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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 07.20.11
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Cancel that HBC credit card

Dear HBC Corporate Overlords:

My wife and I have been HBC and/or Zellers card holders for a good twenty years. In that time, we've been loyal Zellers customers.

When the WalMarts started moving in, we actually felt bad for Zellers. Yes, the quality of your house-brand footwear and clothing is laughably poor, but oh!, the savings we've enjoyed on diapers and toilet paper! Where would our kitties be without your giant tubs of litter? And where else can you get Ganong spearmint leaves around here? Nowhere.

Over time, we've squirreled away our Club Z points and have even used them on occasion. Most recently, I believe we redeemed our 2,344,278 Club Z points for a combination whisk/radio.

While we've shopped at The Bay infrequently, it's been handy whenever we've needed a gift for "a lady of a certain age." When I wake up with the words "impulse shopping" and "stodgy" in my head, I'll often rush to the Bay. Perhaps "rush" isn't the right word; "meander," maybe. "Hold up traffic while I drive for blocks with my left signal on," perhaps.

Throughout this time, we've used our HBC card, even though I always had to pull out two cards to complete the transaction: one for the payment, one to collect the points. But having that extra credit was convenient when we didn't want to pile those bulk sock purchases on our Visa card.

And, HBC, we've always paid off the balance. Sure, sometimes we were a little late, but it was nothing malevolent, just an oversight. As customers, we've had our quirks, just like Zellers has had that smell. I'd say we've learned to accept each other over the years, yes?

But something's changed. Suddenly, when our balance is overdue, you call. And it's not to say, "Hi." It's not even to offer us valuable accident and liability insurance at only pennies a day. It's to demand, "Where's our money?"

Suddenly, HBC seems to stand for "Harass, Badger and Coerce."

"Hassle, Browbeat and Collect."

"Hector Beyond Conceivability."

We'll have barely missed the deadline on the minimum payment when some HBC flunky will call. They never outright refer to us as "deadbeat customers" but it feels like it. It also feels like any moment the HBC agent is going to make reference to maybe sending around some guy named "Thumbs."

This past spring, we built up a balance of around $160 on our HBC card. (Toothpaste was on special, I believe.) Sometime later, we received a call asking us to make the minimum payment, $27. My wife sent a cheque for the full balance in the mail on May 29.

I didn't know this. So when I got the call a few weeks later informing me that my account was outstanding and when would I be making the minimum payment of $27, I chuckled. "Really, you're calling me for $27?"

"I assure you, sir, this is no laughing matter," scolded the woman on the other line.

But isn't it? Isn't it laughable that HBC is calling to collect the price of a two-four from someone who has a pretty solid track record credit-wise? Isn't it worth a chuckle that I had to explain to the next HBC caller that the cheque had been sent prior to the postal strike? Isn't it hilarious that when the cheque still hadn't arrived last week, HBC called yet again and suggested I travel the twenty minutes to my nearest Zellers to make that minimum payment A SECOND TIME!

I'd love to be able to attribute this new cut-throat grubbiness to the fact that Zellers has been bought by US-owned Target, but that transaction is still under way, and the harassing phone calls started prior to the deal. Instead, I'm afraid it's just our beloved Canadian companies getting sucked into a culture where the lowest debt-holders are browbeaten into submission while the corporations that encourage those debts get free rides and bailouts.

All I know, HBC, is that I'll be buying my TP elsewhere. For me, HBC now stands for "Has Been Cancelled."

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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