a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Aug, 2009

Letter to the Westboro Real Canadian Superstore

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro|Yaktivism

One of my first jobs was as a cashier at our neighborhood IGA. I suffered the teenage indignities of wearing a horrible baby-blue plaid polyester blouse, waiting patiently for grannies to empty their coin purses, memorizing sale prices and codes for 20 different kinds of apples, and dealing with all kinds of crazy while sporting a cheerful “nice-to-serve-you!” kind of face all the g.d. time … all for minimum wage.

Which was $4.00 an hour.

It is hard work to be a cashier. It sure ain’t bathing in rosewater. But somehow I managed to do it, and do a good job too.

I had a breaking point and emailed this letter to Loblaw last week. I haven’t received a reply. (Same happened with the last letter I wrote.)

But I’d be interested in hearing your feelings about customer service at grocery stores. Is it important to you? Are you happy with the level of customer service at your grocery store?

To whom it may concern,

Our family of four have been regular customers since the Westboro store was first built. I am writing to you today to let you know how displeased I am at the level of service at this particular store.

There are a few reasons: the poor quality of the produce, the overstocking of the entry corridor (it is frustrating to navigate through the crowds, television sets, crates of chips, and the line up of people at the take out counter) but I think the worst thing about this particular store is the lack of customer service.

It is laissez-faire at best.

At what point did the cashiers stop packing our bags and bins? At first I wondered if this was an anomaly, that perhaps I always managed to find the one person on staff who wouldn’t pack my bins for me, but after several months I realized this must be some kind of directive, because cashiers rarely bother to help pack my groceries anymore.

I lay everything out on the belt and arrange my bins on the other end of the counter. Instead of ringing them in and putting them into the bins as they go they just stack all the groceries in front of bins, sometimes even physically pushing them down the counter to make room for more.

Yesterday I packed my own bins, signed the bill, and as I finished up the cashier asked me if I was “okay with the rest of it.” Why ask? I had just paid her $150.00 for groceries. So why not just help me?

I’ve actually had one cashier at the Westboro store not utter a single word to me during the entire transaction: no greeting, no thank you, not even bothering to tell me the total cost of my grocery order… she just stood there, waiting for me to notice how much I was to pony up.

I find it really sad that in a store when I spent thousands of dollars every year the customer service is so sorely lacking. Staff at the Westboro store seem to have little pride in their work.

We will be switching to the Loblaws at Merivale and Baseline, where the staff is consistently courteous and highly motivated. They are friendly, are great at packing my bins, and have even helped me carry them over to my cart. They seem to actually care that I’m choosing to spend my money at their store. It’s a refreshing change.

Comments are now closed.

52 Responses to "Letter to the Westboro Real Canadian Superstore"

1 | Erica

August 6th, 2009 at 7:50 am


Sadly, I don’t think your experience is limited to any specific store. Two different cashiers (at Loblaws in Barrhaven and Gatineau) have criticized my choice of reusable bags – they prefer the huge square super-convenient-for-them bags that sit flat, because they’re easier to pack, instead of my super-convenient-for-me bags that stuff down into nothing and fit in my purse. I’m… sorry? If you want me to use a certain type of bag, provide it! If I’m supposed to bring my own bags, please don’t hassle me about my choice! I recognize that it must be tough to deal with the vast selection of bags and bins out there, but isn’t part of your job to be courteous and helpful?

Even when the cashiers do bag/bin the groceries for us, they can’t seem to pack them sensibly. My cold stuff is ALWAYS laid out together on the belt, but the cashier never ever bags it together even when I ask! My husband and I always end up unpacking and repacking the first couple of bags (at which point the cashier notices we’re doing it ourselves and piles everything else on the belt for us to do).

2 | J.

August 6th, 2009 at 8:14 am


I’ve heard about this happening in Kanata too. I don’t think it’s store specific, I personally think it’s a new tactic to get push through more people quickly.

I think it’s really horrible customer serivce that they do this. A coworker of mine refuses to bag her own food. She says “I’m not going to give you $150 for my food and have to pack my bags.” She will stand and wait for the cashier to do it.

It’s sort of like the Tim Horton’s new customer service thing. You pay for your coffee at one till and they push you off to the next station to pick it up. It takes 1 min to make a coffee, I can wait at the cash for my coffee thanks.

3 | Anne

August 6th, 2009 at 8:29 am


Same deal at the Superstore in Orleans.
I`ve actually had a cashier at Zellers tell me that since I brought my own bag I could pack it myself. After I paid she said “Thanks for bringing your own bag!” No S**T!, you didn’t have to pack it!. I couldn’t believe it.

4 | Anna

August 6th, 2009 at 9:11 am


Is it a Superstore thing? For all of the reasons you mention, I rarely go, even though it would be convenient for me.

We’re shopping at the Loblaws at Merivale/Baseline and are very happy. Produce is great, many of the cashiers have been there for more than a decade and the general turnover of staff seems relatively low. I think all of those things contribute to a better shopping experience.

5 | Meagan Miller

August 6th, 2009 at 9:23 am


Oh, so true. I, too, worked at a grocery store for many years – six to be exact – from the time I was 16 to the time I was 22. I loved it. It’s still my favourite job that I’ve ever had.

I was trained as a cashier for two weeks before I had an actual customer. By the time I was training cashiers myself, I was given about a day and a half to cram everything I had learned into a lesson.

Bagging was always particularly important to me, because the lady who taught me when I was 16 was absolutely FANATICAL about it, and so was my mother. So I taught my trainees the same way – bagging groceries is an art, to be taken seriously, because you’re dealing with people’s FOOD. You don’t just chuck everything in the bag and call it done.

When I moved up to supervisor, I often had to speak with my cashiers about how they were bagging and/or engaging the customers. If I could be pleasant at 8 am on a Saturday morning as a 17 year old, you can be too as a 16 year old. We both make crap money, it’s no excuse.

