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March 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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March 31, 2021

Questioning the effectiveness of viral videos

For someone who can’t get enough of that spectacular Phil Collins-drumming gorilla, it never dawned on me that the viral video – no matter how many times I linked myself or others to it – never once made me want to buy the product it was designed to promote.

No, no rampant primate performance of "In the Air Tonight" was enough to make me thirst for a Dairy Milk, which kind of causes me to re-evaluate the success of the spot.

And it turns out I’m not alone in my suspicions. On the heels of that Evian rollerskating babies ad becoming the most watched online commercial of all time, BrandWeek.com points out that the viral potency of the clip really did nothing to boost product sales.

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Time to lock in that mortgage?

Canadians accustomed to rock bottom mortgage rates have some thinking to do.

Although a bit sooner that some predicted, mortgage rates have finally begun to rise, with both Royal Bank and TD Canada Trust the first out of the gate. 

The biggest jump is in the five-year fixed closed rate, which moves from 5.25% to 5.85% at both banks – the level every lender will reach before the Easter holiday. 

Most mortgage specialists expect that this is just the beginning of several small jumps that will hike the cost of home ownership throughout the balance of this year.  

So, is now the time to lock in to a fixed rate? 

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March 30, 2021

Study: 'substantially higher risk of divorce' when wife earns more than husband

There’s a scene in Up in the Air, last year’s should’ve-been-Best Picture, where Vera Farmiga is counselling a younger woman in crisis over her future love life.

At one point, cataloguing what she’d look for herself, Farmiga notes, “Please, let him earn more money than I do. You might not understand that now but, believe me, you will one day. Otherwise, that’s a recipe for disaster.”

She may have been speaking freely – or, perhaps more accurately, reading from Jason Reitman’s script – but a recently uncovered German study makes the 36-year-old’s words ring more true than ever.

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March 29, 2021

Will bathroom mirror ads actually make you want to buy something?

The last frontier for marketing has always been the public washroom, but even our privacy there has gone the way of “Sandra Bullock, trusting wife.”

Sometime ago, the most confidential place we had became subject to framed, bathroom stall ads. Next came posters above toilets and TVs on the walls.

And then (FYI, ladies), there arrived branded urinal cakes. It’s not enough to pee in your own solitude – men must now do it all over Gene Simmons.

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March 26, 2021

Which is safer online: PayPal, debit or credit?

Where the security of online shopping is concerned, we’ve come a long way.

Seems like just yesterday my parents were – more than a decade ago but at a time when the Internet was in its relative infancy – equal parts confused and cynical over using their Visas online.

Now? People throw their credit card numbers around willy-nilly, rarely concerned over the consequences simply because it never happens to us. Online shopping fraud isn’t totally uncommon, but unless we get nailed, we’ll still happily plug in our verification codes wherever prompted.

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How to handle that bully at work

Although he has repeatedly denied it, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been accused of being a really bully at work.  

An anti-harassment helpline revealed that it had received several complaints from people working in his office, including allegations of Mr. Brown swearing at staff, grabbing them by their lapels and shouting at them. 

Sound familiar? Well, to some people certainly. Roughly one in three employees has been bullied at work, according to research from the Workplace Bullying Institute.

And those are just the ones that speak up. Among targets of bullying, 40% never told their employers and, of those who did, 62% reported that they were essentially ignored.

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March 25, 2021

When is it best to buy your first 3D-TV?

It’s hard to ignore the buzz surrounding 3D-TVs these days.

Blame James Cameron, blame Samsung, blame whoever. But these guys are coming, and there’s no way to stop it.

And I suppose “angry” isn’t the right word, but Canadians might have reason to be a little miffed by the rapid technological progression. If you haven’t already, chances are you’ve got plans to spend a thousand bucks or more on a brand new flat panel.

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March 24, 2021

What will U.S. health care reform mean for Cdn. economy?

We try to steer clear of politics as much as possible in this space, but there’s a movement happening now that’s quite tough to ignore.

As you know, Barack Obama signed legislation yesterday that will greatly overhaul a heavily-criticized U.S. health care system.

And while that’s great news for millions of Americans – despite being a thorn in the side to some 100 million Republicans – could it have positive effects for Canadians here north of the border?

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Walmart's sales flop as the economy heals

When searching for barometers of the economy, analysts check the usual suspects: unemployment numbers; Consumer Price Indexes; the strength of the greenback.

But with so much data to consider, economists can never really know what the heck's going on. We’ve complicated things too much.

Maybe, then, we should no look further than one place to gauge the economy’s health: Walmart.

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Priceline and Hotwire gain new discount competitor

Flexible vacationers willing to book a hotel sight unseen now have a new option.

Travelocity has recently joined the so-called opaque travel market dominated by Priceline and Hotwire where you commit to a price or place a nonrefundable bid before knowing which hotel you’re actually going to end up with.

Travelocity calls it Top Secret Hotels, and says it offers up to 45 per cent off hotels looking to fill unsold inventory that it categorizes as three- and four-stars.

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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...