Honest Ed World Famous Never Duplicated


Many of our American readers will wonder why I am putting up a obituary for a discount store owner, but no Torontonian will even think twice about my reasoning.

Edwin Mirvish, AKA Honest Ed Mirvish is the worlds best example of a responsible capitalist.

Honest Ed, for years ran Honest Eds World Famous Never Duplicated Bargain House in Downtown Toronto. He was a Millionaire many times over but not just in money. Ed Mirvish was loved by everyone that worked for him everyone who knew him and anyone that loved the arts and theatre in Toronto. Mirvish not only kept his prices low enough so everyone could afford to buy his discount junk (yeh a lot of it was Junk) but he filtered a great amount of the profits back into the arts community in Toronto. He also invested wisely in Toronto and his investment in the people and the city paid off for him in many ways.

He helped those in need when he could with, free legal and immigrant services, he rented his properties to small businesses at rates below the going rate, he restored the Royal Alexandra theatre, the Old Vic in London and in 1993 Toronto’s Princess of Wales theatre. He even gave out free turkeys at Christmas. Sure he made money he was a businessman, but one that never forgot that his customers were human, not money dispensing machines. It seems his son David is also of this same type. If we must live in a capitalist world, let us have socially responsible capitalists like Honest Ed Mirvish and his son David.

Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah, Ch. 344
“It is a great mitzvah to properly eulogize the deceased. The mitzvah requires raising the voice to say things that break people’s hearts in order to increase the weeping and to remember his virtues. It is prohibited, however, to exaggerate excessively in praise of him. Instead, it is proper to mention his good qualities and to add just a little, as long as there is no exaggeration. If the deceased had no virtues at all, nothing should be said”.

Torontonians will agree even in calling Honest Ed the “worlds best example of a responsible capitalist” I have not exaggerate excessively in praise on him.

Goodbye Ed Mirvish

Funeral for ‘Honest Ed’ today
Last Updated: Friday, July 13, 2007 | 8:39 AM ET
CBC News

Thousands are expected today at the funeral of Ed Mirvish, Toronto’s beloved shopkeeper, theatre booster and generous man of the people.

The ceremony is at 11 a.m. ET at Beth Tzedec Synagogue, 1700 Bathurst St., south of Eglinton Avenue. Police are expecting heavy traffic in the area and possible road closures.

Ed Mirvish was known for his giveaways. He hands out turkeys at Christmas with his son David.
(CBC) Mirvish, better known as Honest Ed after his iconic department store at Bloor and Bathurst streets, died Wednesday at age 92.

Since his death, people from all walks of life have marvelled at the impact his life had on the city. Many remember his generosity, including holiday turkey giveaways and birthday celebrations at the store, but it’s his genuine concern for ordinary people that shines through.

Mirvish’s business career began suddenly when his father died and left the 15-year-old with a store to run. It grew into the enormous Honest Ed’s department store that still dominates its neighbourhood.

Inspired by his wife Anne, an artist and singer, Mirvish added theatres to his enterprise beginning in 1962 with the purchase of the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto’s downtown. This saved the historic venue, which opened in 1907, from demolition.

In 1982, he purchased the Old Vic in London, England, acting without even visiting the building, but inspired by the many stories he had heard about the venerable stage from world-famous British actors who visited the Royal Alex. It has since been sold.

In 1993, Mirvish and son, David, added Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre to the empire.

Do Corporations care about their Customers?


TheStar.com – News – Rogers pins data dump on sales firm

Privacy has become more and more important in terms of preventing identity theft in this day in age. Companies like Rogers, CIBC, Winners and others claim they take the privacy of their customers to the utmost importance.

However, CIBC and Winners have recently been busted in terms of not protecting their client’s privacy. A Winners’ electronic database containing credit card information had been infiltrated by hackers. This meant that some credit card information was at risk of being stolen by the hackers.

CIBC was caught in violating the privacy of customers when a computer hard drive went missing. The hard drive contained 470,000 records of CIBC customers.

Recently, Rogers got involved in the game of ‘privacy follies’ when a senior found boxes of old work order records that contained the names, addresses, phone numbers, driver liscense numbers and credit card numbers. Rogers VP of Communictions, though, denies that credit card numbers were on the work order. Although, the Toronto Star did obtain some of the records when they visited the senior and they noted the numbers might be on the Rogers records in question. These records were found behind a coffee shop near a parking lot. In other words a very public place. The fact Rogers would let their customers’ personal information be poorly disposed in this way is astounding!

Even worse is the response by Rogers’ Vice President of Communications, Taanta Gupta, to the his company’s lack of respect for their clients personal information: “Clearly something went wrong….This is not information that should have ended up where it did.” One question to Mr. Gupta that every one of their current and past clients should be asking: “YA THINK?”

