Friday, April 18, 2008

Why Willows Pet Place is one of the WORST Pet Stores in the CIty

In my letter to the Editor at the Coast I laid out WHY I believe Willows Pet Place is one of the Worst Pet Stores in the City, but they chose to leave that section out of my letter - so I will post my letter in it's entirety here, and you can choose to make your own decisions on your own. Here is my letter to the Coast:

"Okay, maybe the world is all right, and I'm all wrong - but as far as
I'm concerned - WIllows Pet Place is one of the WORST pet stores in
the CIty. How did she get voted in as the BEST pet store in the city?
It must be because she's purchased ad space with you? Is that it?
How DOES someone get voted in your polls? Is it really voted in by
the public? Exactly how many votes did Willows Pet Place get? This
category throws a shadow over every other category in your newspaper
in my opinion - because, as I said - Willows Pet Place - actually IS -
one of the WORST Pet stores in the whole of the Halifax Regional
Municipality - and as a PET OWNER - I'm going to tell you why.

NUMBER ONE - Kyra Foster's (Willows Pet Place owner) store is NOT DOG
FRIENDLY. You cannot take your dog with you into her pet store. That
to me is the number one criteria for having a good pet store. And
WIllows Pet Place does not meet that criteria. I can rhyme off a
myriad of other pet stores in the HRM that ARE dog friendly. Willows
is NOT.

NUMBER TWO - Kyra Foster is breaking land use bylaws by offering in
home boarding for dogs as part of her business - in 2005 she started a
war between herself and the most successful in home doggy day care
owner in the HRM - Janet Chernin of the Canine Casbah - by putting in
a complaint against her business - and started a bylaw enforcement
query which led to the discovery that in home boarding is illegal. At
the same time - Kyra Foster was carrying on in home boarding
HERSELF!!!! And to this day she continues to do it! And she even
advertises that she does it! What kind of balls does that take! And
she doesn't even own her property - she rents the apartment she lives
in.

NUMBER THREE - she previously ran a doggy day care and closed the
business literally overnight - leaving clients with money's owed. And
money is still owed to this day. How can she be such a good
upstanding pet store owner and have stiffed previous clients in a
previous business?

And what is up with this title of zoologist? If she's a zoologist -
I'm a freaking ph. d. animal behaviourist with a side order of
doctorate in archaeology.

I say all of this with some knowledge of the dog community - for the
last 5 years I've had a very successful dog website called "Charlie
loves Halifax" - at http://charlieloveshalifax.ca/ and a dog blog at
http://dogkisser.blogspot.com/ - that have had hundreds of thousands
of hits - and I get emails from dog lovers daily about different pet
stores and have had emails from people about Willows Pet Place and
Kyra Foster and her dealings with her customers.

I think what is happening here is that your newspaper remains so
absolutely OUT OF TOUCH with dog owners that they have totally been
blind-sided. You need to either completely drop these kinds of
categories or get people on your staff who actually know about these
kinds of things. Do you even have anybody at the Coast who actually
own any dogs? I don't think you do. I do not believe that anyone
down at the Coast actually can own any dogs. I don't believe it.

You need some dog education. Everytime I read your paper, actually I
always read things that are factually wrong whenever you attempt to
write anything that has to do with dogs. So I really shouldn't be
surprised that you chose Willows Pet Place as your pet store of
choice. I shouldn't have been surprised that the blond hair and high
pitched giggle fooled you.

Really, the whole thing is quite pathetic. If Willows Pet Place
really IS the most popular pet store in Halifax - we dog owners really
ARE doomed, and people like me had best just move out of the HRM toute
suite."

Joan Sinden

I can't believe that a magazine that purports itself to be a professional journalistic organization would so heavily edit a letter so that all meaning and tone is taken out of a letter. I am absolutely disgusted. I shouldn't be surprised. I said in my letter that I think the Coast is pathetic, and my opinion of them hasn't changed.

