varieties of organic heirloom veggie, herb and flower seedlings available, offering incredible choices for gardeners. The greenhouse is a non-profit entity, is largely student-funded and plays a big role in Montreal’s urban agriculture landscape.

The sale is not just about veggies, herbs and flowers. You’ll also find:

  • houseplants
  • seeds for direct sowing
  • small bags of soil and compost
  • mushroom and sprout growing kits for indoors
  • fruit and permaculture plants via Jonah Neumark of Neumark Design. See details here.

Prices for vegetable, herb and flower seedlings range from $1 to $5, while houseplants sell for between $2-$30.

Some survival tips:

  1. Get there as early as possible. It’s no fun to come by later in the day only to learn everything is sold out or the plants you want are gone.
  2. Bring a box or boxes (ideally) or a sturdy bag or bin to hold plants. You may also want to bring some extra plant containers (the ones seedlings are often sold in, for instance) in case you end up with a plant that doesn’t have a sturdy container to begin with and you don’t want to end up with the plant escaping its pot, wilting and leaving dirt everywhere.
  3. It’s cash only. Bring extra moolah, you will probably walk out with more plants than you expected to buy.
  4. Bring some water to drink. It can be very hot in the greenhouse, especially when there’s a crowd.
  5. Don’t forget to bring a sense of humour. Some plants are labeled right but some will be missing their labels, people can be aggressive about claiming plants and it can be crowded.

When: Friday, May 15, 2015 and Saturday May 16, 2015,  10 a,m. to 7 p.m. (as long as supplies last).

Where: Concordia Greenhouse, Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. , 13th floor (take the elevator as far as you can go, to the 12th floor, then look out for signs leading to the staircase that takes you to the greenhouse).

Info: info@concordiagreenhouse.com

Saving La Gaillarde

9 May
white dress adorned with donors's names in black writing on pink pieces of paper or fabric

La Gaillarde’s Robe des donateurs (Donor Dress), from La Gaillarde’s Facebook page

Update May 10, 2015: La Gaillarde is having a party to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Expect cocktails, cupcakes, door prizes, music and models showcasing the latest spring fashion lines. Everything in the store is 15 per cent off, they’ll be displaying a photo album of La Gaillarde memories and wrapping up their crowdfunding campaign by displaying a dress laden with the names of donors.

When: May 15, 2015, 6-8:30 p.m.

Where: 4019 Notre Dame St. W. (Place St. Henri metro)

RSVP: (514) 989-5134 or info@lagaillarde.ca

Montreal is losing many of its independent brick-and-mortar stores. It seems only the strongest and those with the best business moxie survive. So it’s no surprise to hear that La Gaillarde, a non-profit boutique based in St. Henri that sells all sorts of fashionable upcycled (recycled, but better) clothing and jewellery by eco-designers and affordable vintage and secondhand modern-day clothes for women, men and little ones, is struggling.

Though La Gaillarde has many volunteers, it depended on a grant from the Quebec government for its core survival and that grant was cut no thanks to the Couillard’s government austerity measures.

La Gaillarde is counting on a crowdfunding campaign to save its organization and the jobs of its four employees. As organizers point out, for 15 years La Gaillarde has supported Quebec designers (it features the works of more than 40 Quebec designers, many of whom are at the forefront of ethical fashion brands here) and by recycling clothing into new creations and by selling vintage and secondhand clothing, it keeps clothing out of landfills.

It has serious green cred. Every aspect of the business follows ecological principles. And it creates jobs because by buying from local designers we help them (I believe most, if not all, are women) make a living.

It puzzles me though that La Gaillarde is not better known. A few years back its designers made a splash at the Festival Mode & Design Montréal (you may remember a dress made solely made from men’s ties) but it’s never quite arrived.

