Dear Inglis, Send me a Sign
Ok, its Friday, and the office is a bit quiet today so I thought I might write a quick post about a recent experience I had. This is a story of lost marketing opportunities and bad customer service. For those that know me, I am an avid runner. I like to run early in the morning, so I get to the office around 8 ish, lace up my runners and hit the road. The course is generally the same and on my approach back to the office I come up over the Strachan Bridge which hugs the corner of Liberty Village. If you know the bridge, or have ever driven west along the Gardiner, you will no doubt know the giant Inglis sign. For as long as I can remember it has flashed a quote of the day. I’m sure there are literally thousands of inspirational quotes out there, but if Inglis has ever ran the same quote twice, I have never seen it. Enough set up. Here is where the story actually begins.
One overcast and sticky morning near the end of July, I was on my usual run when I noticed the flashing message on the Inglis sign. It read; Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice”. Hmm, I thought. I don’t know why that quote made such an impact on me. I guess I had a moment of self-reflection or something. Whatever it was, I found myself returning a few hours later to take pictures of the message and then posted them to my twitter and tumblr accounts. Ah the life of a busy social media guy.
I put that quote in the memory books and went on my merry way. A few days later, while running again, I passed by the sign and lo and behold, it read the same message. Wow I thought. That is so unlike the Inglis sign to show the same message. Soon I found myself going out of my way nearly everyday to see if the message had changed. It didn’t. I have to say that there was more than a passing thought that I was living in a scene from Groundhog day. I wondered if it was the gods sending me a message. “Please Inglis don’t let it be the gods playing with me”, I thought. In August, I took some time off to travel with the kids. One of the very first things I did on my return was to go back to the Inglis sign and see if anything had changed. It hadn’t. So on I went, staring at that stupid message day in and day out. Finally I changed my running route just so I could avoid the sign. Then in late September, over 2 months after the first sighting, I found myself staring up at the sign once more. I can’t remember exactly why I was standing under the sign. Maybe I blacked out. I’m not really sure, but when my head cleared I knew what I had to do. Enough is enough. Even the gods must be getting tired of sending me the same message. I had to get to the bottom of this.
I returned to the office with a spring in my step. Maybe it was the invigorating sense of purpose. I looked on-line for the Inglis telephone number. Naturally, a 1-800 number. I called and, not surprisingly, was greeted by a kind sounding recording. Press 1 for this, press 2 for that, If you need this press 3, if you need that press 4. None of those choices would give me the answer I needed so I pressed 0. “That is an incorrect key” the kind recorded voice explains to me before repeating all the choices again. Ok, I thought, the sign is broken so I will press 3, that’s what you press when your appliances are broken. Seems logical….sort of. After a few moments I am transferred to a call centre in, I can only presume, the southern US. A nice gentleman answers and asks how he can help. I tell him the story of the Inglis sign and the many months of the same message. Although I couldn’t see his eyes raise, I instinctively know he was doing it. He asked if he could put me on hold…. then the line went dead. Strike one. Oh, but I am resolute in my determination. I called the 1-800 number again. I didn’t wait to hear the choices. I hit 3. Again. A different southern gentleman answered this time and once again I told my story only this time I tried my best to convince him that I wasn’t a lunatic. It must have worked. We struck up a conversation. He told me his name was Bob. (Shout out to Bob, as promised). We talked about the weather where he was and for an instance I detected a brotherly bond. Perhaps the gods had sent him a message once too. I knew he was on my team when he asked what the message was. I told him. He thought it was nice. Then he put me on hold. A few minutes later Bob got back to me. He said he asked around and had no solution to my troubles so he gave me the number for Whirlpool Canada, which apparently owns Inglis. Bob wished me luck and a pleasant day. Strike Two. Determined to fight the good fight, I called the 1-800 number for Whirlpool Canada. Again I was greeted by a voice recording. ‘”if you are calling for this press 1″..blah blah blah. I pressed 0. “that is an incorrect number. If you are calling for this press 1″. I pressed 3. I can’t tell you how disappointed (and a bit relieved) I was to hear Bob’s kind voice again. Strike Three.
Obviously I needed to tackle this from another angle. The next day I drove back to the sign to find out who owned it. Pattison Outdoor Signs. I returned to my office feeling a little defeated but not ready to give up yet. I thought I should email them since my determination just makes me sound a little crazy on the phone. Imagine my surprise when, the next morning, I received a note back (albeit rather surly) that the messages on the Inglis sign came from the Marketing Department at Whirlpool Canada. Ok, now we are getting somewhere. Unfortunately there is no direct phone number to the Whirlpool Canada Marketing Department. Trust me, I spent a few hours looking until it dawned on me; Whirlpool must have a business page on Facebook. Bingo. So on September 22nd, at 11am, I sent Whirlpool a message through Facebook and seven hours later I received a response. “ Thanks for your note, Mark! We’ve passed this on to the appropriate people and they are working on a solution for this”. Cool. I assured myself that my problems would be over soon. Not soon enough apparently. Six days later, I sent a kind reminder…”any news?” and the next day they responded in kind. “ Hi Mark – The marketing department was already contacted, and we will follow-up with them. Thanks again!” the exclamation point at the end offered me some hope. Later that day, I had to run an errand that took me on the Gardiner Expressway. Imagine my surprise when I drove by the Inglis sign and read a different message. Finally, the spell was broken. I could move on with my life. Just one nagging thing. I needed some closure. WHY was the sign stuck for such a long time? Did I actually have something to do with the message changing? Later in the day I sent another message to Whirlpool Canada’s Facebook page proclaiming my gratitude but still hoping for an answer. No reply. As far as I’m concerned….Strike Four.
Five days after my message to Whirlpool, I sent another message. I begged again for closure. Don’t I deserve some credit at least? Hello? Is anyone there?….Strike Five. So here we are, nearly two months later. Nothing. So, what is the status of the Inglis sign today? Is everything back to normal? Is everything right with the Universe? Yes and no. For a few, very brief days the message changed daily on the mighty Inglis sign and then, as quick as they resumed, the messages stopped coming all together. I don’t know how long it was dark for. I assumed they thought it was better to just turn it off than wait for me to call again, but this morning I drove by again and a message way flashing again. Hallelujah.
Toronto has two longstanding yearlong traditions. The first in the weather beacon on the Canada Life building which has been flashing since 1951. The other is The Inglis sign in Liberty Village. I can’t help feeling like the lights went out because no one cared, but Inglis Sign, if your listening, I care. Turn the daily inspirational messages back on.