Here's the portion of the letter that they DID publish - I think you can understand why I'm so pissed off:

A bone to pick

To the editor,

OK, maybe the world is all right and I'm all wrong, but as far as I'm concerned, Willow's Pet Place is one of the WORST pet stores in the city. How did it get voted in as the BEST pet store? It must be because the store purchased ad space with you. Is that it? How DOES someone get voted in, in your polls? Is it really voted in by the public? Exactly how many votes did Willow's Pet Place get? This category throws a shadow over every other category in your newspaper, in my opinion.

For the last five years I've had a very successful dog website called

charlieloveshalifax.ca and a dog blog at

dogkisser.blogspot.com, which have had hundreds of thousands of hits. I get emails from dog-lovers daily about different pet stores and it's hardly unanimous that Willow's Pet Place is the "Best in Halifax." I think your newspaper remains so absolutely OUT OF TOUCH with dog owners that you have totally been blindsided. You need to either completely drop these kinds of categories or get people on your staff who actually know about these kinds of things. Do you even have anybody at The Coast who actually owns any dogs? I don't think you do.

You need some dog education. Every

time I read your paper, I read things that are factually wrong whenever you attempt to write anything that has to do with dogs. Really, the whole thing is quite pathetic. If Willow's Pet Place really IS the most popular pet store in Halifax, we dog owners really ARE doomed and people like me had best just move out of HRM tout de suite.

Editor's Note: The Coast's annual Best of Halifax survey is a readers' poll. The votes for the personalities, businesses and activities come to us every year directly from the public. Votes are carefully tabulated and we take readers' choices as sacrosanct, without editorial or advertising input.

Joan Sinden
Halifax

NB: I have had emails about Willow's Pet Place telling me that the store is in fact now pet friendly, which I can fully believe that it is. I will never know seeing as how I've been "banned from the property" and the owner has threatened to "double-sue" me seeing as how she's an individual and also a corporate entity - I'm not too worried about being sued - because you can't be successfully sued if you're saying things that are true. It is true however that Willows Pet Place spent a long time when it was not pet friendly, and the owner has chosen to deny that which is rather inexplicable. I'll let her words speak for themself in these posts:

11 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:06 PM

    Well well, it's a dog eat dog world, and although the Coast presented us with the opportuntity, Willow's will not take part in a cat fight.

    Joan Sinden has been trying to start a cat fight with me ever since I opened a daycare 1 block away from her "best friends" daycare and since I called Janet Chernin out in the middle of Point Pleasant Park for punching a dog on the head.

    There are all oppinions out there on all topics and I have learned that it's no one's place to judge another, but it's also no one's place to slander another.

    On that note, I'd like to point out that Willow's always welcomes dogs in our store and Joan has been aware of this since the day we opened. Only less then an hour ago we had 4 dogs in our store playing and sharing treats. We had a great time, Capone, Duffy, Hobbo and Baby and look forward to seeing you again!

    What's even more entertaining is the fact that we are the only ones in HRM who have a dog friendly patio in the warm weather where we have bistro tables for you and your food and elevated dog loungers for your dog. We serve organic frozen yogurt treats, doggie biscottie and even organic home made cat and dog food. So being aware of this why does Miss Sinden continue to make these false statements?

    At Willow's we also offer group and private dog walking and in home pet care where a staff member will come to your house and care for your pet. To help former clients out when the daycare closed down I was taking the occasional dog to my house (yes it's a 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with a fenced in yard and large deck - not a small apartment).

    When looking for a new building for daycare I found a great space (R zoned) and proceeded to get approval for our plans through the Planning and Development Office in HRM. I was told we needed commercial zoning and could not proceed to open. I ask the clerk to double check as there were several daycares operating in residential zones, one in Sackville, one in Dartmouth, one in Hammonds Plains, one in Halifax, etc... It turned out that daycares really did need commerical zoning and I stopped helping former clients at my house. So please let us know if our popular dog walking and in home pet care service is something we can help you with.