I’ve watched it change over the years. A prior version was located near the Lionel Groulx metro and sold clothes but didn’t seem to be about fashion (apparently they used to help female convicts reintegrate into society). For a while it was very grassroots, with sewing classes and tips on how to recycle your wardrobe into something exciting and new. But they stopped making sewing machines available to customers and became sort of high end, to me, anyway. Instead of workshops for the general public, the focus seemed to be more on fashion shows. That’s when I stopped dropping in as much.

They are definitely a great place if you care about the environment, have a sense of style and you want to support local designers. If you live in Montreal they are just a few steps away from the Place St. Henri metro, at 4019 Notre Dame St. W.

I hope people will donate and support them. Montreal is losing too many of its cool businesses. Hipster businesses and big box stores don’t tug on my heartstrings. We also need businesses that make a real difference to our society and communities.

Justice for Cindy Gladue

2 Apr


UPDATE: On April 2, Crown prosecutors in Alberta filed an appeal that seeks to order a new trial regarding Cindy Gladue’s death.

I used to write for alternative newspapers so I every so often a press release lands in my inbox. Too often I don’t have an outlet to write about the issue I’m reading about or I don’t get the message in time.

An email I received on Tuesday sent chills down my spine. What I’m about to write is graphic and disturbing.

Until that email I hadn’t heard about Cindy Gladue. If you missed her story in the news, Cindy Gladue was 36 years old, a mom to two daughters (the press release mentioned two daughters. Several media outlets say she had three children) and an indigenous woman who worked in the sex industry.

In June, 2011 her life ended when she bled to death in the bathtub of an Edmonton hotel while the man who injured her slept. During a first-degree murder trial that followed her death,  Graeme Dowling, Alberta’s acting chief medical examiner, testified that an 11-cm cut in Gladue’s vagina caused her death. Dowling said the wound was caused by a sharp object.

Last week a jury of nine men and two women (all non-native) found Ontario resident Bradley Barton, a truck driver, not guilty of first-degree murder nor of manslaughter even though Barton told the court he had injured Gladue, saying the wound was caused by his fingers accidentally during rough sex.

In a Globe and Mail opinion piece, indigenous rights advocates Sarah Hunt and Naomi Sayers say because Gladue’s blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit she was not able to give consent.

Even more shocking, during the trial Gladue’s preserved pelvis was brought into court as evidence because Dowling said autopsy photos of the wound to her vagina were dark and didn’t “portray the nature of the injury as accurately as the physical specimen itself.”

It sickens me that Gladue’s preserved vagina was presented in court. I had no idea medical examiners would ever do that. I’ve read plenty of Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell. Reichs is a forensic anthropologist in real life and her fictional character Temperance Brennan shares the same occupation. Based on what Reichs writes in her novels, during autopsies samples of a victim’s bone may be analyzed to identify the type of weapon that left marks on the bone. From what I understand in such cases bone samples aren’t brought to court but an expert, for instance, a forensic anthropologist in cases that involve bones, tells the jury about their examination of the bone and why they believe such-and-such weapon was responsible. I don’t know what the policy is for cases involving a victim’s flesh, but surely the same standard is applied? (After writing this I learned it was most likely the first time in Canadian legal history that preserved body tissue was brought into a courtroom). In Gladue’s case I don’t understand why photos couldn’t do the job. Why would they need to cut out part of her body and present it in court? Would they do this to a white woman? Is it because she was indigenous and the circumstances of her death – she was in that hotel room because Barton paid her to have sex – that her body deserved such undignified treatment?

If you want to know more about the case and what led the jury to acquit Barton, you’ll find plenty of information online.

What deserves public attention and outrage is the injustice of Gladue’s aggressor not even being convicted of manslaughter and the indignity her body suffered in death.

An online petition asks Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis to launch an appeal. Please sign it.

Today, April 2, 2015, indigenous and sex work groups across Canada are rallying to honour Gladue “after her killer was acquitted of any wrongdoing.”