Rogers needs to re-look at their policies in terms of protecting their client’s personal information. In a further article, Rogers blames one of it’s contractors for not following Rogers’ policies in protecting customers’ personal information. The real question is in this day and age of the computer, why is Rogers releasing credit card information and Social Insurance Information to a third party in order to handle the ordering and installation? Last time I checked, that particular information is not required. So why does Rogers not use its technological superiority to remove this information from the customer’s records before forwarding it on to their contractors? Contractors should only be given private information on a need to know basis. For example, in order for a contractor to install Rogers high speed internet and cable services the only information the contractor would require is the name, address and phone number of the place these services would be installed. Thus, the credit card information and Social Insurance Number required for billing would not need to be released to the person installing the services. This information could be retained by Rogers themselves.

The idea of not allowing contractors to have too much information means that Rogers can ensure that their client’s personal information is retained by Rogers and not released to a non diligent contractor. Obviously a non diligent contractor was used in this case considering that personal information was easily available in near a parking lot behind your average coffee shop.

Corporations should not be releasing unneccessary information to subcontractors or unnecessarily within their own organization. Companies like Rogers, Winners and CIBC should be examining who and what type of information is accessible to their contractors and their own employees. This information (e.g. credit card information, social insurance number, address, phone number, etc.) should only be provided to employees and contractors on a need to know basis. There is database technology on the market that allows different levels of accessibility to this type of information. Thus a contractor installing services would only be allowed to access information that would be necessary to complete this task. However, someone in the billing department would be allowed to see the customer’s billing address and credit card information for billing purposes. In other words, there would be different levels of availability of customer’s information depending on what is needed to be known.

Corporations that are caught accidently releasing information should lose customer’s basis. This is because obviously these corporations do not care about their customers. If these corporations did, then obviously this information would be properly protected.

Recently there have been accusations that corporations have been trying to cover up their own messups in terms of releasing customers’ personal information. For example, Winners was accused of hiding the fact their electronic database had been compromised for months from their customers. This only further shows how much corporations care about their customers. Again, if these corporations had of cared about their customers, they would have properly protected their information. But then to even hide the fact this information may have been compromised only inflames the situation even more.

Corporations should be protecting personal information in order to prevent the theft of this information. Otherwise these types of corporations might find themselves with problems of theft, customers “thefting” their own money and moving their business someplace else.

Tipping at Restaurants & Clubs


I was out with a friend last night at The Laugh Resort comedy club in downtown Toronto. The comedy was good and the price of admission for two hours of stand up comedy entertainment of $15.00 was excellent.

However, I was disturbed when I received the bill for one pint of Rickard’s Red beer which came to $6.66. No, I wasn’t disturbed by the “666” price, although that is weird too. But the fact that there was a 15% charge on there for “service.” Why this charge? I can only think of two reasons:

1. The Laugh Resort was charging me for having to hire a waitress to take orders and bring drinks to the table instead of me getting up and going to the bar myself. But then again, wouldn’t I be tipping the waitress for this service instead of being forced to pay this service charge?

2. Forced tipping. This gets to me every time. The fifteen percent charged goes to the waitress as a guarenteed tip for serving me. But why should a waitress, or waiter for that matter, receive a tip if they provided bad to mediocre service? This concept offends me every time and I avoid places as much as possible that have a guarenteed tip or a “gratuity” automatically added on to the bill either at a flat rate or as a percentage. Sometimes this gratuity is added on to parties of six people and over.

I believe, in the case of The Laugh Resort, that the “service charge” is probably option #2. However, it did say on the bottom of my bill that “tips were not included.” If tips are not included then what is the charge for then? I assume it can’t be option #1 above as there was no notification (i.e. sign or verbal indication) that I could find anywhere in the club.

So on the basis of it being a “forced tip” then I’m going to assume the fact, in case of The Laugh Resort waitress, she made exactly twenty-six cents. Also, obviously the waitress either doesn’t want any more of my money or the club is shafting their waitress/waiter staff in tips. Shafting? Sure, I was willing to leave the comedy club waitress a two dollar tip after I left. Why two dollars? The beer came at a reasonable time and, when serving other tables around me, she made sure she didn’t block the view of my or other tables of the main stage. But I guess she doesn’t need any of my money if there was a 15% charge on the bill.

Forced gratuities or tipping makes me sick. Wait staff should be tipped based on the service level they provide. If the food is slow or cold, if a waiter is grumpy, etc. then the tip should reflect that. Sure if the food is cold or slow it might be the kitchen and some would argue that perhaps it is not the fault of the wait staff. But I argue that if the establishment doesn’t provide a decent kitchen, then the wait staff should indicate this to the owner of the business through either complaint or resignation. Also, some restaurants and clubs share the tips that the wait staff collect with the kitchen staff as well. So everyone should loose money in terms of poor service. A restaurant or club is a team employement environment. To be successful each person must work as a team to make sure the customer is satisified. Failing “the team” idea means a customer is less likely to return and provide even more business and possible tips for the staff. So there should be incentive for the team to work together to ensure customers are happy. Thus, tipping should not be “forced” because if “the team” provides great service, the customers will overwhelming ensure “the team” knows their appreciation through the tips lefft behind.