My favourite though, was my mum’s biggest complaint. She’s been bringing her own bags for as long (seriously) as I can remember. Way before the “bring your own bags-plastic bags are evil” movement. And she OFTEN had to pack her own bags. Which makes absolutely no sense, as she’s saving the store money by not taking theirs (when they are free, that is), yet the staff do not provide (did not provide) the same level of service as they did to those people who did not bring their own bags.

I really do believe it boils down to lack of training, lack of PROPER training, and people just not taking pride in a job well done anymore. And that makes me sad, because I loved that job.

But anyway, you’re not alone in your feelings. I’m super critical at grocery stores, because I want to be served the way I would serve.

6 | The Veg Next Door

August 6th, 2009 at 9:57 am


Times have changed. I used to work at the Loblaws store on Rideau Street. After being hired we went through a lot of training — memorizing codes but also customer service and packing.

Customer service everywhere sucks except the small town where we live. Hubby and I have remarked how different it is. Cheerful and helpful staff who pack your groceries and nothing gets squished and they put cold stuff together. They even go out of your way to help — young and old.

Recently I was at a Shopper’s. There was no line-up and I was looking for a particular magazine. I noticed a bunch of stacks of magazines and asked the cashier if it was possible to check for me. She did and it was there! I would have NEVER asked in the “big city” for a cashier to do that but I here I feel comfortable enough to not get rude remark or look.

I hope you get a response. I think it’s unfortunate that you spend thousands of dollars per year and are forced to pack your groceries!

7 | porter

August 6th, 2009 at 10:20 am


Customer service is such a sore spot for me. I wish I didn’t let it irritate me but it does. It’s not just groceries stores, I find it’s almost more the norm to receive crappy or less than enthusiastic service everywhere. I don’t expect much, just some basic manners would be nice!

We are at the cottage right now and I left horrible tips for two waitresses at two different restaurants because the service was so bad (the tips were better than the service though). I would have left nothing except Bert wouldn’t allow me to do that, they did bring us our food after all (not as we ordered it mind you) so therefore they deserve at tip! No hellos, no smiles, no thank yous, no conversation just show up at the table and ask what we want to drink, what do we want to order, place bill on our table (one was even wrong!!!!!!!! grrrr) no apologies. Hey, no tip!

8 | Stacey

August 6th, 2009 at 10:37 am


At Superstore, you are lucky that even some of them pack your bags for you. Here in BC, Superstore has had a store-wide policy of not packing bags for years now. To the point that at the till, there are two counters after the cashier. The cashier will push the first customer’s food down one side, then immediately after you pay, they begin ringing up the next person, pushing their food down the other side.

If you want customer service, you don’t shop at Superstore here. If you want cheap prices, you shop at Superstore. We only buy our large sized packaged items there: big box of oatmeal, brown sugar, cereals, etc. Even when I was a university student, I wouldn’t buy their produce.

9 | Scattered Mom

August 6th, 2009 at 10:57 am


I have never liked Superstore or Extra Foods (same company).

1. I’ve heard horrific stories from former employees about the meat dept-to the point where if the Foods department at my school buys the meat from there, the kids refuse to eat it.

2. The quality of the produce is terrible

3. My groceries are tossed in the bags and I always end up re-packing the bags to rescue certain items (Once I was criticized for having re-useable bags from the competition.)

4. The prices fluctuate so wildly it’s insane ($6 for 150 g bag of Craisins?)

5. They NEVER keep the shelves stocked so if you don’t get there on the morning the flyer goes out, you may never be able to buy sale items for the week or longer.

At previous Superstores I’ve also had real problems with customer service and I never shopped there. The problem is now, I live in a remote coastal community and often I just don’t have a choice. The plus for me here is that I know many of the teenagers that work in the store, and they always give me good service.

I prefer to shop at the smaller, family run grocery store in our town that might be a little more expensive, but you get fantastic service and the quality of items is MUCH better.

Oh-funny story…once we went in the Superstore in Campbell River, BC and the air conditioning was on in November. It was FREEZING. Jake asked the greeter at the front door why it was so cold, and the guy responded that the office in Toronto controlled the heat/air at the store in BC. Jake’s response?

“Well that’s just stupid. How is the guy in Toronto going to know what the weather is like, and that it’s FREEZING in a store in BC?”

Jake was 7 years old. The guy didn’t know what to say. (lol!)

10 | May

August 6th, 2009 at 11:45 am


Strangely enough, I had a similar conversation with my partner the other day. I had a difficult time reconciling why reusable bags aren’t packed, but the purchased plastic ones are. Since this is consistent in all grocery stores I frequent, I simply concluded there was a policy of sort which dictates what bags to pack. Though I can’t fathom the reasoning behind it.

That being said, I think the sense of entitlement and self-interest is not uni-directional, but bi-directional. It was only 6-7 years ago that I was working in a coffee shop, and would have never spoken back to a customer (okay, with a few exceptions), but it would be presumptuous to assume that only the “server” has become more rude and the customer has remained as polite and considerate as ever. Now, I know you didn’t say that, but from my own limited observations, this seems to be the attitude du jour. It appears that all parties involved feel they deserve something because it’s a dominant message that is ingrained in our psyche. I deserve something because I spent “x” amount of money, I’m 16 and deserve a break from work because all my friends get to have a day off and their parents don’t make them work, etc.

I’m not saying that a little customer service is a bad thing, and at the “end of the day” I don’t think people should be rude just because someone wasn’t polite to them. What I’m saying is that the old adage “the customer is always right” may not be as relevant when the customer is being , quite simply, rude or arrogant or whatever. Yes, you can be the kindest, gentlest person to ever walk the earth and you may be on the receiving end of bad customer service. But we’ve become accustomed to expecting the worst from people, and we behave accordingly.

11 | andrea

August 6th, 2009 at 12:04 pm


I think I hit a nerve. At least I know I’m not alone!

