When in doubt, call head office

Columnist Claudette Sandecki writes about the importance of complaining to a company

When company service is less than satisfactory, Canadian consumers are too polite to complain to the company in person or even on line. Instead — according to a May 9 report in the Financial Post — we slink away to find another supplier.

Not me. Especially not after my blueberry incident April 28.

Once home with groceries put away and lunch, I complained directly to Wholesale Club’s Brampton head office by website and by phone.

May 4 I received an email from Loblaw’s Senior Customer Relations Representative expressing their disappointment I had found their store’s service unsatisfactory.

All along I knew any shortcomings were not the fault of the local store, but with the directives coming down from some head office exec sprawled in a leather chair. Local staff are equally upset with the willy nilly changes.

The blueberry incident topped months of vexation as my main supermarket discontinued brands I’d been purchasing weekly since the store was built, introduced new brands or smaller sizes, and tested my patience and brand loyalty moving things around from one aisle to another until my shopping trips took longer.

Why haven’t I abandoned this supermarket to shop at another? Simple. Most goods are a dollar or two cheaper than at other stores in town.

If the product is a standard brand packaged in a bottle or can, exactly the same as what I’d find in a higher-priced store, I see no reason to pay more.

Generous parking is a big draw for me. Shop any forenoon and you’ll find oodles of drive-through parking, with a handy gas station nearby.

Display shelves stop far short of the ceiling. I feel more comfortable. Less constricted. Don’t ask me why floor-to-ceiling shelves exert a subtle psychological discomfort on me, but they do, equal to Justin Bieber Muzak.

Most of all, I like the staff. They are too few, and stressed. Yet they hide any annoyance when I ask them to show me where a familiar product has been moved to, or send them off to find a price for something that’s not marked. I’m aware when they see me approaching they may turn away, intently stock the shelf before them, or dash to the washroom. No bother. Neither tactic deters my quest for information; I seek another staffer.

The day of the blueberry incident I had a choice between 18.2 oz. blueberries from Chile priced at $6.98, but none available. Or 9.8 oz. blueberries from Mexico with no price.

Sounds of demolition led me to a staffer pounding out his frustrations on a backroom wall with a heavy hammer .

During a lull in the pounding I outlined my quandary to Big John and handed him a small clamshell. “Does $6.98 entitle me to two of these?”

“It’s not the same product,” he said. That I already knew. He scanned the barcode but offered me no price specific to Mexico berries.

The cash register charged me $6.98.

Too often the till charges a dollar or two more than the price on the display shelf. Or, as in the case of the ham ring advertised in the flyer at $5, the shelf price was closer to $7. Why? The staff had been too busy to update the price to the flyer’s.

My cashier stub gave me a website www.storeopinion.ca and a phone number 1-888-495-5111 where I was invited to tell them how they did today. I told them.

The email ended, “We appreciate you sharing your feedback with us. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions.”

Loblaws can count on me.

Claudette Sandecki monitors food stores from her Thornhill, B.C. home.