Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Consumer Society -- Not

When we came to Canada, we had to replace many of our electrical devices, including our bread-maker.  I wanted a Panasonic, which is an American brand, so I was surprised that I could not find a Canadian distributor.  In the end we bought  a Cuisinart.

Twice, since we bought it, the baking tin has developed a leak and needed replacing.  If we were in the USA, I could just go online, order one and it would be delivered within days.  In Canada, I can only order from the local authorised spare-parts supplier (there's just one in Edmonton).  The supplier doesn't keep any in stock.  She has ordered one for me from the USA, and four weeks later I'm still waiting for her phone-call to tell me it has arrived.  The tin is probably stuck in customs. There was the same delay last time I ordered one, and on that occasion the first tin delivered didn't fit the machine.

Moving to Canada has taught me some lessons about myself.  One is that even though I dislike shopping, there are some aspects of the consumer society, such as choice and convenience, that I miss when they are no longer available.  As far as the consumer experience is concerned, living in Edmonton is like living in the UK circa 1971: shabby shops, poor choice and poor service; the only difference is that unlike the UK in 1971, or anytime since, Canadian shop-assistants are excessively solicitous, without actually being helpful. For that reason, I generally adopt the tactic of sprinting into Sears or The Bay, grabbing what I want from the display and sprinting to the cash-desk before I can be intercepted.  Hesitation is perilous, for example, the last time I bought a filter for our vacuum cleaner, I ended up with the wrong one, because I could not shake off the shop-assistant who was intent on giving me incorrect advice, while I was trying to choose from the display.

I particularly loathe shopping for clothing here. As soon as you enter the shop, an assistant bears down on you and starts talking, disconcertingly, as if she is a childhood friend who hasn't seen you for a while.  "And how are you today" she usually begins. The first few occasions I entered clothes shops here, seeing an assistant making a beeline for me, I thought she must think I was a possible shoplifter, and I left rapidly.  On the next occasion, the assistant got as far as her opening gambit,  and I replied by telling her that I was sorry, but I didn't think we'd ever previously met.

Eventually I did succeed in purchasing a coat that was too small and a pair of jeans that were too big.  Since then, I've tried to get all my clothing from the UK, either mail-order or on my yearly visits to my mum.  Inevitably, I'm getting shabbier by the year.  Not that I was very smart to start off with, since I don't buy much clothing, and when I do it's often from charity shops, but by the time I move back to the UK, I'm going to be looking like a bag-lady.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Canadian shop-assistants are excessively solicitous, without actually being helpful".

In most countries it's referred to as being "warm" or "friendly", a concept totally foreign to anyone living in Great Britain, the bastion of rude, abrupt and arrogant "customer service".

"For that reason, I generally adopt the tactic of sprinting into Sears or The Bay, grabbing what I want from the display and sprinting to the cash-desk before I can be intercepted"

See above comment, and add "inept social skills" to the list.

:-) Have a nice day :-)