May – you raise an interesting point. Politeness is dying everywhere. Are irate customers partially to blame for retail rudeness? Maybe, but I don’t think it explains why Loblaw isn’t packing our bags and bins anymore.

As someone who’s worked with directly with the public in numerous different jobs (namely as a cashier and in retail sales) I am always super sensitive to how I treat others in similar kinds of low-paying service jobs. In other words, I am probably nicer than most. :)

Everyone is entitled to have a bad day (including cashiers!) but I still I maintain that retail stores – stores which are in the business of selling us the goods we need – should cultivate “front line” staff to take the high road no matter how irritating the customer.

When I spend my hard-earned money I will loyally do so in a store which makes me feel appreciated for giving them my business. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.

12 | Sonya

August 6th, 2009 at 12:34 pm


Excellent points, Andrea! I hope you get a response to your letter. Have you sent it directly to the manager at the Westboro store or to the Loblaws head office?
I do most of my grocery shopping at Food Basics, where the prices (for identical name-brand items!) are up to 50% cheaper than both Loblaws and the Superstore. They don’t pack your bags either, but at least I feel I’m benefiting from lower prices when I shop there!

13 | Jennifer

August 6th, 2009 at 12:57 pm


Stop shopping there. You are Certainly are not alone in your experience at westboro. The few times I do go there now I usually end up frustrated. I have given up oN speaking to the manager, complete waste of time. So stop shopping there. We are spoiled for choice in westboro and have an ubandance of other choices. I beleive one of your posts a long while back (biking for groceries) made me realize how easy it is for those of us in the ‘hood to not have to go there.

14 | Meg

August 6th, 2009 at 1:02 pm


I have two family members who work at the Great Canadian Superstore in Westboro. They both say that the cashier turn over is really high. No body wants the job anymore.

Funny thing is at the Loblawas at Carlingwood there are cashiers who have worked at this location for 10 years plus. Their union wage has a lot to do with it. When the Westboro Superstore opened every staff member (non management) started at minimum wage. Union members were not allowed to move to the new store at their current wage.

All this said-no one has worked at this store for more than three years. The ones that have are just starting to earn over $10.00 an hour and receive benefits. I am not making excuses for bad service just telling it like it is. Another interesting note is that the majority of the cashiers are women-many mothers who are trying to earn a living and support a family. The burn out factor really comes into play.

Personally I am more aggravated by the corporate guys sitting in their office and having the audacity to charge $2.00 for broccoli! I don’t mind packing my own bags.

15 | May

August 6th, 2009 at 1:48 pm


It’s obviously a slow day on my end!

As I pointed out-there really is no logical explanation as to why customers are packing their own reusable bags , on that point I agree. I also concur that one’s hard earned money can be spent wherever one pleases.

I don’t think that one should automatically assume that because they’ve spent money somewhere, they are entitled to, well, anything. You can expect certain things, but one is most certainly not entitled to it.

Firstly, it reinforces the notion that there’s a monetary value to be associated with kindness and politeness. Let’s call it the commodification of courtesy. And secondly, it reinforces these gross stereotypes, namely that someone who holds a service position is less than. Yes, certain traits and characteristics are associated with certain jobs but “subservient at all costs” should not be one of them.

I am absolutely NOT saying that this is what you intended to convey in your post. I recently started reading your blog and thoroughly enjoy the open minded approach you take and the blog’s propensity to get us to think outside the box!

16 | Krista

August 6th, 2009 at 1:58 pm


I shop at the Loblaws in Bells Corners. It’s a smaller store and therefore I often find there is at least one item on my shopping list that is not available which is frustrating. The selection is definitely less than at a Superstore, but I know where everything is and I can be in and out quite quickly.

I tend to shop at the same time every week and go to one of the same 3 tellers over and over again. They have worked there forever, they know me, we chat, they always pack my reusable bags and when it comes time to give me my PC points for my bags (50 points a bag) they almost always credit me for more bags than I have. It seems common practice there to pack any and all bags for you except for in the express lane.

When I have gone there in the evenings, the cashiers are all different than during the morning when I typically go and sometimes the service is similar and sometimes I barely get a smile – and they often forget to credit me for my bags. So, I’ve learned to stick to my regular time and go to my regular cashiers.

All things considered, I am happy with shopping there.

17 | mary

August 6th, 2009 at 3:23 pm


what bothers me is that you haven’t yet received a reply, nor did you get a reply to your last complaint. How did you send your letter, was it snail mail, email, the ‘contact us’ form on their website? You didn’t “ask” for anything so who knows, maybe someone read it and noted, okay another complaint about westboro. But to not acknowledge your concerns at all is ridiculous. Okay, this saying bugs the hell out of me but in these uncertain economic times (cringe) losing customers has got to be hurtin the bottom line. I think customer service is very important in good times and bad and I make (some) choices based on it.
If you ever get a reply let us know how it goes…

18 | andrea

August 6th, 2009 at 4:04 pm


I received an automated reply when I first sent the email, after that … nothing.

I used the email listed here: http://www.superstore.ca/ontario/553.aspx

… as the Westboro store doesn’t have an obvious email contact.

Interestingly, this post is getting very high traffic today.

19 | Diane

August 6th, 2009 at 4:14 pm


I am in Newfoundland and shop at the Dominion here. I think it is also a Loblaws store. It’s the same way. I bring in my reusable bags, spend a fortune on groceries and have to pack my own bags. It’s ridiculous.

What happens to the women or men alone with the shopping and also have a child with them or a stroller? They can’t possibly pack the groceries and still manage to carry a small child too.

The customer service is poor to say the least.

20 | andrea

August 6th, 2009 at 4:17 pm


Diane: I can’t imagine how the busy parents handle it.

In my letter I should have added that I’m always so busy packing my own bins that I am not able to check the prices as the cashier rings them in. I really hate that!

