Tag Archives: Mystery Shop

Putting the Fun in “Fundido”

Los Otates Restaurant in Cozumel, Mexico

As mentioned in my last blog, Cozumel, Mexico is one of the ports that I have had the pleasure of visiting during several cruises. Aside from scuba diving, one of my favourite things to do in Cozumel is eat at Los Otates, a local restaurant. Los Otates is an authentic Mexican restaurant, just off the beaten path, in an area that tourists rarely visit. If you didn’t know it was there…you would never find it!

I first learned about Los Otates five or six years ago while I was in Mexico with friends. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the restaurant on that trip, but my wife was lucky enough to eat at this hidden gem. She raved about it and since that time, I too have eaten more than once. I always look forward to returning.

If I was to take you to Los Otates, you would probably think I am crazy based on its curbside appeal… because it has none. The restaurant is a small hole in the wall that has a green tin roof and a chicken wire fence on the side to close shop. The sidewalk leading up to the restaurant is in disrepair but it is in a safe part of town and the food speaks for itself.

Los Otates is the kind of place locals go to after spending a night on the town. All the taxi drivers know it and everyone ends up there, since they are open until four or five in the morning. Really – you want great food? Ask a taxi driver. These guys know their stuff.

They serve some of the best Mexican food I have ever eaten. They make the guacamole right in front of you, and melt the cheese for their signature dip, Queso Fundido, as you watch. There food is always fresh, served hot, and delicious.

Aside from the quality, you can’t beat the price! Whether it’s beers for a $1.40 US, or tacos for $2.50 US, you will leave extremely full without putting a big dent in your wallet. To put it in perspective, four of us stuffed ourselves silly, ordered beers and apple sodas and our bill only came out to $38.00 US. You just can’t beat that!

If you really want to experience authentic Mexican cuisine while in Cozumel, I really recommend that you abandon the tourist joints and head to Los Otates. They put the fun in “Fundido”!

Los Otatates
gerencia_mexico@losotates.com
www.losotates.com

 

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The Galveston Express Will Impress

Galveston Express Bus

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to begin a series of blogs about some great services and businesses I encountered during my recent vacation. As with all of my blogs, I will be highlighting both large companies and small businesses.

For many years I have gone on a number of cruises. Most of the time when I go on a cruise, I sail out of Florida ports, such as Miami or Fort Lauderdale, however, recently my family and I decided to try something different when we found a well-priced cruise sailing out of Galveston, Texas.

Unlike the Florida ports, where it only takes a short cab ride to get to the ship, the Port of Galveston is more challenging to get to since it is located about 45 minutes away from Houston Hobby Airport. After doing some research, it became clear, it was going to cost anywhere from $30.00 to $50.00 each way, per person, to get to and from the port.

With this in mind, my wife and friend found a company that was on the lower side of the price scale – The Galveston Express. Not knowing what to expect, we booked our tickets and hoped for the best. We arrived at the airport pick-up location 30 minutes before our scheduled departure time and were delighted when our shuttle arrived 15 minutes early.

The driver was very polite, professional, and organized. He helped load all of the passenger luggage into the vehicle and had a list of all the people who had a booking on this particular trip. The shuttle itself was a newer vehicle, very comfortable and well air conditioned. We had a great drive down to the port.

After our trip, once again, the driver arrived at the port 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time. I really like this business practice. It puts customers minds at ease, knowing they did not miss their shuttle.

The Galveston Express provides excellent customer service, current model vehicles, and the most reasonably priced transportation within the Houston area.

While I’m not sure I would sail out of Galveston again, because of the added expense ($180.00 for a family of three) and unpredictable weather, I would not hesitate to use the Galveston Express if I was in need of a transportation provider.

Galveston Express
409-762–4397
www.galvestonexpress.com

 

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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

 

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How Starbucks Became my “Third Place”

Starbucks Secret Menu

When it comes to my caffeine fix, I will admit that I love Tim Hortons and always go there for my morning coffee. The coffee tastes great and I find it less expensive than many coffee shops.

That said, in more recent times, my visits to Starbucks have become more regular, since my wife and daughter enjoy a number of their drinks, including their “Secret Frappuccino Menu”. In addition, over the last few months, my daughter has asked me to take her to the local Starbucks so she can sip on a beverage and relax in the “big cozy chairs” after a day of skating or other fun activities.

Since I began sharing these experiences with my daughter, I have started to appreciate the Starbucks experience even more. Currently, I frequent my local Starbucks to catch up with friends, have informal business meetings, or get work done without the distractions encountered at my home or office. In fact, between the big cozy chairs, the free Wi-Fi, and some nice music playing, I’m wondering if I really need an office anymore!

During a recent visit, I was surprised to observe how many of the customers at the Bathurst and Joicey location were regulars. What was even more surprising, is how the employees knew many of these people by name, regardless of whether they were a manager, full-time or part-time employee. In addition to the personal touch, I also like how this location usually has seats available. Whether it’s the big cozy chairs, a table for two, or space at the communal desk, they have room for everyone!

I remember Howard Schultz, the founder of Starbucks saying that his goal was to have Starbucks be the “Third Place” in our lives…home being the first, work second and Starbucks third. Given my recent experiences, I see what he means, and I think that he might have succeeded.

So if you have some time to kill, want to catch up with friends, relax with a book, do some work, or just sip on a tasty drink, check out your local Starbucks.