    When I closed the daycare down, I did so because we were given a 30 day notice to match another offer for our space or let the space go. It took us all of 30 seconds to decide that we wouldn't match the offer and we notified all clients we could reach and forwarded the 30day notice to close onto them.

    I looked with realtors for 6 months for another space and not being able to find one decided to expand on the pet supply side and opened Willow's. For over a year after Willow's opened I continued to work with realtors to find a space in Halifax and nothing was found. We did not close over night and did not leave money owing to our clients. If there is anyone out there that feels we do owe them money, I encourage you to get in touch with me at Willow's at 405-3161 at your earliest convenience.

    In response to the comment of Zoologist. Yes I did a Dbl. Honours in Zoology with a major in Ethology, which I followed with Animal Welfare. I have worked as the Canadian Coordinator for Birute Galdikas and Orangutan Foundation International. I have also worked as the Exotic Animal Campaign Coordinator for the BC SPCA. While going to university in England, and for the years following I did field work in Zoology with Sound recall in Vervet Monkey sub-populations, with Pacific Giant Salamanders and the impacts of the logging industry and with Snow Shoe Hares and their foraging patterns relating to clover species.
    I worked with The Rescuers rehabilitating dogs with a variety of behavioural difficulties and have operated dog daycares. I now run a retail pet supply store and pet care business. So tag me as you will. When asked about my background, the Coast tagged me as zoologist. Call me a shop clerk - what do I care?

    So thanks Joan for trying yet again to start a cat fight with me, but yet again I decline and so does my business. I do however invite you down to our shop for a visit, as I understand you have never been in our store. I am confident you will find we have excellent customer service and superiour products at great prices.

    To all of our fabulous coast customers who voted Willow's as the Best Pet Supply Store I extend my sincere gratitude for all of your support.

    I also send my sincere thanks and appreciation to all of our customers who wrote in with letters of support in response to the harsh words of Miss. Sinden.

    Example A:

    To the petulant woman who complained that Willow's Pet Place was undeserving of its Best of Halifax Award: Shame on you for trying launching this smear campaign against this inspiring and pet-centric store (not to mention for questioning the integrity of The Coast – gah!). Spend one minute with the owner, Kyra Foster, and you will see what The Coast's clever readers do: a generous, altruistic, and caring local proprietor who supports other home-grown businesses including local shelters and rescue organizations. Willow's Pet Place provides responsible pet owners with human-grade and locally-made food, cruelty-free toys and humane products for their beloved furry friends. We ought to support companies that are committed to making a difference in HRM, not tarnish their reputations. Willow's Pet Place cares about the health of pets, our community and the planet and the Coast's readership has acknowledged it accordingly. So, Joan Sinden, I think you should put a muzzle on your misinformed opinions! I personally hope that one of Willows' happy, healthy pets pees on your shoe!


    Sarah Dawson

    Halifax, NS

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  2. Anonymous11:32 PM

    I think this is totally ironic. Assuming the post here was written by or on behalf of Willows' owners or staff (or so it sounds) about not engaging in a cat fight, they certainly have. They've also further lost my respect as a consumer.

    For what it's worth, I'm with Joan that Willows is definitely not the best pet store in the HRM. I think the only ones which rank lower are the ones which sell live animals.

    I've been in Willows two times. And those are the only two times I will ever go there, partially based on the email here and the rest of poor service on the the visits I have had there.

    The first time I went there, I found that the staff person working when I was there was impolite and did not appear knowledgeable (I asked a question about a food product, and I know a fair amount about food and know when someone is just trying to sell me something). They hadn't been open long then, so I assumed it was some new person and on another shopping trip gave it another try.

    My second visit the woman behind the counter was talking on the telephone and did not even acknowledge my presence, for ten minutes (and for the record, it didn't sound like a work related conversation).

    As someone who has over 15 years experience at various levels in retail and other customer service establishments, this was unacceptable. I won't go back there again and I tell other dog owners I know that there are much better stores around.

