Thursday, July 31, 2008

There's no place like Holmes

You may have seen it on TV, but tonight, I saw it in person: the house that Mike Holmes built in his special two hour show, Lein On Me. It just happens that the homeowner is a colleague of mine, and during our United Way fundraising campaign, she auctioned off a tour of her house. Myself and two colleagues were the highest bidders, which allowed us and our significant others to take a behind-the-scenes tour of this amazingly modern eco home. We got to ride in the elevator to the green roof, see the two solar systems, and the awe inspiring 1" copper plumbing that feeds the flexible water supply system. (I can only imagine what their water pressure must be like!!!)

I must admit that I'd never watched Holmes on Homes until the day after I bought this money pit. Three years ago, I was living in a condo, and the whole HGTV network had no appeal to me. The biggest repair jobs that I did there in 5.5 years was replace the toilet flapper and re-tape the dryer vent hose. But the day after I signed that agreement of purchase and sale on a very old house, I switched over to channel 46 for the first time. We both sat silently on the couch watching Mike Holmes discover appalling construction errors and then swoop in like a super hero and "make it right". When I closed my eyes that night, all that I could see was a black hole sucking up all my savings and future earnings. The $400 we paid on a home inspection gave me little comfort. I felt like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo -- a swirl of worry about the roof, the foundation, the wiring, the plumbing, name it. The more that I watched the show, the more terrified I got. The more scared I was, the more I had to watch. My only salvation was to watch Holmes on Homes -- like a train wreck, I couldn't look away.

Sometimes Mike Holmes comes off as a bit too self-righteous on TV, although I'm glad to see that somebody is there to help homeowners like Christina & Joe. They have been through a tremendous ordeal, and while they are now the proud owners of an amazingly modern brand new home, being homeless for four years has taken its toll on them and their family. Being there and seeing it first hand, I was amazed by the design, architecture, and technology. I'm jealous of the environmental features and the amazing plumbing system that they have. But, I'm glad that my tiny little money pit has not revealed any of the problems that they've seen. I hope that if I meet Mike Holmes that it will be at a book signing or a cocktail party. But seeing his work in person was really fascinating.

To see photos and learn more about the house that Holmes built, visit the website. Or if you're one of my contacts on Flickr, you can see my photos there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Great beer + amazing customer service = one happy customer

Last week we attempted to refill the fridge with delicious Mill Street beer. Dan is quite taken with the Stock Ale, while I prefer the Tankhouse Ale. As of late, our local beer store is often out of Mill Street. The last two times we've had to drive to a few different stores to find any in stock. When they were out of stock this week, with the price of gas and all, Dan decided to just buy his old brand. When he got home, he wrote an email to Mill Street to ask why they never have it in stock. Within an hour, they got back to him saying that they have been having production problems keeping up with demand, but that they'd ensure that our local retail outlet receives more product. Then they asked for his address so that they could drop off a case of his favorite beer. The next day, a full case of fresh beer was delivered to our house. Now that is customer service!

Compare this to Dan's experience with Mazda and the worst dealership: Dufferin Mazda in Toronto. Phone calls, letters, emails -- to the dealer, owner and Mazda HQ, yet all they said is -- that's normal wear and tear. Check out Second blown clutch on 2004 Mazda3: do not buy from Dufferin Mazda! Their record speaks for itself.

Coincidently, I was checking my web analytics today and saw the 4th most popular post on this blog is the one about the blown clutch. Seems that a lot of other people have had problems with the clutch on their Mazda 3. Coincidence? Humm.... you decide. I think not!!

Dan drives his Mazda every day for his job, visiting customers and retail outlets. He spends his day talking to people. Today, as he was getting out of his car, another motorist asked how he liked his Mazda as he was thinking of getting one. Dan told him his story of bad product coupled with appaling customer service, and this potential customer converted immediately against the Mazda move. Yes, word of mouth can also be bad for sales.

What I know is that Mill Street Brewery could teach Dufferin Mazda a lesson on customer service. They have a customer for life, whereas we will never buy another Mazda.