Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The death of the salesman

Whatever happened to service? You would enter a store, the shelves beautifully stocked and a salesperson would assist you. They may suggest colours or offer advice help you. Today there appear to be two types of stores. The first is the no-service, serve yourself warehouse like Ikea or Costco. Here the items are strewn throughout a large warehouse and you go armed with a cart to hunt down what you want. To reward you for your efforts..you have to wait in a long line. Wait a second...no service, a huge messy floor...and a lineup? Oh and in the case of Costco you PAY for this. They claim there are bargains but really?

The second type of store is the pretend service store. These are stores like La source, where you go in and the salesclerks ignore you..chatting with their friends. If you ask a question, they are dumbfounded and thus worse than useless. If you DO find a salesclerk they roll their eyes and act as if they are doing you a favour, despite the fact that you pay their salary. These stores should simply save costs by firing their space taking salespeople and choose the Ikea or Costco model.

The type of store I prefer is like Tip Top Tailor, Lee Valley Tools or smaller speciality stores. I get served in these stores, people know their products. The salespeople are not ignoring me, chatting on their phones. They are interested in what the sell and are interested in serving you. I bought Cyril a pair of shorts at Tip Top today. The salesman was very helpful when I explained Cyril's height and preferences. These people know men's clothing..thats why I went there. Sure I could have rummaged through piles of shorts at Costco but would there have been anyone to speak to? I think not.

Shopping is something I don't do very often, but when I do, I like to be served. I am afraid like fine pens..the days of good service are in a palliative state.

Monday, June 17, 2013

IKEA...Swedish retail torture

Yesterday I went to IKEA to pick up a shoe horn. They make very good long and inexpensive shoe horns that my husband needs as he is in recovery.

I should have stopped when I saw the GIGANTIC three stories high monstrosity in yellow and blue with the letters IKEA. But how hard can it be?

The store asks you what floor you wish to go to, and you have to walk through endless and I mean endless mazes of things that you do not want, do not need and have no intention of ever buying. You cannot go quickly because there are people, mainly women I may add that browse and oohhh and ahhh for pleasure. Yes, there are people that enjoy the experience!  I am sure there is medication for these deluded people worshipping the alter of consumption.

Why should I have to pass by bathroom displays, rugs, childrens rooms...kitchens, living room and lighting to get the shoe horn. Ahh but you do that is part of the experience. And just as you think you are at the end...and see the glorious sign saying EXIT and PARKING you enter another maze, this time a restaurant with Swedish meatballs.

To me IKEA is a giant maze and we are the rats. We want the cheese but by God we have to work to get it. I met a man, equally annoyed who had to lap the store three times before he found his cheese. I like warehouses with a catalogue. I pick out my item, and an employee enters the vast warehouse and maze and finds my item. I am not interested in exploring mazes and figuring out puzzles and fighting through reams of fabric displays to get my one small piece of cheese.

As I went to pay, the young clerk said "Do you have a rewards card..they are free you know" I said no, this is my ONLY time I will ever shop in Ikea. By the way, I bought TWO shoe horns.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why I hate Christmas e-cards

Nothing says "I can't be bothered" like a Christmas ecard. You know, the ones with the canned message, the falling snow and sometimes awful music. You send it and can send the same card to all your 'friends'. Viola.. an old fashioned social obligation accomplished.

Email messages, ecards tell the recipient in pixels, that you just don't care. You are too ' busy' to buy cards, let alone choose a card..and the idea of writing a personal note...well not enough time. Christmas is a season where the only thing we should do is spend time with others, to visit and bring cheer. If we waste our time on shopping, or decorating....to the exclusion of our friends, are we not really saying that Christmas itself is a bother and a humbug?

My friends (and yes I send real cards and get real cards) can be divided into two camps. I have religious and secular friends. My secular friends send funny cards with penguins or wolves...or socially meaningful cards reminding me that the proceeds from this card supports David Suzuki. My religious friends opt for nativity scenes with proceeds going to some monastary or nunnery. Secular or religious, what  I love about cards is the fact that they all contain a message for us. It need not be long, but it signals to us that we are being thought of as the letters are addressed and the notes written.

