Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Faking Online Reviews

Over at Suddcorp Solutions, I recently posted an article about online review scams on Urbanspoon, Yelp! and others.

If you enjoy reading my restaurant reviews, I can ensure you I have never been paid nor comped a meal by any restaurant.  If I would, I gladly fully disclose said compensation to ensure you, the reader, know the full context of my visit.

The idea behind this post originated after I saw CBC Marketplace's episodes on Fake Online Reviews and how online marketers and businesses try to manipulate both review websites and reviews of products on their websites.

As an leading user in the Ottawa area of Urbanspoon and a social media company owner, I felt the need to show how both the average business owner and consumer could not fall for these fake marketing gimmicks.

To learn more, read the article on Suddcorp Solutions page.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Flavourful Santa's Secret Tea at DavidsTea

DavidsTea on UrbanspoonSaturday morning I was out shopping and decided to try out DavidsTea (2277 Riverside Drive, Ottawa) for a couple of reasons.

I visited the new store that opened in the summer of 2014 to find a well stocked store with 100 plus teas lining the wall behind the counter.  One employee was carefully removing each tin one at a time and dusting the shelving.  She saw me approach the counter and stopped dusting.

She got down off the chair she was using to dust and approached the counter with a bright smile on her face asking how she could help.   I was there for two things:

First to sign up for the "Frequent Steeper" program.  This is DavidsTea customer loyalty program.  For signing up for the program customers receive a free cup of tea.  Another free cup of tea is given on the day of your birthday. Then once customers reach 100 points they receive so many grams of free tea. Currently 1 point is the equivalent of 1 dollar in sales.

DavidsTea Storefront

I signed up for the program mainly for the two free teas after sign up.  I don't really have a hope in reaching the free tea portion.  The main issue with the point system is DavidsTea resets the points balance at the end of each December.  Thus, if a customer spends 90 dollars in November, by next January those points are lost and they need to start over.

The next was to try out some tea.  I reviewed my options both from the cans lining the wall but also the specials neatly written on the chalk board.  I decided to try one of the specials as this was $3.00 (taxes included) instead of the $3.85 for a regular size.

The Order: 1 Santa's Secret Tea.

The tea was poured quite quickly by the excitable guide.  Guide? Yes, that is what DavidsTea markets their employees as.  Their guides are supposed to guide you through choosing the right tea for you.

The tea was hot and flavourful.  Felt like a warm comforting blend for a cold winter day.  I guess it could of been a more holiday season themed cup, but Santa's Secret would be perfect even in January long after Christmas has past.

Overall, this DavidsTea location has cheerful, warm and welcoming employees who are willing to help with your tea exploration.  Added "specials" are a great way to try a new tea for those, like me, who feel adventurous instead of just having the same old same old.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

No Run Around Customer Service with Philips

Philips LED Light Bulb

2 Years ago, after moving into our home in Ottawa, we began gradually converting our light bulbs from regular 60 watt incandescent bulbs over to LED bulb technology.  A few months after moving in Home Depot had some Philips LED bulbs on sale at a decent price.   I picked up ten and ventured onwards to install them throughout the house.   I had planned on adding more of the same model as my budget permitted but unfortunately, Home Depot had this particular Philips LED bulb as a "special buy".  This meant Home Depot had specially ordered this model line of bulbs for the special sale only and once they were gone, they were gone.  Nonetheless, I kept the packaging so that I could possibly find a close match in the future for other rooms in my house.

Why did I hold onto the packaging? When it comes to purchasing light bulbs I like to consistently purchase the same style of bulb over and over again .  This provides the same shade of light and brightness throughout rooms in my house.  A major pet peeve is walking into restaurants and noticing the soft whites, warm whites and daylights all intermixed.  It's not hard to keep everything a similar colour by standardizing light bulbs or at least their the shade of lighting.

