To contrast sharply with yesterday’s diatribe against Bell Canada and their horrible everything, I would like to focus today on Canadian Tire, another Canadian Institution with some underlying problems but a very different approach to how to sort them out.  They’ve been in business approximately as long as the Hudson’s Bay Company (or since the 1920s, take your pick).  They have long succeeded by pairing their low-grade and frankly shoddy merchandise with absolutely sterling customer service.

I have been buying things there for years and years, drawn back time and again, I suspect, by the lure of their specious “Canadian Tire Money” which Americans commonly mistake for our real money due to the bright colouration and low face value.  This has more recently stopped being a selling point for me because I buy nearly everything on my credit card nowadays and they don’t offer such trinkets to Visa customers.

Over time, I’ve purchased a number of products there that turned out to be, well, not all that one could hope for.  A few years ago I bought a pair of Spalding sandals.  They lasted approximately 40 seconds in what I would consider normal use for a pair of ‘sport’ sandals.  I jogged out to the field to play some Frisbee (not even ultimate, just ‘toss it back and forth’ style) and as soon as I turned from my straight ahead canter, the side blew completely out of the sandal and I fell over.  I took them back, got my money back and went to a real shoe store and bought a legitimate brand name sandal.  They worked beautifully for 4 years of very steady wear with nary a problem.

Last summer we decided that Coleman was the way to go for a tent (WRONG).  We picked out a Ciqala model, set it up in our living room to make sure that we knew how to go about it and off we went.  It turns out that it rains all the time on the East Coast and the number one thing you don’t want when camping (apart from maybe some kind of primitive rain attraction talisman) is a leaky tent.  We spent a very damp, cold week down east and on our return, found out that CanTire has a standard 7 day return policy on tents.  This would have been very bad had that been printed on our receipt, however, due to some sort of error on the part of the store where we bought the tent, this was not to be found anyplace on the receipt so they gave us our money back despite the fact that the tent was still damp and dirty from our trip.

CanTire’s entire reputation and, I think, business model is predicated on their willingness to accept just about anything as a return.  They sell crummy product and they’re aware of the fact so they make it as easy as possible to get some kind of satisfaction when (not if) things go sour.  We had a good example of this when we were out at Camp Omagh a couple years ago.  It was a terribly hot week.  The temperature didn’t get below 30, even at night, for the first three days of the week.  We took pity on the children and their melty state and bought some oscillating fans.  One of the four we bought didn’t work at all (having only a 25% failure rate is actually pretty good considering how little they cost) and so we were going to take it back in any case, but one of the cabins managed to break their fan by opening a door into it.  We decided that we didn’t want a broken fan around so we figured we’d take it back to the store to see if they wanted it for parts or anything.  They took it back without even blinking.

be you angels?