Gratuities and tips automatically added to the bill only give me one impression: The owners of the establisment do not believe their employees will give satisfactory to excellent service to their patrons. This is because if the owners did, obviously there would not be a need to force customers to tip or provide a gratuity for possibly bad service. With this in mind, why would anyone want to work at a place where the owners of the business do not believe in the staff?

That is what I left The Laugh Resort last night thinking.

The Art of the Rant: Guns came by mail … and left by theft #2


The Art of the Rant: Guns came by mail … and left by theft & Postal contractor charged after guns go missing

The continuing saga of the missing guns in Oshawa continues courtesy of our friends at Canada Post and Durham Regional Police.

Here is the article from today’s Toronto Star with my comments filling in the “unofficial” details of what really happen. I provide the comments as I am quite well versed in tracking packages with Canada Post using their “customer service” centre (the reason for the quotes around the “customer service” words in this sentence will become evident further on…I promise! ).

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A former contractor working for Canada Post has been charged with the theft of two firearms that were supposed to have been delivered to an Oshawa home last March.

The guns, a Remington Super Mag Combo 12-gauge shotgun and a Ruger Deluxe .22-calibre rifle, were shipped fully assembled from a Calgary sporting goods store, in the original manufacturer’s boxes and wrapped in brown paper, Durham police said.
There was no label on the package identifying the parcel as containing firearms. The shipper is not required to do so unless the guns are crossing the border.

Canada Post said at the time that its couriers will drop off a parcel even if there is no one home, but only on instructions from the receiver. The store shipping the guns had advised Canada Post to obtain a signature on delivery, but that was not done in this case, police said.

He finally went to police after Canada Post notified him that its records indicated the guns had arrived at the Oshawa depot on March 17 and were delivered to his home that afternoon.

But according to police, the guns, along with ammunition assembling equipment, were never delivered.

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Hmmm…..the guns were not delivered in March, the person complained in April, the original newspaper article (in the Toronto Star) appeared in May. So why did it take so long to complete the investigation once the customer complained?

Well lets see, when I call the Canada Post “customer service centre” I run the gauntlet of trying to get an answer on where my package is via the automated phone system. After mashing several numbers on my phone and totally confusing the posties automated phone hell system, I am put on hold until an operator is able to take my call. Sometimes I wait for five minutes in order to speak to an actual operator.

This operator tells me I should hear back in five days from an searching agent. Hmmm….ok…wouldn’t it be easier if a search agent were to engage a search for the missing package right away? Wouldn’t there be a better chance of the package being found the sooner the search be done? Might the delivery person who dropped the package off at the wrong address be able to remember a little better the sooner he/she is inquired to as to where the package is? With Fedex I seem to have had two packages saved from miss delivery because the driver was contacted within a day in order to ensure proper delivery to the right address. But I guess with Canada Post that makes to much sense.

After five days, and not hearing back from Canada Post, I call the “customer service centre” again and go through the same automated phone system hell as mentioned in the paragraph directly above. This time I speak to a manager who says I need to wait fifteen days before a search agent to be done. Please note, I am now taking notes of who I spoke with, date and time, length of time I spent on hold in order to speak to a live human person, and what each person said. Why do I do this? So the person who answers the phone know what I go through and what the instances I have run into.

After ten days, and not not hearing back from Canada Post, I call the “customer service centre” again and go through the same automated phone system hell as mentioned in the paragraph above and explaining what I have been through in the above two paragraphs (using my extensive notes described above). This time I am told by the customer service representative that fifteen days is when I should hear back. I inquired with this poor sap how a customer service manager could be wrong about the days required to hear from a search. I then ask about the Canada Post Ombudsman’s phone number. He said the Ombudsman wouldn’t be able to help several times before this Canada Post “customer service centre representative” gives me the number.

So with this in mind, lets finish up the newspaper story….

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He finally went to police after Canada Post notified him that its records indicated the guns had arrived at the Oshawa depot on March 17 and were delivered to his home that afternoon.

But according to police, the guns, along with ammunition assembling equipment, were never delivered.

————————————————-

So let me fill in the missing information that the newspaper reporter left out using my example from above as a guideline:

It only took about a month for Canada Post to figure this one out and probably several phone calls through the automate phone system hell by police to the Canada Post “customer service centre representative” who pulls a number of days as to when the police detective might be able to receive a phone call back as to the whereabouts of the guns and what went wrong.