I have no information about a Montreal protest. But if you’re in Toronto, No More Silence and STRUT Toronto are holding a rally from 12-12:30 p.m. outside of the Ministry of the Attorney General at 720 Bay St.

If you can be there, please show solidarity for a woman who died horribly, whose body parts are still being held as evidence, and who, like many other missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, deserves justice.

Check out Slamtastique 2.0’s new venue tonight and tell a tale!

25 Mar
Nick Cave (left) with organizer J.D. "Hobbes" Hickey (right)

Nick Cave (left) with organizer J.D. “Hobbes” Hickey (right)

I’ve enjoyed many Slamtastisque storytelling slams since my friend John David “Hobbes” Hickey started them in 2011.

Hobbes is an award-winning storyteller whose enthusiasm for storytelling is infectious.

His slams challenge people to hone their craft. You have only five minutes to tell a  family-friendly story without any notes or props. Five judges from the audience rate the tellers on their performances. Winners compete for a prize at the end of the season.

The tellers are usually a mix of both new and seasoned storytellers and the stories include traditional tales, science fiction stories, spoken word pieces and personal accounts.

Until last month the slams were held at Café Shaika on Sherbrooke St. in NDG. On Wednesday, February 18, Hobbes debuted “Slamtastique 2.0″ at the new venue, Café Mariposa on Côte St. Luc Rd.

Café Mariposa is a great fit in so many ways. At Shaika it was often hard to enjoy the stories because other people at the café would be hanging out and chatting or you’d see students and freelancers wearing headphones as they typed away on their laptops, ignoring the tellers. The audience was often spread out around the cafe and it was hard to tell if the owners even supported the slam.

With Mariposa reserved for the slam, only people interested in storytelling fill the small venue. The owners are on board and the artsy, 60s coffeehouse vibe at Café Mariposa suits Slamtastique.

Last month’s slam included a wide mix of stories. Ian Gurudata related how he handled a group of people picking on travellers in a Montreal metro car, Greg Stroll’s spoke about an unusual hide-and-seek experience and Kym Dominique-Ferguson related a traditional tale about Anansi (Anancy), a West African god who often takes the form of a spider, this time faking his death and devouring beans. First-time teller Katharine Childs told a lover story about body image, sexuality and self-love while regular Magali Desjardins Potvin, whose stories are usually science fiction/fantasy tales, provided a first-person “anecdote for the romantically challenged.”

Magali Desjardins Potvin at the microphone

Magali Desjardins Potvin at the microphone

Laurent Castellucci’s well-crafted tale tricked the audience. At first you thought you were hearing a science fiction story but then you wondered was it a dream or a video game?

The evening’s musical guest, Sam Cave hails from Brisbane, Australia and has lived in Montreal for about a year. He’s at ease with a microphone and his soulful songs brightened spirits.

It looked like the event was wrapping up when Hobbes announced a surprise teller had come forward but she didn’t want her story included in the competition. Patricia Flewwelling, the woman who prepared the delicious food served at Mariposa, recounted a story about her army experiences. To keep up with the guys, she downed a soft drink in record time but had quite a time trying to swallow a burp.

If you’re around NDG tonight, do drop by. You’ll have fun. And you have a story to tell, you can sign up on the event’s Facebook page here. Tonight’s theme is Mad as a March Hare but you can tell any kind of story, as long as it’s by heart and five minutes  or less.

Where: Café Mariposa, 5434 Côte St. Luc Rd.(near where Terrebonne meets Côte St. Luc Rd and close to Côte St. Luc Rd. & Girouard)

When: from 6:30 p.m. on

Cost: $5 Please do buy something from Mariposa too.

On losing NDG small businesses

5 Mar
George the orangutan wears a Cartes etc. t-shirt as he sits in a chair outside in front of the store

George the orangutan returned to Cartes Etc. last fall (photo from Cartes Etc.’s Facebook page)

Yesterday I opened an email that left me saddened and shocked. Cartes Etc., a lovely card and gift shop on Sherbrooke St. West in NDG is having a closing sale this weekend. Only last month I received emails about the store’s new offerings – artisanal workshops and recently, a jewellery flea market.

