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The Great 7-11 Ripoff!

September 27th, 2009 · 14 Comments

(UPDATE: Monday Sept 29. I was contacted by the manager of the store who once more said it was a terrible mistake.  Again?  She said they’ll now take bottle returns … which would be good, and fair, for other customers. Let me know! Because twice burned, and so rudely too, I’ll never spend my $$$ there again.)

 I’m old enough that I can still remember with fondness the local convenience stores on Monkland Ave., in the area of Montreal where I was raised: Stanley’s; Dexter’s: and, Nickel’s.

The apostrophe “s” at the end of each store name was because these were the real names of the owners. ‘And they were also neighborhood residents and even if you were just buying bubble gum cards (5 cents) or a soda pop (five cents … and two cent bottle deposit) they knew you, your family and  were fun places to visit and shop.  And yes, even linger, like kids these days at the 7-11.

But today too many neighbourhood stores have given way to big, bright  impersonal “convenience” stores … run too often by people without any apparent sense of neighbourhood or neighbourliness.  They are just part of huge franchise operations that seem to measure success in terms of thousands of stores rather than friendliness or being “good neighbours”.

But never have I ever encountered the rudeness and what I would describe as a total ripoff  I’ve observed at the local 7-11 “neighbourhood” store at West 10th and Alma in Vancouver.

It certainly has been a very convenient place to stop  …. with its own parking lot,  a post office inside, a bakery next door, and a pet store three doors away.

Yes, it was “convenient” ….   until a couple of months ago , when they started what I call “The Big 7-11 Ripoff “.

 Like other stores and groceries, they would, of course,  always charge the required enironmental deposts on all drink containers … up to 20 cents each, deepnding on size. And until a couple of months ago, they would refund your “deposit” when you returned the empties.

BUT try and return them for your deposit now  …  and you get a  “No..we don’t take them back”  …  in my case,   hurled at me quite rudely, adding insult to injury.

Some neighbours!

I think it’s a despicable business practice to CHARGE a consumer a deposit on every bottled or canned drink purchased ; and then REFUSE to take them back for refund, when the empties are returned!

Of course, I left without buying all the goods I had placed on the counter. (I never, ever just take the cash).

So what do they do now? Just pocket all the deposits they collect …  and let other shopkeepers shell out for their returns?  Is this a good neighborhood business?  Not in my book!

It may seem like a simple, small matter … but  if it becomes a widespread policy done by a huge multi-national corporation like 7-11, with thousands of stores, the ripoff of consumers can add up to MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.   No spare change matter at all!

Now, to be honest, we actually give away MOST of our empties … pop cans, beer bottles and cans, other drink containers ….  to the dumpster divers that pass regularly through our laneway.  And I can say that after some weeks and weekends … the pop can count from my home alone brings a smile  to some of our recycling patrollers.

But for some reason, the big 2-litre bottles are usually brought back to the store  … throwback to my university days?  … or maybe because a couple of bucks does soften the impact of the inflated prices at the “convenience” store!

So when the “new” policy of REFUSAL was first thrown at me some months ago at the West 10th/Alma 7-11  … I filed an online  complaint with 7-11 corporate headquarters.  (Never dump on an old retired sh*t disturber, who after 38 years in the news business is still armed with  a sense of justice, belief in consumer rights and fairness and has lots of time on his hands! :).

To their credit 7-11 corporate HQ acted: they must have understood my logic that if you have to bring your 7-11 bottles to Safeway for refund, you might as well buy your bread, milk, eggs etc there too!  Clearly smarter business minds at HQ than at the West 10th and Alma 7-11. And apparently more able to calculate the financial implications if that “no returns” policy was implemented by franchisees throughout their chain… and realize how that would simply encourage customers to shop elsewhere.

So it didn’t take long before  I received a call from someone who identified himself as one of the West 10th/Alma co-owners: he  blamed a “new” cashier, promising the store would accept all bottle returns from then on …aha … a  Victory for the neighbourhood …  and he even offered me a free slurpee!  (I declined.)

And  I started shopping there again … amassing a new collection (seven) of 2-litre empties … which I tried to return at the same store Saturday. “We don’t take bottles” said the manager of the day … a long-time regular staffer I have  dealt with there many, many times over many. many months … maybe even years. … no new employee this time. 

“But … ” I said, “I’ve been through this here before.” Before I could even get my explanation out … he dismissed me with a wave of his hand and walked through a door into the Employees Only area.

Some way to treat a regular customer! Some way to treat anyone! Some way to represent 7-11 !!!

I felt embarrassed … and angry. What a ripoff!  Is it even legal?? Some neighbour! Some neighbourhood store! Is this the new face of 7-11?