    In my opinion, the Coast's readers don't have very high standards, because there are other stores which supply excellent quality food and supplies and also much better service than I experienced at Willows. But to each his own....

    Now with the bistro tables.. Is it now legal to have humans and dogs eating in the same place? When I researched that three years ago, for a business idea I had at the time, it was not. Joan - in your research on dog friendly places, do you know?

    Anyway.... I've been in Halifax since the Coast was brand new. I'm not surprised that the readers poll sucks. In general the Coast has deteriorated since then. Too bad. It was nice to have an entertaining, informative and independently minded publication in Halifax. I used to read it regularly. Now it's good for horoscopes and lining my cat litter box.

    ~L

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  3. To start, I do not know Kyra Foster or Joan Sinden. I have never been an friend, colleague or anything close to either. Therefore, I believe whomever is reading this response should take it as face- value and extremely un-biased.

    First of all, I have to indicate that I regularly read Joan's website. As an owner of three dogs in HRM, I like to be informed of the on-goings of the owner/dog/ pet society within the city and to be frank, without her blog, I would most likely be out of the loop on most activities that occur. However, I should also state that on a very regular basis I do not agree with many of the statements Joan makes on this site. Nonetheless, we should all be reminded that this is Joan's blog, hence, she can write whatever she wishes as long as it doesn't cross certain lines such as racism, sexism, etc.

    To refer back to Kyra's response and some matters she herself brought up. The most important being consistency in her answer. To be honest, I am not very well aware of some sort of dispute Kyra had with one of Joan's dog- sitter friends, however I can state for a FACT that since it's opening, Willow HAS NOT been dog friendly. I attempted to bring my small beagle into the Willow establishment approximately one month after its grand opening to be told frankly by the customer service/ sales rep that they do not allow dogs inside the store due to building codes. However, she did point out to me that there was a large dog crate (&and note here there was indeed) outside of the entrance door. The crate was outside in the cold. The salesperson indicated that I would leave my dog in there and then go into the store by myself and shop.

    To be honest, I was horrified by this situation. Was this a 'solution' that Willow or Kyra or whomever was managing the general aspects of the store thought would actually work or be a long term resolution to not being able to bring our own pets into the pet supply store?

    Now my main point here is to clarify, without any doubt whatsoever that Willow DO NOT ALLOW DOGS IN ITS STORE SINCE INCEPTION. Perhaps it does now. I am unsure. But from that experience, it has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Bad service once is enough. I had learned my lesson and now go to stores where my dogs can be with me. Instead of a crate. In the outside. Alone.

    The point of this is to bring up the obvious fact that Kyra's response to Joan's blog, is indeed flawed. She mis- represented herself by stating: "like to point out that Willow's always welcomes dogs in our store and Joan has been aware of this since the day we opened". Now Kyra, honey- we all know this is not true so be upfront about it. Deception is not good. I essentially wanted to point this out because when I started to read Kyra's response, I realized: WAIT! She just lied. Now, because I know that was a lie since I experience the 'dog- rejection' from her own store, then what else in her response is also flawed or a lie?

    I am definitely not trying to take sides here but moreso use my critical thinking skills to state the obvious: If you want people to believe you and be on your side and agree with your politics and what you stand up for- then please, please, please... state the truth. Because once you beging with one lie (and don't argue with me here- I KNOW it was a lie, you never allowed dogs in your store in the initial months of opening), we are going to think you are lying about everything else.

    So Kyra, I went to your store once. I had a bad experience. I will never go back again. That goes for me and at least one other very loving dog owner I know. On the other issues Joan has raised, I have absolutely no comment. But this I know for sure. Kyra lied at least about one thing.

    Now she, like her store, has become a disgrace to the dog/ pet loving community in HRM.

    Sincerely, Joe

    p.s. Let me reiterate, I have no associations with Joan Sinden. This is an independent review of the situation that arised.

