Tag Archives: Experience

Behind the Scenes of Great Customer Service

Last week, I mentioned my daughter’s bat mitzvah, and the beautiful invitations that we sent out.  As part of the celebrations, we also wanted to jazz things up a bit, and so my wife decided to speak to somebody about décor options.

We didn’t want to have an overly fancy, lavish setup, nor were we interested in going crazy with our budget.  We did want to have a nice centerpiece on each table, some décor for the buffet area, a guest book so our daughter would have a souvenir to remember things by, and we also needed to have something for the table cards.  While some people go crazy depending on what type of celebration you’re having, we wanted to keep things somewhat low key but still elegant, whimsical and special.

Enter Lori from Behind the Scenes Creations. My wife had been referred to a few people, but as soon as she spoke to Lori, she knew she had found someone she could work with….something just clicked. Lori was creative, energetic, warm and understood our need to stay within our budget.

For the centerpieces, one of the themes throughout the function was the pineapple because it’s my daughter’s favourite fruit (and the symbol for hospitality). As a result, Lori put a pineapple on each table, on an attractive wooden platform, alongside a terrarium with cacti and succulents (another one of my daughter’s favourite things).  For the table cards, Lori handmade mini glass terrariums that mimicked the centerpieces, that were filled with live succulents.   Lori built stand up letters for the buffet, using flowers, for my daughter’s name.  Lastly, Lori suggested we put together a nice photo album (we did this at Costco) that everyone could sign.

With the exception of the photo album, Lori put together all of these items on her own.  Recognizing the manual labour that went into these pieces, I’m still amazed she was able to do this….and at an extremely reasonable price.

The telltale sign of success were the compliments we received.  Whether it was the comments regarding the centrepieces, the numerous people who asked to take a centerpiece (and the pineapples!) home and the many, many, MANY compliments on the table cards, Lori obviously is doing something right. If you’re in need of a superb event and decorations planner, someone that you will love working with, I implore you to consider Lori.  She did a fantastic job of bringing our vision to life for us.

Lori Himelfarb Weiss
Behind the Scenes Creations
416-566-6641

 

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An Invitation to Great Customer Service

Several weeks ago, my daughter turned 13 and had her Bat Mitzvah. As part of the celebration, we had a luncheon for friends and family. In the lead up to the event, one of the things we needed to do was to send out invitations to all the guests. While everyone does this a little differently…by email, handwritten notes, online invitation services, etc…..my wife wanted to send out a professional, beautiful paper invitations that was appropriate for this particular celebration.

My wife spoke to a few of her colleagues and met with a few different invitation designers. One of them was Gail Agensky, owner of Paper Heart Custom Invitations. As soon as my wife met with Gail, she knew she was going to be “The Person.” Gail was always responsive in terms of calls and emails, she was creative, she was always available to talk even before we put down the deposit, and she was always making suggestions for the theme of the card. It was no contest…my wife decided we were going to use Gail for this work – she was the one that could create the elegantly whimsical invitation. My wife also loved the idea of supporting a woman in a small Canadian business.

In addition to coming up with a stunning invitation and envelope, she also suggested a thank you card, using the same style and theme. Gail even helped us design a customized stamp so everything would be tied together nicely. She was also reasonable in terms of price, compared to other quotes we received. Gail obviously knows that a combination of great work and reasonable pricing is the recipe for success.

Aside from getting many, many MANY compliments on our invitations, when we mentioned her name, people have said they know and use Gail, and have nothing but great things to say about her and the highest regard for her work.

If you’re looking for a creative person to do beautiful graphics, Gail and Paper Heart Custom Invitations should be your first and only stop!

Gail Agensky
Paper Heart Custom Invitations
(416) 781-6423

 

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The Appreciation Series: Nurses

Similar to my last post, where I highlighted an amazing group of people, as a follow-up to that theme, I’d like to give a shout-out to nurses.

Unfortunately, from time to time I’ve had to be in hospitals with friends and family members and while I have previously complimented certain organizations, in this case I’d like to show my appreciation for a particular profession.

