Calgary Stampede Inhospitality Survival Guide – “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars”, title inspired by “United Breaks Guitars”

Friday, 8 July, 2011

July 11th, 2011 Update: After repeat correspondences with Calgary Stampede‘s customer service, it is unfortunate that Stampede and I can’t come to a resolution (re my car being towed by Stampede‘s mistake) that is satisfactory to them and me. And there is no point in going back and forth further on this. So in order for me to come to a closure and to turn the negative experiences into something that can help me grow, I’ve promised myself to do the following three things.

1) To make this a fun experience for me. I’m going to try to create a music video featuring my Calgary Stampede car towing experiences. I’ve only made a handful of music videos before and the last one I made was actually inspiring and fun, if I may say so myself. So I look forward to creating another fun MV.

2) I’ll try to write/crowdsource a song with new lyrics featuring my Calgary Stampede car towing experiences. And yes, you guess it, this new song will be called something like “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” (working title inspired by “United Breaks Guitars“). Dave Carroll really showed us customers that we are not beholden to faceless organizations who care little about customer services.

3) This last one is closest to my heart. I will try to write a “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” business case study to share the various lessons contained in my experiences. I think others businesses can learn something important here. You see, I think Customer Service Excellence is one of the most important goals for a company to aspire to achieve. This goal is so important to me that I have a blog dedicated to writing about the good, bad, ugly, and beautiful customer service experiences I have seen over the years.

Sure, this “Calgary Stampede Tows Cars” case wil be shorter, in terms of time, effort, and scope, compare to my 2006 iStockphoto Case Study and case study extras, but it should still be a lot of fun to share my insights.

NOTE: My horrible experiences isn’t like what Dave Carroll had experienced. But I believe there are still much for businesses to learn from my treatment and how businesses can better serve customers in the future.


Will & Kate Wristband Lineup - pix 51 - Tickets in Hand. Yeah !!!

It was a once in a lifetime occasion to see the recently wedded Will & Kate (Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) in Calgary, so I lined up early Wednesday morning at Max Bell centre for 3+ hours to get the wristbands plus filed some report (see video).

On Thursday, we got to BMO Centre early at around 3pm and parked at a Stampede Parking lot (as our wristband info card suggested). We parked at a lot on our left as per the instructions from the Calgary Stampede traffic person (someone standing in the middle of the street directing traffic). Everything seemed ok so far.

After seeing Will and Kate, and discovering our car was gone from the parking lot, we were told by a Stampede parking attendant that our car had been towed to some parking lot across the river! Huh, what was going on? We parked as we were told by a Stampede traffic directing person! How could our car have been towed? So the parking attendee tried to find his supervisor for further instructions.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 45 - After parking our car at Stampede parking as told by Stampede parking attendant earlier. We discovered it was towed to some far away parking lot.

Unable to find his supervisor via radio, he walked across the street trying to get help from another Stampede employee. This was when things turned from bad to worst/ugly. This employee, to protect the rude and inhospitable, I will call him “Faceless Andy” and covered up his face.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 46 - Faceless Andy told us to walk, yes walk, to the far away parking lot even though our car was towed because Stampede's mistakes. We parked as told. Andy set the standard of Stampede inhospitality.

Faceless Andy told us to walk, yes, WALK, to the far away parking lot across the river, even though our car was towed because of **Stampede’s mistakes**. Wow, really, this is how “helpful” Stampede is?!

Again, we parked as told. It was Stampede‘s mistakes, and now Faceless Andy didn’t even have the common courtesy to try to help us by offerring us a ride to get our car back?! What the “f” is this attitude? Remember, this tow lot is across the river, some distance away, and somewhere we had never been to. If you ask me, Faceless Andy truly set the standard of Stampede inhospitality and rudeness.

Really? Since when did Stampede start hiring employees this unhelpful and rude? Is this how Stampede‘s guests are supposed to be treated now? Worst, we, the thousands of wristbands holders actually went to see Will and Kate! We were in fact special guests to see the royals, following parking instructions as printed (yes, printed) on the 2011 Royal Tour information card! Instead of trying to be extra helpful, I saw indifference and rudeness.

