Bright red garbage dumpsters began appearing in back alleys of Keremeos” Seventh Avenue business section late this summer, like ripening apples in season in nearby orchards.
The bins belong to a new waste collection company in the South Okanagan-Similkameen called Appleton Waste Services Inc. The company made some major inroads into the Keremeos commercial waste collection market since mid summer.
Keremeos’ business section, like other commercial and industrial properties throughout the Regional District Okanagan Similkameen, are not contracted through the RDOS for garbage pickup. Merchants have had to contract waste collection services individually, and for many years in the Lower Similkameen, BFI was the only agency available to collect the valley’s commercial trash.
Appleton’s owner, David Appleton, began the waste collection service in May. The Okanagan Falls based company was asked to provide a quote to a Keremeos business in August. Appleton also went door to door in the downtown core and received a positive response from the village’s commercial community.
“We had a great response here in Keremeos,” said Appleton.
“We had been concentrating on expanding our service south of Okanagan Falls, having had some good results there, but the fact is, there has been no competition here for many years with the market 100 per cent controlled by a single company, leaving people with few options.”
Appleton said his company’s low overhead and local control means he can offer a very competitive rate that he assures won’t change significantly in future years, noting that landfill fees generally set the tone for pricing.
Appleton said the biggest issues Keremeos merchants had with their waste collection service in the past were price and service related.
“BFI has been making it very difficult for people to change,” Appleton observed, “but most people see that.”
Aaron Beauchamp of Napa Auto Parts said he cancelled his contract with BFI early in October, after being approched by Appleton in July.
“He (David) asked if we were interested in a change, and we were willing to look at his service,” Beauchamp related. “We liked what Appleton had to offer, and signed on.”
Beauchamp said that he gave BFI 60 days notice of his intentions.
Like other Keremeos merchants, in July he received a two-page letter from BFI requesting that he sign off on an agreement not to include bio or radioactive waste in his bin. The letter was also a new service agreement, which was unclear to some of the merchants.
“How many Keremeos businesses deal in radioactive waste? The letter was actually a service contract renewal,” said Beauchamp, who refused to sign it.
Beauchamp was then visited by Terry Moldenhauser, manager of major accounts for BFI Canada, and another man who was unidentified. He asked Beauchamp why he was switching, advising him that he was bound by a contract and couldn’t get out without incurring a large penalty.
“The conversation was more to the effect of ‘stay with us, or else,’ Beauchamp explained, adding that he felt he was being vaguely threatened.
“They told me they were going to give me time to think about it,” Beauchamp said, “then they came back after lunch with a copy of a contract I had with WSI (Waste Services Inc.), from 2006. I never signed a new contract when the company became BFI Canada.
They also said the competition were a pair of disgruntled former employees.”
BFI Canada continued to service Beauchamp’s empty waste bin after the termination of his contract, which occurred on October 3. They replaced their can in front of the Appleton bin, cutting off access to that container. Beauchamp had to have it moved, but it continues to sit in the alley on a neighbouring property.
Beauchamp, who estimates he is saving at least 25 per cent, has no plans to return to BFI under any circumstances.
“Before there was no choice, now there is,” he said. “The Appleton people have been easy to work with, straightforward, approachable – nice people to work with.
There was no way we were going to sign (with BFI Canada) after those strong arm tactics. I’ve been trying to contact them for several weeks now to get them to pick up their bins, and I have not had a reply,” said Beauchamp.
Keremeos Building Centre’s Jake MacDonald has a similar story to tell, but feels compromised by legal action taking place over his situation. He noted someone has been making the rounds of various businesses in the community, taking depositions regarding their issues with waste pickup.
Sakchai Chaicomdee of Benja Thai – Rick as he is known to his customers – didn’t realize he was signing a five year contract with BFI when he received the letter asking him to sign off on not including hazardous waste. He liked Appleton’s prices, looking for some relief from waste pickup costs totalling more than $100 per month.
