Monthly Archives: November 2013

Only Child tackles more consumer issues – Swiss Chalet

Only Child  rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Only Child rests before doing more battle with companies screwing the consumer

Sometime I think that crawling into a hole would be heaven. It’s winter – too early this year. But mainly I am fed up beyond the top of my head with all the crap big business and big government shoves at you when you are just going about your daily business.

My current battles are with Rogers Cable TV and Swiss Chalet.

Let’s cover the latter first as it is shorter and less complicated.

Sunday evening my friend Carol and I went out to dinner at the Swiss Chalet near our homes. I’ve never had problems with any Swiss Chalet before but the waitress who “served” us takes the cake (stale preferred; she doesn’t deserve fresh) for stupidity and dishonesty.

The actual taking our orders and bringing the food went okay. However, when our bills came, that’s when the trouble started. Carol’s bill was fine. But I was overcharged for the extra side – the sweet potato fries. Anyone who has eaten at Swiss Chalet knows that most of their main dishes include the cost of one side and for any others you pay extra. I was charged $4.58 for the sweet potato fries. Where did this broad get this amount? Not on the menu. The menu said $6.49 for a large order of sweet potato fries on their own and $1.99 for a side. I didn’t care if the fries or the vegetable medley was the extra side to pay for as long as I was charged the correct amount.

Trying to make this broad understand was worse than the proverbial pulling teeth. First she said she gave me a large order of SWF; but she finally did go back to change it.

Still not correct. Now the basic dish had gone up $2. and the Sweet Potato Fries were charged as an extra $1.99. So, I disputed this. She didn’t understand – or pretended she didn’t.

“Get me the manager,” I said.

The manager arrived and I explained the situation to him and reiterated that I didn’t care which side was included in the main dish price and which was the extra side. But I shouldn’t be charged for two sides. He checked with the menu and said the SPF are always $1.99 as a side but he conceded the menu didn’t make that clear. So he fixed the bill and this time it was right. When Ms Duffuss came back for the money, I paid with a $20. She asked if I wanted change and I said “yes.”

She didn’t come back with my change. I saw the manager still around the tables and called him over and said I was still waiting for my change. He spoke to Ms Duffuss and she returned with four quarters on the bill platter.

“I already gave you the change,” she said.

“No you didn’t,” I replied. I picked up two quarters and left the rest. Fifty cents was my change, not $1.

She didn’t get a tip and as the manager was aware of her incompetence, I hope he fired her.

This week I’m calling Swiss Chalet head office – you know the number on the bill with the “How did we do today?” and an access code?

I won’t boycott Swiss Chalet – even this branch – but if Ms Duffuss is still there I’ll make sure I don’t sit in her area.

Next week the Rogers Cable TV story.

What consumer issues have you personally run into lately? Do you let them slide or tackle them? Please comment.

And for those in the Toronto, Ontario Canada area interested in writing memoir I’m doing another Kick-starting Your Memoir Using the Six Senses this Thursday evening (Nov. 28) at the Beaches branch of the Toronto Public Library. See


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Consumer action, Life demands, Money

Only Child looks at weddings back then and now

Only Child's Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

Only Child’s Mom and Dad a few years after they were married

November holds a lot of close family anniversaries – sad and happy. Last week I posted about the anniversary of my dad’s death. Mom’s birthday was November 9; I got married November 13 – and with that date it’s no wonder it didn’t last. But my parents’ marriage lasted 26 years. That doesn’t seem like a long time, but that was because Dad died in 1965.

Mom and Dad were married November 25, 1939 in St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Toronto. Weddings back then were very different from now. Besides the World War II factor, couples getting married weren’t so greedy – insisting that guests not only bring expensive gifts but cough up money to pay for their too expensive wedding. Considering that many marriages don’t last “til death do us part” these two penchants for money, money don’t make sense. And I thought weddings were supposed to honour the bride and groom, not pay their bills.

I’m not going to delve into this much further, but here is a link  from a very recent Toronto Star story about a wedding gift issue that gets the (wedding) cake  (for the brides to choke on) for stupidity, crassness, rudeness – all bad traits and no good ones from these brides.

