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April 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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April 30, 2021

In Mexico, artists can pay their taxes with paintings

Now that deadline day is here, Canadian distaste for taxes has finally reached its peak.

Chances are, you’ve laboured over which deductions you qualified for and which claims could be made over the past few months.  

But after all that, you could still have a hefty tax bill when it’s all said and done. This is just a way of the world – that is, unless you live in Mexico.

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Ontario’s HST kicks in two months early

Talk about sneaky.

Although Ontario's new HST doesn't officially come into effect until July 1, many shoppers will have to deal with the revamped sales tax this weekend.

As of May 1, anyone buying goods or services that will actually be used after the HST kicks in will have to pay the extra sales tax – even though they're making the purchase two full months before the published deadline.

What it means is that on Saturday you’ll pay a 13%, instead of 5%, sales tax on things like airline or train tickets for fall travel, gym or golf memberships and theatre subscriptions.

Many businesses and entertainment outlets, such as the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, have been advising customers that they have a limited window to purchase their tickets without the added 8% tax.

And that window closes tonight.

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money

Enron: the Musical

It’s a shame Goldman Sachs continues to position itself as the world’s most hated vessel of greed these days.

Because, really, it makes us forget just how terrible Enron was.

We all remember Enron, right? It was the Texas-based energy giant that, when it wasn’t getting named as the most innovative company in America by near-every measuring stick, was defrauding investors en masse, hiding debts in illegal accounting loopholes and secretly waiting for the shoe to drop on its $63 billion bankruptcy in 2001, then the largest of all-time.

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Fewer jobs and higher insurance costs for smokers

Although the number of smokers in Canada continues to decline, smoking remains the most important cause of preventable illness, disability and premature death.

That’s why a growing number of companies are introducing smoking cessation programs and forcing employees who use tobacco to fess up and return corporate wellness bonuses -- as well as pay higher health premiums in the first place. A few employers, including some in Canada, have even stopped hiring smokers altogether.

It’s also why, on average, smokers pay as much as 40% more for life insurance. Happily, I'm not one of them but those who look to their cigarettes for comfort and companionship really think they're under attack.

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April 28, 2021

Should employees be able to 'cheat' with a rival company's product?

There was a case a while back, five years now, when a Miller employee was fired for drinking Bud Light.

No, seriously. In February of 2005, a Miller beer distributor was snapped by a newspaper photographer at a Wisconsin bar with friends. The next day when he came into work, the place was “abuzz.”

“They said, ‘You’re in trouble for drinking Bud Light,” said the employee, a father of two, who was canned after he appeared in print enjoying the competition’s product.

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Is there a future in green jobs?

Green jobs are becoming important because of growing recognition that our planet is threatened with disastrous climate change brought on by greenhouse gases. What’s at issue now is not whether we will confront this threat but how. Uncertainty about which green technologies will become most widespread is causing uncertainty about the outlook for green jobs.

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How evil, exactly, is Goldman Sachs?

There’s not much room for discussion on U.S. congressional testimony in this space, but the Goldman Sachs mess happening south of the border right now is just too intriguing to pass up.

As you may have heard, the notorious investment bank is on trial in the States, facing furious claims that the firm cashed in on the country’s housing meltdown by betting against home loan securities and duping its own investors.

Carl Levin, the Democratic Senator from Michigan, is leading the charge against GS, which – through leaked internal emails and scathing, in-depth magazine pieces – is pretty much being painted as the most evil, soul-sucking corporation of all-time.

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April 27, 2021

Can you trust those online reviews?

When searching online for a new gadget to buy, consumers pay close attention to the number of stars awarded by other seemingly satisfied customers.

But new research confirms what some of us already suspect: those ratings can be swayed by a small group of busy users.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Vassilis Kostakos says that rating systems that tap into the "wisdom of the crowd" often paint a distorted picture of a product

Kostakos studied voting patterns on sites like Amazon and the Internet Movie Database.  In each case, the professor found that a small number of users regularly accounted for the bulk of the sites' published ratings.

And these results often reflect more than just unbridled enthusiasm. 

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April 26, 2021

What's the dumbest tax mistake you've made?

By the end of this week, Canada breathes a collective sigh of relief.

Because, when the Apr. 30 tax deadline comes and goes, it’s like a great burden off our shoulders. Akin to Roy Halladay looking at the Phillies’ schedule last month and seeing he’d face the Nationals, Astros, Marlins and Braves to start the season.

Though, if you’re one of the millions of Canadians who haven’t yet filed their taxes, there’s a chance your hasty filing will lead to a boner of a mistake. The purpose of this post, then, is to act as a cleansing forum for us all …

We ask: what is the dumbest tax mistake you’ve ever made?

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Is WD-40 really that indispensable?

Consumers and tradespeople looking to save time and money need look no farther than a can of WD-40, say Tim Nyberg and Jim Berg, a.k.a the Duct-Tape Guys in their eponymous masterpiece The WD-40 book.

And they may be on to something.

The versatile brand of household lubricant, which has been around since 1958, was invented by a small three-person company trying to develop a rust-prevention solvent for the aerospace industry. 

Since the inventors came up with a successful formula on their 40th try, they called it WD-40. And that might have been it had impressed plant workers not started to sneak the product home for their own use, creating a buzz that still exists today.

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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...