Are these chains so big now that their  franchisees know they can get away with pretty well anything?  Ripoffs and Rudeness included? 

 Of course,  they lost my business … but they probably figure they  have thousands more! But over time, they may be surprised … neighbourhoods are funny that way: word gets around.

And I suspect I’m not the only one who has suffered the refusal to honour returns  and the dismissive rudeness I encountered at the West 10th/Alma 7-11.

In some way, I believe it’s also  all part of the declining civility in our society … as more and more little neighborhood stores, hardware, stationery stores etc go “international”. Little we can do about most of them.

But convenience stores ARE different: it will be very easy for me to find an alternative to the West 10th/Alma 7-11.  There are several other convenience stores within a few blocks  … and  even the so-called chain (what else?)  “drug stores” not far away now carry a wide variety of food products …bread, butter, milk, eggs etc. etc  …  at lower prices than 7-11.  And yes, they all take bottle returns… and some even give out Reward points!

Clearly the West 10th/Alma 7-11 can expect to be increasingly on the losing end of the competition … in my opinion,  with very good reason

So much for neighborhood shopping and neighborhood loyalty: I’m sure I am not the only one turned off and turning away from the West 10th/Alma 7-11.

And frankly, making it worse, I’m turned off  trying other stores in the 7-11 chain as well.  My embarrassment and anger Saturday was quite enough to last quite a while.

I urge you too to be forewarned …  before you  deal with them. 

Harv Oberfeld

Tags: Private Notes

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 !i // Sep 27, 2009 at 3:21 am

    IANAL, but it looks to me that the store is required to accept returns: BC Environmental Management Act – Recycling Regulation
    (Response: I dont know if they are required by law to take back what they sell: they sure should be … but I look at it as more of a stupid business move …that simply pushes people to the competitors. And there’s NEVER any valid reason to walk away and dismiss with a wave someone who has shopped at your store for years! h.o.)

  • 2 Frank // Sep 27, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Another irritant in the return-it life of beer cans and bottles. Ten cents deposit but only EIGHT CENTS at the Return-it stores. BC Liquor stores pay back the ten cents but have a max of two or three dozen. Now the Return-it stores are NOT paid the two cent premium by the private company so have to deduct the two cents to cover their costs of handling. Now if memory strikes me right did not the Campbell Government ‘sell’ the LCB bottle/can deposit business to a relative of the Liberal Kootenay MLA who immediately declared a five million dollar bonus for himself because the float was too high? (The float being the ‘missing’ bottles and cans that will never be returned.) And now that the business is private no one can see the where the extra two cents are going? No wonder the Kootenay MLA has a great election war chest eh?

    (Response: Have absolutely no knoweldge on the bottle/can deposit depot subject…so cant confirm if it’s true. But that 2-cent gap interests me …it seems so small ..but as any bank can tell you, a penny here two pennies there ..adds up to MILLIONS of dollars a year for them. h,o.)

  • 3 CK // Sep 27, 2009 at 4:07 am

    I grew up in NDG too although I don’t remember those specific places you mentioned.

    I grew up on the Benny Farm & all these years later, my old neighbourhood doesn’t even exist anymore. In fact, Benny Pool has undergone renovation & thus, closed this summer.

    Here in Montreal, Couche-tard isn’t much better I’m afraid. I do, however, miss that old Depanneur chain, Perrette’s.

    (Response: Ah yes, les depaneurs! I lived on Terrebonne near Royal ..and remember Benny Farm well …. and the Mr Hot Dog on Sherbrooke (shhh…dont tell anyone). The places I mentioned were all on Monkland betweem Grand Blvd and Marcil … ahh such good memories. 🙂 h.o.

  • 4 baxman // Sep 27, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Bottle deposits are charged to the stores by the suppliers (Coke, Pepsi etc.). They pay the supplier for the product and also pay the same deposit fees as they charge you. They buy a pop from the supplier for $1.25 plus 10 cents for deposit and 3 cents for enviro fees. They then sell it to you for $1.25 plus whatever their markup is and then charge you 10 cents and 2 cents. There is no money made on this. Most stores do not accept returns because they get very few back from the customers. The store owners would now have to take the bottles back to the bottles depots just like you would. I can understand your problem and these stores should take them back as a convenience to the customers.

    (Response: Great info. It’s my understanding though the pop trucks pick up empties when they deleiver fresh stock. I also wonder though ..where is this guy’s …. AND 7-11s …. commitment to the environment? Probably where his customer service standards are! h.o.)

  • 5 Crankypants // Sep 27, 2009 at 6:33 am

    It would be interesting to find out what the rules are on returnable containers. Are the stores that sell such products required to accept the empty returns, or is it up to the proprietor of the store.