And smart advice from the relationship expert – Ellie – in the Toronto Star on this issue.

 When you read the first one (and it is linked from Ellie’s column), you may reach the same conclusion as me. Abolish lavish weddings and elope.

In 1939 with the Second World War just started, weddings focused more on the basic raison d’être – celebrating with the bride and groom. Fabrics for white wedding dresses weren’t readily available. Mom wore a satin blue suit. I remember this suit – and no, I sure wasn’t around then (and not for nine years after) but the suit sat in Mom and Dad’s bedroom closet – I think it was even in my bedroom closet for awhile. No idea where it went but I suspect it got swept out with a lot of stuff when Mom downsized in 1968 and the two of us moved to a two-bedroom apartment.

Mom didn’t say much about the wedding and its reception. From photos I have outside the church and inside the reception hall (and they are mostly too small to post, so you get one of the happy couple a few years after they were married) , I gather it was a small family affair. The reception was held at 10.30 a.m. (I remember hearing that – I’d never make it to a wedding, let alone a reception, at that time) and it was a breakfast. The fiancé of Dad’s youngest sister was manager of the dining hall at a small hotel near the church, so that’s where the reception was held. The funny part is the way the small party attending was seated. Tables were put together in the shape of an L – with Mom and Dad at the head in the middle – on Dad’s side for the rest of that part of the L, sat all his blood family members (and outlaws, I mean, the inlaws, too) and on Mom’s side it was her family.

I have no idea what gifts they received but it sure wasn’t stacks of money. I suspect it was maybe some place settings for their good dinner set, maybe a lamp – something useful and thoughtful.

This wedding gift setup still existed when I got married November 13, 1971. My fiancé and I registered our good dinner set choice at Eaton’s and Simpson’s and received a number of place settings (cost from $20 to $29 per – there was a sale on part of the time), wine glasses, bed sheets. It was unthinkable then and when Mom and Dad married for guests to fork out cash to pay for the wedding. And we didn’t have a lavish reception – but that was partly by choice. We married in a hurry (no, I wasn’t pregnant – my Mom had died suddenly three months prior and my fiancé and I had moved the wedding forward three months) so we didn’t have much money and the tradition of the parents of the bride paying wedding expenses obviously didn’t apply. We did use the downstairs dining room of the restaurant Mom and I had picked –fortunately Mom had booked the room, albeit it for the later date, and the restaurant owners just changed the date. It wasn’t the Ritz, but Mom and I knew the family who owned it and it was in the neighbourhood.

I’ll leave you with one question and please comment.

What do you think of the current trend of the wedding couple (gay or straight) insisting that guests help finance all their wedding expenses and then also expect an actual gift?

You know what I think.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Eaton's, Family, Mom and Dad, Money, Only child, Sharon A. Crawford, Uncategorized

Only Child honours Dad on his anniversary

Only child's Dad when he worked for the railway

Only child’s Dad when he worked for the railway

Losing a parent can be devastating, but particularly if you are a child. My dad, Albert Langevin,  died from brain cancer at 66 on November 15, 1965. That is a double whammy as I was only 16 at the time. But if truth be told, Mom and I had lost Dad years before that to cancer, starting with the first cancer hit in his lungs a few months before my 10th birthday. Surgery of half a lung removed got rid of it there, but cancer being cancer, it spread to his brain two and a half years later. Mom and I thought he would die. And we had the talk.

One day Mom corrals me in the kitchen.

“Sharon, I have something to tell you,” she begins, as we stand, facing each other. This isn’t sit-down business. “Your father has cancer of the brain.”

“Is he going to live?”

“I don’t know.”

Our hug does not reassure. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

So Mom called in the “troops” in the form of one of her older sisters to help out at the house so she could spend more time with Dad and often I joined her.

