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Not at your service


Steve Campbell

Remember when we used to have service in Ontario? Remember when ‘service centres’ had staff who pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield, employing piles of people who would later become Exxon CEOs, because pumping gas at minimum wage really sucks? So now we do their job, and increasingly take over the jobs of other service personnel, including the checkout people at Home Depot and Wal-Mart.
Remember when you could call a support line for any Canadian corporation, and get a Canadian on the other end of the line?
Remember when ‘health service’ was a service? We paid taxes, and hospitals kept us alive and well. Remember when the educational service provided us with schools and teachers?

Remember when the ‘banking service’ was an actual service? By definition, banks served their customers and, if they did a good job, the bank’s stocks would increase in value, and their shareholders would be as happy as the young mom who opened the first bank account for her child.
This last is of particular interest to me, since signs appeared on our door announcing that CIBC is closing its Bloomfield branch in September, and removing the ATM.
The shock waves were felt throughout the village, and I suspect even the friendly, competent and professional girls at the branch did not know this was going down until they arrived to start what should have been a regular day of serving their clients.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very keen interest in this, as County Magazine has been a tenant of CIBC since 1984 and, in typical fashion, the folks in the Ivory Tower at Commerce Court in Toronto haven’t yet told me what they have planned for me. A note on the door, or possibly a Death Squad drive-by?
Now back to the main point: Service is disappearing in Ontario, and most notably in rural Ontario.

I have seen the enemy, and it is not us. Corporations and the provincial government combine to attack the support services and the very lifestyle of rural areas. The County is not the only area under fire. It’s happening everywhere … outside of the GTA that is.
We already know that Wynne’s government considers rural Ontario to be ‘unsustainable’ and ‘unserviceable’. This has been said in many ways, even in the legislature. The banks have bought into this, with RBC closing its South Front Street branch in Belleville, and CIBC closing its Deseronto branch – forcing people to drive to Belleville or Napanee, or to find another bank.

Surprisingly, at the same time people are moving from the city to the bucolic paradise of the County, their services are being demolished. An aging retired population with a hospital pared down and in jeopardy, and a new one promised maybe sometime, somewhere, of some size, at some cost, housing some beds maybe, and some other things like – ugh! – staff. (Ministries love brick and mortar, but don’t care much for people.)
You didn’t bring it here, and it didn’t follow you here, but welcome to the world of the forgotten, useless, powerless, unserviceables and dispensables. We are the untouchables – the lowest caste in Ontarian society.
On the economic/political scale, we are alligator poo. Bet they didn’t tell you that when you left the city!

So how do we combat the enemy? Good luck. Because genuine interest in protecting and preserving our land and lifestyle carries no weight with those who only see us on paper: A few dimes to be saved on staff, or open land suitable only for wind turbines or housing developments.
Take a look around. Here in Bloomfield we’re losing our councillor, our school and our bank. Serving a community is going the way of the horse and wagon (though in County fashion, we still have a few of those!).
And take note: This is a modern wave – a movement by corporations and government to use and abuse us. It’s kind of like domestic beatings which escalate into rape. Strong language? Well, you’re community will likely be next.
How do you combat an enemy who only sees the world in terms of money, as in the cases cited above, and many more? This is not the way the County was built, and not the way it will survive.

Look at our CIBC, a situation not set in stone pending a June 15 meeting at Bloomfield Town Hall with the District VP.
If the people in the Tower actually stood outside and saw the never-ending activity at this branch, they would count tens of thousands of transactions. The bank machine alone does 24-hour business non-stop, often with line-ups out the door during tourist season. I also note that CIBC bought the building in 1955, and probably paid cash. Unless the tellers are making $250,000 a year (maybe, I didn’t ask) for their three-day work week, common sense would say this is ‘easy money’. No mortgage, possibly two or three part-time wages, and thousands of transactions. Call it County thinking, but even for city bureaucrats that looks like a pretty sweet deal.

