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September 10th, 2009:

Stevie slips up…

Stephen Harper has tried to portray an image of being a middle-of-the-road Conservative who does not pay fealty to the far right wing elements of his party. Knowing that a majority government hinges on his not being seen as a PM who would lead Canada too far to the right, his policies, speeches, ads, etc. have all been pushing the Mr. Nice Guy image.

He has also carefully steered away from talking about a majority. The last time he did that, potential voters were spooked and flocked to the Grits.

And man, is he careful about centralized messaging. NOTHING gets out to the media without his approval – until now.

In a speech to the party lapdogs in Sault Ste. Marie last week that was closed to the public and the media, Stevo’s blah-blah speech was taped by an audience attendee.

Whoa! But this is not at all surprising. Those of us who have followed Harper’s moves through the years have known that his mask of moderatism was just that; a façade.

And this proves it… bad move Stevie… very bad…


To get away from the political blah-blah for a moment

I thought I would mention something about customer service; two instances of really good attention to services and one not-so-good.

As a general comment, there is a sense in our society that civility, as a whole, is taking a head-first dive into the dumpster. As a corollary to this is a diminished sense of service to the public by those who directly interact with other folks on a regular basis. It is the paid job of some Canadians to provide a service to others; be they as servers in a restaurant, cashiers at a store or entrepreneurs that provide a specific service directly for the public.

I’m not going to go on about surly servers (there are many), indifferent cashiers or floor personnel in a store (they may outnumber the surly servers). Rather, I have two examples of different levels of service.

1)  Good example #1: I had to get a tree removed from my property as well as a bit of hedge work. I received a few estimates and decided to go with Ottawa Tree Surgeons. The staff were pleasant and professional and kept to their word – right from the lady who booked my appointment over the phone to the young guys who came to my door at  7 am to let me know they were starting so as to surprise a potentially sleeping bald guy. The work was done when they said it would be and on budget.  I highly recommend this firm.

2) Bad example #1: We have decided a while back to replace our 1980’s style countertops and flooring in the kitchen. They were getting pretty disgusting and we set the end of the summer as the end date for the project, this freeing up the rest of the fall for outside stuff. We did our research and found a countertop that we liked at IKEA. The price was right and the style was right along the lines we were considering… not a granite top or anything fancy-schmancy like that but just a plain ol’ laminate.

So I measured the top – VERY carefully – and dropped into the Ottawa IKEA to place an order. “No problem” was the word from the IKEA custom countertop dude. “You should have them within a few weeks as we contract out this work to a local firm.

“Great!” we said and sure enough, the counters arrived more or less on time and I began the deconstruction phase of the project.  After taking off the first two – smaller – tops I was full of hope that nothing had gone wrong. But when I tried on one of the longer tops for size, it was a full inch too short. And the other long piece was one inch too long.

Call IKEA.

Not our fault. Must have been the countertop company that we contract out to (1).

Called the countertop folks.

Not us. We went with the dimensions that were supplied to us by IKEA.

Numerous phone calls went back and forth between the three parties. All of them initiated by me or by the countertop company. Seemed like IKEA thought that if they left it alone long enough that we would go away.

Turns out that IKEA – for whatever reason – changed the dimensions without taking to me and getting my OK to do so. In the end, the countertop folks came out to my place, measure the kitchen and said, “yup, IKEA screwed up”. The company said they would fax in the dimensions to IKEA and all would be well. True to their word, the countertop company truck rolled up to my garage a few days later and loaded up the old – not fitting- tops and took them away.

Fast forward 2 weeks. I had again made lots of calls to IKEA wondering what was up. But to no avail. I finally got pissed off and sent an email to their corporate address – a note saying that if this was not resolved in 24 hours, I would file a complaint with the BBB and spout off about their horrific service on FB, Twitter, my blog and sky-writing.

One and a half hours later, I get a call for the countertop folks saying that they had just received the go-ahead form IKEA and that the countertops would be ready the next week – which they were. And that they would fit – which they did (well, save for a minor glitch which was not a fault of there’s but rather of the moron who had initially installed the cabinets… that’s another rant).

Anyhow – lesson learned – don’t buy something that is a custom order from a place that sells goods that require assembly… the karma just ain’t there.

Now if only I could find a way to blame Harper for all of this!