Tag Archives: Market Research

Falling in Love with Fall

Pumpkins at Reesor's Farm.

As I get older, I am becoming more and more fond of the fall season.  Whether it’s apple picking, going to the pumpkin patch, taking a drive up north to see the leaves change, or hitting up one of the many fall fairs, I truly find it an extremely enjoyable time of year.

While I probably should have written this blog a few weeks ago, given the great weather we’ve been experiencing, there’s still lots of time to get out and experience many fall-themed activities.  These may include:

1. Carl Laidlaw Orchards is perfect for apple picking!  Pick your fill of apples for a crispy, tasty treat, or turn your gatherings into a hot and filling apple pie. Some farms seem to be closing down as farmers sell the land to builders, so you may want to get out apple picking before you can’t anymore.

2. Take a hike or bike on the Don Valley to see the leaves change. The weather is perfect – not too hot, not too cold, and everybody could use some exercise.  Now is the best time to get outdoors before our cold, Canadian winter comes romping along.

3. If you’re looking for some more leaf-changing, and perhaps some nice pictures too, consider taking a drive to Campbellville and Kilbride – about an hour’s drive from Toronto. There are five regional parks in Campbellville and an abundance of great scenery and trees.

4. When driving around Kilbride, try and spot the iconic farmhouse driveway that was the default fall wallpaper for Microsoft several years ago.

5. Take a fall boat cruise on the RMS Segwun – North America’s oldest operating mail steamship. This year is its 130th birthday!

6. Support a local farmer and buy a pumpkin at the pumpkin patch…Downey’s Farm Market, Brooks Farms, and Reesor’s Farm Market, to name a few. Spruce your pumpkin up and decorate it in time for Halloween!

7. Attend some fun fall festivals!  Hit up Pumpkin Mania at Rounds Ranch for pumpkin-themed games, farm animals, and a pumpkin to take home for yourself, or swing by the Pumpkin Festival at the Buckhorn Berry Farm for wagon rides, corn mazes, and a spooky haunted barn.

8. Cross something off your bucket list and take a hot air balloon ride!  The changing of leaves makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience along with some beautiful scenery. Give Sunset Balloons in Scarborough a try!

Whatever you choose to do, enjoy and make the most of the fall season!

 

Add Comment

Canadian Tire’s Tireless Customer Service

Storefront of Canadian Tire.

About a year ago, I bought a portable tire inflator that plugs into a cigarette lighter adapter from Canadian Tire – the one on Sheppard Avenue, near Leslie. I find this gadget comes in extremely handy when the temperature changes (as it causes a change in tire pressure). It’s certainly much easier than finding a service station with an air pump that works…not to mention that most stations now charge a loonie for air!

Recently, the pump has been giving me a bit of a problem, and when I tried to use it a week or two ago, it shut off completely and wouldn’t restart. I didn’t have the receipt any longer, but since this tire inflator was Canadian Tire’s MotoMaster brand, I decided that I’d try going back to the store to see what could be done.

After a short wait at the Customer Service counter, a friendly employee listened as I explained my situation to her. She started to apologize and told me that the product does not actually have a lifetime warranty, but only a one year warranty, which I had admittedly exceeded. During the interaction, one of the store managers happened to overhear the conversation, and without hesitation, approved an exchange. The employee indicated that I should grab another inflator off of the shelf, did some paperwork, and within minutes I was able to go on my way.

At a time when retail manufacturers seem to stand more and more behind the fine print in their warranties, it was refreshing to see a manager step up to the plate to keep customers happy. It goes without saying that a happy customer is much more likely to be a loyal customer, and I would think that’s what ultimately any company is striving for.

I can’t vouch for all Canadian Tire dealers but I’ve been happy with my experiences at this location and this visit only reinforced my belief that I was shopping at the right store.

Canadian Tire
416-226-4411
www.canadiantire.ca

 

Add Comment

Happy Trails Claireville Ranch

Entrance of Claireville Ranch.

Back when my daughter was just three years old, we drove by a horse farm on the way to our cottage. Eventually, we started stopping at the farm as the owner would let her sit on a pony, and I would walk her around the property. The first time we did this, the owner thought she wouldn’t even last 10 minutes, yet an hour and a half later I was still going around the farm!

We continued visiting the farm, until they closed up (they’ve since reopened under new management), and her interest and love of horses has continued to this day.

One day, last year she asked if we could go horseback riding somewhere in the city, and after some research, we found a small facility known as Claireville Ranch, located at the Claireville conservation area in Brampton.

