CIBC and Customer Service – A Quaint, Fading Notion

Posted in Miscellaneous on April 12th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Big Banks. They exist for one thing – to increase the profits of their shareholders. I’ve complained about the continuing decline in CIBC’s customer service before on this site. Recently, I received the latest “Changes to Personal Deposit Accounts and Services” flyer, which lists, among other items, the usual upcoming fee hikes. It includes gems such as:

  • Waive Account: CIBC will waive your monthly fee and transactions fees if you maintain a minimum monthly balance of $1,500 – previously it was $1,000.
  • Want to withdraw cash outside of Canada? Go ahead, but CIBC will charge you an administration fee of 2.5% of the amount withdrawn, converted to Canadian currency.

The flyer notes that “At CIBC we are committed to providing you with a full range of products and services that help you do the things that matter.” What that doesn’t seem to include is saving money. The type of savings account I had for 20+years, that actually earned interest, was shut down by CIBC last year.

A few days later, Keith sent a note advising that CIBC is closing five of its southside branches, and consolidating their operations at one large, flagship building in a high traffic area. From the 09 April 2004 Edmonton Journal:

This move “reflects changes in the way customers do their banking and their other shopping,” said CIBC communications director Rob McLeod.

“We are moving out of small shopping areas where the potential for growth is limited, into areas where the customers already do much of their shopping.”

It is interesting to note that the one branch on the southside not being closed is in Riverbend, one of the wealthiest areas of Edmonton. Coincidence? According to McLeod, similar flagship branches were opened in eastern Canada, with a very positive response. But I think Keith has it right when he says:

Gone will be the concept of neighborhood banking or staff that you even recognize when you transact your business…I can’t even laugh anymore when I hear talk about how these changes are improving “customer service”.

Long gone indeed.

TSN – The Stoopid Network

Posted in Sports, What? on April 11th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: I remain a sports fan to this day, although my passion for following my favorite sports, baseball and hockey, began waning in the 80s. One of my daily rituals is taping SportsCentre overnight on TSN, and watching the highlights in the morning before going to work. TSN, Canada’s equivalent to (and owned by) ESPN, also functions as the Toronto Sports Network – during hockey season, a SportsCentre broadcast cannot go by without some reference to the Toronto Maple Leafs. If the Leafs aren’t playing that day, TSN will offer a preview of the preview of the preview of their next game, or ask coach Pat Quinn what he had for supper. Despite the bias, usually I can expect good reports and coverage as well as an entertaining broadcast.

However, over time, the SportsCentre anchors and writers have worked hard to invent new nicknames for some of the teams they cover, as well as phrases to describe things like time left in the period (1:28 remaining to be played is termed “a buck twenty-eight”), a home run (“he goes yard” or “a 2-run jack”), two home runs in a row (“back to back jacks”), and the result of a goal increasing the team’s lead in the game (“up a bill”).

Some of the incredibly annoying team nicknames heard on SportsCentre lately include:

  • the Yotes – Phoenix Coyotes
  • the Nucks – Vancouver Canucks
  • the Team in Red – Detroit Red Wings
  • Josey – San Jose Sharks
  • the Bolts – Tampa Bay Lightning
  • the Buds – Toronto Maple Leafs

“The Nucks”? It’s a pure form of dumbing down the viewer, or perhaps playing to the lowest common denominator, some version of the beer-swilling, brain-dead, cheese-eating frat boy, who needs booster cables to get out of bed in the morning. I hear the broadcaster say, “the Nucks”, and wonder: 1) is it too much of an expense of energy to say “the CAnucks”?, or 2) is TSN trying to save time on its broadcast?, or 3) has TSN completed market research which suggests that their viewers will think it’s really cool to hear phrases like that?

With this in mind, what a pleasure it is to discover this British web site, Plain English Campaign. It is a simple, stripped down site, supporting “an independent pressure group fighting for public information to be written in plain English.” My favorite section in the Examples page. It includes the complete archive of Golden Bull award winners, Plain-English translations (“before” and “after” examples), and The gobbledygook generator: “You really can’t fail with facilitating administrative mobility.”

Meanwhile, in hockey, The Team in Red is playing the Preds, my Habs face Beantown, the ‘Nucks face off against the Matchsticks, The Buds and The Sens continue their playoff series, Josey and Bluesy continue their battle…you get the imagery – er – graphic representation – er – picture. As for TSN, bring back Jennifer Hedger on the late night editions, PLEASE!

So I’m curious. To those who watch ESPN in the States: Is the same thing happening on that network? Duh.

My Friends, They Are A’Bloggin’, Part 2

Posted in Friends, Radio on April 6th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Speaking of some of my previously mentioned friends, Derryl is close to having a collection of his short stories published in book form, and about time, too!

Tony offers a heartfelt story about a Catholic nun, who was also one of his clients. Despite struggling through a terminal illness and lack of support from her order, she had the strength, conviction and compassion to continue her ministry with the poor, and it had an lasting and positive effect on my good friend.

