Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


Welcome to this week’s rant, which begs the question: “why is it so difficult to find decent customer service these days?” It seems to be the exception, not the rule. Case in point:

Store #1: Too Hot

I won’t give away the identity of this charming chain, except to say that they sell overpriced smelly things and hire way too many staff…all of whom apparently work on commission. Oh yeah, and their name rhymes with Flush.

The Boy and I elbowed our way into the tiny store in November, well before the holiday shopping rush began. The narrow aisles were packed with people. Customers? No, sales clerks, all hungry for blood. One zeroed in on us before we had more than a toe in the door.

“Have you heard about our soap sale?” she chirped. Of course we hadn’t. We were barely in the door. She’d seen us come in.

She proceeded to rattle on and on about the many “deals” on overpriced soap. Nothing we said could dissuade her…no amount of “we’re just looking” or “we’ll let you know if we need something”. Nothing could keep her from blathering on about the store’s upcoming “Shake Your Bon-Bon” party (shudder). Finally, just when I was about to scream in frustration, she spotted another victim. But our moment of peace didn’t last long.

One step was all it took to have another clerk accost us. Once again, we were treated to the same inane giggles about the infamous “Shake Your Bon-Bon” party. I know you won’t believe this, but we were approached by five different people, in the same tiny store! All with the same persistent, never-ending sales pitch. It was exhausting and frustrating, like being the lone chicken in a wolf den. By the time the last person asked us if we’d heard about their bubble bar, I was getting a little snappy. You know those stickers the Salvation Army provides, so they know you’ve already donated? This store should consider doing the same: “Yes, I’ve heard about the Shake Your Bon-Bon party. (And I’d rather die.)” I found a soap that I absolutely loved, but refused to buy it after all that sales pressure. I will never be back.

Store #2: Too Cold

This store is actually a restaurant, and the service I received was so horrible that I will tell you it’s a wood-fired pizza place in Winnipeg’s Little Italy. And it has the word bistro in the name. Enough said.

A new friend and I went there one night for dinner. The place was far from dead, but not too busy, either. The food was pricey, but the pizza–which was the main attraction, after all–was quite reasonable and inventive, and I have to admit–easily the best pizza I’d ever had. Unfortunately, our waitress did everything she could to ruin the experience.

She ignored our table. Whenever she did come around, her tone was cold, bordering on snippy. It took us forever to order, forever to get drink refills, and when I requested that the rest of my pizza be wrapped up, she was gone so long that I’d pretty much given her up for dead. When she finally returned, 25-30 minutes later, she was empty handed! She asked if we wanted anything else, like she desperately hoped we didn’t, and I said, jokingly, “just the rest of my pizza”. “Yeah, it’s COMING!” she snarled. I couldn’t believe how rude she was. My friend and I laughed it off, and continued to chat. My friend had ordered at least two glasses of wine, and we’d both had expensive pizzas. It was our first time out together, so we were enjoying getting to know each other, when the waitress returned with my pizza (at last)…and kicked us out! She said other people needed our table. Can you believe that? I’ve never been ordered to leave a restaurant before. When we emerged from our No Man’s Land table by the back door, we did see two couples waiting, but it certainly didn’t look like they’d been there long. There was no excuse for the waitress’s rudeness. I won’t be back.

Store #3: Just Right

Much to the relief of Hollilocks and others like her, who prefer not to be treated like prey or pariahs when they dine and shop, there’s a wonderful restaurant in downtown Winnipeg that has customer service down to a science. I have never been disappointed.

The food is always exquisite, the people who work there appear to love their jobs, and you never see a waiter until you need one–and then suddenly he or she is magically there, refilling your wine glass or bringing you another fork. Whether you’re there for a pricey dinner or a much cheaper lunch, they treat you like royalty. It’s no wonder you usually need a reservation.

A waitress from this lovely Italian restaurant once chased me all the way down the street because I’d left my jacket behind on a chair. Now that’s service. (And according to a friend in the know, they serve the best gnocchi in the city.)

Congratulations, Tre Visi. You are a sight for sore eyes. Ahhhh…I’ll definitely be back.

Other Winnipeg spots that demonstrate excellent customer service:

Le Petit France
Papa George’s (sometimes. It’s never bad, and sometimes it’s stellar.)
Dream Weavers (doesn’t exist anymore, but it was fabulous)
Silver Lotus (primarily its owner, who goes above and beyond)
Hair F/X

How about you, dear reader? Can you add to my “Just Right” list? Or do you have a rant to share about some terrible customer service? Rant away!