Whether it’s the emergency room nurses who may find themselves overwhelmed on a Saturday night, nurses who are dealing with people who may have mental health issues or just the common flu, nurses who deal with kids, crying babies, or older folks who are upset, they certainly are a special group of people. Somehow, they manage to balance many different demands, whether it’s people, technology, or understanding medical science—they are, in a manner of speaking, professional jugglers.

In addition to those working in hospitals, there’s also some different characteristics (which are no less important) for nurses working in long-term facilities or rehab facilities where the jobs are just as demanding, but require a somewhat different skillset for patients and families.

From my experience, it is clear that there’s more to nursing than just giving out medicine and changing bed pans. In business, I often say that there are people out there who are a jack-of-all trades and a master of none, but when it comes to nurses, they have to be a jack-of-all trades and a master of all.

Between high taxes and lots of other public services that require funding, I’m not sure if it’s realistic for nurses to be paid what I believe they’re worth, however I honestly and truly appreciate their commitment to their profession and the vital work they do.

To all of the nurses out there, thank you, never stop caring, and keep up the great work!

 

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Who Doesn’t Like Brunch?

We all have those lazy Sundays when we get up late, and look forward to having a hybrid meal that is not quite breakfast and not quite lunch. Here are some of my recommendations of some great places to go to in the GTA for a nice brunch. After all, you have to take a lazy, personal day, once in a while!

Aunties & Uncles – One of the best brunch places around! The restaurant is near College and Bathurst and serves up a perfect combination of breakfast and lunch items. Choose from your good o’l’ pancakes to your basic sandwiches. It’s open from 9 am to 3 pm, and the restaurant only takes cash.

The Stockyards – Located on St Clair Avenue West, The Stockyards is a small, restaurant that specializes in smoked foods, but has a number of other awesome items on the menu. When it comes to brunch, they are known for their fried chicken and waffles as well as their smoked trout sandwich, biscuits and sausage. Of course, you shouldn’t rule out their amazing brisket as well.

Starving Artist – If you’re in the mood for something casual, one person at the office recommended Starving Artist. The whole menu is waffles (even the desserts), but you can get different kinds of waffles like benedict waffles or sandwich waffles. They have a great way of presenting the food, and it’s a fun place to go to!

Rose and Sons – Rose and Sons is a delicious deli place that has a tasty brunch menu, with things like the New York cheesecake pancakes, pastrami, and chopped steak and onion grilled cheese. This small restaurant is on Dupont Avenue and while a bit pricier then other delis, it’s well worth it.

Centre Street Deli – For those of you who can’t make it downtown, there’s a local deli in Thornhill that serves a variety of chicken and beef platters and sandwiches. Although they are known for their smoked meat sandwiches, their breakfast menu also includes eggs, bacon, toast, pancakes, and omelettes. It’s an easygoing family-friendly location – perfect for something delicious and casual.

Rol San– If you like dim sum, this is the place to go! The restaurant is located on the east side of Spadina Avenue, two blocks north of Dundas, across from Kensington Market. If you swing by on a weekend, be prepared to wait a little due to its popularity. The dim sum menu is expansive, but you also want to try some of their other dishes from the regular menu. Get a taste of some authentic Chinese food and consider visiting Rol San.

Steve’s Restaurant– Steve’s is a classic restaurant, and while the original location on Bathurst Street closed a couple of years ago, their second restaurant on Yonge Street, in Thornhill, is still very much up and running. Their famous all day breakfast menu is to die for, with things like back bacon and eggs, New York steak and eggs, and a great club sandwich. They also serve up a mean omelette, with pancakes, crepes, and waffles to choose.

Easy Restaurant– In Parkdale, on Queen Street West, you’ll find Easy Restaurant. They specialize in Mexican food and have an all day breakfast menu with amazing omelettes. Choose from breakfast burritos, a breakfast quesadilla, or a guacamole BLT.

Maha’s– If you’re in the mood for something different, look no further then this popular restaurant which serves up Egyptian food. Try the Egyptian falafel, Maha’s award winning lentil soup, or the Cairo classic. The service is friendly, the menu is unique, and I’d definitely recommend Maha’s if you’re looking for something other than bacon and eggs!

 

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Fantastic Fun in Philly

As I usually do each summer, I recently went on a road trip to the United States, and while at the beginning of the summer I went to the western part of Pennsylvania, this time I headed east. We went to Philadelphia, but on the way I took my daughter to visit Hershey Park and Hershey’s Chocolate World (I can’t lie, I was more interested in visiting Hershey!).