Emailed Christmas messages, like email cards are a very poor and lazy substitute for the 'real' cards, Our cards sat on our fireplace mantle, colourful and beautiful from all around the world. I did not print out the emails and I deleted the cards..there is no room on my fireplace mantle for such expressions of  callow sloth.

For those of you who think cards are a relic of the past...think again. They are a gesture of thoughtfulness in an age where most of us spend our time running in circles screaming about "HOW BUSY WE ARE"

Valentines day is coming. Why not skip the flowers and the chocolates and send an emessage instead? See how far that gets you!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


King David had to set aside one third of his army to guard his stuff. His stuff, booty and treasures became a burden to him. His stuff cause him a lot of pain, yet he could not get rid of it. He was addicted you could say.

I wonder about my addiction to stuff. Why do I buy anything? Why do I have so many fountain pens (in the guise of a collection), what is it with my golf balls? Why do I have three pair of white running shoes? Why do I need four pair of cycling glasses....and on it goes.

I am starting to realize that stuff is a burden and an addiction. Our cities are designed around stuff but I am slowly, like an addict who admits to a problem, starting to see the light.

The light began to turn on when I was on a bike trip and passed through one of those shops that sells pottery, dolls, rugs...you know the type. My friends were ooing and ahhing..but I was immune to the charms of that shop. I did buy a soap.

I have more bars of handmade and handcrafted soap than anyone I know, barring the soapmakers. I am not sure why.

I now do a lot of cycling. I have enough cycling clothing to last a lifetime...it was on sale...but why? To my credit, I have stopped buying cycling kits for some months now as I realized it was excessive.

But why do we, why do I do things to excess? I have always done so. Like a junkie looking for that one great high...trying to repeat it. With soap..as a teen I liked Rogers and Galette soap..the great smell. So now...well never can get that 'high'

So I am drowning in stuff. Occasionally I will purge and give away piles of materials, magazines, books, clothing...but the basement is still full...camping gear...from my canoe tripping days...sleeping bags for summer and winter...antique snow shoes..wooden skis...why?

When you have stuff to this extent you are never really free.  I am starting to realize that food for me is like stuff. I eat well...but I eat too much. Like having so many bars of soap. It is as if I am looking for a thrill ..but cant get it.

Addicts I know are people who live to excess in all things. Hallowe'en decorations in August, Santas on the roof...largess in all things. They are looking for a high, for a measure of satisfaction in things. It is easy to see this but perhaps harder in my case. In my case, my motto has appeared to be excess in all things.

Time to moderate. I will wean my addiction by avoiding shops...and vowing not to purchase any more soap until the last flake of my considerable collection has been used. I will also apply this understanding to food and not use it as a medicine to satiate my appetite for the impossible, for the excessive, or for the thrill.

I am getting off the roller coaster..the ride is over.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bike Groups

I have ridden a bike as a commuter, sport cyclist and enthusiast. I frequent different kinds of bike shops and it seems to me that each type of bike has its own culture.

The Commuter
These bikes are heavy, hybrid types that the rider does not mind getting muddy or dirty. They have large panniers for a change of clothing and hauling work materials. The commuter rarely wears spandex, preferring instead to tuck pants into socks and wear street clothing. Commuters have a huge advantage in Ottawa and that is, they don't pay for parking. We are becoming numerous enough so that the city has bike lanes created just for us. These bikes are noted for their black oily chains and members of the commuter class often sport greasy chain marks on their pants or calves. Bikes are usually make of aluminum but also can be made of steel. Canadian tire, Wallmart or MEC are where they hang out.

The language
Commuters like to boast about the distance they ride to work. They will make a point of this when they are in the elevator or in the lunchroom. "Yeah well I did my 20k today,,,brutal in that snow" It is a point of pride to them that they are saving the planet and being responsible.