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  4. Dear L;

    I am sorry you had 2 very unpleasant experiences in our store. As a business owner I would have been so grateful to you if you had let me know what had taken place, as I would have tried to remedy the situation. I like to think (and believe that we do) have wonderful people working here who are offering great service. I can only know if something goes wrong like that when people come forward and tell me. I know people do have bad days and maybe that was the case, maybe it wasn't, but my apologies to you for your difficulties. If you want to contact me at 405 3161 to discuss how best I can accomodate you I would be eager to speak with you. If not I wish you all the best and thank you for giving us a try.

    Dear Joe;

    I wrote "I'd like to point out that Willow's always welcomes dogs in our store and Joan has been aware of this since the day we opened." You responded with "I can state for a FACT that since it's opening, Willow HAS NOT been dog friendly. I attempted to bring my small beagle into the Willow establishment approximately one month after its grand opening to be told frankly by the customer service/ sales rep that they do not allow dogs inside the store."... and..."The point of this is to bring up the obvious fact that Kyra's response to Joan's blog, is indeed flawed. She mis- represented herself by stating: "like to point out that Willow's always welcomes dogs in our store and Joan has been aware of this since the day we opened". Now Kyra, honey- we all know this is not true so be upfront about it. Deception is not good. I essentially wanted to point this out because when I started to read Kyra's response, I realized: WAIT! She just lied. Now, because I know that was a lie since I experience the 'dog- rejection' from her own store, then what else in her response is also flawed or a lie?"

    I can say Joe that I do not recall one single dog that I have ever refused entry into our store and yes I say this from the day we opened. We did experience concern from the building owners over any disruption we may cause to neighbouring businesses and for that reason had a dog crate available for use in case a dog's presence became disruptive. Again I will state without any doubt in my mind that I never once saw a dog use that dog crate and do not recall refusing a dog entry into the shop with it's owner or ever recall saying a dog had to be crated. I let Joan know this as you can see by part of an email that was sent to her. If people like youself or
    like "L" has had a bad experience in either this shop or any other I encourage you to let the owners know as it is very hard to resolve problems you don't have knowledge of. I extend apologies to you and your friend and your dog for that experience and invite you to contact me at any time should you wish to discuss further. And of course if you stop by you will see many changes (crate gone being one of them). I do not feel I lied or misrepresented the store at all and am sorry you see it that way.

    12/29/05, Paws & Play Dog Daycare & Supplies Inc.:

    > Hi Joan,
    >
    > It's Kyra here. I've just been sent a pretty disturbing email from a friend
    > who has seen the latest rant on your web page. I guess now we are your
    > chosen targets today. Not impressed as I'm sure you can tell. Number 1 your
    > sources are wrong about dogs not being allowed inside our store and number 2
    > we don't appreciate your lack of empathy or understanding in general on the
    > topic of no pets allowed.

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  5. Kyra,

    You may 'feel' that you didn't lie and/ or feel sorry about the situation but honestly, how many times or opportunities should I give a retailer until it finally works out. By stating that I am incorrect Kyra, you're essetially saying that what I had previous posted is a lie and you are in fact, not lying. This is truly sickening. The depths of your deception. No offense, but covering one lie with another will not make anything better.

    I am not senile. I do not have dementia. I know what happened. The crate. Your store. Not dog friendly. Since day one. Pretty much sums up the whole story.

    I just want to say that now I go to a dog friendly pet supply store. About 30 minutes out of my way. They are dog friendly. They don't lie. And I have had a good experience with them from day one.

    I wish I could wish you luck in your business Kyra, however I truthfully do not think someone with your lack of integrity should be in the pet supply business. Shame on you. And moreso, shame on any loving and knowledgeable pet owners that shop in your store.

    Joe

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  6. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Kyra,

    At some point I may have bothered to 'follow up' with you and your store. But I won't now. From what I see here, your responses to things are much less than professional. To be honest, you do not seem like a person who has any customer service or communication abilities. I don't need to engage in three bad experiences with Willows. Two was quite enough.

