BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Tim Horton’s franchisees aiming for a shoot-out

I knew it. I just knew things would go south (literally) when Tim Hortons was taken over by American parent company Restaurant Brands International. RBI also owns Burger King and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen. How can a company with holdings like those possibly understand what Timmie’s means to Canadian culture? When the takeover happened in 2014, I was concerned Timmie’s would lose its Canadian identity and become just another amorphous American fast-food chain. In fact, I blogged about the issue in September 2015. Click here to read Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

They were hoping because of our innate niceness we wouldn’t notice.

Well, it seems our sugar-coated chickens have come home to roost. Tim Hortons’ Canadian franchisees plan to launch a $500 million class action suit against the RBI American parent and its senior executives claiming that funds they contribute to marketing and sales have been diverted to other corporate coffers, like administration. Each Tim Hortons franchisee is required to pay 3.5% of their gross sales toward a fund to be used exclusively for marketing, sales and promotion. Basically, RBI’s bean counters and their bosses have been caught with their mitts in the donut jar and are getting their fat fingers slapped. Naturally, Sam Siddiqui, President of the Canadian Division denies the accusation. If they think they’re going to pull the toque over our eyes, they’re skating on thin ice.

As a frequent customer and fan of Timmie’s, I consider myself  bit of an expert on the issue, having already noticed a change. The very thing I was dreading came to pass. RBI totally disregarded our Canadian-ness. When was the last time you saw commercials on television of snotty nosed hockey-sweatered Canadian kids gathering at Timmie’s for hot chocolate after practice? Where did those heart-warming shots of our camouflage-clad Canadian soldiers lining up at a Tim Hortons outlet in Afghanistan go? Have you seen any commercials in the last couple of years of polite, multi-ethnic Canadians rolling up the rim on a Vancouver street or on Signal Hill in St. John’s? No? That’s because the RBI bean counters were covertly diverting franchisee’s money into American corporate coffers and hoping because of our innate Canadian politeness we wouldn’t make a fuss.

Am I the only one who thinks Timmie’s lineups are getting longer?

Yep! The lineups at the drive-thru have been getting longer thanks to staff cuts. They’re messing with the quality of the products and franchisees are being pressured to cut costs in order to sustain American executives’ bonuses. Well, that’s just plain un-Canadian and, sorry, we’re having none of it. We can play dirty too. Tim Horton’s franchisees have declared foul and I for one am proud of them. Nobody takes our good nature for granted, hoping we’ll be distracted by Trump’s softwood lumber threats and free trade war. We’re lacing up our skates, putting our best offensive line out on the ice and fighting for our own double double truly Canadian cup. We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this but the RBI Americans have crossed the blue line once too often and we’re calling a penalty. Team Canada is dropping the puck at centre ice and taking our shot. It’s going to be a barn burner.

Click here to read Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

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Dear Mr. Gates: It’s me again, Lynda, for the umpteenth time

It’s getting harder for Boomers to keep up.

Obviously I’m directing my letters to the wrong person as Bill Gates hasn’t returned any of my emails. Dear I.T. God-in-heaven, whoever you are, I’m at my wit’s end. Trying to manage my I.T. issues is the single largest source of stress in my life (I know, relatively speaking I’m blessed, but still . . .).  You would think that after all these years, technology would be getting simpler not more complicated. I’m convinced my hair loss, weight gain and skin rashes are entirely the result of the stress from trying to resolve problems with my computer, my television and the internet, all of which are supposed to make my life better, not worse.

Yesterday I spent two and a half hours on the phone with Bell Canada because my internet and TV service died early in the morning. I lost count of the number of service reps I spoke to, repeating my simple story a thousand times to each one in succession while they fiddled with keyboards at their end, trying to avoid a service call to my house. Probably my first mistake was switching from satellite television to Fibe TV. Bell installed a new router over the weekend. Now I can’t find any of my favourite channels as Bell doesn’t deem it necessary to provide customers with a printed copy of the new channel guide. When I went on-line to print one out, my ‘search’ yielded nothing but sales pitches. I required the assistance of a telephone service representative to help me find the obscure little link on their website that lists the channels. Hallelujah! When I/we finally found the channel guide, I discovered that our wireless printers no longer recognize the new modem and no amount of fiddling I did with printer and computer configurations would fix it. I may never be able to print again because I don’t think I have the stamina required to sort it out.