:: Edmonton is getting four new radio stations, including a modern rock station that promises to play actual NEW modern rock music from the 21st century, thus giving us an alternative from the other completely interchangeable, bland, dull, lifeless, classic rock stations in the city right now. Absolutely amazing and satisfying that we will be able to choose to listen to a station that plays and supports new music, indie artists, and the like. I hope they are successful.

My Friends, They Are A’Bloggin’

Posted in Blogging on April 5th 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: My first web site saw the light of day in 1995, and I added a counter to it in January, 1996. I became aware of blogs in 1999 or 2000, at which time I made mention of them on my both my library page and search engine page. I attended Peter Scott’s presentation on blogging in Oct, 2001, and thought about starting one at that time. Blogging was still in its infancy, and foreign to most people at that time.

Geoff, meanwhile, had started his first blog in 2002, at the time known as The Anonymous Librarian (if memory serves); however, he forgot to renew the domain name, and it was snared by some, well, let’s just call them non-librarian types, so he revamped and started again with The Blog Driver’s Waltz. In May 2002, unbeknownst to me, my belly-dancing songstress librarian pal in Florida, Darcy, began darcysworld. In July 2002, I began The Pod Bay Door, using Blogger as the software package. I wondered if any other friends would start blogging as well. It didn’t take long to find out.

Shortly after PBD appeared, Derryl jumped in with Cold Ground, and Jena was right behind with naked bootleg. Claire snuck in there somewhere with There Be Giants Here, Kim offered Bibcognito, and Keith followed with Bloggo – The Non Blog, a site that has had at least “10,937,458,548 visitors since May 1974.” Kenton started blogging around that time, and Mike was next, with Toys and Cookies, although he has been quiet since last fall.

In 2003, Robert returned to writing with I’m Not Boring You, Am I?, also the title of his fanzine from the 70s-90s period. My fanzines, fwiw, were called Odds ‘n’ Ends (1969), and Winding Numbers (1975-78, or something…); look around my site, you may notice a reference to one of them. My cool SLA pal, Cindi, started her blog, Chronicles of Bean in 2003 as well, Bean being the pet name of her unborn child (at the time), now known as the beautiful Bethany.

OK, so now what’s up? Well, my Winnipeg pals are blogging. Please let me introduce Steve and Tony: Steve, aka Stephen R George, aka Valerie Stevens, aka Jack Ellis, is one of the many friends I met while participating in sf fandom in the 1970s in Winnipeg, publishing zines and attending sf conventions. One of Steve’s zines was Gleet Glort, thus the name of his web site, glort.com, and his blog, glort Web log. Steve is also a horror author, which is why he has a few pseudonyms. Tony and I met in 1971 while attending St Paul’s College at the U of Manitoba. One of our first connections was when he tried to assure me that Horse With No Name wasn’t sung by Neil Young, while I, like the cocksure moron I was, insisted otherwise, and would have none of it. I’m sure he thought I was a complete idiot, so much so that we’ve been friends ever since. Tony’s new weblog is called Sea of Flowers. Both blogs are worth checking, you won’t be disappointed. BTW, adding our mutual friend Mike Nichols to the equation (no, not THAT Mike Nichols), and you get Bike With Mike.

Lordy. These people are my friends. It’s a blog family!

Illiterate Spam, Juno Stuff

Posted in Blogging, Music on April 3rd 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Spammers, knowing no moral code or caring about anyone or anything, continue to astound and confuse. On my work-related blog, we keep receiving spam comments, which means I need to continually run Jay Allen’s MT-Blacklist. The next version of Moveable Type will deal with this problem, hopefully in a permanent way.

Regardless, here is an example of the kind of bad, broken English that accompanies most of these spam comments:

Furniture, covered by the dust of ages and crumbling with the rot of honey dampness, lowered my insert spam product here. In truth, much as the owners of cats depended these unstressed folk, they hopped them more.

Er, what?

:: I volunteer again tonight at one of the Juno-fest venues, The Power Plant, which happens to be two buildings over from the library in which I work on campus. It promises to be rather uneventful. I’m one of the two media contacts assigned to that venue, and as of this writing, no media have booked any time with any of the acts there tonight. I will be there from 8:00 pm – 2:30 am or so, which is really 3:30 am, as DST starts tonight.

:: Has anyone noticed that searches on Google seem to be taking longer than usual, of late?

Morons in Music Stores, FootnotesTV

Posted in Miscellaneous, Music, Television on April 1st 2004 by Randy Reichardt

:: Alan Kellogg is one of my favorite local newspaper columnists (and a kind soul – he agreed to return with two Steely Dan t-shirts for me, when he saw them play at Roseland in NYC last September. You see, I had neglected to buy the shirts when I saw The Dan in concert at The Gorge in August, a few weeks earlier. But I digress…) Alan’s April 1st column analyzed the Federal Court ruling on downloading music in Canada. (Warning: the column will remain online for just one week, as the Edmonton Journal maintains a seven-day archive only. Very frustrating and annoying.) The point that hit home for me the hardest, however, wasn’t about the impact this ruling will have on the music industry, whose sales were heading downhill before Napster came into existence three years ago. Rather, it was Alan’s straightforward take on record stores:

“Many mall record stores are simply terrible, with limited stock and clueless staff“.