In Hershey, there are three main attractions, one of which is Hershey Park. If you love roller-coasters, they have a dozen to choose from, and they also have a great water park to cool off in.

When you’re finished with the thrill rides,  there’s Hershey’s Chocolate World, where there are tours, chocolate tasting, photo studios, and a create-your-own-candy-bar factory….a fun time for both young and old.

If you’re into history, there’s also the Hershey museum, where you can walk through and learn about the family, the company, and the city.

Since my wife isn’t into roller-coasters, on the day that I went to the park, her and a friend decided to check out some other attractions in the city, of which there are several.  My wife started the day by being adventurous, by going spelunking and exploring the caves at Indian Echo Caverns.  After working up an appetite, she then visited Tröegs Brewery, where she took a tour to get a firsthand glimpse into the work that goes into the production process, tried several beers, and enjoyed some great food.

After we spent a couple days at Hershey’s we set off for Philadelphia, and I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but it’s a really interesting place with a lot of history.  Most people know the city as the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, where both the United States Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed, but there is so much more to Philly!

Down the street from the Liberty Bell are two cool buildings you must see: one one side of the street is the mint, where coins are made, and on the other side of the street is the federal reserve where they destroy money.  Both buildings offer free tours, and you can pick up some spiffy souvenirs…but no free samples.

Another historical site is the Betsy Ross House, where Betsy Ross lived when she sewed the first American flag.  Lastly, for those into history, a short drive from Philadelphia is Valley Forge, the encampment for George Washington’s Continental Army spent the winter.  An interesting fact that I learned on the trip is contrary to public belief, no fighting took place at Valley Forge…it was actually where they prepared for upcoming battles.

Of course, when you’re in Philadelphia no trip would be complete without a run up the Rocky Steps: 72 stone steps before the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The museum is one of many in the area, all of which are interesting and have their own quirks.  As an example, you can walk through a human heart in The Franklin Institute.

There are many other sites to check out in the city, including the waterfront area where they have The Rail Park– it’s a green park stretching three miles across Philadelphia on an old rail line.

If you like sports there’s the major league baseball Philadelphia Phillies, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team, and the Supberbowl champion, Philadelphia Eagles football team.

As everyone knows, one of my favourite pastimes is food, and one must-visit place is the Reading (pronounced redding) Terminal Market, where it’s a combination of a farmer’s market and food kiosks.  Drop by and pick up anything from a deli sandwich to chicken wings, to a philly cheese steak. I highly recommend visiting Beiler’s Bakery at the market, for specialty donuts such as the pumpkin pecan maple donut, the key lime pie donut, and the caramel latte donut.

If you’re up for trying something a bit different, there’s Pho 75, where you can get a combination of noodles, protein and veggies in soup for under $12.00 a person.  Lastly, there’s John’s Roast Pork, which has a great pork sandwich but is famous for it’s Philly cheese steak.  Be prepared to line up…. it’s that popular!

Finally, when it comes to food, take a trip down memory lane and visit The Franklin Fountain, an old-style soda shop that serves ice cream, malts, and sundaes. They’re known for they’re spectacular Root Beer floats which have been featured on a number of television shows.

Lastly, one thing that I often find very useful for city trips is to take the hop-on-hop-off tours.  We took ours with Big Bus Tours and the tour guides were extremely knowledgeable and the route featured almost 30 stops to well….hop on and off as you please.

I highly recommend visiting Philadelphia if you get the chance. It’s a beautiful city with lots to offer.

 

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The Hidden Gem of Orillia

While I’m usually visiting my friend in Orillia for some fun and relaxation, a couple of weeks ago I decided to beat the long weekend traffic by heading up a day early. My plan was to simply work on the Friday from up north; however, since my wife was also working, she ordered me out of the house so I didn’t distract her. As a result of my eviction, I decided to go work at the library, and when I got there it dawned on me what a great city Orillia is. Not just to visit, but to live and work in.

In terms of the library, I was completely surprised by how modern and new the amenities were. From updated computers, to quiet rooms that you could book, to free WiFi, and all sorts of amazing programs and activities.