Commuters like to save money so will likely pack their own lunches in responsible packaging. They will bring a thermos full of their own coffee or they will go for a jog!

The Hipster
There is a fascination with fixie bikes and there is a culture around this. The fixie rides for fashion. The fixie rider wears a cap, rolled jeans and a trendy jacket. They frequent starbucks and the rim wheels generally match the chain. The idea is simplicity but often these bikes have unusual handlebars. Fixie riders frequent organic markets, Bridgehead coffee shops and the Westboro part of town. They can also be found downtown. They don't mount lights, or bells on their bike as it destroys the simple look. The bikes are steel. They congregate at Tall Trees

The language
The hipster is connected to their iphone so they will tweet and text rather than speak. "OMG your wheels match your chain and your shirt...that is SOOO cool!" "I want to get one of those you know wicker baskets in the front"

Lunches: Internet cafes so they can stay connected!

The retro
The retro rider is one who believes that bikes have not advanced much over the past 30 years and ride vintage road bikes with down tube shifters. A true retro rider will use rat trap pedals and leather straps. They generally keep their bikes immaculately clean and ride with a purpose as if making a statement. These folks will wear wool cycling jerseys and caps but never ever spandex. Brooks saddles. These bikes are steel..upgrading is admitting defeat! These folks shop on line or go to Tall Trees

The language
They will speak of the golden age of bicycles and how the old bikes were better made. They will speak about bands that have disappeared, of movies long forgotten, of fountain pens and how cell phones are a menace to the free world. If it is old, it has to be better!

A classic pub

Hint: Brooks saddles are a dead give away!

The Roadie Type A
The type A roadie has the latest computer and the latest bike with electronic shifting. The bike will have a powermeter and they will tell you everything about their bike and the geometry. The bike is squeaky clean as they clean the chain every time they think about the bike. The saddle is almost always a Fiz Ik or whatever saddle Bradley Wiggins used. They often will buy tour de France team jerseys and wear them on club rides. The type A roadie never stops during a ride, preferring to have short breaks. They will bore you with details about their wheels, the carbon frame or titanium as the case may be and why Pinarello is better than Look. A new bike every year! I have seen them at Cycle power which has its windows full of magnificent bikes.

The type A roadie would never dream of venturing on a ride unless their kit matches. They will eat in fancy coffee shops or restaurants always within reach of their bike. They drink perrier water when they stop.

Language: These folks speak about power intervals, wattage used, geometry, average speed and statistics. Anything new and fast! If they are slow, they are having a 'recovery day'. They will tell you how wonderful a rider they are within a few minutes. "Yea I was slow my average speed was only 35km/hr going uphill..I usually go much faster"  " I could have gone pro...but it does not pay enough"

Lunch: Gluten free with perrier please!

The Roadie Type B
The Type B roadie is the opposite of the Type A and usually these two groups, although they sport road bikes will not associate with one another. Type B's are older riders who have ridden for many years. They have high quality bikes but are not impressed with the latest gadgetry, While not as fixed to the past as the retro rider, the type B roadie will wait at least a few years before upgrading. They wear spandex but would not be caught dead in a Tour de France kit. They will wear local team jerseys or charity jerseys but are less concerned about matching. They go for value and will be seen at local bike shops like Bertrands. These folks stop for lunch and enjoy a good beer.

The language
These folks will speak about the history of the bike clubs or rides that they would go on. They are usually a font of information but unlike the Roadie A, they do not boast and it is only after some time that you learn of their accomplishments.

A good pub with a beer.

The messenger
These are the daring young men in their flying machines. They are usually tall and slim with beards and long hair. They  rarely wear bike helmets, preferring baseball caps or trendy wool caps. They ride single geared bikes and weave through traffic with the art of a ballet dancer. They wear shorts or knickers, are caked in mud and are the best cyclists of all. They congregate at Tim hortons for coffee and actually earn money with their bikes! Phat Moose cycles caters to these guys!

