Cover

WHAT A TOOL

sorry life of Canadian Tire Guy

JOHN INTINI October 31 2005
Cover

WHAT A TOOL

sorry life of Canadian Tire Guy

JOHN INTINI October 31 2005

WHAT A TOOL

Cover

sorry life of Canadian Tire Guy

JOHN INTINI

IF YOU’D LIKE TO SEE Tim (The Tool Man) Taylor kick the Canadian Tire Guy’s ass, you’re not alone. Canadian Tire’s long-running ad campaign—starring the Ned Flanders of home improvement—seems directly aimed at middle-aged, middle-class suburbanites who are desperate to keep their lawns neatly trimmed and their minivans perfectly polished (a.k.a. the crowd that already goes to Canadian Tire 1.8 times a week). Problem is,

it seems nearly everybody else can’t stand him.

The prince of Simoniz pressure washers— the pitchman on one of Canada’s most hated ad campaigns—has proven especially repulsive to bloggers. Every mention of him on the Web results in a string of nasty posts written with a rage so visceral it’s hard not to fear for the safety of Canadian Tire Guy’s fictional family. If he lived in any real Canadian neighbourhood, somebody would probably have glue-gunned his lips shut. But there he is on TV, showing his neighbours how to attach a set of MotoMaster Precise Fit Teflon windshield wipers, or tightening a bolt with his trusty Mastercraft speed ratchet. He’s even spawned wannabes—a selection of would-be Canadian Tire guys and gals who’ve appeared in commercials this fall.

But who exactly are they emulating? What do we really know about this man in well-

pressed plaid and stain-resistant khakis (he must be a preferred customer at Mark’s Work Wearhouse)? And what does he say about the state of the Canadian male?

Curiously, Canadian Tire officials and their Toronto-based ad agency don’t want to talk about him. Ted Simonett (the actor) reportedly has a no-interview clause in his contract-intensifying the mystery of this strange Canadian icon. All that is left to go on are the 30and 60-second TV spots, which are like Saturday Night Live skits without the punchlines. Gorge yourself on about 50 of these ads in an afternoon and things start making sense. It’s not a pretty picture. If Canadian Tire Guy is meant to be Everyman, God help us.

The initial impression is one of domestic bliss. He and his wife—whom he’s never fought with or even raised his voice to—have a son, a dog and a minivan. He also has a cottage

and a boat. Over the years, he’s done a perfect job of grooming his salt-’n’-pepper beard (probably uses the Yardworks cordless hedge trimmer). And he wasn’t always annoying. In the early days, Canadian Tire Guy kept pretty quiet about all of his gadgets. He and his wife would share in the joy of a LePage caulking gun or the Dutch Boy no-drip paint can, but they kept their rapture to themselves.

One can only imagine the scale of the latent insecurity that one day erupted into a full-scale identity crisis (he was probably one of those boys who was constantly towelwhipped in the high school showers) and turned him into an overcompensating knowit-all. Now, anyone walking by his house gets hit up for a Mastercraft public service announcement. Canadian Tire Guy looks out from his garage with that smug look of superiority and promptly illustrates the inferiority of his buddy’s tool. It’s no wonder his “friend” didn’t tell him that the cabin he lent him for a weekend didn’t have any electricity. He was probably getting back at Canadian Tire Guy for the tongue-lashing he received for buying a sander from Sears.

Meanwhile, Canadian Tire Guy just continues his mass accumulation of tools (it doesn’t take a sex therapist to figure out what’s going on there). When he first appeared several years ago, he pitched some pretty useful items. Who couldn’t use the Mastercraft Sure Shot staple gun (no kickback!) or the Oskar 3-in-l snow brush. But come on—what are most people going to

do with solar panels for a boat? And who could ever recommend that someone play hockey wearing skates with a dial that tightens them, instead of regular laces?

What does Canadian Tire Guy do for a living? Every time he jumps in his car it seems he’s simply testing out his new Monroe brake pads or heading off to Canadian Tire for another gadget (it’s as if Canadian Tire keeps a tracking bracelet on his ankle to keep him from checking out Home Depot). He does have a lot of free time in the summer—he’s probably a high school geography teacher.