Fast forward to mid-October 2014. One of those Philips LED bulbs had burnt out.  I was smart enough in the intervening time to hold onto the packaging.  Turns out saving the packing was the best move I ever did as both the Phillips Customer Service phone number of 1-800-555-0050 was on the package along with the "Limited Warranty" of:

Philips warrants that this bulb will be free from defects in material and workmanship and will operate 6 years based on up to 3 hours average usage per day/7 days per week, when used as directed. If this bulb does not conform to this warranty, Philips will send you, at its election, a replacement bulb or refund your original purchase price upon receipt of the returned bulb, register receipt and proof of purchase. Please call our toll-free number, write to Philips or send an email at the website below to find out how to return the bulb. This limited warranty does not cover bulbs subject to accident, neglect, abuse misuse or acts of God. REPLACEMENT OR REFUND IS YOUR SOLE REMINTY. EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW. THE DURATION OF THIS WARRANTY, LIABILITY FOR INCIDENTAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES IS HEREBY EXPRESSLY EXCLUDED. 

I dialed and seamlessly worked my way through the phone options aiming for the lighting customer service agent. Both the packaging and burnt out light bulb were at my side as James picked up my call.

James politely inquired how long I had the bulb and what the issue was.  I replied that the bulb was less than 2 years as I had only been in the house for just over 2 years and remember installing the bulb myself.  I also noted that I had the original packaging and that the bulbs on average, from my recollection, were on less than 3 hours per day 7 days a week thus well short of the 6 years under warranty and 18.3 years as per the claim of savings in electricity on the front of the package.

James apologized for the inconvenience and asked for the UPC code from the packaging.  This was simple to retrieve from the bottom of the box.

James then took down my name, contact information, where I purchased the product and promised a refund would be sent via gift card in the mail.  I should receive the refund in about 6 weeks or so.

Late last week I received an envelope addressed from Philips Lighting in Rosemont, Illinois.  I opened it to find a personalized letter from James with two Home Depot gift cards enclosed as compensation for the product. In fact, the  pair of Home Depot gift cards were for more than I paid for the product!


The only strange thing about the letter was a mention of a "Purolator label" being e-mailed to me so I could ship the light bulb back for analysis by Philips.  But no Purolator label was ever e-mailed to me or included with the letter.  I guess either something was mistyped and the e-mail never arrived.
  
Overall, dealing with Philips customer service was quick and easy. One customer service agent quickly took charge of the issue and resolved it without trying to obfuscate or find a way to deny the customer the promised remedy. Philips to me really stands behind their products and when something goes wrong they are willing to make it right.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Deluxe Freshness at Cafe Deluxe

Cafe Deluxe on UrbanspoonWednesday for Lunch I met up with a friend who talk about how each of our new businesses was going. My friend suggested we visit this quaint little cafe with good food at affordable prices in downtown Ottawa.  With this, we headed to Cafe Deluxe (77 Metcalfe Street, Ottawa).

We arrived to a small cafe style restaurant.  The only thing, where exactly do you order?  Good thing my friend had been there multiple times and was welcomed by more than one of the staff.  As we were the only two customers ordering at that time, it worked well. But where's the menu?  When facing the counter and the staff preparing your orders, the customer needs to turn around to see the menu.  Yes, the menu is, confusingly, behind you written on chalk boards.

I took a quick review of the menu and settled on one of the weekly Wednesday specials.

The Order: 1 Chicken Club Sandwich with fries and a bottle of Coke.

One of the ladies behind the counter started work right away on the sandwich and inquired if I would like it taken to my table where I could wait.  Sure!

Now with table service do I pay the cashier or wait for the server to bring it to me?   I decided to be honest and head to the cash. Good thing I did, I was asked by the cashier what I ordered and paid for it. Twelve dollars and change for a club sandwich with fries and drink?  I wasn't sure if the price was worth it.

I sat down with my friend who kindly waited for my sandwich to arrive before eating.  No worries though, my order arrived about 2 minutes later.