My tech issues are making me into a crazy woman. Turning my cell phone on and off is a challenge. I’m never sure about whether it’s really on or off or the status of the battery life. Texting is out of the question so you can be sure I won’t be ‘swiping’ my phone to pay for things anytime soon. I’ve never figured out how to access free movies on Amazon Prime and navigating my new Fibe TV service is on the back burner for now. Fortunately I still have a landline and know how to use it, but I’ve never programmed in frequently-called numbers. I have mastered my microwave oven and can read library books on my iPad but that’s the extent of my technical ability.

I’m beginning to think it’s almost worth giving up retirement and going back to the workforce just to have the support of an I.T. Department with my technical questions. I accept that I will never be tech-savvy and I don’t expect to even keep up. All I want is to be able to function in the world without all the stress caused by my electronic devices. Tomorrow I’m going to pick up a new laptop as my old one barely chugs along these days. It’s slow; it wastes tons of my time waiting for things to open and it can barely handle everyday functions without me having to constantly re-boot. Give me strength. Better, still, more wine please. I’m going to need it.

Peace be with you.

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Trump was right. Who knew it could be so complicated?

Sometimes, we just need the noise to stop. The Syrian crisis, the threat of nuclear war with North Korea, Putin’s crimes against humanity and the ongoing terrorist threats scare the crap out of me. Then, we have escalating trade wars, racism and climate change denial. Not to mention Trump’s lies and regressive new laws that completely disregard the ordinary person and the future of our planet. When the news starts I get a knot in my stomach so I turn off the television or radio. As I sit looking out my window into the yard watching the trees move gently in the breeze and the new flowers coming to life, listen to the birds, my mind melts into a more peaceful state.

Has the world really become so much more complicated or is my memory failing me?  In the swinging sixties while we were wearing mini-skirts, dancing the night away to Creedence Clearwater or worrying about whether “he would call”, there were still serious issues. We had the the horribly escalating Vietnam War, Bay of Pigs, Khrushchev, and of course, Richard Nixon. We were convinced the world was constantly on the brink of nuclear attack. Later on, Bush Jr. baffled us with his stupidity, lied to the world about false threats and sent innocent young members of the military to their unnecessary early deaths.

Since the beginning of time the world has been in state of turmoil and seemingly on the brink of some war or another. Catastrophic economic depressions in the seventies and to a more serious degree in the nineties wiped out financial security for large segments of the population. AIDS, SARS and other chronic diseases were front page news. Every so often I have to take a sabbatical from the news. Electronic media can simply be turned off. Reading print media requires I just skip over the bits I find distressing. Talking about issues with friends sometimes means changing the subject when we get too frustrated and angry about current events. Despite his stratospheric ego, Donald Trump doesn’t know much which is truly frightening. But the world is a complicated place and the further away I get from his noise the less complicated it becomes. That’s one thing I can do to make the world a better place, at least for me.

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Mother Nature can be very unkind to Boomer women

What’s a girl to do?

This morning I tried on all my summer pants. It did not go well. Extensive therapy may be required, followed by copious quantities of wine, or more likely the other way around which doesn’t help the situation. At the very least, I’m looking at another extended spell at Weight Watchers. A recent essay in The Globe and Mail about the horror of trying on and buying a bathing suit (click here to read Is the perfect bathing suit possible?) resonated deeply. Writer Leslie Hill is sixty-seven years old and I could so empathize with her ongoing frustration to remain confident under duress. When you’re a Baby Boomer woman with a successful career behind you, no serious health issues, a network of amazing girlfriends and family who loves you, why are we still knocked off balance by our less-than-perfect (a.k.a. normal) bodies? Oprah Winfrey gets it. She’s admitted many times how she hates that her weight struggles have often superseded all her other massive successes in life.

Fashion inspiration for Boomers is hard to find. We like to look like we’re still on top of our game. When we look good we feel great.

There’s miniscule recognition of our demographic in fashion mags and it’s always with stick-thin models with glorious manes of thick silver hair. Who among us can relate to that? What’s a girl to do? Most of us stock pants in two (or even three) sizes to accommodate our good days and bad days. I’ve always had the best luck with the fit of Not Your Daughter’s Jeans NYDJ but even they wouldn’t button up this morning. We want to look the best we can, be fashionable and attractive without resorting to frumpy, uninspired “I’ve-given-up” pastel polyester with a forgiving elastic waist. Mother Nature is not making it easy.

Fifty-four-year-old French writer Sophie Fontanel has some excellent advice for women on how to achieve a personal style without slavishly following trends or the dictates of youth-centric fashion gurus. She suggests women our age concentrate on a look that’s not overtly sexy.  In an interview in Vogue, Fontanel recommends “Softness, gentleness, sense of humor”. To read her full interview 9 Steps to Style Superstardom in Vogue magazine, click here. Her own personal style would definitely not work for me but her message is inspirational.