    Here in Coquitlam we have a private liquor store that sells beer in cans and bottles, but they display a sign on their front door stating that they will take back empty cans, but not empty bottles. I’ve not seen similar signage on other private liquor stores that I’ve come across in my travels.

    As for your 7-11 store, you gave them a second chance which is one more than I would have. For those that may have missed it, what is the location of that store again?

    (Response: LOL!!! Thanks for the opportunity ..the worst 7-11 in the city, in my view, is the 7-11 AT WEST 10th?ALMA! h.o.)

  • 6 Gary E // Sep 27, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    Looks to me as if 7-11 at West 10th/Alma is breaking the law.

    Consumer information

    10 (1) A producer must provide to each retailer of the producer’s product, free of charge, consumer information respecting

    (a) the safe use and storage of the products,

    (b) the amount of any deposit charged and refund paid by the producer, and

    (c) the amount of any fee associated with the producer’s product stewardship program that is charged by the producer and identified separately on the consumer’s receipt of sale.

    (2) A retailer must

    (a) post the consumer information referred to in subsection (1) on at least one clearly visible sign with a minimum dimension of 56 cm by 43 cm and a font with a minimum print size of 24 points that is in a contrasting colour to the background colour of the sign, and

    (b) make available the consumer information referred to in subsection (1) as a printed handout.

    (3) The retailer must post or distribute the consumer information as required under subsection (2) at one of the following locations:

    (a) the main entrance to the retailer’s premises;

    (b) the area inside a retailer’s premises where products are displayed;

    (c) an area inside a retailer’s premises where the transaction to purchase a product takes place.

    (4) A producer must post the consumer information referred to in subsection (1) on the Internet.

    Other ways the retailer gets around accepting your returns is they will refuse any return not purchased in their store.

    (Response: Thanks for the info. Very interesting. I have no idea exactly what the latest version of the Act says: I’m more appalled at how this 7-11 franchisee gets away (twice now in my case alone) with showing such disdain to 7-11 customers. And how he gets away with charging bottle deposits ..but then refuses to take them back/issue refunds. Incredible ..and I have no doubt this franchisee hurts other 7-11 stores as well. h.lo)

  • 7 Powell river persuader // Sep 27, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Oh Harvey…….

    In reading your rant two things come to mind.

    First off do you realize that in one 2 litre bottle of pop there is approximately 100 teaspoons of sugar…..and with the exponential growth of people of all sorts coming down with diabetes.(Pop bad)

    Secondly, a man of your size,stature and age shouldn`t be drinking that much sugared water…..

    Third, cmon, maybe the store got tired of the homeless and mentally handi-capped coming in with giant sacks of dirty,bug filled empties.

    Fourth, you live in Vancouver west in probably a half million to million dollar abode and your messing with empties.

    “Hell have no fury like an old news reporter trying to collect his 2 dollars in bottle refunds”

    (Response: Now that’s just a most revealing answer. Shows how people form all kinds of ideas/opinions based on what they HAVEN’T read anywhere in an article. Who said we were having sugared pop? Who said I was the one drinking any of it? And who ever said someone can’t rant about consumer ripoffs ..just because only a couple of bucks was involved. Bet you wouldnt feel that way if it was a bank ripping people off so brazenly! And maybe something good comes out of all this … you will learn to read what’s actually written in an article ..instead of inventing things and then jumping to all kinds of incorrect conclusions. 🙂 h.o.)

  • 8 SharingIsGood // Sep 27, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I think it is best to avoid purchasing products from international corporations. Those corporations tend to remove capital from your neighbourhood, even if they employ people from the area. Buy locally from locally owned businesses whenever possible – as long as you don’t feel like you are always being taken.

    7-11 links:

  • 9 Powell river persuader // Sep 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Harvey, tsk tsk……..Your not getting ripped off,your still getting the money for your empties,just not at that paticular store…..

    Why don`t you talk about real rip-offs like

    Portable coleman fuel containers that I have to pay an enviro fee on and there is no where to take the empty and they only go into land fills while the money goes into genearl revenue…

    Hundreds and hundreds of items with enviro fees and the money goes into general revenue for the province while the item goes into the land fill, now that`s a rip-off.
    The 7-11 that I used to live near in south Burnaby had a refund policy,only brands that they sold were accepted,although if you tore the wrapper off the actual plastic bottle,the bottle was identical to brands they sold and the actual plastic bottle came from the same bottle supplier..

    And, they only took a maximum of 5 bottle returns because the dumpster divers would come in with four-five giant sacks of empties.

