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February 2010

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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February 26, 2022

Can those “we’ll buy your gold!” ads be believed?

With the price of gold hovering around $1,100, ads trumpeting promises of quick dollars in exchange for bits of old gold jewelery have become a staple on late-night television.

Companies like Broken Gold and Cash4Gold invite viewers to send their unwanted gold along. In return, the ads say, they’ll provide you with a quick appraisal of the value of the items on offer and then send you a cheque in a matter of days. 

Good deal? Of course not, say Consumer Reports. 

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February 25, 2022

The stink of the Madoff name

What’s in a name, anyway?

We hate to keep picking on Bernie Madoff in this space but, let’s face it, he’s a crook who likely deserves it.

And his story, to be sure, simply won’t end. News came out today that Stephanie Madoff, the daughter-in-law to the prolific Ponzi pirate, has taken to a Manhattan court to have her name legally changed.

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February 24, 2022

Toyota, meet some of the biggest PR disasters ever

Every morning I wake up telling myself, I will not write about Toyota today. Every angle has been covered … there’s no way you can possibly say something that hasn’t been said already.

But then, yikes, this story will not go away. First there was the auto maker’s boss Akio Toyoda and his reluctance to appear Stateside in the wake of the massive safety recall that’s been linked to at least 30 North American deaths. Then there was this harrowing video of a Lexus driver describing her brush with death in 2006 from her malfunctioning Toyota-made car. And, finally, today an apology that’s by all accounts far too late given reports Toyoda swept the same safety issue under the rug in 2007.

To me, all this wraps up into a nice little package of PR disaster, and what better way to commemorate the Toyota timeline than with a mini-list of the worst PR screw-ups of all-time?

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Older workers being forced into retirement

What do a 60-something sales executive and a 59-year-old mental health worker have in common?

They’re among the growing legion of unemployed older workers who say the recession has put them on a path toward early retirement. Except, given their cost of living, they’re pretty sure that’s something they can’t afford to do.

Add to that the ambivalence about working for pay at a time when they thought they would be doing something else and you’ve got a major problem, suggests a recent study from Metlife entitled “Buddy, Can You Spare a Job?

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February 23, 2022

More Walmarts in Canada: good or bad?

It seems everyday there’s a new, big-bad corporate piñata for the world to beat on.

AIG is fulla crooks. Toyota knew it was killing drivers. They’re all saints compared to Madoff!

And while there’s absolute merit in each of those attacks, no one takes it worse and more often than the Cruella de Vil of fat cat conglomerates: Walmart.

Anti-Walmart sentiment isn’t hard to find anywhere – see Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price  – and it’s sure to rear its head again after today’s news the superstore will open 35 to 40 centres in Canada later this year.

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February 22, 2022

Which fast food chain do you consider the healthiest?

It’s a testament to the fact this guy’s now a C-list celeb that fast food chains are obsessed with promoting calorie-conscious meals.

Because, really, that’s the only way a burger franchise or sandwich shop can compete these days. Even if most evidence points to the idea we don’t actually  care what we’re eating, we at least want restaurants to endorse healthy eating to soothe our guilt.

If you look around, near everyone boasts a more responsible menu section now, regardless of whether those items are indeed healthier or even remotely edible.

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Smartphones improve productivity but not manners

Handheld devices may make workers more productive but they haven't made their offices any more pleasant, a recent Robert Half Technology survey suggests.

Asked how the growing use of mobile gadgets such as smartphones and other electronic devices is affecting workplace etiquette, 42% of Canadian CIOs said the number of breaches has definitely increased. Only 6% felt they had fallen. 

To some, the use of BlackBerrys and iPhones in meetings is anathema. So much so that nearly 20% of workers claim they've been reprimanded by their employers or fellow workers for showing bad manners with their wireless device, reports Hotjobs.

Despite resistance, the etiquette debate seems to be tilting in the favour of smartphone use, prompting Robert Half's Megan Slabinski to identify the worst types of tech-etiquette offenders.

Check and see if they remind you of anybody you know.

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February 19, 2022

Do you smell good enough to fly Jazz Air?

As Canadians, we’re always looking for an edge over our Yankee counterparts, who constantly accuse us of having an inferiority complex the size of Michael Clarke Duncan.

Yet when we’ve exhausted all avenues – when boasting “we’re just nicer than you” or “at least the whole world doesn’t hate us” is no longer accepted – there’s only one thing left for us to do.

Kick an American off our airplanes.

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Are you a good candidate for a scam?

After pleading guilty to running a pyramid scheme that duped at least 150 of his close friends and relatives, disgraced financial advisor Earl Jones was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Given the opportunity, would you have fallen for his scheme? How do otherwise intelligent people get duped this way?

Knowing a bit about investments, being impulsive, being impressed by authority and living on your own are just a few of the characteristics that help make people susceptible to ponzi schemes and other money-related scams.

Investment fraud victims are also more likely to be male, married, more educated, and have higher levels of income than non-victims, according to the NASD Investor Education Foundation.

Sound like anybody you know?

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February 18, 2022

Canada ranks 15th in world tourism: report

There’s no two ways about it: Canada is one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

But while we appreciate that notion, does the rest of the world?

New tourism numbers released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development yesterday suggest yes, though to a modest extent.

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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...