The ranch is located in a beautiful area, has about 25 horses and very pleasant and knowledgeable staff. The ranch provides pony rides for kids, trail rides, private trail rides, and riding lessons. The ranch doesn’t take reservations, but trail rides go out on the hour. An hour long trail ride costs $35.00 (however there are discount coupons online), which is one of the more inexpensive costs that I’ve come across.

When I first discovered the place, my daughter wasn’t old enough to ride on her own, so I took her on a pony ride involving me once again walking her around the facility. Fast forward two years, and a few weeks ago, she asked if we could go back again. She’s older now, so she’s able to take a trail ride by going on a horse herself. Despite the beautiful weather and crowd on the weekends, when we got to the ranch, they had space for us on the next trail ride. After signing the waiver, being asked if we wanted to rent a helmet (I suggest this), and paying, we had a few minutes to hang around, grab a cold drink, and enjoy the area. Just before our hour was to begin, we were directed to our horses, the saddles were adjusted, and we headed out onto the trail.

We had a leisurely ride and about midway through, one guide asked if we wanted to go faster. Unlike many trail rides which only go slow, we were allowed to gallop at a steady pace for a short time.

During this recent visit, as well as our previous ones, the staff were all extremely friendly, polite, and knowledgeable, and perhaps most importantly….had safety as their primary concern. Our group of about 10 riders and two guides had a great time, and despite some sore muscles, I’m looking forward to going back again. After a quick stop at the snack bar, we were on our way back to our place, which wasn’t more than a half hour drive away. For a fun and relatively low-cost way to do something different in the city, consider visiting Claireville Ranch!

Claireville Ranch
905-794-0700
www.clairevilleranch.com

 

Add Comment

I Could Have Been Sitting Two Feet Away From a Bomb… Luckily It Was Just a Training Exercise!

Several weeks ago, I was returning home from a trip with my business partner, Craig. We were sitting in the gate area at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport when I noticed an employee from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) K9 Unit approaching the area with a canine (his partner).

The handler allowed the dog to walk around all the seats and benches sniffing people and their luggage. When the dog approached my area, I asked the handler if the dog was trained for drugs or explosives and the handler indicated he was an explosive sniffing dog.

Seconds later, not even two feet away from me, the dog became focused on the contents of a bag with a shoe box and he pushed it out to where his handler was. As I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together, another TSA officer quickly approached me and indicated that the woman sitting above the bag was with the TSA and they were conducting a training exercise.

Looking back on the situation, I realized that the bag and shoe box sitting underneath the benches never caught my attention, and I never really gave the area a second thought. Had this not been a training exercise, I would have been sitting two feet away from an explosive device!

This experience got me thinking about The Department of Homeland Security’s Program, “If You See Something, Say Something”. The program promotes saying something if you suspect suspicious activity, no matter how minor or irrelevant it may seem, so that everyone can work together to keep the community safe. Whether it be terrorism, crime, or a variety of other safety hazards, you truly do have to stay alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Once again as the saying goes, if you see something, say something.


Homeland Security
Phone: 911
www.dhs.gov

Transportation Security Administration
1-866-289-9673
www.tsa.gov

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
972-973-3112
www.dfwairport.com

 

 

Add Comment

What’s a Trip to Jamaica Without Some Good Jerk Chicken?

Photos of the outside of Scotchies Restaurant in Jamaica

While nothing is more Canadian than having a cold beer and watching hockey, there are probably not many more things that are more Jamaican than drinking a Red Stripe and eating jerk chicken. As mentioned in my last blog, when it was time for lunch everybody that I was with wanted to go for good jerk chicken. Thankfully, when it came to finding a good restaurant, we knew we were in good hands. We were spending the day with Patrice Bailey, a well-known tour guide in the area and she highly recommended Scotchies Jamaican Restaurant.

Scotchies is a small restaurant chain with three or four locations on the island. They specialize in making authentic jerk chicken by placing it on a wood fire, covered with bamboo. While the food is cooked low and slow, you really can’t beat it, whether you order chicken, ribs, or any of their side dishes. Everything comes out hot, fresh and right off the grill!

The price is ridiculously reasonable. At Scotchies you pay for your food, find a table to dine at and pick up your meal when it is ready. While the service may have been a bit slow (hey…good food takes time!), I was really impressed at how clean the employees kept the seating area. As soon as guests left, employees rushed to clean off the tables, so they would be available for other guests.

One thing that I always look for in a restaurant is whether locals are also eating at the establishment. Since more than half of the people eating at Scotchies were locals, if the food keeps them coming back, it clearly has a good reputation. In fact, we didn’t arrive at the restaurant until after 2 pm and the place was still packed with a lunch time crowd!