21 | andrea

August 6th, 2009 at 4:19 pm


Whoa. And I just realized that I’m the third search result for “Real Canadian Superstore Westboro.”

22 | Andy

August 6th, 2009 at 6:07 pm


This is something I recognized about a year ago here in Westboro. I, too, noticed the difference between our Real Canadian Superstore (RCSS) and other stores but suspect that it is attributable to shopping at a RCSS rather than a true branded Loblaws. They are owned by the same company but likely have different policies and may even have differences in worker representation (union vs. non). They may even have different prices for similar items.

I can live with the self bagging issue. Your other issues, though, are concerns that my family share and hope to see remedied by way of your letter and the comments of your fishbowl readers.

Cars stuck in snow and bagging your own goceries – guess you never know what a hot button topic will be.

23 | Andy

August 6th, 2009 at 6:13 pm


Forgot to add my other complaint…

Since extending the hours from 10pm to 11pm, I was pleased to have the extra hour to get things done. Unfortunately, the night shift (stocking and cleaning) starts at the old 10pm time. You just can’t get around certain areas that have pallets of food sitting in aisles. Add to that the fact that service counters in the deli and bakery are all but closed from 10-11 it reduces the benefit of being opened at all.

my .02, keep the change.

24 | Ginger

August 6th, 2009 at 7:37 pm


Last Christmas you urged us to not shop at Walmart or at least shop there less. I took that challenge and started shopping at the local grocery store. I found that I spend less on groceries because of their shopper card and coupons and manager specials. But the best part is that the service was so much better than the Walmart Supercenter. I am guessing that it is similar to your supercenter in some ways. I don’t like the Walmart because when you bring in your own bags they look at you like you are crazy. At my local grocery store the happily take my bags and almost every one of the teenagers that has bagged my groceries comments on how great and unique they are.

Then a few months ago we had a turn over in teenagers. All the seniors quit to enjoy their last summer before they went off to college. I miss those kids. They were beyond excellent in their service. The new kids are young and have a lot to learn. But it is slowly getting better.

That being said, I wonder if some of the poor service issues can be traced back further than poor training? I taught middle school students (11-13 on average) and they lack basic manners. Please and thank you were foreign to them. Maybe it was the particular socio-economic group that I taught, or maybe not. I come in contact with lots of kids and young adults and they just don’t seem to be interested in “being nice” to other people. Were they not taught to be nice and show common courtesy? I hate to blame the crumbling family and the loss of family values but maybe there is a connection.

I work in our family business and I make it a point to always smile as I answer the phone. Even if I am having a horrible day a smile before you talk makes you sound happier and nicer. Our customers deserve that. We are a small business and can’t afford to lose our customers! But my mom and dad also went to great lengths to teach us to be nice even if we didn’t feel like being nice.

25 | Kent

August 6th, 2009 at 9:17 pm


The story as I have heard it is:
Loblaws and the Real Canadian superstore are both owned by Loblaws so switching from one to the other isn’t going to bother them one little bit.
The real Canadian superstore is NON unionized, hence lower wages, less worker satisfaction etc.
The Independent that was in Westgate (also Loblaws owned, dont let the “Independent” thing fool you) was closed as soon as the Real Canadian was opened because of the cost saving of the Non-unionized staff.
So switching from one Loblaws brand to the other isn’t going to get their attention and the Metro on Island Park really isn’t an option. So unless you are going to go all the way to Merivale to the larger Metro, Loblaws isn’t really feeling any pain.

26 | Annie

August 6th, 2009 at 10:14 pm


Re: the lack of response from your email letter… Print it out as a business letter and mail it in via snail mail… An MNR official told that when sending comments to the government, a real letter with a real stamp is “worth more” than email letters (don’t know why exactly). And then CC the letter to company headquarters… And then let us know if anything happens!!

As for the Superstore here in Peterborough – ugh!! I try to avoid it as often as possible…

Best of luck!

27 | Meg

August 7th, 2009 at 6:32 am


The service at Westboro Superstore is the worst. On many occasions I have walked in to the store with my 5 year old only to be greeted by a “gang” of employees ( on break , I guess) smoking and swearing near the entrance. ugh.

28 | lacoop

August 7th, 2009 at 7:02 am


Oh god, where do I begin? Yes, yes, yes, service is important. It is the public face to every business. When the front-line staff treat me indifferently or worse, then I think the people behind the scenes must be worse (bad employees = really bad management). And all of that makes me wonder about their product/service. And that makes me want to move on to another business. If I think about the Superstore (or as we call it the “Crazy Store” because of the disarray in the store), I have to think you hit it on the head, Andrea. Not very clean, the produce leaves lots to desire, most of the staff seem indifferent at best (yes, there are one or two who were pleasant), the design is horrible (remember when they told us how great the store would be back in the days of the debate? what a crock!). We try to go to Produce Depot (on Carling) for good produce , and the Loblaws at Carlingwood for the big shopping trips, otherwise we frequent all the local little shops along Richmond Road, where at least I know the staff and my money is probably helping my neighbours. But as for bad service, I could go on and on, which is just sad…and I think Ginger is right…it says something about our whole society…maybe when people have been treated like disposable resources for too long, they just stop caring. And maybe when there are so many examples of corrupt leaders at all levels, people stop having respect for rules and manners.

29 | Alan

August 7th, 2009 at 7:52 am


Did you know that if you purchase something from Shopper’s Drug Mart and want to return it you have to go back to the exact store you bought it from?! Silly me for assuming that if you buy a product from a huge company like Shopper’s that you could take it back to ANY of their sites!! Apparently all the stores don’t carry exactly the same products therefore if it is NOT in their system, they will NOT refund your money!!!!

Doesn’t make sense to me.

30 | Meghan

August 7th, 2009 at 8:33 am


http://www.centretownchc.org/gfb/ Another option!

