Cornwall Ontario Narrowly Beats Valleyfield Quebec in Linguistic Customer Tourism Courtesy Challenge – May 4, 2013

Cornwall SPRING b 2012
Cornwall Ontario

CFN – Recently CFN conducted a Linguistic Customer Courtesy test between the cities of

Valleyfield Quebec
Valleyfield Quebec

Cornwall Ontario and Valleyfield Quebec.

Both have populations between 40-50K; both have strong French Catholic traditions, and both straddle the same waterway.  One of course is in Quebec and one in Ontario.

The tests were balanced.   Three businesses were visited in each city.  One was a Big Box store like   a Wal-Mart; one was a fast food outlet like a Tim Hortons, and one was a Mom & Pop foodery as Tourism is rapidly becoming important for many of the former Mill towns running along the 401 and Highway 20 in Quebec.

Each business was tested in the same manner with the same scenario.  One where the secret shopper said “Hello” or “Bonjour” to identify themselves linguistically; once in a fractured manner showing an attempt to speak the majority language, and once clearly in the language of the majority.

In the linguistic greeting Cornwall came out ahead with all customer service people responding in the same language as spoken to.   Two in Valleyfield refused to even try to speak English when the person said hello in English (Boo Wal-Mart!) ; one in particular refused to even try and speak any English at any point of the transaction.

Valleyfield won the competition when one store with yummy chocolates not only responded in English when our secret shopper spoke to them in French, but other service staff in the store were totally clued into the importance of good linguistic customer service.  Our Secret Shopper actually spent over their budget as they wanted one of the home made mini pizza’s they sell!   They said that feeling comfortable and happy while shopping; especially for food spurred sales.

In the test of the use of “fractured” language Cornwall narrowly scored ahead of Valleyfield with more service people trying to assist the secret shopper.

In this age of local tourism and local shopping being of a wider range it’s always interesting to see how important customer service is and the quality of care that businesses take in serving the public; especially when the public is from out of town.



  1. Jamie wrote: Two in Valleyfield refused to even try to speak English when the person said hello in English (Boo Wal-Mart!) ; one in particular refused to even try and speak any English at any point of the transaction.

    Hmmm….so the employee does not understand nor speaks English, just wondering what message you are trying to convey.

    If I felt intimidated trying to speak a language that I am not comfortable with or that I was unsure of……guess what? Yep you guessed right!!!

  2. Author

    Stella if I work in front line customer service I smile and try my best. Whatever job I’ve ever worked and had clients of different languages I always tried to accomdate them. Most people appreciate when you try. Again, if you can’t even try then maybe a store like Wal-Mart should not have them at that position?

    Odd that you’re for bilingual hospital staff in Cornwall at high levels of profiencincy but against a clerk in Wal-Mart saying Hello or Hi instead of bonjour or thank you instead of Merci?

    Again, the very basics; not writing essays.

  3. @ Stella

    I agree, if they are uncomfortable, in the majority’s language leave. Of course by the majority I am talking about Canada, not quebec. And if that still doesn’t please those poor people being UNCOMFORTABLE speaking the world’s most international language, then good for them

    these are sound and justifiable arguments for quebec, to get the hell OUT OF CANADA

    And as I stated to trembly, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.

  4. Really doesn’t bother me what language I’m served in if the person is warm and helpful. And as far as English speakers go, their English often sucks. Ever get served in a restaurant with: What do “yous” want? (That non-word is very popular in Cornwall.) Ever hear people say: I “seen” this or that? And what ever happened to “You’re welcome”? More often than not when I thank a sales person or a cashier, the response is “Not a problem.”

    French is often music to my ears.

  5. Author

    Jimmy I think you hit the nail on the head.

    As long as the person is warm and helpful rules the day. Nobody expects perfection and I don’t even have a problem with the local “What do yous want?”

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