He’s definitely threatened. His wife has changed her hairstyle a couple of times, but the most noticeable transformation is her new bold attitude. For a long time, her domestic role was clearly defined. Occasionally, she’d head out of the house on her own—no farther than the curb—to help a dumbfounded neighbour with a dead car battery. Usually, she stayed in, drooling over products like the motion-sensor kitchen faucet or the “perfect for guests” inflatable mattress. But she’s recently stepped it up. Especially the time she stole the family’s all-terrain

vehicle, leaving her husband and his buddy looking even dorkier than usual, sporting matching helmets and goofy grins beside the shed. You can imagine Canadian Tire Guy’s chagrin when his wife heads out for a night with the girls and mentions she’s got the stud finder in her purse.

In fact, take away his tools and what have you got? There’s no doubt he’s the type who always stops for directions when he’s lost, and watches the safety video each time he gets on an airplane. He also probably reads manuals from front to back. And he’s certainly more domesticated than ever. Recently, when his wife spilled coffee beans all over the kitchen, Canadian Tire Guy sprinted to the closet to grab their brand new Shark vacuum cleaner (so new, in fact, his wife didn’t even know they owned it) to clean up the mess. He then hit every other room in the house, illustrating its powerful suction power.

And then there’s his son, Bobby, whom we’ve literally watched grow up between commercial breaks. It seemed like only yesterday (or was it last summer?) that Canadian Tire Guy and his wife were building

him a wooden race car with their Mastercraft spin-saw. Now, he’s almost a teenager—and has become increasingly demanding. When he invited friends over to play in the family’s inflatable pool, he sulked while his overly enthused parents set everything up. Canadian Tire Guy’s apparent ineffectiveness at discipline has turned his son into a brat who spends most of his time in the back seat of his parents’ van playing video games or watching movies on their portable DVD player—especially on camping trips. (He’s probably taken to insulting his father’s taste in movies, refusing to play Sleepless in Seattle, which Dad has seen 49 times since finding it in the cheap bin at his favourite store.)

But who can blame the kid? Canadian Tire Guy always picks the worst weekends to camp. It rains pretty much every time the family heads to the bush. And to make matters worse, the family is always unprepared-having to use their inflatable beds as cover when running between the car and the tent. An umbrella—also available at Canadian Tire—would be a good investment.

Although not clear from the ads, it’s safe

to assume Canadian Tire Guy likes a good singalong. Soon as the cameras turn off, he probably grabs a guitar from the trunk and tortures his family with an extended version of Stairway to Heaven around the camp fire. He certainly seems the classic rock typebet he loves the Eagles and Eric Clapton. But for romance, he probably pulls an old Chris de Burgh tape from his underwear drawer (undoubtedly filled with tighty whiteys) and lets Lady in Red take over. Too bad he plays it while tenderly turning on his Shop-Vac.

He seems to be a caring husband and father. Just think back to that rainy night when his wife and son were on a road with a flat tire, and Canadian Tire Guy had thoughtfully left a cute little note in the trunk and, more important, the Airman Tire repair kit. But sensitive or not, he’s obviously alienated most of his extended family—except for a couple of nephews. One appears in a parking lot after a round of golf, gushing over his uncle’s new halogen headlights. Another shows up in the company’s back-to-school ad, during which Canadian Tire Guy and his wife outfit his college dorm room with ridiculous furniture that looks rock hard. If Canadian Tire Guy is looking to win the “Uncle of The Year Award,” he should have shown up with a case of beer instead of a recliner that doubles as an ottoman. The rest of his relatives probably grew tired of receiving rechargeable battery kits and super-powered flashlights for Christmas, and cut him out of family functions. As for his neighbours, chances are he’s the guy who never gets invited to street parties. Too bad, because Canadian Tire Guy could use a thick steak and a couple of cold ones, ! though he’s probably maintained his svelte figure into middle age by watching his red meat intake and drinking tasteless, low-carb beer. (No more than two, though, lest he wind up hanging off the roof from his tool belt.) But Canadian Tire Guy’s greatest indignity is still to come—likely, sooner rather than later—when he’s kicked out of the makebelieve neighbourhood. The new batch of Canadian Tire handymen seem to be taking over, and having to play second fiddle must be killing him. It can’t be easy, even for a fictional character, to have a mid-life crisis play out on national TV. Maybe, in one last-ditch j effort to prove his manliness, he’ll try hanging out with a couple of Tool Time girls— especially if they promise to bring over their new Mastercraft laser saw. ful