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Kim

    There are some miserable customer service people out there for sure. I have never been to your two “bad service” examples. I tend to take more of a three strikes rule than having one employee ruin an experience for good. I believe good customer service is a bit of a give and take. Unnecessary rudeness, absolutely, is uncalled for but for every ONE time you’ve been treated rudely, that sales clerk has been treated poorly by probably 20 customers. And all this, for essentially minimum wage. But if you see a repeated pattern of behaviour from the same person or same store, that’s a different story.

    Maybe I’m too forgiving?? And I’m not at all suggesting that you did anything to provoke the rude/annoying behaviour you received at the two businesses. I would think not….for sure! (I too hate being harrassed by clerks when I just want to explore — that will set off my snittyness as well). There is lots of unprovoked rudeness on both sides of the coin.

    But it is nice when you find a mix of customer service that works for you. Especially when you are looking to drop a lot of money on something like a car, or, say, perhaps, a bike. I have a perfect “relationship” with the guy I deal with at my bike store of choice (Alter Ego, I’ll happily name it). He takes care of me well and does many many things for me that I consider to be above and beyond the call of duty. For someone who is mechanically dis-inclined, I need that sooooo much. I’m not girl who when a wrench gets put into my hand says, “what’s this?” But I often try to do things on my own and fail — things like putting my mountain bike tires back on with the tread backwards. And Dave has never ever once laughed at me or made me feel like a stupid chick when I try to do it myself and mess up. He just offers to fix it, and unless parts are involved, he charges me nothing.

    Have I dropped a lot of money at this business. Absolutely. I know this offers me certain priveleges that others may not get. I know people who’ve gone into the same store, dealt with someone else, and been very unhappy with the experience. But I also try to NEVER take advantage or feel entitled to the service I get. So I do things like bring him coffee once and a while.

    He’s not perfect. No one is. He doesn’t always return emails when he should. He quoted me the American price accidentally when I bought my most expensive bike and he had to email me to tell me he had to raise the price by several hundered dollars. He made an honest mistake and I know he wasn’t trying to screw me around.

    And frankly, I probably need him to do the little things (like fix my bike on the spot rather than make me wait a week to get it back) more than that store needs my business. Then he lent me his bike to race with this fall and I’m still a little flabbergasted that he would do that. I asked him once what I did to “deserve this.” His response with a shrug: “you’re polite.”

    Because lord knows he sees a lot of impolite behaviour. So I make sure to treat him well in return and now I have a friend instead of just a sales guy and that’s pretty important too.

  2. kungfusinger

    The best customer servce I ever got was at a little italian restaurant run by a chinese couple. The restaurant was out of the way and therefore had very little business, but it had AMAZING food.

    And the Service! When we came in the door, they would turn on the lights for us, and turn on the heat for us. The waiter paid us plenty of attention, but not too much so. He usually stood behind the bar, but at the slightest nod from either me or my husband he would be right there to fulfill our every wish. When we complemented him on the food, he went into the back to get the cook (his wife) so we could tell her in person.

    Perhaps the good service was because we were usually the only patrons there. It is sad because the restaurant was an undiscovered Edmontonian Jewel and, sadly, destined to stay that way. It went out of business a mere three months after I discovered it. I tried all my might to give them business through word of mouth advertiing; Alas, it was not enough. A handful of clients do not a clientele make.

    Goodbye R U A Pasta Lover. I miss you. I hope your owners are doing well.

  3. Lisa

    I’ll have to second you on Vientiane…I LOVE that place. The owners are so genuine and helpful and they have found the balance right between hovering and ignoring ;0) It also helps that the food is so yummy ( and we live a mere five minutes from them)!

    BellaVista is another thumbs up. We’ve had to customize orders because of food aversions and they are more than pleased to accommodate. Food is also very good. They have an in-house salad called Rita Salad that I have every time I eat there. (But I order it without olives ;))

    I agree with Kim on the three strikes thing. I won’t write an establishment off unless they are consistently substandard, and that is usually after three visits. The lovely US based soap/bodywash store in St.Vital is teetering precariously. Like “Flush” I find myself followed and hounded while in the store – I usually know what it is I want to buy, but the moment they pounce on me, I leave. Next time will be my last…hear that BBW!!?? (Prices are also higher than the US stores so I can always wait and get what I want in the states. I find when I go across the border to shop there the salespeople are less intrusive.)

