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May 2009

January 24, 2022

Starbucks to serve beer and wine at some U.S. stores

Let’s brainstorm together: if there is one place on earth where people linger too long, where is it?


Indeed, there are few social meeting spots as cliché as the coffee chain, yet still it persists, Starbucks being the  place you want to be if your desire is to be seen in public typing on your laptop, studying for an exam or wearing a cashmere scarf with glasses absent prescription frames.

Business-wise, having people spend incredible stretches of time in your outlets is a big money maker for Starbucks, though in the U.S. the franchise has found a way to lure customers in for even longer.

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May 30, 2021

Watch out for mystery shopper scams

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

A new version of an old scam is currently making the rounds, complete with a Canadian address.

In the original, targets received a letter saying they’ve been selected to become a "mystery shopper" for really good money. Enclosed they found a $3,150 cashier's cheque and instructions to visit a local Wal-Mart and pose as someone buying a MoneyGram to wire $2,825 to a relative in Canada. The cheque amount covered the cost of the MoneyGram, including Wal-Mart's fee, and $250 for their time, which included filling out a survey on the service they’d received.

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May 29, 2021

Buy domestic? Sure, but who can afford it?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It’s tough not to nod and agree when someone urges you to “buy domestic,” especially after the latest round of mass layoffs or factory closures hit the news.

But, outside of the auto industry, I can’t – for the life of me – recall anyone telling me how to actually do this.

I bring this up after reading a fascinating article on ABC News from a segment they did recently on Nightline. In the piece, the reporters outline just how tricky (due to lack of availability) and costly (due to increased manufacturing rates) it is to actually  buy domestic.

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May 28, 2021

Why it pays to be an optimist

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Although written for advisors looking to understand their clients, here’s an interesting article from investment industry consultant Dan Richards which draws heavily on the work of Martin Seligman.

Seligman is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. Much of his research has focused on optimism, a trait shown to be associated with good physical health, less depression and mental illness, longer life and, if you’re really lucky, greater happiness.

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Everyone, not just farmers, can get free HD with an antenna

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

It seems everyday I use this space to rant and rave about cable TV costs, how much HD sets me back, the new ways Rogers treats me like a public toilet … blah, blah, blah.

And every time I write about TV, a handful of wise commenters chime in that they’re able to use old-school antennas to pick up signals across the air without the need for a pricey cable or satellite subscription. What is your problem for giving $50, $60, $70 each month to the fat cat telecom companies?

Yet, who is this price-savvy group? They must all be farmers, tilting and tweaking their two-story high, rounded antique dishes toward the sky as cows moo and passing tractors roar by, right? What good is this strategy for the rest of us without twenty acres and a rooster to call our own?

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May 27, 2021

New Tim Hortons self-serve kiosks brew up a fuss

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

On the surface, every self-checkout at a modern grocery store appears as a slap in the face to shoppers. We don’t want to pay someone to scan and bag your food. You do it.

In its most traditional sense, it is the proverbial Eff You, nail-in-the-coffin to customer service.

Yet there’s also mounting sentiment that self-checkouts streamline the shopping process, which – when you’ve got two screaming kids and are stuck waiting for Samantha Teenybop to run through the ten customers ahead of you – could be understandably awful. They are convenient and, as Mr. T might say, don’t give you no jibber-jabber.

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May 26, 2021

Air-powered car on its way by 2011

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

No, this isn’t a bad flatulence joke. We’re serious.

As engineers topple over themselves to one-up each other and thumb the eye of the SUV era, the latest car design needs not hybrid fuel or a solar charge to operate – rather, simply air.

France’s Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) announced yesterday they plan to have an incredibly fuel-efficient vehicle, one that could emit nothing but air into the atmosphere, on North American roads by 2011.

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May 25, 2021

Please don't steal my car!

By Gordon Powers, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Insurance rates are up and so are the number of cars going missing each year.

The number one reason most vehicles are stolen is because they do not have an immobilizer, says the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Electronic immobilizers require a special key or small electronic device to start a vehicle’s engine. When someone tries to start your vehicle without this, the immobilizer shuts off the engine’s electrical system, making it virtually impossible to steal.

That’s why Manitoba, for instance, has been requiring owners of the vehicles it views most at risk to install such devices if they live in Winnipeg or commute to the city.

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The new iPhone is coming

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

If I had a friend who’d been in a coma for the past ten years, he might snap out and wonder things like, “Steve Buscemi didn’t  turn out to be a serial killer?”, “Why isn’t Eddie Griffin the most successful comedian alive?”, and “You know what? I thought Lou Bega had what it took. I’m surprised.”

But he’d also wonder what an iPhone is. And while everyone knows what an iPhone is, not everyone knows that the newest version is on its way in the next couple months.

Coming off the success of its wildly popular iPhone 3G that debuted in Canada with Rogers last summer, Apple is being very hush-hush about details of their new model – the iPhone 3.0.

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May 22, 2021

Retailers say no to plus-size women

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

In a move that makes you wonder if it’s taking business advice from United Airlines, Ann Taylor has announced it will no longer carry women’s size 16 in its stores any longer.

The U.S. retail chain said it will pull the size because of lack of demand and has now joined the ranks of other big-time outfitters to drop its clothing lines for bigger women.

And, if you look closer, this trend appears to have all the looks of a larger development. A more alarming development.

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May 21, 2021

An aging workforce: good or bad?

By Jason Buckland, Sympatico / MSN Finance

Came across an interesting piece on the goods-delivering Financial Post blog the other day about an issue we haven’t got a chance to touch on yet in this space.

The paper addresses whether an aging workforce is a gift or curse as the Baby Boomers grow gray and make their way into retirement, if the hallowed ground hasn’t called for them already.

In supporting its stance that older employees are a good thing, the article argues that young people entering the workforce today are “under-equipped professionally” while older workers – though they may be an HR nightmare – are an asset in themselves to serve as mentors for a new batch of company staff.

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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...