Since Faceless Andy was getting us absolutely no where, and others nearby weren’t able to help. The parking attendent tried the radio again and finally was able reach his supervisor Joel.

Will and Kate at Calgary Stampede - pix 47 - After some convincing, Joel, person in charge of the lot, finally realized Calgary Stampede made a mistake in towing our car and agreed to give us a ride to the far away lot.

At this point, I wasn’t surprised that supervisor Joel had absolutely no idea about the parking arrangement for the Will and Kate event at the BMO Centre that is using Stampede’s parking lots! Read the rest of this entry »

AdAge: Customer Service Is Either Great or Terrible?

Tuesday, 23 March, 2010

Had a great time reading AdAge’s “Customer Service Is Either Great or Terrible – Is Anticipating Problems More Effective Than Responding to Them?” Here is an excerpt,

“I traveled extensively a couple weeks ago and suffered the usual indignities and disappointments of uneven customer service. You know the drill so I won’t bore you with details, except one: After a pleasant, issue-free stay at a hoity-toity London hotel, the guy behind the front desk wouldn’t extend my checkout time by an hour. He shrugged apologetically. I will never stay there again.

I’ve realized that I’m about as loyal as a fruit fly is long-lived.

It’s really unfair, if you think about it. The place did dozens of things just fine, if not exceeding my mostly unconscious expectations. But that one customer experience erased all of it and left me with the conclusion that the hotel isn’t worth visiting again. When I complained about it to a friend, he said that I might get a discount if I tweeted my dissatisfaction. This got me thinking about our approach to customer service, and I wanted to throw some questions at the CMO community that I’ve been asking myself:

Is customer experience a relationship or simply a series of events?
I wonder if there’s any collective loyalty beyond the last interaction. […]”

So I left Jonathan a comment.

Hi Jonathan,

Really enjoyed your thought-provoking article. At the same time, I think it is flawed by its incomplete consideration of the social media impact.

In our new social media age,
– The single customer can split/multiply “socially”.
– The single great/terrible experience can amplify/multiply “socially”.
– New and some-what strange metrics of “dis-revenue per employee” and “dis-revenue per customer” need to be created to complement the traditional metrics of “revenue per employee” and “revenue per customer”.

When I can find some time, I will try to finish writing the following business case which I created as a placeholder in Feb 2010 when the Southwest news was hot.
No LUV for Southwest Airlines: How to crash a brand in less than 100 hours in a perfect social media storm – A business case study (draft / beta)

Calgary, Canada

Customer service audit: Twinings of London (the tea company)

Monday, 22 March, 2010

Earl Grey @ 2010 Second Calgary Tea Party

(all photos by Kempton Lam)

This reporter had a wonderful tea party with friends in Calgary this past Saturday. We had some tasty food (see the following food pix) with Twinings tea. Observant readers may have noticed the above tea bag is actually an empty tea bag with no tea leafs!

When I saw the empty Twinings tea bag, I immediately thought, “Hmm, looks like Twinings had a manufacturing process glitch.” And I decided this could be turned into a nice opportunity to check/audit Twinings’ customer service which is exactly what I did this morning.

The process is simple, I looked up the 1-800 number on the package (it is printed on side of the 100 tea bags package) and called them to tell them what happened. The customer service lady was very nice and efficient in getting my information and address. And she promised to send me a replacement (I presume another package of 100 tea bags) which I suggested I would like to have some Twinings Green tea instead (specifically the Twining Green Tea and Jasmine Green Tea) to try. The customer service lady had no problem with my suggestion and told me  the tea will be shipped to me in 3 to 5 business days.

Great service. Twinings has managed to keep me as a loyal and happy customer.

You see, free product replacements and even refunds (for customers to buy any products the company make) are the minimum basic of good customer services in the days of multi-millions and billion-dollar brands.

