Canadian Tire: A fine example of how NOT to do customer service.

This week my partner and I are shopping for a fan (and/or considering an air conditioner). We had a few conversations about what sort of fan to get and decided that a tower fan would work in our space. She said she wants one that’s white so it matches the decor in the apartment and doesn’t look terrible. She spent a bit of time reading reviews and decided on one that was likely to be decent for the price.

We found one on Amazon and I thought about ordering it with Amazon Prime. But then she found the same fan on the Canadian Tire website and they have a store 2.4kms away (which would mean we could get it sooner).

On the Canadian Tire website it showed they had 5 of these fans in stock at that store. So I drive up there planning to zip in and buy one (we’re both pretty busy and pressed for time).

I walk into the store and I see a computerised info kiosk at the entrance. The search on it sucks but after a couple minutes of persevering I find the product and see what aisle it’s in. I walk through the huge department store to the aisle and find that there’s no fans on the shelf… I see an airconditioner (that meets the ‘it has to be white’ requirement) and spend about 5 minutes trying to figure out how much it costs because a.) there’s no price anywhere despite the fact that there about 80 boxes of this product there. Also can’t find a customer service person in this area of the store.

So I walk back across the store, meanwhile a woman who works there is ahead of me. I’m hoping to catch her, but she looks over her shoulder, sees that look of (I want to talk to you) in my eye and speeds up to get away from me while she keeps checking over her shoulder to see if I’m closing the gap.

Eventually I find a guy stacking shelves and ask him if there’s someone I can speak to about fans. He calls over the PA asking someone to come to aisle 66 (the one I just walked across the store – away from). I protest that it doesn’t seem reasonable that I should walk all the way back there to potentially bump into the person who may or may not ever show up to talk to me. His response, you better hurry because if you’re not there when they arrive, they won’t hang around. Great… I slunk back over to aisle 66.

Guess what, after waiting in the same aisle with a couple other customers, no employee shows up and again I can’t get ahold of someone to ask a couple of very simple questions. I wander back to talk to the employee who used the PA and I explain that I think the whole idea of telling a customer to go wait somewhere else for someone who may or may not show up is a bad one. He protests that it’s not his job to help people with Fan questions. I walk over to customer service but there’s a line and I have a meeting to get to, so I skip it and grab compost bags before leaving. Mentioning to the cashier that I’m annoyed. She wishes me a nice day but the look in her eyes, says “What do you expect, this is Canadian Tire”.

Later in the day, after deciding that my best course of action would be to write to the store about it and explain my experience. I go to the website. The contact page prompts me to use the contact form which doesn’t exist and there’s no link to it. Congrats guys, I guess if you hide the contact form there’ll be less queries from customers to actually deal with.


Please complete WHAT contact form? Where’s the link gone? – Nice Customer Service page.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to go back to Amazon Prime or maybe I’ll spend my money with a store where I don’t get treated like a zombie consumer that they don’t want to hear from.

In the world of internet shopping and consumer choice, showing disregard for customers and their needs is likely to cause customers to take their money somewhere else. So what are the key issues here:

1.) If you have a website and show your products on there, the information about product availability needs to be accurate. People make decisions about whether to come to your store on the strength of that information. Some people may catch public transport or walk, they may be elderly, disabled, etc… you will annoy and frustrate time poor people with inaccuracies.

2.) Pricing in the store needs to be clear and well placed. No brainer

3.) If you have staff in the store who don’t want to help people or don’t think it’s their job to assist customers. That’s a problem!

4.) You probably need to have enough staff to help customers in the store and you probably need to train your staff to be helpful.

5.) If you’re going to have a website and say there’s a contact form. Have a god damn contact form!

6.) Don’t disable the links on the site to the contact form that you say is there.

7.) While your website can make things more convenient for customers it can also make things worse if the information on it is wrong or if the site is specifically designed to be unhelpful.

Reading the Zero Moment of Truth from Google several years ago clarified for me how all the little interactions customers have with your brand add up to not only the perception of the brand but its success in the marketplace. I recommend the read to anyone trying to establish their online presence and understand how it affects your business in real life.

Canadian Tire sitemap with Contact Us page link disabled