Like the hipster they are young, but because they ride for work and not for appearance or fashion, they are less connected to their iphone or ipad. They can be seen taking instruction and then with a few words ride off into the rain or snow. They don't congregate for periods of time because they have deadlines and packages to deliver

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bike Clubs in Ottawa

The Ottawa bicycle club, or OBC is Ottawa's largest bike club and the oldest in Canada. Among other clubs it has a reputation for being elitist or dropping slower riders.

I have ridden with them for this season and find it a wonderful bike club. I have met nothing but great and helpful people and had some terrific rides. The OBC does not live up to the bad press!

If you are like me, once  you start to ride with a club, boredom will quickly set in. There are clubs that do not ride as a peleton and sometimes form pacelines but mainly just strung out in a group at a sort of speed. This bores me to no end. The OBC has speed ranges but that does not mean that as a group you can't go faster or slower..it depends on the group. At times I have cut my pace and at other times asked that the pace be cut...it is a group effort. The joy is the fact that you can vary and the routes are always interesting. I also like the fact that we do not stop for long lunches. I don't mind a lunch if the food is exceptional, but often I find all a lunch does is  slow you down and  does nothing to enhance the ride. It is easier and more efficient to pack snacks and eat as you ride. The point of a ride for me is the fitness aspect and the technique. Unless I am on a multi day tour, I will almost never stop for a lunch. (Coffee is another matter!)

Today I did a shorter ride against a very heavy wind. Unfortunately for most of the ride the wind was against us. I 'pulled' the group, meaning I led the group as I am used to wind. At the end of the ride we had a picnic...again I met new and fascinating individuals all of whom share my love of cycling and bikes in general.

A club like this strives for excellence but there is really no room for arrogance. Trust me, you will always find a better cyclist than you, and certainly one with more experience. Today for instance, I learned that I had installed my seat bag upside down. It puzzled me why it was so awkward to access and  now I know.

If any of you are interested in cycling in Ottawa here are the clubs that I have tried and some I have not:

The CCTS..this is a great club made up of retirees. The problem is finding leaders for rides but overall a great experience. They ride Tuesdays and Thursdays

Kanata Nepean Bike Club:
 While there are speeds they don't ride in a peleton, and stop for long lunches. I have found safety to be an issue here as they do not know how to ride in a group and many don't like drafting which really makes the ride a lot easier. This is more of a social club. If  you are interested in improving yourself as a cyclist or trying a time trial, racing or reliability rides,  I would not recommend this club.

Arnprior Bicycle Club
A full service bike club with racing and very well run. A bit of a drive for us in Ottawa.

 The Ottawa Bicycle Club
Truly has something for everyone, socials, numerous rides and is fantastic. You will never be bored here folks.

Other clubs
Women on Wheels , Velo Plaisir and West Quebec Wheelers

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Ottawa Bicycle Club

The Ottawa Bicycle club or OBC has been around for over 100 years, it is a full service bike club with racing, tours, socials and is a lot of fun. The OBC rides in a peleton or a pack, which means that you can do a ride with them, and arrive home at a reasonable time and not exhausted.

Today was an exceptional ride. Not only was it beautiful but it was heartwarming. I wanted to ride at my usual speed but saw that my friends were riding at a slower speed. I opted to join them. In our ride was a young student from Brazil he had a heavy mountain bike and was having difficulty keeping up. I rode with him sharing my energy gels and encouraging him. He had a wonderful ride but the ride became magical for him and for me, when the OBC tour director offered to give him his son's racing bike. This will enable our student to ride much faster with less effort.

Doug also rode with our friend, assisting him. The kindness shown to a foreign student who did not have the lightweight machines we have has forever cemented the OBC in my mind as the best bike club I have ever been involved with. Conrad as I called him could easily have been dropped, or dismissed as 'not ready'. There was none of that.

Bike on my friends

Karine's Blog

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