But the library was really just the tip of the iceberg to the other benefits of living in the community. As mentioned in my last blog, Orillia has a large number of chain retail stores (Costco just opened up there), tons of shopping, and a variety of restaurants. In addition to a variety of amenities, the city also has a modern hospital that has recently expanded.

When it comes to transportation, the city is close to the highway, has public transit within the city, and if you need to get down to Toronto, there’s a number of options (if you can get to Barrie there is also GO trains and busses).

One other thing that I’ve come to notice in Orillia, is that there aren’t really many traffic jams. Even in the summer time, with people going to the beach or the cottage, traffic generally moves along smoothly. While there are still cars on the road, it’s never crazy busy like Toronto’s main streets or the 401, so it is also a less stressful commute. Another bonus for drivers is that for whatever reason, the gas is much less expensive than it is in the city, with the price being as much as 15 cents less a litre!

When it comes to real estate, the market also seems to be much more reasonably priced for both buying homes, renting apartments, and leasing office space.

Orillia is the OPP’s headquarters, so I have to think it’s a relatively safe community. I’m not sure what the employment opportunities are like, but it has just about any of the amenities that a larger city would have.

As I get a bit older, I realize that there’s certainly an allure to being able to work during the day and only be minutes from the beach or a boat for the evening and weekends.

A lot of people have migrated from Toronto to Barrie, but it might be worth looking another 20 minutes north to Orillia, for another potential hidden gem.

 

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The Grass is Greener with Scotts Lawn Care Products

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always taken great pride in my lawn. I vividly recall the day when we first bought our house, almost 10 years ago. The previous owners were an older couple and didn’t seem to take much care of the grass or do much landscaping. That first spring I spent countless hours pulling the weeds, fertilizing, seeding, and watering. I was satisfied when my neighbours commented how the house went from having the worst lawn on the street to the best.

While I do the work myself such as cutting the grass, landscaping, and taking general care of the lawn. I’ve had some challenges over the past two or three years. In particular, I’ve had chinch bugs. For those who don’t know, they’re very tiny bugs that eat the root systems of your grass. Then eventually your grass dies leaving nothing, but a brown patch..

Unfortunately, the only telltale sign that you have chinch bugs is when you start to see patches of grass that look dry and it quickly dies. Before you know it, it’s too late to do anything. While there are products on the marketplace that will supposedly kill the chinch bugs, most people will tell you it’s very difficult to get rid of the problem.

Last year, I managed to get rid of the chinch bugs loitering around my lawn, but a good third of my front yard was ruined.  As a result, I had to put down lawn seed and I typically use Scotts lawn care products. While hindsight is 20/20, I thought it was going to be much more work to put down sod, so I got a big supply of triple mix soil and a couple bags of lawn seed to see if I could rehabilitate my grass.

After a few fruitless tries, I sent up the white flag and called Scotts directly to see if they could help me out because despite all my efforts the lawn was looking absolutely wretched. I guess they got some entertainment in the way I approached them, and I ended up getting a call from Scott from Scotts. He is not in any way related to the owner of the company, but certainly knows the lawn care business!

Scott took some time to give me some helpful tips and suggestions. He told me they wanted me to be happy with the product and that it’s not usually the product, but how it is handled. Based on what I told him I was doing, it sounded as if I might not have watered it enough or used enough topsoil, and so he gave me some hints on how to effectively use the product.

Scott said I also might get a call from customer service, and that they might send me some more lawn seed. True to his word, the very next day I got a call from someone at their head office. They apologized for my disappointment with the product, even though I had made it clear that it had been my fault for using it incorrectly. The woman who called insisted on paying me back for the product and even sent me a cheque so I could buy more lawn seed.

Between them going out of their way to give me some helpful hints and reimbursing me for a product that was clearly not faulty, they’ve kept me extremely happy as a customer. Given that the hot summer continues to pose challenges to my lawn rehabilitation efforts, there is no doubt that I’ll be purchasing more lawn care products from them in the weeks and months ahead.

Between their excellent customer service philosophy and how amazing they are to deal with, I recommend Scotts for all of your lawn care needs.

Scotts
1-866-436-7645
www.scotts.com

 

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