May 7, 1999 Halifax Herald

Food for thought ... and for the tummy

Following are my rants on a variety of subjects.

FUEL: Competition among major players involved in merchandising crude oil and products derived from it appears to be dead. The fact that all oil companies in the metro area have, over the past several weeks, like a well-rehearsed orchestra, raised their gasoline prices from 52.9 to 58.9 cents a liter supports such a contention. If there is even one station deviating from 58.9, I haven't run across it.

A lack of vigorous competition equals a hit in the wallet for consumers.

The before mentioned and the following facts, although I don't like the prospect, help make a strong case for nationalizing the oil industry in this country. When the price of a barrel of crude oil goes up, the oil companies immediately raise the price at the pump. They do this in spite of the fact that their facilities are full of oil purchased at a lower price, and products refined from it. However, when prices drop, they keep the prices high until all high-priced inventory is sold.

Competition, in theory, is supposed to prevent this. In the case of oil, it isn't working.

RESTAURANTS: Several years ago, I discovered a small Cape Breton restaurant which served the most mouth-watering, well prepared seafood platter that I had ever beheld. Last February, I had occasion to journey to the Island and one of my main destinations was that restaurant. What a disappointment! When I asked what had happened, the answer supplied was truly amazing.

It seems that the well-prepared food was attracting to many customers and had created a workload increase. Therefore, the answer was to lower the food quality. Considering that people go into business with the hope of having an ever increasing clientele crossing their doorsteps, it leaves me in a daze trying to rationalize this restaurant’s logic.

While on the subject of dining, as a result of previous restaurant columns, I still get letters asking about my favourite eating places.

For reasonably priced good old-fashioned, delicious farm fare, Farmer's Family Dinner near the Zoo in Aylesford is still my favourite. For specialty dishes, Piper's Landing in Lyons Brook, Pictou County, is high on my list. In the metro area China Town, The Library and East Side Mario's at Bayer's Lake are among my favourites. If you plan to patronize Farmer's or Piper's, I suggest reservations, both places are often packed and turn people away.

WATER RATES: If the cost of using metro's water continues to rise the time is not far off when many residents won't be able to afford it.

HRM council claims that the increases are necessitated by the need to raise a pot to clean up Halifax Harbour. In view of the fact that there has been a surcharge on our water bills for a decade or so, one would think that by now, the project's pot would be full enough to do the job.

SERVICE: The problems encountered trying to contact federal and provincial government departments worsens. I make this plea to governments on behalf of legions of aggravated Canadians: PLEASE, PLEASE, USE SOME OF OUR TAX DOLLARS TO REVERT TO THE PRACTICE OF HAVING A RECEPTIONISTS ANSWER PHONES!

Here is real gem when it comes to illogical service. Because of the health problems that other liquids cause me, I'm generally restricted to drinking instant decaffeinated coffee, juices and plain water.

Until recently many Tim Horton's shops carried instant decaf - a few still do. Upon entering one that had carried the product for many years, I ordered an instant. The response: "Sorry, sir, we don't carry such a thing and we never have." I asked the young clerk how long she had worked for the company. She replied two weeks!

At this point, a more senior employee intervened and stated that they had discontinued carrying it because nobody bought it. This kind of puzzled me. If they had never sold any, how come they had sold out?

Supermarkets are fast becoming stores with a department-store flavour. The days when shoppers could go to one store to buy groceries are coming to an end. Now when we grocery shop, in order to get the things and brands we want, we have to visit three, sometimes four stores.

For example, the Bayer's Lake Superstore no longer sells Sanka Coffee. When asked for an explanation, this is the answer received: "The Ontario head-office has decided we don't move enough of it."

If supermarkets closed out clothing, furniture and other department-store sections, they would have room enough to stock everything the shopper needs - eliminating the need for multi-store shopping. However, stupid me, I keep forgetting that the convenience of the consumer isn't top priority anymore.

Anyway, in spite of life's many aggravations - such as drivers making turns without signaling, cars pulling out and cutting you off, a waiter bringing an appetizer and entrée at the same time - life is great. All the best!

Daniel N. Paul


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