Their argument, according to the Notice of Closure poster, is that Picton branch is open to “serve” you. (Sorry, the quote marks are mine, indicating four sarcastic fingers in the air.)
Really? That’s the mark of someone who has only seen Prince Edward County on a map and a financial spreadsheet! Bloomfield to Picton branch at the top of the Town Hill in tourist season? That’s a two-hour excursion on a good day! Fight the traffic, fight for parking, fight to get across the street, stand in a line even bigger after Bloomfield closes, then repeat the journey. Decisions are made by those who have never walked the walk. Perhaps the big-wigs should spend just one hour of their expensive time watching the tellers at work, and noting the genuine service they provide.

We’ve launched a petition at County Magazine, and have 100 signatures at time of this writing. Some signers are so irate, they take an extra line to vent their angst. Even if you don’t bank at CIBC, make a statement against this corporate destruction of community services.
Next, it could be your Post Office, since Toronto wizards consider it a short subway ride to pick up your mail in Mississauga.
Because everybody has a subway, right?

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. John Crozier says:

    Perhaps referring to a group of women as “Ladies” would be a more suitable terminology

  2. John Crozier says:

    With regard to the use of the term “girls” to describe a collective of women, I agree with Mr.Fox that those of us outside the collective would better serve the distaff portion of the population by referring to them as women. Having spent the most of my professional carrier in healthcare and consequently, with a majority of women,I think I can say with some degree of authority that women often refer to their immediate collective as “the girls’ as an informal term of affection and sisterhood. However, in more formal circumstances seem to prefer the term “women”. By way of example, I’m sure the members of The Women’s Institute of Cherry Valley refer to themselves as girls but would be highly insulted to be referred to as The Girls Institute of Cherry Valley. I think the use of familiarities is not particularly confined to the County but being a close knit community the temptation to use over familiar terms inappropriately is more apparent. After all these women are our friends and neighbours with whom we have frequent if not daily contact.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    No, I don’t pretend to know everything, but I am intelligent enough to know about the world around me and to know what is socially acceptable – sorry to see that some of you believe that being from the County excuses you. This topic is not one that I am thankfully not responsible for and I can’t quite believe that such a comment was published in 2017. I have expressed my opinion on it and will leave it there.

  4. Fred Flinstone says:

    Golden Girls. Much like our senior female persons drinking wine on Picton’s patios at noon. Heaven forbid!

  5. ADJ says:

    I don’t think the term “girls” is offensive at all whether your 10 or going on 100! Do you think it’s degrading or what is your problem with it? Have you ever heard the term “County Speak”?…it refers to a method of speaking the Kings English in a somewhat slang method.. Not derogatory at all and never meant to offend.

  6. Barney Rubble says:

    I can’t help but think perhaps “Mamm”. Lol

  7. Marnie says:

    Out of curiosity what does a hip young dude like you call them Dennis? A few old fogies would like to know.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    A generational thing? Sorry but referring to working women as “the girls” has been left out in the cold since the early 60″s. Just how old are some of you? Anyone under the age of 80 should know better.

  9. ADJ says:

    Well this just opens up a whole new discussion doesn’t it? It’s a generation thing I guess…what to call a person,,, of color, what to call a “indigenious” person, an Oriental,,,or is that incorrect? even what to call a person believed to be mentally challenged…educate us here Dennis,you seem to be up on this topic. Don’t lay blame on a generation that grew up educated with a somewhat different vocabulary.

  10. Marnie says:

    Call them women if you prefer Dennis but it will not change the fact that they are about to be unemployed. Besides, if the term “girls” is such an insult to them why aren’t they complaining? I will be watching for letters to the editor from the “girls” but I strongly suspect that they are not half as agitated about this appellation as you appear to be. Political correctness has gone to extremes. It seems ridiculous that in 2017 women are expected to find their dignity in condemning County Steve for using the G word. Most of us girls have more important concerns. Perhaps he should have said “females”? Besides, Steve is a good guy- er, gemtleman? fella? male?

  11. Dennis Fox says:

    Marnie – you are entitled to what you refer to as a different mindset, but don’t assume it has anything to do with being in the County, because it doesn’t. The vast majority of women here or outside of the County would not appreciate being called “girls” – particularly in a newspaper article identifying them as “the friendly, competent, and professional “girls” at the bank.” The very word “girl” undermines not only their position and worth, but it minimizes what the CIBC is doing to them – namely firing them and taking away their income. Frankly, I am shocked that we are even having this conversation – it is 2017!

