Reservation system ‘stupid, inexcusable’, says QC merchant

  • Sep. 29, 2004 2:00 p.m.

Grocery shoppers found bare shelves at both ends of the islands early last week, when two of the island’s three food trucks didn’t make it across from Prince Rupert September 19, Heidi Bevington writes.
Trucks destined for Delmas Coop in Masset and City Centre in Queen Charlotte got left behind at the Rupert terminal because they didn’t have confirmed reservations. Dairy, produce and meat departments in both stores were bare until last Wednesday morning because after being left behind Sunday night, the Monday ferry had weather delays. The food finally arrived Tuesday evening in time to fill the shelves Wednesday morning.
“People were mad, but not at us,” said Curtis Vanhove, Delmas grocery manager, “There’s nothing you can do about the ferries.”
The food trucks didn’t make it because of unconfirmed reservations and unusually high commercial traffic on that one Sunday.
Both Delmas Coop and City Centre are longstanding customers who normally have weekly reservations for truckloads of food to come over. The reservations are to be renewed every three months. In the case of the Coop, general manager Richard Clarmont said he renewed the reservations verbally, but forgot to get a letter off to BC Ferries. Although the fault is his, he said, he would have very much appreciated better customer service from BC Ferries.
“You know, we’ve been doing this for years,” said Mr. Clarmont. The Coop is one of BC Ferries steadiest customers and a phone call from BC Ferries asking about the missing reservations would have been greatly appreciated he said.
In the case of City Centre, owner Werner Funk is very annoyed with BC Ferries. He’s been sending a truck from Prince Rupert to the islands every Sunday since ferry service began. “They know darn well our trailer is going to be there Sunday night,” he said. Mr. Funk said the store wrote a letter to BC Ferries confirming reservations for the fall season, but BC Ferries told him it doesn’t have a copy of the letter.
“Regardless of what BC Ferries may say it’s a stupid, inexcusable system their using for people that have used the ferry for 20 years,” said Mr. Funk. He said he will lose a few $1000 due to spoiled products, lost sales and wages.
BC Ferries Marine Superintendent Gord Nettleton called it an unfortunate incident caused by a peak in commercial activity on that one particular Sunday. Several other commercial vehicles including some BC Ferries maintenance trucks got their reservation confirmations. He said BC Ferries did notify the stores that their reservations were not confirmed and the trucks would be on standby, said Mr. Nettleton.
“We have to take confirmed vehicles first,” said Mr. Nettleton. “I wish Werner had called me as soon as he knew. If I’d known ahead of time, I might have been able to juggle the traffic,” said Mr. Nettleton. It was “an unfortunate incident where a number of factors came together.”
Commercial vehicles that travel regularly back and forth on the ferries can book three-month blocks of reservations, said Mr. Nettleton, and the food trucks have confirmed reservations for the remainder of the season.