(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.
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.