Thursday, 26 April 2018

FedEx, unreliability you can rely on

That FedEx is not always reliable seems predictable. It is a large company, operating in a blood-sport industry with people of which the majority is both overstrained and underpaid. Less predictable is that the company has no problems lying to its customers.

I was expecting a package today that would be delivered 'by end of day'. So, I stayed home all day to make sure I could take delivery. I did not go out, did not check the mail, did not do the laundry and had no other out-of-suite in-building activities, just to make sure I would not miss 'the moment'.

And then, lo-and-behold, I got a tracking update saying that delivery would be reattempted tomorrow because the customer was not available or the business was closed. That is a lie. Not merely an untruth, a downright lie.

I went to the office downstairs to ask whether or not FedEx had even been here. They assured me FedEx had not been seen. Extra funny is that FedEx also claims that a door tag has been left behind. FedEx did no such thing.

When I phoned their customer service, I got a computer program that did not understand very much and does not offer the option of talking about non-delivery, only mis-delivery. After several attempts, I was finally connected to an agent. Since FedEx records its phone conversations, so did I. The conversation was quite futile and useless, as these conversations almost invariably are.

What makes this incident remarkable, is that I cannot remember *ever* having experienced a FedEx delivery that went as it should. Coincidence? Unlikely, but not necessarily impossible.

However, FedEx's claim that they came here, found the customer unavailable and left a door tag is not a coincidence. It is an outright lie. That means this company doesn't have customers, it has prey, or victims. It doesn't even care enough about its image to create a semi-convincing white lie.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that this is not the first time I have the exact same experience of non-delivery, claim of attempted delivery and claim of leaving a message at the door. While repeated non-delivery could possibly still be a coincidence, the lies make FedEx look like a criminal organisation.

FedEx, helpful as never

I received an e-mail from FedEx this morning to announce delivery of a package. It contains a very interesting tip:

FedEx, in its ever-continuing search of 'Quality Assurance', 'Customer Care' and 'Enhancing the User Experience', does not disappoint: there is no "Preparing for Delivery" to be found anywhere. Hence, the helpful tips don't seem all that helpful. 

I can't help but wonder who the expertologist is who came up with this. Maybe this genius should be told that not all customers appreciate this type of entertainment of searching and hunting for well-hidden information.

Contacting FedEx customer service turned out to be a waste of time that provided no answer: the FedEx system insisted I am in India, even though I am in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Their agent had to transfer me from the Indian customer service to the Canadian one, but did not reveal the location of these 'helpful tips'. The Canadian agent was equally unhelpful. I am guessing that these helpful tipes don't exist or that I am not interesting enough to be told.

Either way, I wasted my time and that is one thing I really do not need to do these days. I am not bored and also not in need of entertainment or 'busy-ness'.

Just to be sure, I looked on Google:

As a result, I am guessing these helpful tips don't exist. How unsurprising.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Samsung Experience Store

That's the name of the Samsung store in Toronto's Eaton Centre. And what an experience it was.

The noise in the store was so terrible my Bose active noise cancelling headphones could not even remotely block it out. I am no marketing genius but I am alive and still breathing and therefore a buying customer. I ended up buying something I did not really want, because there seemed to be no other choice.

The largest microSD cards they had available were the 128 GB cards. One would think that a store providing 'The Samsung Experience' would have the entire range of memory cards in stock, except perhaps when sold out on a Sunday. Anything larger, I was told, has to be ordered online. In other words: they don't seem to be all that interested in my money.

I could certainly understand that large and bulky items that are sold only occasionally would not be in stock all the time, but memory cards take up less than the volume of typical postcards and cost a lot more, so it is rather strange that not stocking them is an actual company policy. One can't help but wonder: do these things have a 'best before' date Samsung doesn't talk about, or are they just vapourware?

I wanted to buy a card for my smaller - and older - tablet as well, but I didn't bother. All I could think of was to get away from there as fast as possible. It is not as if I am not used to noise. After living in the downtown core of Toronto for over 20 years, I am used to noise. But it was too terrible to bear.

The girl who served me had trouble understanding me, I had to yell. She had to yell as well, but that was partly to overcome my noise-cancelling headphones. I had tried taking them off, but couldn't stand the noise levels of what they call 'music'. I think starting plane engines - something I am quite familiar with after my years at the airport in Brussels - are more musical.

I went home dizzy and with ringing ears. Maybe The Samsung Experience store should change its name to what we used to say the defunct Belgian airline company name Sabena stood for: 'such a bad experience, never again'. I for one, shall want to receive a handsome payment before ever walking into that store again.