  12. Gary says:

    Professionals call senior men and women “Dear >>>>” all the time. Quite frankly I am no one’s dear, so I do not look forward to it..

  13. Marnie says:

    We’re of a bit different mindset here in the county Dennis. Many of us do not see being referred to as girls as a mark of disrespect. It’s just the reverse. In county-speak it means you are liked. We are used to waitresses calling us “darlin'” and “hon” and do not equate it with any sort of put-down. A burning need to be addressed by whatever is presumed to be the politically correct “respectable” title indicates an insecure individual whose self-image is defined by such nonsense. If a professional person were to address a female client as “hon” or “dear” I agree it would be disrespectful but I doubt that the girls at the Bloomfield bank feel that Steve is putting them down.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    Oh come on Steve, calling grown women “girls” has been on the out for the last 50 years – and rightfully so. You can have your own opinion, but please don’t try justifying the actions of CEO’s, nor those of the CIBC’s as a reason to claim you are justify in its use. The fact that most bank employees are women and under paid is all the more reason to raise hell when someone refers to them as “girls.” The fact that far too many CEO’s and businesses are dinosaurs, doesn’t mean anyone has to follow their example. Sorry mate, I don’t agree with you at all on this one. Respecting people by referring to them in a proper manner should not be up for discussion.

  15. CountySteve says:

    Just a quick comment on Andre’s mention of my use of the word ‘girls’.
    To me, this is not politically incorrect. I call my Mom’s bridge group ‘the girls’ even though some of them have 20 years on me. It is not a derogatory term, but a term of affection.
    To take this a step further: Have you noticed that the staff of CIBC Picton and their satellite branch in Bloomfield are over 90% female? Is this because they are highly skilled, competent and can handle hundreds of different client needs each day? No, although that is very true.
    It’s because the company can pay them less, for doing the same job as a man. And they tend to be rooted in the community, with their family, so they’ll take much more crap to keep their jobs.
    If you want to put your feelings of ‘political correctness’ to better use, how about writing or emailing several Canadian CEOs and demanding pay equity for women who do the same job as their male counterparts?
    If you succeed at that, I will happily let you kick my butt on my use of words.
    Good luck.

  16. Cindy says:

    Another great piece! Sign me up on that petition.

  17. Marnie says:

    Well said, Steve. Oh for the good old days when customer service made it a pleasure to shop and for the times when calling female staffers “girls” was not a social gaffe. Are they now properly known as Ms’s? What about the term bus boys? Are they now properly addressed as bus men? Can you believe that in Picton there was once an organization known as the Picton Business Girls? They were not shady ladies but rather local bank tellers, receptionists, and secretaries of the town. They did not mind being called girls.

  18. Cheryl says:

    I agree. I will add my name to the petition. Thanks Steve for pointing out the reality from a rural perspective.

  19. Andre says:

    Although I might agree that a little more thought might have gone into closing this small branch of the bank, the issue of “customer service” and what we get whether at the corporation level or the government level seems a bit broad for a discussion. I may not be in agreement that we may have to check our own stuff out at Lowes or Home Depot, but the issue of providing government services is an entirely different one and needs to be broken down a bit more rather than lumping into one big basket.
    And secondly , I would think, including myself, that the reference to the Bank Customer Service representatives as “girls”, needs to change.

  20. Drew Byford says:

    Steve, you forgot to mention Bloomfield is losing its public school as well due to City bean counters. We are quickly being urbanized…..

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    My main concerns are for the residents of Bloomfield losing a school, a bank and a councillor. It could make one paranoid in thinking that someone was out to get them. But good service anywhere and in anything has been sacrificed for years – all in the name of corporate or political profits. In fact wasn’t amalgamation sold to the public as a money saver to deliver a better level of service? The public deserve better.

  22. robert says:

    Close your account and move to another bank, say Bank of Nova Scotia in Wellington, tell them you are not only moving but away from CIBC. Get enough people to do that even temporarily and they will notice. Only way to get their attention is with money. Tellers care about service, banks not so much.

  23. wevil says:

    you are right Steve what is next

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