    Cry me a river,stop the presses, Harvey Oberfeld is annoyed

    (Response: I have NEVER been ripped off with a Coleman fuel cylinder in my life…so how/why would I know about it …let alone protest? (Maybe you should take up that campaign?) Now pop bottles we know about in our home! And fairness! And justice! And most of all, the travesty of just “taking it” and saying nothing (like you apparently did on the Coleman topic ..shame on you 🙂 When you feel a major retailer like 7-11 is ripping off its customers you have a duty to speak up. Remember the Boston tea party! h.o.

  • 10 Crankypants // Sep 28, 2009 at 8:49 am

    PRP, I think you have gone off the deep end on your last two posts.

    First of all what a person buys is the person’s personal business. These items could be the diet type and therefore sugar-free or for serving to guests and therefore not consumed by HO. Whatever the circumstances, it has no relevance to the initial blog.

    Secondly, whether HO needs the money is irrelevant. He paid a deposit on these items and is entitled to a refund by law. Nowhere in his article did he state that he was trying to return containers that were an inhouse brand and therefore not sold by 7-11 stores. I know that HO may look a little sketchy, but I doubt that the store’s employees would consider him a dumpster diver. The real issue is that this particular 7-11 is trying to skirt their obligations and HO has brought this to the forefront. I have no problem with this and no matter what, an injustice is an injustice.

    (Response: Well said. I really enjoy giving place on my blog for discussions and ideas … even those that disagree with mine. (How could they? 🙂 And I think when people respond with personal shots, questions or insults, it says more about them than the rest of us who take up the real issues. You have it quite right: as I indicated, the real issue is how a store charges a “deposit” and then refuses to take back the item and refund the “deposit” . Doesn’t matter if it’s on the Downtown East Side or West Van …it’s the principle I find quite offensive. And if we don’t speak up, we are just sheep once more. h.o.)

  • 11 Lynn // Sep 28, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    I guess Buddy at the 7/11 figures with the bottle depot just around the corner on Broadway he doesn’t have to accept returns. Did you tell him you won’t be bringing your business through the door ever again?

    (Response: He wasn’t there to listen: he just walked away into the back area when I tried to ask about his ripoff policy. But I think when I left the items I was about to purchase on the counter and walked out, the clerk (not her fault) got the idea. As for the bottle depot nearby on Broadway ..haven’t seen it have the address? Would be good info for readers. Thanks. h.o.)

  • 12 Powell river persuader // Sep 28, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Crankypants, I`m glad your so passionate about this issue……
    As for Harvey saying I gave him a cheap shot, so be it,he`s a big boy,he can take it, Harvey cheap shots people all the time, for example (A Dave) was cheap shotted by Harvey on Riverview, a lack of research and facts by you know who…….

    The rub in this gripping story is this…..No-one got ripped off, If Harvey Oberfeld had stated that (7-11 was the great inconveniencer) I would agree…..

    But the phrase and statement about a “rip-off” is misleading….

    There are thousands of places that sell,pop, 2 litre bottled water or 2 litre club soda that don`t give refunds,like the PNE,BC Ferries, vending machines, streeet venders etc etc etc……

    As for Harvey saying he can judge the man or me from a comment is mis-leading and in itself is a cheap shot.
    I have fought for diabetic children and won them insulin pumps, fought for wild salmon,fought crime,fought injustice all my life,been jailed wrongly for fighting the good fight,I have warned on radio, letters,blogs about what Gordon Campbell is all about, this blog did the NDP no favours pre-election, and to tell you truth,or at least what I perceive as the truth, Harvey is willing to STILL give Gordon Campbell the benefit of the doubt and promote the BC Liberals on HST,and policy decisions.

    As for me going off the deep end with my comments, your right, I`m mad as a hatter and crazy like a fox…….. (edited..h.o)

  • 13 jason // Nov 14, 2009 at 4:39 am

    You guys have to understand, that these workers have to sort these gross smelly and sticky bottles in the back room.

    (Response: Nothing wrong with requiring customers to rinse them out before bringing them in …but to charge a refundable deposit, and then refuse to take it back disgraceful. h.o)

  • 14 Cary // Apr 8, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Hi Harvey,
    I had the same experience last night at the 7-11 on Hastings near Victoria Drive in Vancouver. My daughter had a few bags full of pop bottles and cans, and I was shocked (but not surprised) that 7-11 didn’t take returns. I told her when I was growing up in Saskatoon, and since living in Vancouver, I could always get cash for returned bottles. Any the 7-11 clerk said “No… We don’t take ’em… I don’t have any idea… etc.” He was a liar and lazy, I believe. All I can say, I will never shop at 7-11 again for anything. There are other choices, and stores I would rather patronize. In the end, my daughter just left her two bags of about 2 dozen bottles and cans on the side street. What a shame!

    (Response: Go to the 7-11 website and file a complaint. If they add up, they will do something about it. Good luck. h.o)