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Road Trip: Day 3 – Thoughts Between Kills

It’s Day 3 of the big road trip and today it got real. Today it was a full court press on the Premium Outlet Mall and Maggie approached it like the Allies hitting the beaches at Normandy.

She hit the beach running, debit card in hand and was through the doors of the first store before the staff could put up any measured resistance or even toss out a cheery good morning. Clothes were found. Clothes were tried on and clothes were purchased.

Emboldened, she forged ahead and within an hour we had three dresses, a navy blue suit, a new overcoat, three pairs of shoes, a new purse, a skirt and a belt.

Phew! It took my breath away – literally – because I was limping along behind carrying the packages while the Maggster hit the change rooms.

I was not alone.

There is no racism, religious intolerance or political polarization involved in shopping. The women are united. They approach each store like predators stalking gazelles and their husbands and boyfriends follow along behind like beasts of burden, defeated looks in our eyes and backs broken from years of heavy lifting.

It was the same at every store, the women circling the sale racks, excited by the scent of blood in the air; husbands and boyfriends huddled together in some corner of the store looking sadly at each other, each of us wondering how it came to this.

Sometimes, we would reach out to each other for a group hug or a few whispered words of encouragement. Race, culture, politics were all irrelevant. We didn’t even care if we spoke each other’s language because we spoke the common language of the oppressed and downtrodden.

The sales staff were no help; they walk a fine line between feeling sorry for us and encouraging the lionesses to tear some more flesh from the hangers.

Actually, it wasn’t quite that bad although the part about husbands is true. I spent a lot of time talking to other husbands who, like me, were carrying packages and bags full of earthly delights for the woman they adore.

I don’t like shopping for myself to be honest. I hate taking the time to try on clothes and wander around stores. But I enjoy shopping with Maggie. I have a good eye when it comes to women’s fashion and picked out two of the dresses and all of the shoes she ended up buying.

While she’s trying stuff on, I lumber around the store looking for things I think she’ll like and that will look good on her and bring them to her like a supplicant before Pharaoh’s daughter. Sometimes I am dismissed but most of the time she likes what I’ve brought to at least try it on.

It helps move the shopping thing along. The browsing around thing just slows it all down so; I help in order to accelerate the process.

We decided to take a break back at the hotel and then go the other ridiculously large mall to see what they had to offer.

As it turns out, they had more than 200 stores full of stuff to offer. I called the bank and put them on high alert.

Another coat, another dress, another pair of shoes, a jacket, some bangles and beads were added to the stash. Just to get in the spirit of the thing, I even bought a couple of shirts and two coats although I would have preferred buying another guitar.

But I don’t need another guitar right now and I did need a new fall jacket so I was being practical. I’m not a big fan of being practical and find it very uncomfortable but I’m trying to develop a more aesthetic and spiritual approach to life. I admit it’s not quite a monastic approach of deprivation but it’s the best I can do right now.

Dinner was at a place called Burger Village which was pretty much exactly what it was; a place dedicated to burgers – big honkin’ burgers; some were up to a pound.

All in all, a successful hunt that gave me time to contemplate a few things in between kills at the clearance racks.

Americans understand retail in a way Canadians just don’t. Their stores, even the smaller ones, have better selection; more competitive pricing and the staff are well-trained to understand the concept of customer service.

We never stood in line in any store we were in.

By contrast, stores in Canada are aggravated if they have to open another cash to accommodate all the people waiting in line to give them money. The customer service is all but non-existent and the selection, quite frankly, sucks the Wookie.

Not surprisingly, it extends beyond retail.

The highway system here is sophisticated and user-friendly. Roads are well-maintained, there are service centres every 20 -30 kms and the tolls on toll highways are reasonable.

We often take the 407 to bypass Toronto on our way to Hamilton. The toll cost is always somewhere around $40. To travel twice the distance here, the cost was less than $7.

The toll highways in the States are busy. The 407 is not. At what point do they stop and think that reducing the toll might increase the traffic and that, my friends, might help to cut down the east/west traffic gridlock in the GTA that the 407 was originally built to achieve?

They think about stuff like that here, indeed Walmart was founded on that concept but it is endemic to most American businesses. Gas is significantly cheaper, food is cheaper and there is a vast array of products from pharmaceuticals to clothes that are available here that are not available in Canada – ever.

It’s like we have no imagination in the Great Northern Mediocrity and our business is run by government.

I read today that the Quebec Government is thinking about regulating the price of books in order to try and protect small book stores. From what – a lack of imagination and creative approach to attracting and maintaining customers?

It’s an intrusion into private enterprise by people that have no clue how business works that is so unbelievably stupid I had to remind myself to breathe. But then, Canada is the same country where the Big 3 wireless companies which control more than 90% of the business in Canada ran whining to government that Verizon is contemplating coming to town and may actually target 3% of the existing market.

When government ignored the Big 3, they took their case to the people in full page ads – you remember the people, the same people the Big 3 have been ripping off for years. Canadian business operates with the same level of arrogant entitlement as a politician on an expense account.

And that illustrates the real difference between Canada and the United States. Canadian business has been operating a closed little shop for a long time, often protected by governments at various levels through import tariffs or outright regulation a la Quebec Government’s latest nonsense.

Canadian consumers have paid for it at the pumps and in stores for years. Even more annoying, some Canadian retailers that have expanded internationally actually provide better selection, pricing and service in other countries.

Our wireless plans are among the highest cost and most restrictive in the world and for a country that is one the world’s largest oil and gas producers, our gas prices are absurd.

Forget waving the flag and talking about economic nationalism. We live in an era of global economic competition. With governments of all levels already taking half of the average Canadian’s income in taxes and user fees, the case for supporting poor selection, non-competitive prices and terrible customer service simply because it’s Canadian, is pretty weak.

There is no patriotism when it comes to spending your money wisely.

Canadian business just doesn’t compete – it whines and they would do well to consider this. It says a lot when people will line up for a couple of hours at the Canada/US border so that they can spend their hard-earned money at stores in America rather than in malls around the corner from where they live.

Canadian retailers might want to stop whinning and think about that.


Road Trip – Day 1


Road Trip – Day 2: Hot Tubs and World Peace!


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