    It is your response to this blog and the concerns raised that makes me dislike Willows more and makes me more likely to tell every dog owner I know to stay away. When I see how you have responded to Joan and Joe, I would expect the same responses to any comments I made to you here or on the phone. Why should I bother? So you can attempt to be unprofessional to me as well, rather than dealing with the actual issues? Sorry, but I won't engage in that, I don't have time. Your comments here as well as your business is telling. At one point I would have attempted to resolve the issues I had. Not now. Again, because of you. Not because of what Joan or Joe say about their negative experiences, but because of you. Here.

    As a business, no matter how good your business is or how good you THINK it is, doesn't make it free from criticism. A professional business person would either respond rationally or let it go. Your responses, by the way, are not rational. They sound like they were written by a 12 year old child or a patient in a psychiatric ward. Criticism is reality. If you want to sound like that, good job. I suspect you would prefer to sound like a credible, professional business person. You don't. Either respond professionally or not at all. Period.

    Lynne

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  7. Anonymous9:42 AM

    PS. Does anyone know about the dogs and people eating in the same place? The bistro tables? When did the laws on that get changed? That's awesome news.. I'm surprised I haven't seen more businesses where dogs and people can hang out for coffee or whatever together.

    ~L

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  8. HEY JOE!

    I know exactly who you are! I saw your tantrum thrown at Willow's when they sales person tried to talk to you. You wouldn't even let her finish her sentence which started with "Im meant to let you know about the dog crate and was ending with please come on in with your dog". You wouldn't even let her finish what she was saying. If you had instead of flipping her off maybe you would have noticed the other 2 dogs already inside the store having treats at the counter. Your nuts! and your little sheltie didn't even want to go with you. You were so mean the way you kept dragging your dog! I hope I never have to see that again! I certainly don't think they'll miss any of your business!

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  9. Anonymous4:36 PM

    Wow! I picked up a Furry's Halifax magazine today and when I was scanning it I noticed a few items in the magazine for Willow's Pet Place. I was stunnded, I've had my dog for almost 2 years and I've been very active in the dog community but I had NEVER heard of this place. So I decided to google it and this is what I find, I don't know either Joan Sinden or Kyra but I will tell you that after reading the response from the owner I will NEVER shop at there. Honestly, if you plan to run a business you need to get more class and better communication skills.

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  10. Anonymous1:06 AM

    I believe this thread is a year old, but while I have a lot to add to this, I was not in a position to respond to it a year ago.
    I used to work for Willow's, and like so many former employees there, left on very bad terms. Kyra is unethical, has been audited more than once, and taken to the labour board more than once. I do not know of a single staff member who has left on good terms. She did indeed refuse dogs from her store when they first opened. This was not due to causing a disturbance, but rather, because of a complaint from a worker in the building. As this was out of Kyra's hands, it is curious why she lied about it, but this is very typical of her. After working for her for nearly a year I learned a few things: she is not ethical, she is an advocate for animals when it suits her, but they do indeed suffer at her hands when their welfare does not suit her, she can not be trusted with money, and she is an abusive employer.
    I did not wish to add to this discussion when it was first brought to my attention by other former employees for the same reason that they declined: fear. Now that I am out of the area and at least one other former staff member is far, far away, I feel that I can step up and comment. I do not agree with Joan's methods and question the relationship between these two women - it is indeed a cat fight and it does in my view take two to tango (or do the fox trot?), but this thread has brought up a few things that I wanted to clear up. As a former staff member, I can, and for the sake of the dog (and cat) community in HRM, I feel I should clarify a few things.

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  11. Anonymous5:24 PM

    Anonymous...I'm so glad to see another former employee on here. I too used to work at Willows, did not leave on very good terms, and wanted to post a long time ago but was afraid to make any negative comments. Kyra is a lier, plain and simple. She also verbally abuses her employees, shows up hours late when she's expected to replace them on shift (she did this a few times before I had a key to the store even...), and many people that I know that used to shop there stopped because they couldn't stand her. Don't shop there!!

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