If you get down to the area, I suggest grabbing lunch or dinner at Scotchies. Sun… ✓, fun… ✓, and good food… ✓!

Scotchies Jamaican Restaurant
876-953-8041
Scotchies on Trip Advisor

 

Add Comment

Sky High Customer Service

Recently Southwest Airlines was named as one of the Top Ten Most Admired Companies in the World, by Fortune Magazine. With that being said, I believe Southwest Airlines is a great company and I would like to share my recent travel experience with you. For transparency purposes, SQM does do business with Southwest Airlines and I know people who work for the company.

Years ago I started flying with Southwest Airlines because they had a reputation of being a low-cost carrier. Even though they aren’t always considered low cost, these days, I believe that the company still has a great reputation! Today they are known for providing travelers with very good customer service, empathetic employees who genuinely care about their customers and front-line workers who enjoy serving the public.

A few weeks ago I experienced Southwest Airlines recipe for success when my daughter and I became stranded at the Orlando International Airport due to bad weather. While we were waiting in line to speak with a Southwest employee, I noticed the staff made it a point to ensure that every customer was taken care of before the employees left the gate area. Considering we were all tired and upset, the employees did a great job ensuring each customer received the time and attention he / she deserved.

When I reached the front of the line, the employees made me feel like they cared about my situation and wanted to help. Together, the employees came up with a solution to get myself and my daughter to where the rest of my family was located (Buffalo). In addition to rebooking my flight as early as possible, they went above and beyond the call, to help me find a hotel for the night when they learned I was having difficulty finding one and noticed that my daughter was exhausted and upset. Within a few minutes they provided me with some contact information and I spoke to someone who gave us a very nice room and a special “stranded traveler’s” rate.

While there are many times in business where a customer is left feeling like they are just another number, I really felt like the Southwest employees added the personal touch to this difficult situation, making me feel valued and appreciated.

For those of you living in Canada, close to the border, I truly believe it is worth a short drive to the US to fly with Southwest Airlines. Southwest is a great company to fly with and I am confident that you will enjoy your travels.

Southwest Airlines
1-800-I-FLY-SWA
www.southwest.com

 

Add Comment

What Does Saving the Rain Forest Have to Do with Coffins?…I Don’t Think the Vultures were in the Rain Forest…

A photo of Charlie Hamilton from National Geographics

Last month, I attended a National Geographic Live presentation, where the speaker was a fascinating gentleman by the name of Charlie Hamilton James.  Charlie is a wildlife photographer who has won several awards and done work all over the world.

One of Charlie’s more recent projects involved photographing the wildlife at Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming, USA.  To do this, Charlie used a different approach than other photographers, and tried to make the audience look at the world (the cast of us in the world) and animals in a different way than most people may observe it today.  One such example is when he took photographs of vultures in the Amazon Rain Forest.  While most people think of vultures as disgusting and ugly animals, Charlie’s photographs will make you think twice, as vultures are truly incredible creatures.

In addition to his stories about Yellowstone National Park and vultures, Charlie feature presentation was called, “I Bought a Rain Forest”, which was meant to help the audience look at this area of the world in a whole, new way.  For example, a lot of people in the developed world criticize people for cutting down the rain forest but they don’t realize why the rain forest is being cut down.  Charlie’s presentation showed that the main reason for trees being cut down is to provide money for the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing.  People in the developed world don’t realize we are paying the people in the undeveloped world for their natural resources, which in many cases are used to manufacture things we don’t really need…or can use a little less of.

For example, when you take a close look at how the people in these areas are making their money, you realize that a lot of the rain forest is being cut down so people have space for their cattle.  Not to ruin a person’s livelihood, but the truth is, that if we ate just a little less meat (and I love a good steak as much as the next guy), a lot of this land could be saved.

Another example I found mind boggling is, that a lot of the trees being cut down are mahogany trees, and the only reason these trees are being cut down is to build caskets for North Americans (mahogany is the number one wood used for casket). As Charlie suggested, it really doesn’t make a lot of sense to destroy the rain forest to make coffins…a product that ends up back in the ground.

As much as I care about the environment, I have never considered myself a granola eating tree hugger, and Charlie’s presentation showed me that you don’t have to be one, to still care and do your part to protect this vital area of the world.

Overall, I found Charlie to be fascinating, entertaining and certainly worth listening to, if he is ever in your area.  Charlie did indeed buy a rain forest… but to hear that story you are going to have to attend one of his events.

Charlie Hamilton James
www.charliehamiltonjames.com

National Geographic Live Speaker Series
416-872-4255
www.roythomson.com/natgeolive/

 

Add Comment