Art and the new Montreal Children’s Hospital

My son had an appointment recently at the Montreal Children’s and we saw the Children’s section of the new MUHC hospital for the first time.

I knew the artwork would be different. At an appointment earlier this year at the old building, a doctor lamented the loss of the paintings on walls that made the old hospital special.

For instance, when you were waiting for a clinic appointment at the old Montreal Children’s Hospital on Tupper, you would see this, a mural that took up an entire wall.

A storybook-themed mural at the old Montreal Children'sMural at Old Montreal Children's Hospital

Painted by a guild of local artists who call themselves Montreal Area Decorative Painters, the mural had a storybook theme. It even included a “Where’s Waldo” sort of game where children would find different creatures and objects within the mural.

A playground in the centre of the waiting area made waiting easy for children. Volunteers provided children with all sorts of games they could play as they sat at child-sized tables. Close by, a giant glass case featured a tower of colourful origami whooping cranes.

Tower of colourful origami paper whooping cranes in glass case at old Montreal Children's Hospital

By contrast, this is what we saw at the new waiting area for clinics. It’s not child-centred in the least. It looks like something you’d see at an art gallery. Sure, it’s colourful but there’s nothing about it that speaks to children:

a painting at the new Montreal Children's Hospital

The waiting room has rows of chairs. There is a playground area one floor below the waiting area. The building has an atrium and plenty of light but the walls are often bare and lack character. The new hospital resembles a shopping mall.

After meeting my son’s doctor we headed to the blood test centre where we waited for over an hour. My son is nearly 18 and can handle waiting (he and the other teenagers in the room were on their cell phones) but we saw children who were under three years old have tantrums and many of the children waiting were under seven years old. Parents were playing videos on their cellphones or walking with their children and trying all sorts of things to keep their kids busy during the wait. The only things I saw in that waiting room that reflected children’s needs were two plastic chairs in the shape of cats and and tables that were lower to the ground so that small children could sit at them. One girl who looked like she was perhaps eight years old took her bracelet off and put it on the table, playing around with it as her entertainment.

The old waiting area near the blood test centre was a long hallway that featured paintings from the Little Prince, screened movies on TVs hanging above, and had tables with children’s books and toys. I hope they bring back the books and toys. At the very least the hospital could warn parents to bring some sort of entertainment because bringing your child to a clinic for tests can be difficult, especially if they’re sick. But waiting ages to have their blood drawn and having nothing available to help get through the long wait isn’t only hard for children, it’s hard on parents too.

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Art and the new Montreal Children’s Hospital

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

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.

Sincerely,

Farida
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!

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