Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Original Christmas Village Store on Government Street: A Story of Crappy Service

No photo can do justice to a tree lit with candles
Each year I have to go to the Original Christmas Village on Government Street for some stuff only they carry that I want for my Christmas traditions - candles on my tree.   The dismal customer service in the store finally was too much for me this year.

I love to have real candles on my Christmas tree.    It is something my family always did when I was growing up and something I have done since I have been an adult.   There are few more amazing things to see than a room only lit by the candles on a tree.   I only set up the tree a few days before the 24th and it is only lit two or three times before we take it down right after New Year.   The candles and the sort time the tree is up make it a very special experience.

 Here in Victoria there is a single store that sells the right sort of candles for a Christmas tree, it was not always this way.   In the past there were German delis all over BC that sold German Christmas stuff including the candles.   When I moved back to Victoria in 2004 I looked high and low for baumkerzen and finally found them at the Original Christmas Village on Government Street.   The boxes of 20 candles were $4.95 in 2004 and a few more bucks last year.  He also carried lametta - a very specific style of German tinsel that I love.

From the first time I ventured into the place it has never been a friendly place because of the owner.  Here is what a friend of mine had to say about him on Facebook: I think he should be called the Scrooge of Government Street. It's the most unfriendly and unChristmassy store in Victoria. Any time I have been there, the atmosphere is unpleasant...DON'T touch anything, DON'T smile, NO idle chitchat and NO laughing. Just buy your stuff and GET OUT. Needless to say, it's been a long time since I have purchased anything from that store. It's kind of sad that somebody can be that miserable selling Christmas stuff.
These are the candles I am after

The man who owns the place is always grumpy and there are signs everywhere - Do Not Touch.   I am a native German speaker and my experience in BC is that when I go to a German store and speak the language the owners are more than happy to meet me and glad to speak our mother tongue.   This guy, sure he and his wife (I think she is his wife?) will speak German with me and it seems their natural language, but it does not make them even remotely more pleasant.  What I also find weird is that after going to this store for nine years now and speaking with him in German every time I go in because I am normally looking for something specific that he has normally carried, you would think he would remember me.  How many tall, fat German speaking middle aged come in every year looking for Christmas tree candles?  As my cousin Andreas said online, it must a tiny demographic.

Since he has the candles I went in today to buy some.  First off the section with the candles was closed.   No, "Let me open it for you" which would seem to make sense for a guaranteed sale.   It did open shortly there after.  I went down and they did not have the normal packs of 20 candles, but 50 candle packs.   They also has a sign there that said there was a shortage of the candles in Germany and Holland and they were only selling the limited stock they had to people getting the tree candle holders.   The box was $24, or $0.50 a candle instead of $0.25 a candle it was a few years ago.

I assumed the sign was there so that his regulars needing candles for their trees could get them, there can not be that many of us in the city.  Anyone one else would have to buy the holders.  I, like probably all the other regular candle buyers, have more than enough candle holders.  I my case I have enough for two 9 foot tall trees, I do not need more.   But no, if I wanted to buy candles I had to buy a package of candle holders for $20 to $30.    He would not let me buy a box of candles on their own.

I reminded them I come into the store every year to buy my candles and anything other Christmas decorations and my lebkuchen.  Not only did they not relent, they did not even acknowledge my comments when I made them in German or English.  Not even a sorry, no break for a "Stammkunde".   To get the candles I would have to spend $50 in total - that works out to $1 a candle.

I got home and Sheila said I should look online for the candles,   I had no expectation this would work on December 20th but I decided to listen to her and try.   I was shocked, I found a source only one province to the east of us for the candles.

Edelweiss Imports in Calgary have the candles I want for $4.15 a package - cheaper than I was paying in Victoria in 2004.   You can order online with them but I figured this was too late to do so.  I called them just on the off chance they could get them to me by the 24th - shock of shocks they could.   The woman on the phone was very pleasant to deal with.  Even though it is Christmas madness time for them, she paid attention to me and went the extra mile.     They also have lametta, I got her to throw in a couple of packs of it for me with the candles.   I have tried to talk to the owner the Original Christmas Village to order stuff in, he had no interest in ordering in anything special.

