Archive for customer experience

The Baking Stone

Bread1%5B1%5D(2)Disappointed. I really wanted to love this place. I still really, really do want to love it. But like any dysfunctional relationship, I envisioned The Baking Stone to be something that it unacceptably was not.

You had me at organic pastries.

This quaint little business, snuggled into the Saint John City Market, first opened it’s bakery doors in October 2001. With products ranging from fresh crusty breads, to dangerously delicious pastries (try a melt-in-your-mouth “Lobster Tail”), TBS boasts products that are of highest quality, naturally preserved with no artificial additives, sweeteners coloring or preservatives. What is not to love?!

Well, it appears that TBS has expended so much of it’s energy creating quality fresh baked goods, that there was no energy remaining to invest in the other important half of the quality equation, that is: customer experience. Unfortunately consumersj can not be happy on quality products alone.

It goes like this: in order to run a successful retail business, you should make it ridiculously easy for me to give you my money. Telling me that you take cash only is not a good example of this (psst.. Tim Horton, are you listening?). So fair enough, I will do my part and make a special trip to the bank machine to withdraw cash before I visit your venue. But remember, on the days that I can’t be bothered to do this; my money will simply go elsewhere.

Last Saturday, in preparation for an evening dinner party, I did just this. I made a special trip to the bank machine, money in tow, trotted directly to TBS to scope out the seductive display of desserts from outside the refrigerated glass. Beautiful music began to play in my mind as I imagined my guests biting into a sliver of delectable che….

Sound Record Scratch

 “I’m closed.” I heard from behind the counter.  I looked at my watch: 4:45pm.

“I thought you closed at 5?” I questioned.

“We do, but I need to count my cash early so that I can get out right at 5pm.”

Pause.

“Well then, what happens to all of these desserts here in your cabinet [seducing me]?”

“They’ll go in the freezer.”

Pause.

Exit consumersj.

A few things:

1. If you care more about ‘getting out at 5’ than taking my money, you don’t want your business to succeed.

2. If you can’t even ponder a way to take my money [and perhaps apply it to the next business day’s float -or something!?], you don’t want your business to succeed.

3. If you are a ‘cash only’ retailer, you don’t want your business to succeed [in 2009].

4. If I’ve got money in my hand to offer you for the products you are selling, and you turn me and my money away for any other lame rationale, you don’t want your business to succeed.

5. If you are not competing with the hours of other City Market vendors right beside you, you don’t want your business to succeed.

It’s not you Baking Stone, it’s me. I just need some space.

 

THE BAKING STONE

City Market
Saint John, NB  E2E 5Y2
693-9818
vbochar@nbnet.nb.ca

http://www.sjcitymarket.ca/merchants/baking_stone.html

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Mulct and the City

services_parking1

Bad. This is really, really bad. Consumersj needs to understand what the City of Saint John Parking Commission has against us. Do they only want uptown residents and business folk shopping uptown? An attempt at status quo for urban development? I think maybe there’s a case of Bud Light for the officer who has issued the most fines at the end of the month. Perhaps their (ahem-arrogant-looking) red and white documents we find on our windshields are simply a Hallmark alternative for saying: go to the East Side to spend your money where you can park anywhere, for free. …or maybe it’s just plain sadism and machoism, rent-a-cop style.

But wait a minute, speaking of S & M, I can even be incarcerated for my unpaid uptown Saint John parking tickets! From the website: http://www.cityofsaintjohn.com/services_parking_ticketing-process.cfm

“Unpaid Parking Meter Tickets that have gone to warrant must be paid at the Provincial Court Office, 3rd Floor, City Hall. Police have the authority to place any person under arrest who has not paid their outstanding parking meter ticket warrants. The person who is picked up by the police officer for an outstanding warrant will be taken to the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre to either make a payment or payments or to serve jail time.”

The more money (slash jail-time) I am obliged to give to the Saint John Parking Commission, the less I have to invest in uptown businesses.