There is even a $25.00 local organic box. All boxes have to be picked up at the listed locations. New locations can be added as long as there are 10 customers. But you have to bag yourself!

FYI-The Real Canadian Superstore is unionized-but everyone started at the bottom and are slowly climbing up the food chain (not just wages but getting hours as well)

31 | Robinwild

August 7th, 2009 at 8:37 am


We just spent a month living in Bloomington, Indiana, and one of the first things we remarked was how FRIENDLY people were………even at the grocery stores! We were always greeted, smiled at, and there were always two people working on a cash. One was ringing in and one was packing. These were often middle aged or older women, sometimes young men, and sometimes the people packing bags had disabilities. We never met a discourteous person at a grocery store the whole month we were there. Is it the town, or the country, the store, or what? In general, we have found customer service in the States while travelling quite friendly and effecient. I also have some beefs about the Westboro Superstore…….to have to run the gauntlet every time you go in past all the fast foods and such drives me nuts. Also, the CARTS are too BIG. And there are never enough of those smaller ones. I am not a big person and after a run around the store, always backtracking because I forgot something or couldn’t find something, my shoulders are killing me from hauling the cart around(You notice you don’t see a lot of elderly people shopping at the Superstore?). (I LOVE those little zoom carts at Loeb!)

32 | The Veg Next Door

August 7th, 2009 at 12:15 pm


It’s been a long time but I used to work at the District Office of Loblaws. It was located upstairs in the Loblaws at Billings Bridge. Not sure if it still exists and if it does, if it manages the Superstore. In any case, it’s worth finding out and sending a copy of your letter to that office and following up with a phone call. I mention the phone call b/c when I worked there we had to document every phone call. We also filed every document that came in. It’s worth a try. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner.

33 | Nat

August 7th, 2009 at 7:29 pm


I have completely and totally given up on that Superstore. The staff are downright surely. (Exception being to the kind apologetic guy I got last night when I ran in to get post-vacation food. But he was making up for his Attila the Hun coworker, who was beyond Cow.) However, picking up the rest of the stuff was hell.

There was a policy put into effect that they don’t pack groceries. This is problematic since it’s not only bad customer service, it’s also slows down the line. (Then the cashiers get huffy when you can’t keep up.)

I am trying to avoid Loblaws completely. I’m trying to do more at Farm Boy and Metro. But for any sort of order, it’s hard to avoid. So I drive to College Square.

And if the owners are keeping track that’s $2,000 month, at least, they are losing to poor customer service.

34 | Tali

August 7th, 2009 at 9:37 pm


The worse thing about superstore is that they will run out of something for weeks at a time without restocking it, and they keep on changing things around.

I find the superstore at college square somewhat better, but hate the drive. Food basics doesn’t have anything I need, really, neither does the Metro on Wellington.

What drives me nuts about grocery stores in canada is that the selection isn’t very good. Such a huge store and 3 kinds of salsa? None of the international products that I used growing up, just PC versions of them (sometimes ok, sometimes not). I don’t know if it’s different in Toronto, if what I see is an ottawa thing because it’s not a very diverse city, or what…drives me crazy. I don’t need to buy towels and furniture at a grocery store, but would love Goya products and jicama.

35 | The Veg Next Door

August 8th, 2009 at 7:13 am


Didn’t the local news (I think it was CJOH) do a story a few years back on the grocery business? Apparently Ottawa is not considered a tier 1 city, therefore, it doesn’t get the best food, including the best produce.

My sister-in-law’s father is an expert on manure (I kid you not) and he recommends never buying your produce from stores such as Food Basics and other “low-price” stores. I’ll only buy packaged foods (beans) at Food Basics b/c they have a good selection. I don’t even look at the produce.

36 | LO

August 8th, 2009 at 10:12 pm


In Kanata we call the Superstore the Unsuper STupid store. I very rarely go there and if I do it is because I feel I owe myself some type of punishment for something…or else I have a sudden lapse in memory of how BAD it is there! it’s the Unsuper stupid store and no one there cares. They are non unionized and treat the employees poorly BUT that is still no excuse to treat me poorly. I ALWAYS go to the scan and bag myself aisle as I am guaranteed to do that even if I go to a cashier and this way I get less attitude. Send the letters but I don’t think they care. I’ve been sending them for years. Recently I asked for the manager and this is what I said to him. “If I were you I would be embarrassed to say I was the manager here. I would never admit to that. Your produce section looks worse than a third world bazaar or grocery store in a cold war socialist country. Things are rotting or there is nothing in the section to rot. Why? He told me that they have trouble with staff and stocking and I replied that a priority should be to at least get the rotting fruit out and he agreed. He agreed that things were a mess and that he wasn’t doing anything about it.
Sheesh! So, I haven’t shopped at Walmart in WAY over a year and no superstores for me either!!!!

37 | Carla

August 8th, 2009 at 11:51 pm


I find this fascinating. Mmmm, what is wrong with packing your own groceries? Agree that politeness is generally on the decline, that customer service in big stores is not generally good, but let’s go back a bit. It used to be, when I was growing up, only 2 decades ago, that each cash had two persons, one to ring in the products, one to bag. Then the baggers were given the boot, too ‘expensive’ I guess. Then the cashiers had to bag. All for the cult of efficiency – do more with less staff – which is more stressful for the staff, any wonder few of them stay around?

The thing about the cashiers bagging is that it takes more time. Not so much when they used the plastic bags that sat in the holder so they just shoved everything in as it was rung in, but if other bags don’t sit in there then it takes more time to put them in. I usually bag my own, whether the cashiers bag or not simply because it is faster. I mean I am just standing there, they are my groceries, what’s the big deal? And, this does include shopping with one or two kids in tow. Yes, you can’t look at the price all the time, but I have been known to check my receipt and go back to request a refund or adjustment – rarely happens. I just save for my next weekly trip.