  4. Story Teller

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. It’s definitely nice when customer service is so exceptional that the provider ends up becoming a friend. That has happened to me at Blufish.

    I have to respectfully disagree with the “three strikes” rule, however. I think it depends on the situation. I am a very forgiving, accommodating person–I have been a waitress at one of the worst places on earth, so I know what it’s like to have a bad day on the job. The waitress I mentioned has a history of treating people that way–those who frequent that bistro instantly knew who I was talking about. And even if myself and my friend were the only people she was rude to, it still doesn’t make me want to go back. If you’re having an off day, fine. If you bite my head off and then kick me out, I’m not going to return for more abuse. Dining out should be an enjoyable experience.

    As for the store, that is clearly a company policy, so I don’t think it’s ever going to change. There are lots of places selling similar items, so I see no need to go back into the fray. I found it stressful and annoying.

    I am exceedingly polite to everyone, and I tip very well. I expect civility at the very least in return.

  5. Vanessa

    **Warning! Long reply** *LAUGH*

    Woe to the store/restaurant/service person who gives bad service on a day I am in a baaaaad mood. *laugh* I have pointed out bad service to workers and managers if it was especially horrid–even ended up getting 85% of a baaaad birthday dinner comped at a now defunct restaurant (*cough*BlueAgave*cough*)

    To date (behind the abysmal dinner at the Blue Agave) a certain cell phone/cable/internet service provider company in the city (hehe rhymes with pms)had me seeing flames this fall. Apparently they franchise out their “stores”.

    A trip to one of their mall stores this last fall ultimately led to me stomping out after about 20 minutes. I was familiar with the indifference showed by the employees I had met on previous occasions with questions about my cell.

    This time, I tired very quickly of playing the “‘I need the works–cable, internet, land line, alarm and Oh…by the way, I have my cell with you already–how much will my monthly bill be?’ and getting the ‘But I don’t know what you want–here take this piece of paper, figure it out yourself and let me drink my coffee that I can’t put down and make a reasonable effort to serve you'” game.

    Apparently if you expect them to actually sell ALL the company’s products and don’t just want to buy a crackberry you aren’t worthy of attention.

    I pointed out that he had been absolutely no help, to which I got one last “But I don’t know what you want”, went home, called the customer service centre and a lovely lady on the other end of the phone walked me through the website and hooked me up.

    I will never, ever, ever deal with one of the “stores” again.

    On a happier note, I needed some car work done and having never owned one before, didn’t have a mechanic. A couple of recommendations to Degagne Motors on Marion proved to be absolutely and wonderfully accurate. They fixed my issue (found one other very valid issue on an almost 10 year old car having had no other significant work done in it’s lifetime) and handled it quickly. I popped in this week quickly as one of my wipers decided to come unscrewed–they checked it wasn’t anything major, tightened the offending piece of metal and not a penny charged. 😀 I love them.

  6. Story Teller

    Welcome back, Vanessa! It’s good to see you here again.

    Good for you for letting people know about crappy customer service. Too often we stew in silence, and then vote with our feet by not coming back. I do that too often myself–I rarely speak up and say “this isn’t right–you shouldn’t treat me this way”. If more people spoke up about this when it happens, it just might change.

    So, bravo! And thanks for the mechanic recommendation, too. I don’t currently have a car, but if I ever do in this city, I’ll know where to go. And as for PMS, I’ve always hated their lack of service. That’s why I’m with Shaw. 🙂

  7. Elspeth Cross

    I’m feeling Grinchy and have 2 rants.

    1. Pier 1 at Polo Park. Look all you want, but don’t try to buy anything. The last time I was in there, I had one item in my hand. There were 4 employees behind the counter. Two were talking to each other and the other two were working on the purchase of person in front of me. Five minutes later, the chatting duo disappeared, the other two were still working on the same order, there was another person in line behind me and NOBODY had even acknowledged me yet, let alone opened a second till. I put the item back and walked out.

    2. Kindle. I gave myself an aneurysm trying to order a Kindle on line. It was way too confusing. Did you know if you go to Amazon.ca and type in “Kindle” you get 1400 items of accessories but the actual Kindle doesn’t pop up? They really need to have a better website.

  8. Story Teller

    Thanks for ranting, Elspeth! You’re always welcome here. Sorry for the bad experiences. I had something similar to your Pier 1 moment at Silver Lotus, where four employees were clustered behind the counter chatting and ignoring everyone in the store. But when I asked if one of them could help me, a girl quickly volunteered, and the other three looked willing.


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