There are other Canadian Cities with designated parking areas within their inner city where you can park for free (with 15, 30 minute to two-hour time limits). Courtesy parking let’s call it. Something like a, “Thank-you-for-choosing-to-leave-your-money-with-us” type of thank-you. For courtesy parking, I really only want the five minutes that it takes to grab a coffee, or to pick something up quickly from somewhere without getting nailed for $15-$35 or a JAIL SENTENCE each time my ticket runs out, or I (heaven forbid) run into Java Moose to buy a coffee without doubling my time to go to the meter and complete the absolute rigmarole of having my visa card ‘not recognized’, scrounging up some change (who still carries this?), inserting my nickles and dimes, killing the tree, running back to the car to place said dead tree, so I can buy a coffee.

Did you know that there are actual ‘Pay and Display’ parking jurisdictions? It’s true. If you pay for 2 hours of parking, you cannot move your car an hour later to the next street or you will get a Parking Commission Hallmark greeting. On another circumstance, I was ticketed en route to buy my parking pass. I was able to omit this, but not without investing 30 minutes of my time (that I will never get back) to fill out an application, go to city hall, and submit a series of documents: Parking Commission Hallmark and other useless tree particles. http://www.cityofsaintjohn.com/services_parking_dispute.cfm

Seriously people, this is a problem.

As this continues, expect me to be recommending you spend your money in some place where you feel like a customer, not someone’s target practice.

I won’t get started on the recent snow-ban debate…

City of Saint John Parking Commissionpay_display_solar

11th Floor, City Hall
Weekdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Tel: (506) 658-2970
Fax: (506) 649-7938
parking@saintjohn.ca

http://www.cityofsaintjohn.com/services_parking.cfm

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Fusion Saint John and Faces of Fusion

faces_of_fusion_200912

Networking. Happy 5th Birthday Fusion SJ! For this year’s celebration, Fusion will have three of it’s members speaking about Fusion’s past, present and future. In addition, the keynote speaker William Draves, will address leadership and how it applies to organizations like Fusion.

Consumersj would like to assure you that WD is one of the most brilliant speakers and author (Nine Shift) ever encountered. Even if I wasn’t a supporter of Fusion SJ (which I am), I would be attending this annual ‘sold out’ event just to hear this man speak.

So, for the meager price of a bottle of Wolfblass at Lemongrass (see below), you will get a 4 course meal, the chance to win a Fairmont Algonquin getaway, a night of networking with Saint John’s hippest, and the opportunity to be enlightened by a truly brilliant man, author and visionary – William Draves.

Visit http://www.fusionsj.com now to purchase your ticket online, or visit Enterprise Saint John to buy your ticket TODAY!

About Faces and Fusion
Faces of Fusion is Fusion’s annual networking dinner held in May. The first ‘Faces’ dinner held in 2005 was a huge success with a sold out event at the Union Club. The event has continued to be Fusion’s most highly anticipated event of the year. Faces of Fusion provides the opportunity for Fusion to explore relevant issues in Saint John while complimenting a vision of Saint John as the ideal place to live, work and play. Faces of Fusion is the largest networking event for young civic minded Greater Saint John residents to discover new connections and opportunities to make an impact on the future of our city.

Every year brings new challenges to find exciting themes relevant to Fusion’s membership and Saint John. Previous themes have included immigration, NB license plate slogans highlighting what we love about Saint John and NB, Vision 2015, The New Face of Canada and this year we will celebrate Fusion’s 5th anniversary and focus on leadership.

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Je Suis Prest Boutique – /jě swit preɪ buˈtik/

PrintReady. I know now what Adam Duritz was referring to when he sang about accidental love. En route from the gym to a meeting, both in the Brunswick-Market Square plaza, I fell accidentally in love with Je Suis Prest Boutique. I didn’t mean to, in fact I didn’t even have my wallet.