I have no intention of going back to the store here in Victoria and will send all my Christmas business to Calgary.   I would prefer to spend it locally but I can only go so far before I have to draw the line.
Update on Saturday Dec 22nd - Edelweiss got the candles to me in ONE DAY from Calgary for an all inclusive price of $27 for three packages - that includes all the taxes and shipping.   Not only were they pleasant to deal with, they were very fast.  

We tried to return the stuff I bought at the Original Christmas Village - no dice, all sales final.  Sheila pointed out that we got much cheaper candles from Calgary in one day even with the shipping included.   She told them point blank they lost our business.   From 2004 to 2008 I spent about $500 at that store, not much in the big scheme of things, but they have now lost that.

I will put a notice around town next December that you can affordable Christmas Tree Candles from Calgary.


Rob Wickson said...

Bernard you should be sure to send this to the local store owner so when he complains about poor business because of others (i.e. restricting parking or high business taxes) it can be pointed out that he needs a lesson on how to do business. Today I had a client ask for work to be completed by 10 December 31st. While the client did not know we are effectively closed through the holidays with only staff to cover phone and couriers during shortened business hours, I was able to find a way for the client to get what he would need in order to meet his deadline. Unfortunately creativity and the goal to satisfy the customer for some in business seems to be missing is many places. Perhaps his business has slowed down and he cannot understand why.

Unknown said...

The owners of this store have a huge reputation for unfriendly behaviour, I post on a childrens site where many parents complain, he also does not allow wheelchairs or strollers in the store.........has shouted at us to get out of the store......
Glad you found an alternative

Anonymous said...

You are a whiner. Just be happy someone sells the specialized candles that you like

Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

It's not whining to state the facts about a shopkeeper's bad service. I have been in the Christmas Village many times and not ever been treated with any politeness. Despite their having things I cannot find elsewhere locally, I have stopped giving them any patronage, and am actually annoyed with myself for ever having given them business.

Now that I am disabled and using a walker, I know that I would be less welcome than ever. The shopkeepers are so unpleasant - they seem to have the antithesis of the Christmas spirit. How ironic that they have a shop of this kind. I'm amazed it has survived this long, and think their success can be related ONLY to the variety of Christmas items they carry. In 20 years of living and shopping in Victoria, I've never met any shopkeepers who are so hostile to their (often loyal) customers.

Anonymous said...

This store has lots of breakable items that are not suitable for children. Collectable items apart of the regular ornaments, so you have to put yourselves a bit on the owners shoes, when he finds a glass decoration of $42 dollars in pieces on the floor or a Santa Claus Drummer of $90 dollars that someone has been forcing his arms to move and now they can't sell it anymore because it is broken.

The owner worked seven days a week at this business, and as a result worked himself to death. He died recently from cancer, may be you could be a little more understanding now.

A good neighbour

Anonymous said...

It's not a case of "understanding."
The guy was a racist, arrogant, hostile jerk, who definitely should not have operated ANY store, let alone a Christmas store. Granted, there are breakable items in there, so you do have to be careful, but not to the point where you are being a complete jerk. My wife and I go there every year - it's a tradition with us. On just about every time, as soon as we started looking, he came up and said "are you buying anything?" I told him we might, but we need to look around to see if there is something we would like, just like at any other store. He would scowl and walk away. The ONLY reason we would go back is that they have ornaments you cant find anywhere else.
And signs? WOW! Negative signs everywhere. No photography, no children, no strollers or walkers, no admittance - that one blew me away. No admittance to the downstairs part where there are more items? My God! What a way to run a business!
Bad that he died, but hopefully now the store will be run a little less than from someone who would have fit right in in the Gestapo.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful store. I have 3 children and I can understand all the rules in the store. They do not want their merchandise broken. The owners are hard working.

If you don't like the rules go somewhere else to shop and quit complaining.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous - the problem is that there weren't other Christmas stores around and there are beautiful things there. Rudeness is not the way to run a business!

Just call me Em said...

The owners were in violation of the law; not allowing walkers or wheelchairs is discriminatory toward the disabled and they also refused to consider a black woman for a job at the store because of her race. There is no valid excuse for their behaviour in this respect. Make all the excuses you want about fragile items, but there are hundreds of shops in Canada full of pottery, glass and crystal where they get along just fine without being racists who terrorize everyone who darkens their door.