Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dark Clouds For Customer Service in Fredericton

It's staggering how many businesses I've boycotted over the years. I'm currently considering an unholy fatwa against Canadian Tire, because they've ticked me off. A fatwa is a 'legal opinion or ruling issued by an Islamic scholar'. Clearly I have an opinion about how I've been wronged by CanTire, but I'll choose to ignore the fact that: my opinion is not legal, I am not remotely Islamic and I am most certainly not a scholar.

Let's examine the Canadian Tire debacle. First let me go on record by stating that I like Canadian Tire. I believe, all things considered, that they do a good job but, like me, there's room for improvement. Like many of my lifelong list of personal fiascoes, it all started with a phone call...

It was late April and time to get the noisy winter tires off my hot rod of a car (2007 Ford Focus wagon, Kiwi green...thanks for asking). I phoned Canadian Tire in Fredericton and booked an appointment for early May. I also asked to get my oil changed.

Like many people, I've had a long and storied association with Canadian Tire. One of my fondest memories was when I went to their Prospect Street store in the late 1970s. My parents' car didn't have a radio, and I couldn't live (or drive) without listening to such timely hits as Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?' or Chic's Le Freak's.

Honestly Rod, no I don't...and do something with that rat's nest of a hairdo, it's freakishly un-chic.

So I entered the Prospect Street store and bought the cheapest car radio that I could find. I was so eager to have a radio that I wired it right in the CanTire parking lot, carefully following the instructions/destructions. I turned the key to send some juice to the radio.

Snap. Crackle. (Don't tell my) Pop! The car stereo caught on fire.

Congratulations've done it again!

I had a track record of unsuccessful 'do it yourself' projects, beginning in 1977 when I was shellacked by a moped and a set of piston rings. To this day, the mechanical drubbings haven't stopped, though they now mostly involve computers or electronics. With regard to the sizzling car radio, I felt that I had followed the installation instructions to the letter, and I was indignant that the radio would dare to burn in my dad's Mazda RX-2. I extinguished the flames and put the smouldering unit back in the box, then returned it to Canadian Tire for a full refund.

Fast forward back to May 2009. My summer tires were installed and the oil was changed. I gathered up my thirteen cents worth of Sandy McTire dollars and went on my merry way. The car was much quieter with the summer tires which was a welcome relief. The car smelled quite a bit, but I just assumed that the fat-arsed mechanic dropped a bomb on my car seat while driving his kids to school, or joyriding through the UNB woodlot.

By the time I got to Jemseg the car was actually smoking and I was being asphyxiated. I pulled over and popped the bonnet. Then I flipped my lid. The entire engine was basted with oil. The oil cap was lounging on the manifold, about six inches from where it should have been. I had just driven seventy kilometers without an oil cap. You'd think that I would have been pissed off but accidents do happen (Rod Stewart's hair). I purchased two litres of oil at a local gas station and brought my fluid levels back to normal.

I called Canadian Tire and they were mortified. Okay, maybe not mortified, but they were apologetic. They asked me to bring the car back and they'd clean the engine. A few days later I returned the car to Fredericton and sat there in the CanTire waiting room while my motor was scrubbed and buffed. My name was called over the intercom rather quickly...

"Mister Ian Varty, please report to the service counter. Please remove your pants and bend over."

I went to the counter to be told that their pressure washer was broken but they'd spray the car down with a cleaner and hose it off. They offered me the opportunity to return for a proper cleaning when their pressure washer was fixed. My first reaction was 'why don't you trudge twenty paces, into the store, and buy a new pressure washer' (and get some valuable Sandy McTire dollars). I left dejected but accepting that these things do occasionally happen.

I hopped in my car and drove off. The car smelled like a well douched Wizard air freshener for about three minutes, then it started smelling like Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s underwear. I drove home, enjoying the smell of burnt time. To distract myself, I turned on the radio. Ack! Rod Stewart.

All in all, not a happy experience for me, a lifelong customer of Canadian Tire.

Now, here's where I completely lost it. About a week after my deflated Canadian Tire experience, I received an automated telephone call from a Canadian Tire robot, asking how I felt about my recent experience at their service center. I was uncharacteristically polite given the experience that I had. I described what had happened in detail and I left my name and number.

No one has ever called me.

So what's the point of their caring and compassionate robo-call if no human does anything to follow up? All it accomplished was one thing; yup, you guessed it, it pushed me off the fence upon which I was sitting. I was now truly, utterly, overwhelmingly pissed off. Something had to be done, drastic measures needed to be taken.

I probably can't live without Canadian Tire for the rest of my life, especially because I've already boycotted Wal-Mart and I'm still mulling over a Sears embargo (remember the overpriced toaster?). I like Canadian Tire but I'm deeply disappointed by the way I was treated.

Please, don't ever call me asking how my customer experience was, unless you're willing to listen. Perhaps the service manager was flogged, I don't know, but I do know that this customer was very unhappy and has yet to return to Canadian Tire. Under the terms of the fatwa that I issued, I'll avoid Canadian Tire for a full year. Of course I'll eventually return; I've got thirteen cents in Sandy McTire dollars that are burning a hole in my Scottish wallet.


  1. Beautiful photo, stole my rant! Four appointments this spring to have tires installed! ARGHHHH! Ang

  2. i think this rant could/should be generalized to most (all) customer service in freddy beach. for such a small, maritime city (to boot), the those in many facets of the service industry are generally apathetic and rude.

    that feels better.

    thanks for the vent, mr leisurologist