That was my emphasis on clueless staff, not Alan’s. I might add that the clueless staff are not restricted to mall record stores, either. Long before downloading caught on, I began noticing, probably in the mid-90s (slightly post-grunge) that service in A&B Sound and other Canadian chain stores was riding the down escalator – staff, when they weren’t busy comparing piercings and tattoos, could barely be bothered helping me find a record that wasn’t in the best seller racks. Such interactions usually ended with blank stares and shoulder shrugs.

“Do you have the new Oysterband album?” “Blue Oyster Cult?” “No, sorry, Oysterband?” “Prairie Oyster?” “Er, no, Oysterband, from the UK, played the folk festival in Edmonton 2 or 3 times?” Watching the staff member “helping” me, the expected shoulder shrugs would follow at that moment, and I might as well have been staring into the eyes of a chicken. Recently, a friend shared with me this story: A&B called him to tell him a CD he’d ordered had arrived. When he went to pick it up, they told him it wasn’t there. Welcome to Customer Service, 2004.

The music industry is in really, really bad shape right now. It has not come to grips with downloading, nor with the fact that is has been overpricing music for years while simultaneously releasing questionable product. Whoinhell wants to keep paying unreasonable prices for crappy music? The industry’s insistence on blaming downloading as the major reason for poor sales isn’t holding up under scholarly scrutiny: a study released this week by researchers at Harvard and U North Carolina indicates that file swapping and downloading has had little impact on the slide in CD sales over the past while:

“We find that file sharing has only had a limited effect on record sales,” the study’s authors wrote. “While downloads occur on a vast scale, most users are likely individuals who would not have bought the album even in the absence of file sharing.”

My own buying patterns have slowed down. Yes, I’ve downloaded some songs, but after an initial flurry in 2001-02, very little in the past 12 months or so. In fact, most of what I’ve downloaded is old material, some “out of print”, so to speak, and a lot of which I own already on vinyl, and want to either hear on my computer, or burn to CD for listening in the car. But another reason I cite for the change is the poor service offered by the chain stores like A&B. Add to that their own dwindling inventories because of declining sales. It’s a bad scene, and I have no solution for the mess it’s in.

April 2 update: Alan’s column in today’s Journal features an interview with Denise Donlon, CEO of Sony Music of Canada. Of note is the following:

“Upon leaving her old job as vice-president at MuchMusic, she declared her first priority at Sony was to aggressively promote new Canadian music.

‘It’s taken longer than I had hoped, because since the day I walked in the door it feels like we were dealing with these other pressing issues. But there are hugely talented artists everywhere you look, for every taste, smart people with a point of view. It’s exciting’.”

A quick check of Sony Music of Canada’s site this morning reveals the following “Featured Artists”: Delta Goodrem (Australia), Incubus (USA), Jessica Simpson (USA), Switchfoot (USA), Lost Prophets (UK), Harry Connick Jr (USA), John Mayer (USA), and a little-known, obscure Canadian artist named Celine Dion. Under “New Releases”, we find: 1) Various – Oprah’s Pop Star Challenge 2004 Cast Album (USA), 2) Nas – Nas: 10 Year Anniversary Illmatic Platinum Series (USA), and 3) Shakira – Live & Off The Record (Columbia, South America.) Aggressively promoting new Canadian music??? As for Edmonton, we haven’t had a major artists in pop music emerge from this city for decades, and there is no excuse for this. I’ve played in bands and with individual artists in town since the mid-1980s – believe me, there is Major Talent in this city, but Big Music continues to ignore it. (PS: Remember, you have seven days to read the column here before it self-vaporizes!)

:: This is too cool. I’m a fan of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. On Eric Alterman’s blog, I saw a link to FootnoteTV, which is a site that provides analysis of a very select group of television shows, including TDS, SNL, West Wing, Law & Order, and a few more. FootnoteTV is part of Newsaic. The site is written and produced by Stephen Lee, a journalist/lawyer, whose intention is to focus on issues rather than breaking news:

“My ultimate goal here is to create a kind of Internet journalism that reaches out to modern audiences in new ways. Ultimately, I want to get people more involved in the news, especially younger people, the kind of people that newspapers and television keep losing. The answer is not more channels or simpler stories; it lies in new perspectives and tools. I expound more on this at length in the Site FAQ.”

So to return back to the beginning, fans of Jon Stewart can read Stephen Lee’s footnotes to each episode here, in which Lee provides background and information on the topics presented in each show. My question: where does he find the time and energy to maintain such a detailed site?

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