The store features works by local artists – including whimsical purses, unique  jewellery and all sorts of cards (some featuring photos of landmarks in NDG and environs), paintings with whimsical images of Montreal sights, gorgeous tea cosies, handmade mugs and other pottery pieces, the list goes on. Cartes Etc.’s owner, Arlyle Waring, provides a great service to local artisans and artists by promoting and celebrating their talent. Regular vernissages, celebrations, sales and fundraisers have added to the store’s appeal as a community

I applaud Arlyle Waring for keeping Cartes Etc. going after the death of its founder, Necdet Kendir. He contributed much to NDG, fighting to revive the Empress Cultural Centre, setting up a merchants’ association for business owners on Sherbrooke St. W. and advocating for the needs of local citizens and merchants.Sure he had his detractors but what impressed me was his kind heart and passion for NDG. He was always thinking of some way to improve things in the community.

To me Arlyle has the same values and she’s given a lot to the community, even making people laugh by adding a mascot to the store, a huge (fake) orange orangutan named George. He went missing in November 2013 but last October he came back after someone told Arlyle where to find him.

I laughed when Arlyle wrote on Cartes Etc’s Facebook page just before New Year’s that she’s received complaints about George and a large stuffed animal moose named Mortimer being in “full celebration mode” and making less than tasteful remarks and Mortimer being a “negative influence on George.” As you can see in this photo from Cartes Etc’s Facebook page, they each have a martini glass as they sit in chairs in front of the store.

George the orangutan and Mortimer the moose sit with martini glasses in chairs outside Cartes Etc.'s store

Photo: Cartes Etc’s Facebook page

It made me wonder if people were taking things a little too seriously!

That’s why this news that the store is closing caught me and many other Cartes Etc. fans off guard.

Here’s what the email said:



Saturday, March 7th & Sunday, March 8th 2015

In today’s world of high rents and internet commerce, which can take their toll on brick and mortar shops, CARTES ETC has been in the process of adding workshops and an online store to create the customer base needed for survival. But financial constraints have been onerous and before being able to establish this additional artisanal showcase and revenue source, are forcing the store to close its doors.

CARTES has served as an important window for many NDG artists.  According to a study by Hill Strategies Research Inc., artists make up 4% of the population of NDG, a concentration five times higher than the national average, a creative resource of value to the community and one worthy of being more widely shared.   For the artists represented at CARTES and for many of its customers it is more than a store; it is a place for local talent to shine.

Business hours on Saturday, March 7th and Sunday March 8th will be dedicated to raising as much money as possible through sales and a silent auction of articles donated by artists represented in the store.  Proceeds will go to the closing costs for the store.  The event will celebrate the contribution CARTES has made to the community and will honour the artists who are represented there.

Refreshments will be served.    

Any and all help is welcome.


Arlyle (and George…)

Last fall NDG lost another beloved business, Dad’s Bagels, when the bagel shop’s heartbroken owner, Kashmir Singh Randhawa, when he apparently learned his landlords were not renewing his lease to make way for a Dollarama expansion. The rent increase was beyond his budget, in any case. Many businesses are seeing increases in their commercial rents as landlords up rents in the areas around the new superhospital.

Both Dad’s Bagels and Cartes Etc. are community-minded businesses that made a big difference in NDG. Both made the neighbourhood a brighter place and both gave back to the community.

I moved away from NDG a year ago and I don’t stop along Sherbrooke nearly enough. Yes, online commerce is great but we have to find ways to support our brick and mortar businesses.

So if you live in or around Montreal, please come by Cartes Etc., 5901 Sherbrooke St. W. (Sherbrooke & Belgrave) this weekend and support Arlyle (and George) and the artists.


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