Let me spell it out once more: not selling the stuff you claim to make and causing deafness in your customers, is not a particularly smart marketing move.

The Samsung Experience, an experience not be forgotten and not to be repeated either. A true marketing blunder, in my opinion.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Crickets made of mustard

Edible insects at Loblaws on 30 March 2017
Loblaws has been trying to peddle edible insects for some time now. I was looking at them a few days ago, when a woman approached me and told me she couldn't believe they were doing this because it is so gross.

I disagreed with her. People in Africa, for example, have been eating insects since times immemorial. She replied that we are not in Africa. She was right. We are not. But it does indicate that eating insects is not gross, it is just not part of our culture.

Insects as a protein source are often promoted as environmentally friendly, certainly a lot friendlier than other animal protein sources common in Western culture. While there are certain preliminary thoughts that point in this direction, most sources seem to agree that we are a long way off from large-scale use of insects as a food source for humans.

Edible insects are also promoted as healthful. I have not researched this issue, but quick searches on Pubmed for ["edible insects" AND "benefits"] and ["entomophagy" AND "benefits"] found 20 and 10 articles respectively, some containing speculation, but no useful research for consumers.

However, that was not why I was interested, nor was it why I was shocked. 

I was intrigued by the price. Edible insects are often said to be cheap. Google "cheap protein" and "insects" for a simple sampling. However, that is not what I saw at Loblaws.

In Loblaws tradition, many of the products on offer had no indication of price. This tends to mean they are overpriced. The few prices that were indicated, showed this guess might be correct. 

The insect-containing suckers and brittle certainly were pricey at 4.99 CAD + tax for what is essentially 35 grams of sugar with the odd insect sprinkled in. Since candy is not food but rather a luxury item nobody needs to stay alive, I wouldn't hold this against them, even if I am not likely to ever try it.

Honey mustard crickets
Bag of 56 grams, for 16.99 CAD + tax
Loblaws on 30 March 2017
The priciest item was a bag containing 56 grams of honey mustard crickets for 16.99 CAD + tax, a whopping 303.39 CAD + tax for one kilogram. In my book, this does not qualify as cheap, since it is about 5 to 6 times as expensive as smoked salmon, and that is usually considered a luxury food.

Since edible insects are a novelty item for now, some money-grabbing is to be expected, so even though the price certainly raised my eyebrows, it wasn't my main point of interest.

What really bothered me, was the French translation of the English text. Not only was it incomplete, it was also of bad quality. Modern quality management is mostly about offering people as little service as possible while grabbing as much of their money as possible, but when this Ferengi-style greed is applied to luxury items it becomes even more shocking than usual.

This is a very small translation. Is it really too much to ask for a proper one? 

"grillons de moutarde et miel" is the equivalent of "crickets made of mustard and honey". 

"ojgnongranulé" is probably the result of bad DTP, not language, but it is still an error.

I am sure that Francophones are intelligent enough to understand what is meant and will probably mentally correct the mistakes without giving them a second thought, but that is not the point. The point is that they shouldn't have to mentally correct the translation at all. They are (potential) customers, they deserve the same service as other customers, unless they are given a discount to compensate for bad quality.

Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes, but these are mistakes that can easily be avoided by paying a few dollars to someone who knows what he/she is doing. Surely, at these prices, this should not be a major problem?

Friday, 30 September 2016

Trousse pour Sains Personnels

This is an older picture I took on 2 October 2005. I don't know anymore where I saw this, but I clearly thought it was worth taking a picture of.

This was for a Thanksgiving sale. I am not sure that les Garçons (French for the Boys) would be all that happy to receive a set with toothpaste and related items for Thanksgiving but that may be a matter of personal preference.

The most interesting thing for me was the text in the picture: Trousse pour Sains Personnels. Whether one likes capitalisation of words in a title/name is a matter of taste, but that is not my point either.

What I find interesting here, is the description Sains Personnels, which is meaningless but could perhaps be construed to mean Healthy Personals in English. I have no idea what these could be.

In a religious context, it could be a typo of Saints Personnels (Personal Saints). It could also be a typo of Seins Personnels (Personal Breasts) and since sain can also mean animal fat it could possibly be read as Personal Fats, but my best guess is that it is a typo of Soins Personnels (Personal Care), which would at least make some type of sense. 

I am sure that francophones appreciate the effort that the vendor made to address them in French, but they would probably have appreciated it even more – and felt less insulted – if he/she had splurged on an extra fifty dollar flat fee to have the text checked by a proofreader who actually knows French instead of some semi-literate individual who doesn't know how to use a dictionary.

[last updated on 2 October 2016]