The cops finally probably threatened to go to the Canada Post Ombudsman. However, the police probably got the run around with by the Canada Post “customer service reps” by refusing to give the Canada Post Ombudsman’s phone number. The police probably had to threaten charges against the reps in order to extricate that number. The rep then handed the over the phone number to the police.

The Canada Post “customer service representative” probably hit the alarm bell that the Ombudsman’s phone number had been requested. This alarm bell probably finally got the attention of the Canada Post search department to start an investigation into this package.

Then this happens….

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John Ryan Margach, 24, of Oshawa is charged with theft of mail, theft of mail containers and theft under $5,000. He no longer works for Canada Post.

The guns have not been recovered.

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Hmmmm….so Canada Post dilly dallies in giving an answer as to the whereabouts of the guns (based on my experience above) and charges are laid. However, in this case (as in the case of my own packages that have gone missing on more than 6 times since January) the original package goes missing for good never to be found again. Considering the contents of the package in the newspaper article, I would be very worried.

The question is, why is Canada Post so incompetant at trying to find these packages? What takes so long to even begin to find the packages that have gone missing in both the case of the guns and in my own experience? I am still trying to find this answer out from Canada Post.

If anyone finds out…PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

Why [Canadian] Banks Suck


Why [Canadian] Banks Suck – idea shamlessly stolen from Bill Arends

Why would anyone want to charge you a fee to hold onto your money? That has been my question about the Canadian banking system for quite sometime. Why wouldn’t the Canadian banks be fighting amongst themselves to attract new customers and hold the customer’s money until the customer requires it?

Instead Canadian banks have service fees for banking at the ATMs, banking with the teller, making transactions, looking at the teller with one eye closed, looking at the teller with one eye closed and standing on one foot…well you get the point.

While I was working in the United States for the New York City Department of Education (more on that here), I loved the American banking system. Not once during the year I lived in the United States did I pay one cent in banking fees. No I didn’t worry about how many transactions I made a month in order to avoid banking fees like I do with CIBC. In fact I could use my bank card anywhere Mastercard was accepted because the American banking system has figured out that the more versatile you make the card the more people are likely to use it. Also, when you walk into the front entrance of any American bank, as one Chase commercial put it, “you fall over ATMs”. In fact the most I have ever lined up for an ATM in the United States was just less than a minutes.

In contrast, I have to wait in line to use the CIBC ATM machines because the bank refuses to install more ATMs at their branches. I also must pay fees through the nose in order for the bank to hand over “MY” money when I need it.

Add to this the fact the Canadian banking system pays zero percent after the service fees have been taken out, it only frustrates people even more. You can save more of your money by hiding it in a dirty sock underneath your bed than by having the bank hold onto it for you. Figure that one out. You would think Canadian banks would want to hold onto your money in order to be able to have cash to loan back out in the forms of lines of credit, credit cards and mortgages in order to make large sums of money. Nope, not the case. The only thing Canadian banks are interested in are nickeling and diming Canadians to death.

Contrast that with my experiences with the American banking system. I can go into any branch of a bank where I have an account and ask any question and get a straight out answer at no cost to me. I can do things online, at the teller and/or at the ATM while not paying a dime in service fees. Add to this the fact that the banks pay interest rates, even how low they are, on the savings accounts only adds to the competition between the banks. However, the interest rates on your savings accounts increases with the larger the balance you have in your combined accounts with the bank.

Need a teller service? I hope you have time to spend fifteen to thirty minutes in a long bank line. At Citibank in the United States? Maximum 5 minute wait to see a teller! So why are Canadians paying service fees? I don’t know considering in comparison to their American counterparts, who pay nothing in service fees, Canadians seem to get poorer banking services in terms of numbers of ATMs and longer bank lineups.

The issue of bank mergers amongst the Canadian banks have come up in recent years. But why should Canadian banks merge and reduce competition in the banking industry in Canada? American banking firms have strict guidlines for operating in Canada, so there is really no competition there within the county. Canadian investment firms with ties to Canadian banks do operate in the United States (e.g. CIBC Wood Gundy, TD Waterhouse, ScotiaMcLeod, etc.) Thus, I believe if Canadian banks want to merge in order to become “more competitive in a worldwide market” let them. However, the newly merged banks should be prepared to face compeition in Canada. That means removing the required laws banning foreign competion and letting the likes of J.P. Morgan Chase and Citibank to operate branches in Canada.

Perhaps, following the mergers and the new competition, maybe the Canadian banking system will finally get the clue that their customers have had enough of paying service fees on everything. Then perhaps the Canadian banks will also smarten up and learn to value their customers hard earned money and not try and figure out new and innovative ways of taking their money while providing worse and worse service levels. Besides isn’t that the job of the goverment via the taxation systems to rip off Canadians and mismanage operations?