I think the amount you pay for groceries and the entitlement to good service is immaterial – service is service, it shouldn’t be catered to the rich or rich-spending.

As for grocery shopping, I think there are a lot of alternatives and a bad shopping experience at this store or elsewhere should not take up so much energy (although, admittedly I am adding to it…). Produce in the neighbourhood – Produce Depot by far; sign up to a CSA for the growing season, go to the Parkdale market, sign up for a Good Food Box. I do find that the Superstore does have some good organic produce sometimes, like the organic nectarine and peaches! I haven’t found organic peaches elsewhere and these fruits are the highest in pesticide residue in conventional produce farming (http://www.foodnews.org/methodology.php). Kitchen staples, you can get these usually cheaper and with less packaging through Bulk Barn at Carlingwood, go to Food Basics, join a buying group with the Ontario Natural Food Coop (onfc.ca), or the Geeland Store across Produce Depot – lots of international items. Meat? there are some great organic farms nearby, we get some meat from Alpenbick Farm or Greta’s chickens through a friend, or Saslove’s has great products (more expensive yes, but wow the taste and the expense makes us stick to what a real portion looks like). I used to think that shopping in more stores rather than just going to one grocery store was faster, but I am no longer so convinced. I tested it last weekend and found that it took me only about 20 minutes more to do the usual shopping (produce at Produce Depot, meat at Saslove’s, some bulk stuff at Westgate natural food pantry,, natural cleaning scrubbies at Mother Earth) – obviously with a car, but I would usually go by car to the grocery store anyway. and having a list was key. I used to just hate the superstore, now I see just as a place, like any other, where I can get what I need sometimes, not ideal but there it is.

38 | andrea

August 9th, 2009 at 7:57 am


Tail: excellent point about the salsa. Mark and I were just talking about this. It seems that one or two salsa brands pay a premium for shelf exposure. Everything else is cut out and the consumer loses.

Carla: I remember those days. That’s when I started working in the grocery world. There was always a bagger on each cash. And they always offered to carry the groceries out to the car – rain or shine. It’s obvious that the bagger position has been eliminated due to costs.

I still maintain that it doesn’t take *that* much longer for cashiers to pack the groceries into cloth bags or bins – especially the bins, because they have a stable bottom and are wide open. There is no reason the cashier should ring the item though and then put the item in front of the bin instead of INTO the bin. It is maddening to watch.

Good customer service is the one thing that actually doesn’t cost the store very much.

And perhaps it makes me a snob but for the amount of money we spend there I expect the cashiers to be polite and at least make an attempt to help pack my groceries, just like people expect the floors to be swept at the store and the counter to be clean.

It makes the chore of grocery shopping experience (at least for me) a bit more agreeable.

I agree that there are a lot of local grocery options. Superstore isn’t the only place we shop, but it is the place where we spend the most money on a regular basis. We also go to Farm Boy, Produce Depot on Carling, the Metro on Richmond Road, as well as Sasloves & Herb and Spice (which I adore) and the local farmers markets. The fact remains that Superstore is closest to us – and it’s convenient because we can shop for everything in one place… produce and cheese and toilet paper etc.

re: checking the receipt.
I hate going back to the store. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been charged for the wrong kind of apple. Or something has rung through twice. Or the cashier has stopped to ask if what kind of lettuce this was. (It was green leaf lettuce. No joke.)

For these reasons I’ve also been going through self-checkout (although I won’t go if I have over 20 items or so).

39 | DaniGirl

August 10th, 2009 at 1:53 pm


Interesting discussion — you’ve obviously hit a nerve with this one, Andrea! I hope you do get an answer to your query, because I’ve been disappointed with the quality and selection at the Barrhaven Loblaw, but never the service. Interesting that they make you bag your own groceries — that’s never happened to me, except for the two or three occassions when a cashier has noted the dog hair on our reusable bags and asked me to pack my groceries because of her allergies. This is often a fairly big deal for me because I’m also trying to keep Lucas-the-perpetual-chaos-machine entertained, and it’s the end of a long and questionable hour of “fun” in the grocery store for us. I’m not quick, and I’m fussier about how I pack than the clerks seem to be, but they are unfailingly polite at least, and usually a pleasure to deal with.

When I asked a clerk in the meat department what happened to one of our favourite regular cold cut selections, he gave me a bit of a tirade about how head office keeps changing things on them, no matter what the local management suggests. I get the feeling there is a longstanding bitterness between the local stores and headquarters in Toronto on many issues, and that the local clerks are chafing between hq directives and customer complaints.

40 | Amy

August 12th, 2009 at 6:00 pm


Superstore here (Lloydminster) has a policy of not bagging groceries, I think it’s the same across Canada, as I noticed it in Regina too. I prefer bagging my own groceries, I’m more careful than most minimum wage employees. Also, I prefer to put the same type of things together and I know that the clerk can’t read my mind about that.

Other grocery stores here that do bag for customers will bag into cloth bags cheerfully. Some stores seem better for service than others, Sobeys and Co-op (you don’t have Co-ops out east, they’re a major franchise here on the prairies) have customer service policies here and pride themselves on training well. Both usually have a bagger as well as the clerk.

I’ve heard of horror stories about Superstore’s meat department (maggots found under the meat cutting counter in a Department of Health check – a friend worked doing the checks for a while), so I get my meat elsewhere. However, they’re the only ones here that carry much in the way of international foods and seasonal produce.

Having worked at McDonalds, I know that it’s not just the new generation that is rude. I was unfailingly polite and extremely efficient, and was regularly treated to rudeness by customers. I teach high school now and find that politeness depends on the person, just like everything else, and it doesn’t seem to be always due to upbringing.

I always treat people in service jobs politely and give a lot of leeway. That said, I am also disappointed with service quite often here. Lloydminster is an oil town, which means lots of turnover as there’s more money on rigs and with oil service companies. Consequently, there’s more rudeness in general – a lot of kids will change jobs if they don’t get their way.