The club sandwich was cut in fours and neatly stacked on top of the fries around the edges of the plate.  Taste wise the white bread along with the tomato and lettuce was fresh.  One of the better fresher tasting club sandwiches and well worth about the same price as the neighbouring pubs.

The fries were freshly made with golden brown outside yet not crispy overcooked.  Great rendition for a cafe fries.

Overall, Cafe Deluxe was a pleasant surprise.  I had always thought it was more of a single Mom & Pop coffee shop that was a holdout against the chains.  I'm very glad that I was wrong!  This cafe is a hidden jem with fresh prepared food and knowledgeable kind staff who greet you with a kind smile.   It is no wonder that near the end of our lunch, there was another customer waiting patiently for us to vacate our table. The place was packed!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Subpar Soggy Sandwich at Subway Gloucester

Subway on UrbanspoonWednesday for dinner my wife and I found ourselves at Gloucester Centre's Food Court before a movie preview of This is Where I Leave You at the nearby SilverCity.

In search of non-overpriced movie theatre food, we tried bringing A&W coupons.  But the A&W apparently was, according to a note a the darkened storefront, having technical difficulties and would reopen tomorrow.  No luck on a Teen Burger combo, we scoured the choices and settled on the nearby Subway (1980 Ogilvie Road, Ottawa).

I ventured over and waited behind an older gentleman in line.  Just my luck, he wasn't sure what cheese he wanted on his sub. Would it be American white or Swiss Cheese?  Oh the horrors of choosing cheese!  I rolled my eyes as I could only imagine what would happen once he got to the vegetable choices.

Eventually a second employee stepped forward and took over the walking disaster of choice ahead of me and I was able to order.

The Order: 1 Cold Cut Combo and 1 Meatball Marinara both on 12" size 9 Grain Wheat.

After ordering, and thank goodness Mayor McCheese ahead of me surprisingly took a reasonable amount of time deciding on his veggies and not hunting for his last penny.

I took the sandwiches over to eat with my wife who was waiting patiently in the mall's food court seating area.

The Cold Cut Combo was made to average Subway specifications accompanied with lettuce, tomato, green peppers, red onions and mayonnaise.  The mayonnaise was not overpowering but just right.  Nothing to complain about.

The Meatball Marinara was a different story. Topped with lettuce, tomato, green peppers and black olives, the only sauce was the tomato sauce from the meatball marinara.  Normally the tomato sauce isn't an issue with other sandwiches prepared at other Subway locations, but this one was soggy.  So soggy in fact we left about a quarter of the sandwich uneaten.  Upon investigation, the preparation stage was the issue, too much sauce was added with the meatballs.  This let the sauce gradually soggify the bread.  Not great as the longer the sandwich sits, the more soggy the bread gets.

Overall, we were not impressed.  Average cold cut combo, but a soggy mess of a meatball sandwich.  Sure service was decent speed, but the meatball marina sandwich could have been better.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Everything is Merry at the Merry Dairy

Merry Dairy on UrbanspoonToday my wife and I were fortunate to be invited to the 13th Annual Corn Roast at Balena Park hosted by Ottawa City Councillor Peter Hume. As part of the festivities there was served Hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips and pop.  This, of course, had to be followed up by a dessert!

Dessert was supplied by local food truck The Merry Dairy.  At the corn roast the truck is contracted to hand out their traditional fresh vanilla frozen custard with rainbow colour sprinkles only so there was no need to order.

The truck had 2 employees dishing up the cones to waiting families including excited kids. The team of two moved pretty steadily through the line without any noticeable hiccups.

The ice custard was pretty rich quality tasting.  Standard sprinkles were had and the cone was average from any truck.  But the custard is a lot better than the standard soft serve found on most trucks.

Overall, the Merry Dairy has quite a good concept going.  Locatable from the truck's website on a daily basis as it roams the street of the nation's capital and a normally larger menu, the truck is gem to be enjoyed.

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