Aunt Gretchen now joins the litany of worriers hovering around Dad as he continues to vomit and endure the headaches. She brings her dumpy flowered housedresses, straight black hair, black oxfords, and bricks of blue cheese that stink up our fridge and would probably kill Dad if he were home and could keep anything down. I don’t remember Gretchen ever setting foot in the hospital, but she rules the home front. She commandeers the cooking and washing up after dinner, supposedly a blessing for mother and me…


Gretchen’s answer is to pray. I still hold onto religion then, so our impromptu female trinity prays rosaries, as if strumming the circle of beads and muttering praises and pleas will make my father whole and keep him alive.


St. Michael’s Hospital radiatesa friendlier air than Western, maybe because the chief guardian angel resides there. And St. Mike must have listened to our prayers, because one day when mother and I walk into his room, Dad smiles at us.


“I ate a cheese sandwich, and it stayed down,” he says. [Author Note: not blue cheese]


Soon after Dad returns to our house and Aunt Gretchen returns to hers. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford)

That wasn’t the end of the cancer but four years later would be Dad’s end.

I like to remember Dad for more than just his cancer. He taught me to ride my bicycle, leading me along our street and the dead end crescent adjoining it. I was nine and a half, maybe a bit old to be just learning to ride a bike as my best friend The Bully told me. Looking back I realize that Dad holding the bike bars and leading me around along our street helped neutralize this Bully’s remarks. True, Dad was overprotective, as elderly parents often are, but he tried to protect me from The Bully.

Dad gave me the gift of being a railway/train-riding enthusiast. Dad worked as a timekeeper for the old CNR (when CN was CNR and had passenger service) so Mom and I got free passes. Our annual holidays to Grandpa’s and my godmother’s farms near Walkerton, Ontario, trips to visit the Detroit, Michigan relatives, and tourist trips to Buffalo, Rochester and New York City were all courtesy of Dad.

Dad’s railway job (an office one at the CNR office when it was in Toronto) may have induced his obsession with all things (including the kitchen wall clock and his watch) being on time. We had to arrive at Toronto’s Union Station very early so he could be first in line to get on the train. Once we were allowed on, Dad cased the joint by walking up and down the coach aisles until he found the perfect seat. Then he would grab the top of the seat back and slide the seat backwards, creating two double seats facing each. I know, this dates me, but it was a great answer to keep families travelling together.

One of our trips to Detroit, when I was five was memorable because when the train arrived at Windsor, Ontario, a boat took us, train and all across the Detroit River.


Enter the Landsdowne Ferry in 1891, at 312 feet, the longest ferry on the Great Lakes. That summer of 1954, Mom, Dad and I were fortunate to take one of its last runs because in September 1955 or 1956, depending on your source, the CNR pulled the plug on passenger railway/ferry service. Once again passengers had to disembark from a train at Windsor and board an American train at Detroit. This time a bus carried them through the Detroit-Windsor tunnel.


But to a five-year old, the river run is a big sea adventure filled with rollicking train coaches and the screech of metal wheels on steel rails as the train jerks and jolts onto the long open freighter. Instead of the train whistle, we get the foghorn call of the boat and the floor seems to zig and zag. I hang onto the seat, but I also look out the window. The train appears to be moving on water, as if its wheels are kicking through the river…


We head to the back of the train and I gasp. The doorway is wide open and an expansion gate blocks our exit out onto the boat. On the other side of the gate the top of the boat sits level with the tracks, and beyond is the city of Windsor, fast disappearing as the boat-train sloshes and kicks its way through the dark green Detroit River. (excerpted from You Can Go Home – Deconstructing the Demons, copyright 2013 Sharon A. Crawford.

Sometimes in November I can feel Dad’s spirit here in my house. In 2005, on the 40th anniversary of his death, I heard his spirit rush through the house, through the back hallway.

I don’t know if he will re-appear so dramatically this year, but I know he is here.

Love you and miss you Dad.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes

Dad's last picture

Dad’s last picture

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

Only Child at 13 and Dad on veranda of house where she grew up

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Filed under 1950s, 1960s, Albert Langevin, Canadian National Railway, Death and Dying, Elderly parents, Family, Mom and Dad, Only child memoir, Railways, Sharon A. Crawford, Vacations

Only Child tells tale of two photo ID ops

Only Child getting ready for photo ops for photo ID

Only Child getting ready for photo ops for photo ID

It’s all in the level of government you tackle. The Municipality of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) may have a questionable character as mayor, but their TTC consumer service is sure going great, and I suspect improving a lot since Andy Byford became the head honcho at TTC.