I am very excited to introduce to you my new love, JSP. A long awaited addition to the shopping precinct of Saint John. Perfectly located in our popular uptown plaza (formerly Nagles menswear) is a classy new boutique, only 7 business days old.

Laden with super tastefully chosen duds by such designers as: 172grams, NoaNoa, Odd Molly, Paige Premium Denim and Lily + Jae to name a few, you feel like you are walking into the super-enormous engagement closet of Carrie Bradshaw, with items in every size, for every occasion hung on intricately detailed silver hangers for your choosing pleasure.

Saint John, meet Keira Fraser’s in vogue New York flare! Another twenty-something chic-lady entrepreneur who commissioned her father’s investment dollars, her mother’s expertise, her own business degree and big Apple fashion sense to launch this family boutique in the foggy city.

There is no doubt in my consumer mind, that this family business is about to soar. I only hope that Keira is living up to her business name and Fraser family motto, for the flood of hungry shoppers she is about to contend: Je Suis Prest, meaning “I am ready.”

The downfall: This discovery of my new love may lead to the potential demise of consumersj, as I will have no further dollars left to spend.

Prest Boutique

Brunswick Square
Level 2
39 King Street

http://prestboutique.blogspot.com/

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Happinez: “a little bar with lots of wine”

happinez3Happy. How ridiculously hip is this place?? Another clever channel located inside our lovely Brodie Building on Princess Street. Step inside this building’s foundation and you will find yourself surrounded by a glorified wine cellar; a New York, Fifth Avenue calibre glorified wine cellar.

The drink: featuring hand picked selections of reds and whites from owner/operator, super-charming sommelier and Netherlands Native, Peter Smit.

The features: from within these classy cellar walls are special events ranging from an evening of Port and Truffles to an Introductory Wine Course, hosting your own private functions as well as a Wine of the Month, chosen just for you.

The seating: cuddled into the raw stone of this building’s foundation, is super alluring and thoughtfully arranged clusters of socially enticing semi-circle banquets. Subtle tables in-between offer you a place to set your glass while you nibble on palette-cleansing pretzels. Or, sit at the bar and allow Peter to sommelier-his-way into your heart as he describes the fruits and body (or whatever, just keep talking) of wine in-hand as you sip away.

Wines by the glass range from $6-$10 (drinking buddy, there is liquor and beer here too). Private and subdued, yet impressively chic. An ideal venue for gathering a group of good friends, or even for finally meeting that mysterious online date: You could sip wine over candlelight for hours (be wary of purple teeth and dis-inhibitions), or call it a night after just one glass for the unassuming price of two Big Mac combos (and an unforgettable meeting with Freakshow Magee).

The downfalls: Doors are only open as of 4pm Wednesday through Saturday (until midnight and 1am respectively).  For those of you who crave an exotic piece of cheese, or melt in your mouth french pastry with your vino, you will not find it here. Management did introduce a small ‘eats’ menu of select thai hors d’oeuvres from Lemongrass (see below) upstairs.

Watch Peter Smit at work: “The Etiquette Guy” promo from Hemmings House Pictures on Vimeo.

happinez wine bar
42 Princess Street
Saint John, NB
E2L 1K2
t 506.634.7340
e info@happinezwinebar.com

www.happinezwinebar.ca

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Lemongrass and Suwanna

Lemonwanna. I want these two Saint John Thai restaurants to get married and produce a baby that has Suwanna’s food quality and Lemongrass’s ambiance.

Lemongrass, located at 42 Princess Street, a fine piece of real estate, is nestled in close with Happinez Wine Bar and Peppers Pub in the ever-so charming Brodie Building. Right next door is O’Leary’s Pub and across the street, Sebastian Martini Bar. So, no matter where you stumble when you fall out the door, you will find civilisation (or lack there-of, depending on the time of day).