41 | andrea

August 13th, 2009 at 10:37 am


I still haven’t heard back. I am going to print this post (and all the comments) and mail it to the store and see if that’ll get anyone’s attention.

I do tend to get better service at Loblaw than the Superstore too.

I am moderately picky about how the bags are packed too. I don’t want my bread underneath the canned goods! (If you call that picky go right ahead!)

All I want is the cashiers to (a) be polite and (b) make an attempt to pack my bins (which I bring more often than the bags). Oh, and fresh produce with lots of local/seasonal fruit and veg would be nice too.

42 | andrea

August 16th, 2009 at 11:11 am


So I got a response. HQ called me on the phone to discuss my email.

As it turns out the Westboro location is one of Loblaw stores which has something called a “ring and release” policy. I think this means they ring it all in first, and then they’re supposed to assist in bagging. Exceptions to the R&R policy include (a) if the grocery order is a large one (I don’t know what defines “large” but they are supposed to stop and bag partway through or (b) if the customer happens to be disabled.

I told her that their R&R policy doesn’t exactly make sense when bins are involved.

I guess I have the option of standing there and waiting until the whole order is rung through and waiting for the cashier to pack my bags, but I couldn’t do it. I’d feel totally awkward. I still maintain that if the cashier sees that the customer has brought her own bins/bags they should say, up front, “would you like me to bag your groceries as I go or would you prefer to pack your own?” Simple enough, right?

Anyway, we went through my concerns. The lady I was dealing with very courteous and sympathetic. Apparently a copy of my email (with my personal info removed) was forwarded to the store manager. He has to reply to the “charges.” I told her I’d be interested to know what his response to my concerns. She also told me that the store manager would probably meet with the front-line manager to review cashier training etc. A lot of my issues, I suppose, come down to poor training and/or management.

All of this has made me highly aware of customer service in grocery stores across Ottawa. I’d love to hear more of your experiences… the good, the bad, and the ugly. :)

43 | Ryan

October 7th, 2009 at 11:19 pm


Yesterday I packed my own bins, signed the bill, and as I finished up the cashier asked me if I was “okay with the rest of it.” Why ask? I had just paid her $150.00 for groceries. So why not just help me?

You didn’t pay the cashier $150.00 for groceries. You paid the zillion dollar company $150.00 for groceries…The same company that is to cheap to pay for packers….Like a cashier at a busy grocery store is really going to scan all the products and than bag them all when she has 10 people behind her in line and she’s making $8.00.hr. And im guessing the store has 30 checkout lanes and 3 will be open lol so they can save money buy having you wait in line for 2 hours

blame the company and head office….NOT the $8.00 an hour cashier

44 | Ryan

October 7th, 2009 at 11:33 pm


I still maintain that if the cashier sees that the customer has brought her own bins/bags they should say, up front, “would you like me to bag your groceries as I go or would you prefer to pack your own?” Simple enough, right?

lol you do that all day for an 8.5 hour shift….im sure it’s really simple

if front office cared about you they would pay a few kids $8.00 hour and have them bag for you….They don’t care….thats not the cashiers fault

45 | susan

November 5th, 2009 at 7:06 pm


My problem is not bagging or service, it’s cleanliness.
I’ve shopped at Superstore for more years than I care to remember.
Superstore at Sunridge in Calgary is truly awful. I only use it as a last resort.
Produce is only good first thing in the morning.
Today I needed a few items, was in the area, so thought, why not. Why not, indeed.
The fish area smelt so badly my stomach started to heave.
The vegetable produce was only good for throwing out.
The store is always dirty, but today was really bad.
The freezer compartments are not clean.
Several of the items I needed were not available (empty shelves).
Self checkout is becoming a joke, most people do not know how to use it, or have a huge cart of groceries.

I mentioned my beefs to the poor lady at customer service. I will never return to that Superstore.
When I got home, hoping to email Gaelen with my concerns, the email website appears to be under construction.

But now I feel better that other people have they SS gripes.

46 | Marci

November 8th, 2009 at 11:37 pm


I hate the Superstore in Whitby On. It is like a 3rd world grand bazzar. I only go there because I like to shop the organic section. Today when I went they had gotten rid on the section and dispersed the organic products throughout the store in what I bet is an attempt to get my to wander through the store and buy more groceries.

Absolutely no more Supercenter. I am going to shop local farmers market for produce, Sobeys and make a monthly trip to Whole Foods and weekly trips to my local organic grocery stores. If I am in a pinch I may shop at no frills, but I think that is also owned by Loblaws/Stupidstore.

Why anyone would shop at there is beyond me. And as far as lower prices go, that is a myth, in fact they recently raised prices after figuring that they could get away with it.

47 | Rene

December 28th, 2009 at 11:15 am


Letter I sent yesterday. Victoria B.C.

I just can’t fathom what happened to me last week and today. Last week I slipped and fell twisting my ankle on a puddle in the toy isle due to a leak in the roof of the store. The manager came and had me fill out a report and then took pictures of the puddle etc. I sprained my ankle and limped for a few days and thankfully it’s better now. But not one follow up phone call from the store (Real Canadian Superstore Langford B.C.) to see if I was ok. I guess you don’t care.

