Membership has its privileges at the exclusive Granite Club in Toronto - especially during a summertime garbage strike. The luxurious social and recreation club is offering its members free garbage disposal as a strike by municipal employees enters its third week, leaving the city's rich and not-so-rich scrambling to dispose of household refuse.
The fortunate members of the Granite Club, where the initiation fee is $53,000 per couple, need only take their garbage bags to the parking lot and dispose of it there - free of charge. Tucked into a corner of the outdoor parking area is a large disposal bin surrounded by orange pylons and covered with a neat screen.
One afternoon last week it was filled with green garbage bags. An attendant on hand at the bin said the service has proved popular with members, so much so that when a fresh container was late arriving one morning, there was a lineup of members in their Mercedes and Lexus SUVs waiting to tip their trash. "We were overwhelmed the first day," says Peter Fyvie, the club's general manager.
The idea for a garbage concierge came after some members asked if the club could do anything for them. Mr. Fyvie says he is prepared to provide the service for as long as the strike continues. "Many of our members grew up here at the club and we have to look at that. We ask ourselves, how can we serve them better? I'd go to their homes to pick it up if I could."
Instead, Mr. Fyvie approached the club's regular waste disposal contractor, Wasteco Group, which provides an empty, washed bin every day for the members' refuse. The company takes the garbage to a city dumpsite it is authorized to use, Mr. Fyvie says. "It's a little more costly for them because Wasteco has to treat it as kitchen garbage." In turn, it is an extra expense for the club. "But it's worth it," Mr. Fyvie says. "We're saying, 'Bring your garbage and stay for dinner.' "
Indeed, on Canada Day the turnout for the club's fireworks party was huge - about 20 per cent of the 11,000 members - and virtually every family brought a bag of trash. "It's really kind of cool," said one Bay Street fund manager, who is a member. "I'm delighted."
An informal canvassing of other private clubs in Toronto did not turn up another one offering garbage service. Some cite lack of space or lack of budget. However, Thornhill Golf and Country Club, north of Toronto, is urging its members to bring their bags of garbage from the city when they come up for a round of golf.
The Granite is one of the oldest private clubs in the city and enjoys a bucolic location, perched on a leafy ravine in the Bayview and Lawrence area. Its spacious grounds feature a sweeping driveway, meticulous landscaping, tennis courts and four swimming pools. Inside, the club is known for its prestigious art collection, a skating rink where Olympic contenders train, bowling alleys and fine dining. The Granite enforces a strict dress code, particularly in its formal areas, where "gentlemen and young gentlemen" are required to wear jackets. (Ties are optional.) There is a six-month to one-year waiting list to join the club.
Mr. Fyvie says he was surprised that no members resigned from the club this year despite the poor economy. "They're valuing their membership and what's important to me is that with this kind of service we offer, we keep them happy. It's not that they expect this [garbage service] They say, 'We see why you're doing it because it is a big pain.' "
In fact, Mr. Fyvie says, one member was so pleased that on the way into the club for a tennis game or a luncheon she could simply hand her garbage bag to the parking attendant, she asked the general manager: "Do you do liposuction?"