Unfriendly Manitoba? Maybe they deserve it


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Last week, a young man from Alberta named Shane Gagnon wrote the Free Press and issued a challenge.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/07/2009 (5076 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Last week, a young man from Alberta named Shane Gagnon wrote the Free Press and issued a challenge.

He wanted Winnipeg and Manitoba to prove to him that our licence plates don’t lie. That we really are “Friendly” Manitoba.

That hadn’t been Shane’s experience in the couple of months he’s been here with 15 other young men — all from out-of-province — who had arrived in Winnipeg to work for the same company.

To do what? I asked when we met with five of his young pals from work.

Shane said the six of them install home security systems, but he didn’t want me to name the company. Maybe that’s when the alarm bells should have gone off.

“ö “ö “ö

The reaction started as soon as the column (Young visitors feeling frozen out, July 11) arrived on Winnipeg doorsteps. Free Press readers wanted to show Shane and his colleagues that we are naturally — and mostly — warm and welcoming towards newcomers.

Even if seven of the 16 newcomers Shane had written about had been victimized by vehicle break-ins since they arrived.

The readers’ emails offered everything from a night out at the Windsor Park bar, courtesy of Canad Inns, to a skeet-shooting experience, to a backyard barbecue and offers from young women who wanted to show the guys around.

“I would say that the response has been overwhelming so far,” Shane responded in an email. “Myself and the other guys are incredibly appreciative of your assistance and we are very much looking forward to taking these people up on some of their offers.”

But there was another category of emails. They came from people connected with local home security companies. Shane and his pals, they believed, were working for an American company that local home alarm companies are definitely not warm and welcoming towards.

So Monday I called Shane and asked if he worked for APX Alarm.

He said yes and then quickly referred me to Stuart Dean, the Utah-based company’s media spokesman.

Before calling Dean, I located a CBC Manitoba story from last month that referred to APX and another company called Vigilon.

The story started: “The Consumers Bureau of Manitoba is cautioning Winnipeggers about two Utah-based security companies that have been targeting residents with high-pressure, door-to-door sales campaigns.”

The CBC went on to report that APX is licensed to sell in Manitoba, but that Vigilon wasn’t. Vigilon has since withdrawn from the Manitoba market while it seeks the licensing.

Police were quoted as saying both companies are legitimate.

But Nancy Anderson, director of the provincial government agency, also warned consumers still need to be careful about signing contracts too quickly. Both companies routinely install home alarm systems on the same day they’re sold.

The CBC story went on:

“Faced with someone selling a product or service at your door, Anderson said the first thing homeowners should ask is if the company is licensed. No matter how much pressure is applied, don’t sign until you’ve had time to think about the purchase or compare prices.”

When I reached APX spokesman Stuart Dean, he disputed that their door-to-door sales people were engaged in high-pressure sales and noted that consumers have 10 days from the time of signing a contract to cancel.

The quick installation — “within 24 to 48-hours” — is a customer service feature, Dean said.

“And nothing else.”

“ö “ö “ö

Shane and the five pals I met last week do installations, not door-to-door sales. And they’re doing nothing wrong. But I must say something that Shane wrote in his letter to the Free Press makes more sense now, given how APX operates.

“However,” Shane said while acknowledging that some Winnipeggers are friendly, “I have noticed that the demeanour of people changes dramatically when they see I have out-of-province licence plates… When this happens, I and my colleagues have been treated with suspicion, uneasiness, and in limited cases, outright contempt.”

Now, maybe, Shane should understand why they might get that feeling.

It’s not so much that we’re not friendly. It’s that we’re not stupid.


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