Today I went to buy some seafood. No one was at the seafood section.
After about 10 minutes I asked in the meat section and was told they would page someone.
10 minutes later I asked again. Still no one.
Now 20 minutes later another customer was holding a mesh bag of mussels and asked me if I knew how he could get a bag so as not to drip water on the floor. There was no one around so I went behind the counter and gave him a plastic bag.
Just then a woman employee from the meat department saw me and came running over and told me I wasn’t allowed back there. No problem, I left but explained I was just getting this man a plastic bag. She then said that it made no difference as he couldn’t buy the messels anyway. They would have to be wrapped and given a price and bar code (even though the price was on the tank per mesh bag) and that this could only be done by a seafood employee and no one was in at this department today. So I asked her does this mean I can’t buy any mussels or oysters? She said no I couldn’t, come back another day. Now the 10 or so shoppers around the fish section are all looking at each other and laughing.
I went up to customer service and explained my situation and that I also wanted to try to order 10 lobsters and 10 crabs for new years. She was very understanding and phoned the assistant manager. Apparently the seafood employee phoned in sick today so there was no one there but the manager offered to come down and wrap and bar code a bag of mussels for me. I said that it wasn’t just the bag of mussels but rather the whole ordeal of waiting for a paged employee who wasn’t even there and can she take an order for lobster and crab? She said no, they don’t take orders. I said that I ordered about the same amount last year and was phoned at home when the order came in. She said they never did that. So now I’m a liar as well? This conversation is all taking place through the customer service employee on the phone relaying what I’m saying to the manager and what the manager is saying back to me. This store is nuts. They don’t care about customers and likely not about revenue for the store. 10 – 2Lb. lobsters and 10-2Lb crabs I would think is a healthy sale for any store, about $400 – $500 worth of seafood. I went to Thrifty Foods ( owned by Sobey’s ), placed my order and was told I can pick it up any time after 12 noon on Decenber 31
I wonder what you lost in other potential sales today. What is going on? Are all your stores like this? This is just nuts. I’m not even sure as to why I’m sending this as maybe no one there cares either.
But I request and expect at the very least an answer to my questions and an explanation as to what is going on here in your Victoria store.

48 | S

January 4th, 2010 at 2:35 pm


As a superstore employee(part time) at westboro I feel it is my duty to clear up a particular half truth/lie that is recurring in this threads comments.

We are members of a Union, United food and commercial workers(UCFW) 1000A. That is all part time non managerial staff. Managerial staff are salaried and do not belong to this union.

Sadly I cannot comment on the service received as you rang up groceries as I work in one of the sattelite non front end departments, I can comment in general that if you are basing your blog post on a single experience it is a rather baseless claim through generalization to paint the store based on one experience. It would have to be a string of absolutely abaysmal and horrid customer service before it had much logic to make a complaint.

And as always we workers are only human, subject to the weaknesses and volatility of our own human emotions, and to often it seems customers want us to be cold souless machines that they can take their anger from whatever out on us.

I am however, sorry you received such horrible service at a store I take pride in working at.

49 | andrea

January 4th, 2010 at 3:20 pm


Hello S, thank you for your comment. It is good to hear from someone on the other side.

Sadly, my experience is not unique and I did not base my post on one experience. At best, the service I get at Westboro when I go there (which is rarely now because I go out of my way to do my shopping at a different Loblaws) is totally bare-bones. The cashiers barely acknowledge my presence and I pack my own stuff.

I am glad that there’s at least one person at the store who is proud of their work. I understand that you’re human, and subject to emotion etc., and this is why I prefaced this post by explaining that I once also worked as a cashier. I’ve walked in your shoes and I know what it’s like.

50 | cathy scott

January 16th, 2010 at 8:37 pm


i had the same experience with super store in Langley. the are even worse than what i have been reading so far, here in Langley the girls send you grocery’s down the belt and after you pay the next costumers grocery’s go down the same belt. here in Langley b.c. they do not even give you the time to get your bags packet. another thing i don’t like is that if you fill out a complaints form noting gets done about the problem.
for example: there are two bottles of hand sanitisers when you come in to the store, but when you have handled the same merchandise as every one else. when you are ready to leave there is no sanitiser at the exit door at all. after filling in a request to put one at the exit door instead of having 2 at the entrance. there has been no change, they just ignore you. instead of getting mad i just refuse to shop there any more. after all wall mart is just as cheap and you get better service.
another thing that used to annoy me, when i bought my cigarettes and 4 liter of milk they had to ring it up separate because i wanted to use my gas cupon.
i also do not like the idea that they think we as consumers are stupid, when they ignore our complaints do they realy think that we will still buy at their store when there are much better stores to chose from.

51 | Sam

March 28th, 2010 at 7:06 am


Hey Andrea,

The store manager in that location is one of the worse. It trickles down. I had a few instances with him one involving a 4 month wait for a specific sheet size to arrive on order. He never returned requests to contact me that I filled in at customer service desk, and finally I cornered him on the sales floor. He told me he was too busy to specifically handle a single customers request. I’ve worked retail for over a decade, management for most of it … I was actually shocked.

As for the groceries, I refuse to PAY until I have my groceries bagged, so i just take my sweet-*ass time. If the cashier gets huffy, I just inform them they’ll receive my card when the groceries are bagged. Most will assist at this point. Once, one cashier refused to assist… she folded her arms … there were two people behind me who persuaded her to assist me (rather colourfully, I might add). When it’s all bagged and carted THEN I hand over the card to process.

All in all, the Westboro location is horrible for customer service, I try to avoid it completely (even though it’s only 2 blocks from my house), and shop at the metros at Island park and Lincoln Fields.

52 | Hannah

May 26th, 2010 at 11:36 pm


Apparently none of these people have been a cashier before. Customers expect the cashier to worship the ground they walk on and do everything for them.
If you want somebody to hold your hand through your whole order and spend 15 minutes packing your groceries neatly and perfectly then shop at Co-op.
Everybody always needs something to complain about.
Where I work, we are all complimented regularly on how fast and efficient we are. So it seems to me that people want their order to be rung through fast and they also want their groceries packed for them at the same time. Everybody just expects way to much from people being paid minimum wage and being treated like dirt day in day out.
We don’t pack groceries at the store that I work at, but there’s been times when I have packed peoples groceries for them when they are physically unable to do it themselves. Why do you need somebody to do it for you? It’s just laziness.
I bet none of you wanna wait in line an extra 10 minutes while I pack somebody’s groceries and they just stand there, doing nothing.


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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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