In many ways we’re coping with aging better than earlier generations of women. We’ve embraced the magic of great hair colouring and styling. We are deft with makeup. We finally have the budget that allows us to purchase new clothes and accessories when we want. We keep fit, eat healthy and are intellectually curious. We know that when we look good we feel great so there’s payback. I refuse to shop for jeans at Shirley K Maternity to accommodate my Boomer waistline and I empathize with Ms. Hill’s Globe and Mail lament about buying a bathing suit. She’s braver than I am by even trying. We all know our figure faults and try to soldier on. Which means you may never see me in my white jeans this summer, and that’s probably a good thing. Or, more likely, I’ll go out and buy a larger size, specially engineered for my burgeoning waistline and for better or worse, strut my stuff, but with long tunic tops.

I feel pretty, oh so pretty!

Susan After 60 is one of my favourite go-to blog sites for Boomer fashion inspiration.

 

Click here for Susan After 60

 

Click here for 9 Steps to Style Superstardom

 

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Boomer feel-good movie felt limp

There aren’t a lot of movies out there that appeal to the Boomer set, so when one finally appears, we organize a girls’ outing, line up for our cheap seniors’ tickets, then line up again for our gallon pail of Diet Coke and bucket of chemically questionable popcorn. That’s what happened this week when my gal pals and I settled in to see Paris Can Wait starring Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard with a cameo by Alec Baldwin. The reviews weren’t great but we figured it would be worth the price of admission to see wide shots of French scenery.

Diane Lane plays the neglected wife of a movie producer (Alec Baldwin) who can’t fly to Paris from the French Riviera because of an inner ear ailment. When Jacques, a French associate producer played by Arnaud Viard offers to drive her, since he’s ‘going that way’, she reluctantly agrees. What should be a direct drive becomes several days exploring the historical, esthetic and culinary delights of Provence and the Rhône Valley under the tutelage of the charming Frenchman. Eventually, they do get to Paris. Sounds like a wonderful trip.

In our opinion, the only people who really enjoyed Paris Can Wait would be those who starred in and were involved in making the movie. They got to spend a few weeks in France during the summer on an expense account while getting paid a nice salary. I don’t always agree with the critics, but this time, they were right.  One of my gal pals even fell asleep toward the end. The plot was trite and Harlequin-novel-like. Every cloud has a silver lining though. The Rick Steeves-like descriptions of local tourist attractions and beautiful cinematography were wonderful. That and the popcorn, followed by the four of us going for tea at Timmies after the movie made the afternoon worthwhile. Save your money. Wait for it to come on television and watch it for free. My advice? Pass Paris and proceed directly to Timmies.

Click here for the review by Rotten Tomatoes

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Bringing the world to your doorstep

I may not know how to use my cell phone to its full potential but this is one skill I’ve mastered.

Can’t find an obscure item in the mall or hardware store, or perhaps you’re just feeling lazy and don’t feel like putting your face on to go out in public? Or, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t available in Canada.  Technology has brought us down the yellow brick road to a wonderful place called on-line shopping. Our love affair with on-line shopping has hurt bricks and mortar retailing stores but damn, it makes life so much easier. And with the poor customer service offered in many retail establishments, it’s no wonder we’re embracing the alternatives.

A few weeks ago I wanted one of those tiny paring knives with a two-inch curved blade. It’s handy for certain kitchen chores and wasn’t available anywhere, except on line. Ordered two just to be on the safe side and for less than ten dollars they were at my door a couple of days later. Problem solved. I also follow a website called Shopstyle.com” that notifies me when something I like goes on sale. The site scours the internet for brands and items I’ve indicated I like and automatically connects me with the retailer offering it when it goes on sale. I’ve scored some great Eileen Fisher pieces for up to 70% off as well as deals on my beloved FitFlop™ sandals. Out-of-print or hard to find books can easily be sourced on-line. Amazon’s used books service has brought books right to my door from the U.K. in a few days for as little as one cent plus shipping. Then there’s the fun and anticipation of waiting for your goodies to arrive—it’s like counting sleeps ’til Christmas morning.

Because I use Amazon so extensively, it was worth signing up for their Amazon Prime membership. For $99.00 a year my deliveries are ‘free’ which, when I do the math is still cheaper than paying shipping charges on each order. And, if I could figure out how to use the movie download feature on my iPad I would have access to movies and TV shows as well. I’ll figure that out as soon as I sort out how to turn on my new cell phone. But that’s another story.

Life just keeps getting better. Think I’ll stick around awhile.

