Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Small details - accumulating impacts

This post doesn't pretend to be deeply insightful... - honestly. I went to a middle-of-the-road fish restaurant in Ottawa the other day. It's called 'The Fish Market'. The food, by the way, in case you do seafood, isn't bad at all. The service is ok for a place that depends probably mostly on tourists visiting Byward Market and that knows that many of its paying customers are once-off events that won't return. I was quite fascinated, when I was about to order a dessert, to discover that they're seriously charging 5C$ (add13% tax, 15% tip and you're closer to 6C$) for - take this - a single shot of espresso. If there ever was a rip-off here it is. You will be hard-pressed to find similar prices even in much more expensive outfits.

The thing with these small details is that their effects accumulate. Bell Canada is charging me for a phone that never worked properly, but, so the company points out to me, in its multi-pages of illegible small-print contract they warned me that they might not offer reception where I actually need it, and also that I have no reason to assume they'd be able to guarantee reception in the GTA, the Greater Toronto Area. Makes sense, doesn't it? Mobile phone reception in Toronto, what a stupid idea! Anyhow, so there I'm paying a monthly fee for a non-functioning phone.

At Queen's, where I work, the outside company that sells food in our cafeterias takes staff and students for a ride in truly breathtaking ways (try York University's cafeterias as a comparison if you don't believe me).  Recently they charged for an absolutely mediocre sandwich (white cheapest ever toast bread, tuna) 3,99 C$ + tax. Seriously, producing this sandwich probably cost 40 cents or thereabouts. My complaint remained unanswered, of course. Talking about a captive audience!

And the list goes on and on and on. The big thread is that businesses get away with the proverbial murder in so many different ways. In the restaurant the proprietor knows full-well that many guests like a coffee after their meal, so they'll gulp when they discover the price tag, and cough up the cash. Given that most are tourists anyway, who cares how they feel about having been ripped off. As to Bell, the company knows that it is one of the most widely reviled companies in Canada (right up there with Air Canada and similarly customer hating outfits), so it doesn't care either what people think of it. It's all about milking customers in the short-term, at nearly all cost. Well, and our cafeteria, I'm trying to reduce y exposure to it as good as I can as they don't deserve my business.

I wonder whether this business conduct makes medium- to long-term business sense. I am not even talking business ethics here, just business sense. These organizations surely hurt themselves over time more than their individual disgruntled customers. I have since withdrawn all my business from Air Canada, and come the end of my contract, in my life-time Bell won't get me back as a customer. As to Ottawa's Fish Market. You got to be kidding...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Certainty is not a defensible standard for policy making in the context of assisted dying

I mentioned in a Bioethics editorial a while ago that new frontiers are opening in the assisted dying debate. As an increasing number of...