It’s becoming a pro-pain in the ****

Over the years I have had my complaints, on occasion, about the way business is conducted in some retail establishments in town. I generally keep these issues to myself – not a lot of people care and there are frequently ways to deal with them. In general terms – you often have the answer apparent.

Do business elsewhere.

That is fine with a business that has local competition – a restaurant, a grocery store, a pub.

wBut in recent years the ebb and flow of business in Kitimat has been pretty well downhill.

We used to have a couple of stores to choose from to buy furniture – now we are forced to head for Terrace to find any kind of selection of a new purchase.

Major appliances, too, I would say require the trip – or an onwline purchase. Everyone is aware of the realities – and there’s still a strong argument to keep our shopping dollars at home when we can, when we feel fairly treated and well serviced. Right now a trip to shop in Terrace is increasingly a necessity rather than a preference.

I have to come out and reveal my current complaint, as inconsequential as it may be. In years gone by the purchase of propane gas refills for barbecue or other use was a competitive affair, with two, and at one time a while back, three suppliers.

Now we are down to one as we are in a number of other areas. Over the past three years at least I have gone to this lone supplier frequently, only to have to make a subsequent or even a third trip to ensure that someone “with a ticket” (trained to do the job) was available and able to refill my empty tank.

Often the answer from a non-ticket holder service person is “my boss is in Terrace today, but he’ll be back later. I am sorry.”

It happened again this week. Although the very agreeable young lady indeed held a “ticket”, she was working alone in the busy store – and could not leave customers to go outside and fill my two tanks for me.

Her replacement was coming in at 1 p.m., she told me, and if I dropped back before 1 p.m. she would help me out. I returned at 12:50 p.m. – her replacement arrived early and I was home by 1:10 p.m.

I appreciated her accommodating me. Again, as is the past few times when I needed to make double trips, her “boss was in Terrace”, but this time en route to Vancouver and not returning that day. The individual replacing her was not a holder of a “ticket!” So Kitimat, its residents, visitors and tourists were functionally without an actual supplier of propane, a fairly essential element of summer living around here.

Yes, I could take my tanks with me when I do trot off to Terrace, but I want to shop locally where service is available and we have a business advertising and selling the product.

I know this is making a mountain out of a molehill – but if it was not getting to be an increasing problem in many areas of day-to-day living in 2017 in Kitimat – a town with huge question marks hanging over its future. I wouldn’t even think of embarrassing the supplier with the details of my dilemma and inconvenience, because that is all it represented. I still have a partial tank of gas in my BBQ. It wasn’t critical – so believe me, this column is just representative.

I have lived here since 1980, so I have watched the ebb and flow of business in and out of town. We no longer have a movie theatre, or the aforementioned furniture outlet. Our Sears closed, as has one of our major hardware stores. We have four gas stations but I can easily remember when we had six or seven.

We are down to one major auto-truck dealership. Some corner-stores are gone, replaced by a couple of chain outlets. Examples only – anyone can add to that list and remind me we have additions, two hotels, Timmie’s, etc.

But overall, I still believe we are shrinking at an uncomfortable rate as a progressively well-serviced community.

There are a lot of “For Sale” signs on a number of existing businesses and service suppliers – we have all seen them. Let me know if I’m wrong when I think getting a summer job, or a well-paid permanent new job in Kitimat is becoming more difficult. Day care is limited and expensive, so many women who want to work to contribute to their household are unable to successfully apply when a vacancy occurs. Two of our major industries have closed in recent years with large job losses hitting the community hard. We have a couple of very large businesses awaiting the right economic and market climate and permits to proceed with developments which could of course change the direction of our fortunes in Kitimat.

A great deal of money has been spent – but I certainly feel the existing resistance to such developments contributes in huge measure to the ongoing negative atmosphere that prevails in northern B.C.

These are the large issues – but it’s often the small ones that influence the decisions people make to remain a happy resident of a smaller community or to move to one which provides an overall better standard of living. I’m a long way from being there.