Not so Service Ontario and its “parent” ministry – the Ministry of Government Services. (I spit on that last word).

So, the baddie first.

Last Saturday was almost a repeat of the previous Saturday’s venture to the Service Ontario centre near my residence. That includes it was again raining, again I waited ages for a bus, and again a line-up inside the Service Ontario Centre, which again kept moving.

Finally I got to the head of the line and with a different counter clerk this time. I might as well have been dealing with a brick wall. This bitch did clarify that the paper certificate isn’t valid but also wouldn’t accept the laminated version because she said it didn’t have a registration number. Bitch No. 1 the previous Saturday said they accept laminated versions. I was so upset I said I’m a journalist and I’m not letting this one go and stormed out of the place.

It wasn’t until I got home and had another look at my laminated birth certificate card that I noticed –yup, it does have a registration number.

I went to work online and used my journalistic research skills. First I found more rules and regulations for obtaining an Ontario Photo ID card. The only reference to a laminated birth certificate card was in the footnotes to the tune of if your original birth certificate says that any laminated version is void, you can’t use the laminated version. Well my non-valid original birth certificate was issued decades before laminated versions came along.

Then Ms. Google came through with finding out which Ontario Ministry oversees this photo ID business. Found a complaint form and did a generic form of my story (no personal information was allowed except I put in I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – but so were a lot of others) and I did mention the actual Service Ontario Centre giving me grief.

They got back to me two days later by email. Are you sitting down? It gets more ridiculous. The reply clarified that my paper documents isn’t valid and why. Okay, I accept that. But for the laminated one they said that any issued after 1982 isn’t valid. (Mine was issued in 1970) and it is up to the individual Service Ontario clerk whether to accept the laminated version or not). Monty Python would be proud. For some reason their dead parrot skit is running through my mind.

My next step was to forward the response from the MGS (including my online form complaint to them) to my Ontario Member of Parliament with a few comments to start off the email and a request to help me get my Ontario Photo ID using my valid laminated birth certificate card. And I gave my phone number and times when I’m available in case the MPP prefers to phone me.

Next step will be the media.

Now the goodie – the TTC.

Yesterday morning I phoned the TTC Metropass department to find out how to get my adult pass changed to seniors effective next month when I officially become senior. The fellow said he could do it over the phone and after a few questions (like my birthdate, name, address), he said the seniors metropass would start from December and would be in the mail for then. Plus the lower amount will be deducted monthly from my bank account (I will save about $22.25 a month). Then he transferred me to the TTC photo ID department.

The lady answering the phone was polite and told me that I would only need my Ontario Health card for ID and that they were open to 7 p.m.

I showed up there around 6.20 p.m. yesterday and I couldn’t be more impressed. These young counter clerks, late teens to early 20s, need to be complimented publicly for their professionalism, concern, helpfulness and friendliness. Actually the guy standing by the short lineup (mostly students for their cards) was probably closer to earlier 30s, but he checked my Health Card and then I went to the first clerk behind the wicket. At first she said I was too early and to come back the last week in November (because I’d have the actual Dec. senior card received in the mail) but when I explained that I had called earlier in the day and wasn’t told this, she said she remembered speaking to me. She said to save me another trip, she would issue the card but I wasn’t to use it until Dec. 1. I agreed. That makes sense.

The poor guy who had to take my photo – three tries but that was me not standing in the right place. But he was friendly and helpful and the picture turned out okay – just a bit of glare on my glasses. My new photo ID card spewed out in one minute flat.

I was out of there in five minutes.

Service Ontario you need to take a page from the TTC.

I still need the Ontario photo ID as it is a substitute for those of us who don’t drive and have no driver’s licence. The TTC one doesn’t have an address on it and can’t be used cart blanche.

The battle against Service Ontario and I suppose MGS continues.


Sharon A. Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Complaining tactics, Consumer action, Only child, Problems, Seniors, Sharon A. Crawford