So next time you see products that don’t meet your expectations, don’t hesitate to call up customer service or use that “satisfied or money back” guarantee, because you are actually helping the companies to do a better job and make more money in the long run.

Blueberry muffins @ 2010 Second Calgary Tea Party

Food @ 2010 Second Calgary Tea Party

Southwest Airlines – From a loved brand to a damaged brand – Kevin Smith & Linda Rutherford

Tuesday, 16 February, 2010

For some mysterious reason, I LOVED Southwest Airlines even I had never been on a Southwest flight. You see, I live in Calgary and Calgary-based WestJet Airlines models itself after Southwest. Anyway, Southwest used to mean nice people and services at an affordable fare to me until this morning.

After reading how Southwest had treated indie director Kevin Smith based on Kevin’s account of the facts and Southwest’s account of the facts (by Linda Rutherford – VP Communications & Strategic Outreach), I believe Southwest made some serious mistakes, continue to make mistakes and refuse to right itself.

I am blogging about this because I think there are some important lessons to be learned here. Feel free to share what you think in the comment section.

Here is an excerpt from CNet (emphasis added),

This may be the best example we’ve seen yet of how Twitter and other forms of new-media mass communication are shaping that old industry known as public relations. Nobody walks around with a Twitter follower count or blog URL painted on his or her forehead, and many extremely popular bloggers still live in relative physical anonymity, which means that the customer relations business is like a game of Minesweeper–you can never be sure what might blow up in your face. [kempton note: This is and should be good for customers because the companies better start treating EVERYONE with respect and good services.]

PR and customer service are two different divisions of a company. But this incident shows how, in the Digital Age, the two are increasingly overlapping. With Twitter, many companies are conducting customer relations in the public eye, and a company’s response to a high-profile disgruntled customer may require dispatching the PR team. Good communication between the two is obviously key.

From Kevin’s Twitter account, here are the first few tweets about this mess here, here, here, here (note: language), here (language re $100 voucher), here, here (on another flight), here, here (with twitpic), here, here (armrest up or down), here (the Southwest public shaming), here (the sad story of the big girl 1/2), here (big girl 2/2), here, here, SmodCast (***audio***, Southwest go f* yourself, a great listen), here (Kevin retweet Southwest apologize because Smith has a platform, part 1/2), here (part 2/2), here (the Southwest non-voicemail), here (the joke), here (Kevin reactions to Southwest’s non-apology 1/2), here (sorry, but you are fat 2/2), here (funny pix), here (Kevin’s reaction), other airlines, the offered $100 voucher (but not accepted).

Here are Kevin’s last two video clips

and this one.

A few of the many videos from Kevin about this mess,

More news from

SF Gate “Is Kevin Smith two people?” (funny)Mercury News, LA Times “Kevin Smith and the unbearable fatness of being”, LA Times “Kevin Smith’s Southwest Airlines incident sets Web all a-Twitter”, Huffington Post “Kevin Smith Challenges Southwest: Bring Airline Seat To Daily Show And I’ll Sit In It”, Businessweek: “Fat Nation: Kevin Smith is Not Alone in Airplane Space Wars”

For the record, because of this incident, I changed from someone who has never flown on Southwest but love it and would love to fly on it some day


someone who never want to fly on Southwest unless I have absolutely no comparable other alternatives.

P.S. This Southwest incident reminded me of Warren Buffett’s message to Salomon Brothers employees (I think it is Salomon),

“I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear on the front page of their local paper the next day, be read by their spouses, children, and friends … If they follow this test, they will not fear my other message to them: Lose money for my firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.

Now the concerned Southwest employees have dragged the whole Southwest corporation’s reputations through the mud. And this news has now been reported not only in their “local paper” but repeated around the world. And this news has not only read by “their spouses, children, and friends” but internationally.

The best policy is to treat each and every single customer with full respect and do the right thing. Don’t lie because your lies to customers will be discovered and your apologies may only come after all the damages have been done.

U.S. Airways Eats Dividend Miles

Monday, 21 September, 2009

Bad Experience with U.S. Airways Dividend Miles.

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