“I was told by BFI that I signed with them, I had to stay with them,” Chaicomdee said, who also has two bins in the alley behind his business, one of which is collecting garbage, the other empty.
Karl Schorb of the Branding Iron and Grill said that he was fed up with escalating garbage fees.
“I went from paying $160 per month to $383 in two years,” he said, “as much as I pay in taxes for the year.”
“They can’t raise prices without informing me. I wrote a couple of letters but didn’t think to keep copies of them,” he added.
BFI didn’t react to my complaints until Appleton came along and offered an alternative, then they tried to match Appleton’s offer.”
“I was the first one to get Appleton’s bin in Keremeos.”
Schorb said he refused to sign a contract with BFI, as he has with Appleton.
Tracie Erikson of the “K” Cafe saidthere were three instances where her bin was not emptied this summer, and calls to BFI went unanswered.
“When Appleton came and offered their services for $100 less per month, I couldn’t believe what they were charging,” Erikson said.
Erikson said two BFI representatives came to see her.
“Now that we have a choice I told BFI I was switching,”
she continued, “I thought the one man was going to break my kneecaps. I got a little scared, but I stuck to my guns.”
Erikson said BFI has not come to pick up their bins, and will not respond to her calls, adding that she has been sent two bills even though they are not picking up any garbage from her business.
“I’d like to know why they won’t talk to me, and why they aren’t picking up their bin,” she said, “I can’t believe this is all over garbage.”
Geoff Goodman. account manager for Progressive Waste Solutions (BFI’s new name) insisted his company is not the big, bad corporate entity he feels some people appear to be seeing.
Rock Appleton (David’s father) was once the biggest waste hauler in western Canada,” Goodman explained, adding that BFI was the only company that invested in local communities.
Goodman noted that Keremeos did have a choice, as there were other waste management companies in the area, including Super Save, EZ Bins, Smithrite and Waste Management, some of whom had corporate accounts in the area.
“Appleton is enticing people to change with extremely low pricing, and the customer is already receiving invoices that are higher than anticipated,” Goodman continued.
When queried about the letter asking customers to sign off on placing hazardous waste in the bins that also contained a contract renewal, Goodman said, “Government regulations changed haulage rules, resulting in changes to sections of the contract, which was what the letter was about.
“The contract was stated clearly on the second page, and customers didn’t have to sign it – in fact, some didn’t.
It’s not a matter of tricking someone. It’s customary for major haulers to put out contracts this way. The main thrust of the message was not to put certain goods in the garbage.”
Goodman said that customers were free to call BFI to discuss their contract at any point in its term, adding that itwas a standard business contract that a customer could get out of by having it come to term, through just cause, or through a buyout of the remainder of the contract.
“Our contracts supercede Appleton’s,” he said of a few instances in the village where businesses had signed double contracts.
“They can drop Appleton, or keep them both,” he said, adding that his company wanted to avoid having customers pay a penalty for liquidating their contract, so were trying to match the competitor’s price.
Asked about concerns regarding the escalation in pickup costs over the past few years, BFI – Progressive Waste Solutions facility manager Roy Aitken said that the company had faced two years of healthy landfill tipping fee increases.
“We have had to pass those increases on to customers. That was our biggest increase,” said Aitken.
“We’ve also had increases to cover inflation, plus rates are higher here because of the haulage distance between Keremeos and Penticton.”
For his part, Goodman can’t explain the negative reaction several downtown merchants expressed regarding BFI’s treatment of them.
“I was one of the two reps that came to Keremeos in late August,” Goodman explained. “We compared options, made offers to match the competiton.”
“We were polite, we waited for our customers to make up their minds – we didn’t force anyone.”
“There were no issues during our conversations.”
“At the end of the day, it’s garbage that we are talking about.”
“We don’t want to be that kind of company – I don’t want to be that kind of person.”
“We’re members of the community, I’m a coach – we’re all professional.”