This is all good practice for when I can no longer drive to go shopping. While I could take the bus, that involves waiting on a freezing cold or sweltering hot street corner for my connection, then lugging my heavy bags up the street. Letting my gnarly old fingers do the walking just seems so much easier. By the time we Boomers have to give up our driving privileges, I hope on-line shopping has amped up the meals-on-wheels choices and wine deliveries to accommodate our evolving needs. When their drones can drop a DQ chocolate peanut blizzard at my front door before it melts, then I will have achieved nirvana. Coming soon to a door near you—it’s worth staying alive for.

Click here for Fitflop.ca (they’re having a big 50% sale right now)

Click here for Shopstyle.com

Note: I receive no benefits for mentioning Amazon, Fitflop™ or Shopstyle. Just sharing good info.

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Top 10 suggestions for Hudson’s Bay to survive

My love/hate relationship with The Hudson’s Bay Company (comparable to Macy’s in the United States) just took a turn. I want to scream “I told you so”. When I heard the news they’re laying off thousands of people in response to declining sales I felt an immense sense of sadness for the sales associates who work there at low wages and will be losing their jobs. But what about the customers? In all matters relating to retail, the number one factor that gets ignored in the equation is the customer. The experts and execs say the cuts are necessary because customers are resorting to on-line shopping. No bloody wonder.

I love The Hudson’s Bay Company and have their limited edition Barbie doll to prove it. As Canada’s oldest retailer (350 years+), Hudson’s Bay has been my default department store since the days when Robert Simpson Company occupied their stores. Over the years, I’ve written snail mail letters to the executives, emailed store managers and blogged about their abysmal customer service. Obviously they weren’t listening to me—the customer—after all, what do I know? Shopping at Hudson’s Bay Company is an experience right up there with shopping at Costco, minus the giant carts. Their stores offer an overwhelming inventory of great, good and not-so-good merchandise, crammed into unimaginative space with minimal eye-appealing merchandising, no visible sales associates to help customers and tiring lineups at the few available check-outs. What’s crucial is we expect better from Hudson’s Bay.

The bean counters have deemed that the problem with The Hudson’s Bay Company can be solved by reducing the payroll. Brilliant! That’s like closing the barn door after the horses have left. And replacing them with wooden replicas. I’m going to really love shopping at a store where the service is even worse (is that even possible?) than before. As the humble generator of business and the total raison d’être for Hudson’s Bay to exist, I, the customer would once again like to offer my suggestions for improving sales and ultimately the bottom line:

Some retailers get it.

  1.  Audit and edit your merchandise. Get rid of the crap no one wants to buy. Pare down inventory. This might require editing your buyers as well. Are your buyers truly tuned in to your customers?
  2. Use the money saved from getting rid of excess inventory to hire more sales associates to help me find sizes, assist with “looks” and suggest options.
  3. Put these new additional sales associates on the floor to actually help customers, not just be chained to the checkout desk attending to lineups.
  4. Expand the use of tasteful displays and mannequins. I’m often inspired to purchase by creative merchandising displays. Downtown flagship stores are lovely but suburban mall stores frequently resembles a jumble sale. Make the shopping experience more (dare it say it?) enjoyable. Unfortunately . . . see Item 2.
  5. Pay your staff enough that they enjoy what they’re doing and take pride in being a sales associate. Provide better training. Paying overworked sales associates minimum or low wages only causes resentment. This can be financed by following Item 1 above.
  6. Here’s a radical idea. A place for Boomer ladies to rest our old bones while we’re shopping or waiting for ASSISTANCE?

    Amp up the store environment. Improve strategic lighting and deep six the blanket fluorescent lights treatment. How about placing a few comfortable chairs with side tables offering inspirational fashion brochures from manufacturers or current fashion magazines. Maybe some videos of how to put outfits together?

  7. Send employees to the Nordstrom school of retail training.
  8. Always search above and beyond what’s available on the floor. When you don’t have my size, offer to find it. See Item 7 above.
  9. Don’t ever forget who ultimately pays your bills—me, the customer.
  10. Check with your customers once in a while to see how we’re doing? In all my fifty-plus years of department store shopping, I’ve never once had a retailer ask me what I want. It would be so easy to survey customers through accounts or on-line. I’d love to have the opportunity of being heard by serving on a customer council.

As someone who once worked for Eaton’s at their College Street store in Toronto, I have experience on both sides of the counter. Is anyone listening? Or are your customers irrelevant? Therein lies the problem. I told you so.

Here are some links to previous blog postings about Hudson’s Bay and general retail concerns:

How to improve sales at Hudson’s Bay

Retail rant hits home

The solution for Canadian retailers is as easy as 1, 2, 3

What on earth was The Hudson’s Bay Company Thinking?

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