Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Rhymes With Oranges

In honour of my son B's 16th birthday tomorrow, I thought I would write a story about him wanting to go to a hockey game when he had an exam the next day.

(Oh wait. Already done and published. Click here to read.)

OK fine. I will write about the time B was terrorized by his French teacher, who told him he was so lazy he needed to see a doctor.

(Oh wait. Already done and published in my book. Click here to download and read.)

Alright, I will take him out for dinner to the same restaurant my mother (may she rest in peace) went to for her 16th birthday where the big treat was that she and her friends were allowed to smoke in public, and spent the entire night puffing on their cigarettes while ignoring their $50 steaks.

(Not good. Turns out smoking causes cancer. Teenage boys like to eat. And steaks there now actually cost fifty dollars.)

Plan B. A new story:

Playground. 2004. Five year old B holds out a gum wrapper. What do I do with this?

You need a garbage can, I say. Maybe there is one over there.

Person next to me rolls her eyes companionably. Give it to Mom. Always Mom. Mom is a garbage can.

No. I say to her. I am not a garbage can. I never accept wrappers from my kids. One of the first things I taught them was how to throw things in the trash.

Um she says scurrying away clutching daughter's wrist and looking at me like I have just told my child to make their own lunch.

Eleven years later B comes in from what was allegedly a walk for fresh air an innocent stroll through the park. Mom you gotta see this. Grossest thing ever.

Whips out his phone.

A garbage bag exploded Mom and there are SYRINGES everywhere. Bloody gauze. OMG Mom look at this - some of the syringes still have NEEDLES in them. This is DANGEROUS. Someone has to come and clean it up Mom. I'm calling Town Security.

Looks up number on his phone. Calls Security. Reports disgusting garbage explosion in park. Looks out window. Sees Security truck. Goes outside to meet the guy and show him exactly where everything was found.

Complaint Tie-In:
1. If you teach your children to throw out their gum wrappers themselves maybe they would know how to safely dispose of their bloody syringes.
2. By showing B where the trash can was as soon as he could crawl, I taught him that he can do things on his own, like complain effectively about hazardous waste in the park.
3. If you leave your son in the playground in 2004, eventually he will come inside.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

E Pluribus Unum

Mom can we have something really special for my 10th birthday? asks T.


Like really special?


Special special.

What do you have in mind? 

Can I have my friends over (dramatic pause) and can we EAT CHIPS in the BASEMENT?

Um, yes. That sounds really special. Guess we can cancel the pony.

Also Mom?

Oh, maybe this is about the pony. Uh-huh?

Can I get a cake from CTBY?


Friends picked up, chips eaten, time for cake.

T cuts open cake and it's all white.  

Vague memory of ordering white cake with chocolate frozen yogurt passes through my mind, while vacuuming ketchup chip crumbs from the basement and wondering if a pony would have been so damn messy. 

Next morning am picking chip flakes out of the carpet notice receipt from CTBY where we have clearly ordered a vanilla cake with chocolate frozen yogurt. Also on receipt is an e-mail address.

Take picture of cake remnants. Take picture of receipt. Send gentle e-mail saying that we are above average consumers of Kit Kat Shivers frozen yogurt and that we clearly ordered blah and we clearly received blah blah. I just thought you would want to know.

CT's writes me back. We are so sorry. Please accept a full credit for the purchase of the cake. Gift card will be waiting for you at the cash with your name on it.

Thoughts at this point:
1. My book says to be specific in what you want, I did not take my own advice, and still got a full credit
2. Book also says complaining is more of an art than a science. This falls into the art category.
3. Free Kit Kat shivers. Husband will be thrilled.

Two hours later am at the office. Have already told 12 people about my victory.

Phone rings.

Owner of CTBY.  I was trying to figure out where we went wrong. I spoke to the guy who took your order. He's the same guy that poured your cake. He said you ordered chocolate frozen yogurt, but as you were leaving, your daughter changed it to vanilla. Our copy of the receipt clearly says vanilla and vanilla. In fact, he's saying he offered to change your copy as well but you said don't worry, I'll remember.


So it looks like there wasn't a mistake after all. 

Oh. So are you saying you want the credit back?


Thoughts at this point:
1. Like the fact that owner tried to investigate complaint so that it wouldn't happen again. Like that he called me directly to explain what happened. Feel Super Guilty that these are all ideas for possible book about complaint investigation that I still haven't written.
2. No more Free Kit Kat shivers.
3. If the guy who took orders remembers our conversation, and I don't really remember either way, I tend to believe him more than myself. 

See my Dad that night. Tell him whole long story. 

Well my Dad says. That's Interesting.  There is actually a legal principle that states festinare nocet, nocet et cunctatio saepe; tempore quaeque suo qui facit, ille sap it meaning that if someone remembers something in the affirmative, then it is more powerful than not remembering something at all. So if this guy remembers that T changed your order, it is in fact more believable in a court of law than you not remembering anything at all.

Thoughts at this point:
1. Thank g-d I was nice and not overly demanding because in the end I was wrong and if couldn't show my face at CTBY would be stuck driving to Albany every night to get Husband his Kit Kat shiver.
2. Do ponies eat chips?
3. Hope none of you speak Latin because then you would know that I couldn't find the exact principle my Dad was referring to, and took the most official sounding phrase from the Wikipedia list of Latin phrases.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Running Shoe Complaint and Book Club Discussion Guide

Husband always buys same brand of running shoes.

Goes to same running store.

But today, Sir, you must try this new brand.  They have extra cushioning.  Resistant to temperature changes. Techtonic supernova technology. Your Feet Will Love Them.

What if they don't fit right?