Starbucks
1-800-782-7282
www.starbucks.ca

 

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Walmart’s Improving Customer Service

While many people shop at Walmart for deals based on low prices (but even that is debatable), I have never heard of anyone recognizing them for providing excellent customer service.  Today, I am going to do just that!

Over the holidays, we were cleaning out my daughter’s dresser drawers and came across a Walmart bag with a new pair of snow pants (with the tags still on) that were purchased last year.  Seeing how my daughter grows really quickly, these brand new snow pants no longer fit, so I decided to take a shot in the dark and brought the snow pants with me on my next trip to Walmart at Bathurst and Centre, to see if I could return them.

Surprisingly, despite it being a busy time of year, the line moved quite quickly.  When I got to the front of the line, I told the woman working that I did not have the receipt, so she tried looking up the snow pants in the system but couldn’t find them.  She then called over a manager who took the pants into the back room and returned saying the item would now scan into the system.  The woman immediately processed the return and gave me a store credit for the value of the pants.

Completely unrelated, a couple days later, my dad gave me a call and told me the bundle buggie I bought him three months earlier was broken since a wheel had fallen off.  I picked up the buggie and took it back to Walmart where I ironically spoke with the same woman who helped me with the snow pants.  She told me to go into the store, grab a new buggie and come back to her desk to process the exchange even though I did not have the receipt….again!

When I returned to her desk, she called over the manager to authorize the exchange, who did so immediately, and within a few minutes I was once again on my way…..and very pleased with how things were handled.

I must say how impressed I am with the employees and managers working at Walmart.  In less than a week, I had two great customer service experiences that demonstrate Walmart stands behind their products.  If Walmart continues to get their customer service right, they are going to be an even more successful company than they already are.

Walmart Canada
1-800-328-0402
www.walmart.ca

 

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Even I Like Shopping for Housewares…..Here’s Why

Photo of Cayne's The Super Houseware Storefront

Many years ago, when all of my friends started to get married, the bulk of them registered at Cayne’s The Super Houseware Store.  Cayne’s is located on Doncaster Avenue in Thornhill, and is known for selling high quality kitchen appliances and many other houseware items at the best possible prices.

Aside from providing the lowest price (at Cayne’s you never have to price match since the prices are already rock bottom), Cayne’s is also known for variety of other reasons, including:  having extremely helpful and knowledgeable sales associates working on the sales floor, supplying a large product selection, offering extended warranties to customers and stocking replacement parts of the items they sell.  All of this creates a recipe to ensure happy and loyal customers.

At Cayne’s it is always easy to find a sales associate to help you while browsing through the store’s aisles.  Don, is one of the managers in the store, and is an excellent source of knowledge.  He has been working there for as long as I can remember and aside from knowing all of the products Cayne’s sells, he is very familiar with competing products available on the market.  After speaking with Don I can guarantee that you will be able to make an informed decision on the best product for your household.

Recently Don helped me pick out a gift for my wife.  He helped me get the best market price and on top of that he told me how to apply for the factory rebate, which saved me even more….just don’t tell my wife 🙂

Another wonderful thing about Cayne’s is they stand behind the products they sell.  Cayne’s has taken it upon themselves, to include longer warranties (no additional costs), on many products which they sell, beyond the time frame given by the manufacturer.  In fact, on occasion, and depending on the circumstances, they have even accepted defective products after both warranties have passed.  Cayne’s believes in all the products they sell and wants to make things right for all of their customers.

Whether you are looking for a gift or something for your home, Cayne’s is a great place to check out.

Cayne’s The Super Houseware Store
905-764-1188
www.cayneshousewares.com

 

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No Muss, No Fuss… When It Comes to Returns, Costco Gets It!

This is a photo of a Costco Storefront

As much as I enjoy shopping at Costco, some of their customer service issues really drive me crazy! Whether it’s the frustration of not being able to find assistance while in the warehouse, or how customers have to wait in long lines just to purchase one or two items, I still feel that they have lots of ways to improve their experience. But today I’m going to tell you about the one thing that Costco gets right, and masters, time and time again.

As an expert in the customer service industry, I’m extremely impressed with Costco’s ability and willingness to deal with returns. Costco provides members with a no muss no fuss warranty policy, as I learned, last year, after purchasing a car battery at their Downsview location. Much to my surprise, the battery died after only six months, and despite not being able to find the receipt, I decided to take the battery back to Costco to see what they could do. The associate immediately looked up my receipt via my membership card and exchanged the battery for a new one….no questions asked. Six months later I had the same issue and I took the replacement battery back to the store, expecting an argument, if not at least some suspicious stares, but once again, the employee made the exchange quickly, efficiently, and without asking any questions.

In more recent times, I decided to put Costco to the test after I bought a package of three rib eye steaks for about $40.00 (boy, meat and steak prices have really increased over the last few years!). When we ate the steaks, my wife and daughter complained they were tough and really fatty, and I completely agreed.  That evening I called Costco and told them about our negative experience. The lady on the phone was very apologetic and disappointed to hear what had happened, and with no hesitation, whatsoever, she told me to return to Costco with the receipt and they would give me a full refund on the steaks.

I was so surprised by her gesture, I clarified that I couldn’t give the steaks back as they were already consumed and the lady said, “Don’t worry about it! We want you to be happy and satisfied with the product”.

While I begrudgingly accept some of the customer service issues associated with a warehouse operation, clearly Costco is a company that stands behind their products, and to me that’s almost as important as great customer service. I know that Costco isn’t for everyone but you may want to consider them for certain shopping needs.

Costco
1-800-463-3783
www.costco.ca

 

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