Inside, the lights are dim, candles flicker, the music is eclectic and gentle. Bamboo placemats are carefully placed on the tables which are spread into 3 partitioned rooms on the main level of what seems like a used-to-be heritage home. The walls are painted warm and cozy shades of orange, and you cant help but look up at the intricate-gold crown moulding 12 feet overhead. Satin throw pillows and gold-detailed fabrics fall elegantly in all the right places. Sigh.

The food, unfortunately, ranges from bland, to pretty good for-a-food-court, to omigod I think my digestive system is blistering! I do recommend the red curry fish cakes when you go. The wine selection is ok; you really can’t go wrong with a bottle of Wolfblass Cab Sauv, but $43 a bottle is just a little wrong. Also, if you’re looking for proper wine serving etiquette, go downstairs to Happinez.

I want Suwanna to move in with Lemongrass.

Suwanna, located a little off the beaten path on 325 Lancaster Avenue, West Side, is indeed located at grannies house at the top of the hill. This brightly lit pad has all of the features of a tacky old-lady’s decor, complete with what-the-heck table clothes and dishware.

Off to the side of the main hallway is a small table, cluttered with abused old CD’s. As you sit studying every clogged pore of your dinner companion (due to the excruciatingly bright lighting), from the distance you can enjoy some rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Greatest Hits (I do enjoy John Fogerty, but for every good rock tune there is a campfire and an 8-pack of Bud).

Then comes the food.

For a split second or two, you forget where you are. The food is THAT good. I really can’t go on too much here, as every person has individual food preferences, but let me suggest for the spice lovers the Green Curry (bring kleenex) is full of flavour and just the right amount of hot. Not-so-spicy lovers can enjoy a nuttily, mouth-wateringly, selubriously, ridiculously delicious Masaman curry.

I need to stop here as I am salivating on my keyboard. The food is so good though, you will be lucky to get a seat without booking well in advance. Once fork meets mouth, the fear of being exfoliated with your partner’s eyes is quickly replaced with the fear of becoming full.

Both venues will run you about $18 per curry dish, which can comfortably feed two people, or 1 person and take home tomorrow’s lunch. Both places provide infinite rice and relatively good service for casual dining. A good date with a wine buzz will run you $70-$80, tip included.

Suwanna Restaurant and Inn
325 Lancaster Avenue
Saint John, NB E2M 2L3
(506) 637-9015‎
Lemongrass Thai Fare
42 Princess Street
Saint John, NB E2L 1K2
(506) 657-8424

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Sweet Pea Boutique

Sweet. The next time you visit Halifax, this venue is the product of a fashion obsessed young university student. Tucked away in the lower level of a used-to-be heritage home on Queen Street in Halifax (a stone’s throw from Spring Garden Road) lays a hidden treasure chest.

The space has a quaint living room feel: creeky hardwood, a splash of white lighting, a large store-front window, original fireplace, and most importantly an eclectic collection of ridiculously affordable dresses for every age, occasion and body type.

Owner/operator of the two-year old business, a twenty-something Johanna Galipeau, treats you like a long-time shopping mate from outside of the fitting room. She hand picks her inventory, emphasis is on Canadian designers, but also brings in selections from Denmark, Holland, New York and L.A. The majority of her collection will not rack you more than $100, but for those garments that do, you will only ever find one in each size.

“If you’re spending that much on a dress, you don’t want to be duplicated” says a humbly frugal Johanna from behind the counter.

My three purchases, ranging from an originally designed ‘little black cocktail’ to a pink printed ‘meet the parents’ ran me $97 after taxes. It felt like stealing.

Guys: it would make a truly impressive gift, but remember if you don’t know her size, UNDERESTIMATE. Gift certificates are always a safe bet.

Appreciating the environment, if you purchase a linen shopping bag which sports a hip yet subtle ‘SP’, you will save an additional 5% off your purchases each time you bring it.

Downfall: if you are of average size and not ready at the door with your SP bag on inventory day, the best dresses in XL will only tease you.

Sweet Pea Boutique

1542 Queen Street, Halifax, NS B3J 2H8
Telephone : 902-423-0975

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