If they don't fit right you can bring them back.

Sounds fair.

Runs in store aisle.

Seem fine.

Runs outside.

Significantly less fine.

Returns to running store.

Brings back this new brand of running shoes.

Not. So. Fast.

You can't bring back these shoes Sir because you ran in them.

Yes I did. They are running shoes.

You ran outside.

Yes I did. This is where I run.  (Husband too polite to say that running up and down store aisle would make training insurmountably cumbersome).

We can not take them back.

Husband says I don't need these shoes. They don't fit me correctly. I will leave them with you and I will also buy the same brand that I always buy.

Husband watched me on TV  looking quite adorable in my turquoise necklace explaining to all of Canada how and why to complain (click here to view a summary video) yet he still calmly put down the running shoes, bought a SECOND pair of running shoes from the SAME store and walked out satisfied.

Couple of days later his phone rings.

Sir you were in our store a few days ago attempting to return a pair of running shoes.

Yes that's me.

I said We couldn't take them back because you ran in them. Outside.

Yes that is where I run.

Good news. I took the shoes in the back and was able to clean the soles. They are as good as new.  I can resell them no problem.


So we have gone ahead and issued you a complete refund for the shoes.

Book Club Discussion Questions

1. Running is often a metaphor for escaping.  Discuss whether you are someone who runs "in the aisle" or someone who runs "outside".  What are the similarities? Differences? Can someone be both an aisle runner and an outdoor runner? Would they wear the same shoes?

2. The narrator alludes to her television appearance and her turquoise necklace.  Does the necklace hold magical complaint related powers? If the husband in the story was wearing a turquoise necklace would he have complained in the running store?  Discuss the symbolism of turquoise as a necklace, a tool for gender identification and a refutation of magical thinking in heterosexual relationships.

3. The sales person character washes the soles of the shoes and refunds the husband's money in full.  What do you think his or her motivation was? In the Bible, there are several instances of foot washing. Abraham washes his guests' feet in the desert, and Jesus washes his disciples' feet.  Was the author using these allegories to illustrate the best possible customer service? Or do you think the sales person was just trying to be nice? 

4. In this story, not complaining worked as well as complaining.  Does that mean that complaining isn't worth the trouble? Or is this the narrator's way of telling us that complaining is more of an art than a science?

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Back Story

Important TV show calls and asks about complaining.

Calls again.

Of course I can get to Toronto.

Of course I can be there tomorrow morning.

Arrive at destination at 10:07am and realize that I have to be at taping at 10:30am.

Further realize that if I have to be at taping at 10:30am so does my face.


Racing through airport like crazed lunatic leisurely strolling past gates when remember that when en route to give keynote speech in Thunder Bay bought lipstick at favorite makeup store in airport.

Um, this might be a strange question but I'm uh going to be interviewed on a TV show today and as you can see I'm like beyond useless with my face.

Yes I can see that, says makeup artist with red jewel glued to chin. How much time do we have?

Fifteen minutes.

That's it? Well I will do what I can.

And then, like a chin jeweled angel, Soraya the makeup artist made me as passable as she could with only fake eyelashes and Miami Beach pink lipstick as her spirit guides.

Racing through airport like crazed lunatic walking slowly to the Ground Transport area I look out the window and don't see any cabs.

Just then, like an angel (but without the chin jewel) a cab driver appears and says You looking for Taxi ma'am.

Yes, as a matter of fact I am.

Start following him and have a minute of hey wait a second where is this guy taking me.

So what I'm just supposed to trust you?

He takes a photocopied license out of his pocket.

Just then, hallway doors burst open and like two angels, fully uniformed Airport Police call out Hey Ma'am did this man tell you he was a taxi driver?

Yes, as a matter of fact he did.

He is an illegal taxi driver.  He has no right to pick up fares here.  He would lead you to his car and not

Before they could finish their sentence, I was already racing through the airport like crazed lunatic to the official taxi stand and jumping into a cab.

Running so quickly I forgot to check something.

Did the Airport Police have chin jewels?

Morals of The Story:
1. Cab drivers without chin jewels can not be trusted.
2. Miami beach pink lipstick has no business in Thunder Bay
3. Where is Della Reese when you need her (look it up)
4. If someone who is an expert in customer service, and WHO IS ON HER WAY TO BE INTERVIEWED FOR A NATIONAL TELEVISION SHOW ABOUT CONSUMER PROTECTION can be duped by a wannabe cab driver, it can happen to anyone. Please be careful.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Go to the Gym, Starve an Alligator

Raise your hand if your New Year's Resolution was to join a gym.

Could save your life.

Increased blood flow, lower body mass index, better cardiovascular output.

Not only that.

Reduced social isolation, improved stress reduction, tighter abs.

True but there's more. Latest research shows joining a gym can prevent you from being eaten to death by rabid alligators or at least save you $350.

Colleague's husband went fishing in Florida.  Went to end of pier where there were lots of fish. Also lots of starving alligators.

Caught fish. Left pier, went back to car.  Keys not in pocket.  Walked back to end of pier and look for keys in murky water.

Call car rental company who says it will be $350 for a new set of keys.

Think about jumping in and hunting around but can't because of ravenous alligators.

Can't see keys from pier because same colour as murky water.

But oh wait. What is that fluorescent orange tag glimmering in the water.

Take fishing pole.

Fish out metal ring attached to fluorescent orange tag.

Car keys.


Unanswered Questions

1. If alligators were starving, why didn't they just eat the fish?
2. If Colleague and husband were on vacation, why would they have a gym tag on their car rental key?
3. If my gym tag isn't fluorescent orange, is going to the gym still good for my health?