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July 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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July 30, 2021

Old Spice Guy revolutionizes effect of viral marketing

It wasn’t but in the spring of this year when there was a legitimate question mark behind viral videos.

In many cases, in even the most successful cases, quirky Internet clips could drum up tons of interest, spark millions of viewers to take part but ultimately fall flat where sales and bottom lines were concerned.

Exhibit A: the Cadbury gorilla, which did little to revamp Dairy Milk sales. Exhibit B: the Evian roller-tots, Time magazine’s No. 1 TV ad of 2009 which actually preceded a 25 per cent average sales drop for the bottler that year.

So maybe we had at least a rudimentary feel for the still-emerging trend of viral marketing: it’s good for brand recognition but impartial for brand sales.

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What's works best? The carrot or the stick?

This time of the year, just about all of France takes to their cars, caravans and motorcycles and head South for their vacation. The resulting traffic jams and heated exchanges do little to counter the commonly held view that France has some of the craziest drivers going.

But some officials hope that’s going to change.

Instead of scanning the road for bad drivers, however, traffic police are scanning one major route for motorists who are obeying the rules of the road, being courteous and managing to keep their cell phones out of their hands at the same time.

They're pulling over these good drivers at random and handing them gas vouchers worth more than 50 euros (around $60).

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Women enjoy better outlook on economy than men: study

Not unlike their opinions of NFL Sundays, Lady Gaga and Ryan Seacrest, women and men have different views on money. 1282334_silhouettes_3

For example, studies have shown that, say, while men chase beauty when picking a mate, women are more likely to focus instead on their partner's cash. Or there’s a good bit of evidence that suggests when wives earn a higher salary than their husbands, chances are that marriage is headed straight for divorce.

These aren’t written-in-stone social truths, but the pattern is here nonetheless: chicks and dudes just don’t see eye-to-eye on green.

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July 28, 2021

Don't, under any circumstance, buy an unlocked iPhone 4

Come on, Apple. Come onnnnnn, Apple.

Long praised for its ingenuity, more recently slammed for its arrogance, the world’s hottest tech company is at it again.

In the wake of its ongoing iPhone 4 “Antennagate” debacle that prompted some to wonder if Canadian legislators would ever let the faulty device into our country, Apple announced this week that the iPhone 4 would indeed be coming. Even unlocked if you want.

What’s unlocked, you ask? It’s where consumers can purchase the phone directly from its manufacturer (Apple) instead of having to go through one of its Canadian providers (Bell, Telus, Rogers, etc.)

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What’s the average return you can expect on your investments?

Talking about averages can be tricky.

In every part of the country, you can find a statistic for average annual rainfall. The nation’s capital, for instance, receives an average of 70 centimetres per year. But this statistic can be very misleading.

Consider for a moment that on just one extremely rainy night in September of 2004, more than 135 millimetres of rain fell in Ottawa, skewing the numbers accordingly.

Clearly, the average annual rainfall figure isn’t always accurate. The bottom line: An average of any kind has little meaning if you don’t know the standard deviation, or variability, of the numbers that comprise the average.

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July 27, 2021

Do you fear the double-dip recession?

It’s the economic fear above all else: the double-dip recession.

951860_stress_v_2 Indeed, for all the progress we’ve made since 2008 – the jobs we’ve created, the careers we’ve restored, the finances we’ve repaired – there’s long been an unspoken cloud lingering over it all. What happens if this whole thing falls apart again?

And, to be sure, no one can agree on anything. The latest on the prospect of a double-dip recession – defined as another downturn following economic expansion that lasted less than two years – has come from the CIBC, who said Tuesday that everyone’s financial nightmare is “unlikely” to happen.

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Why rent when you can buy?

Although it varies widely from city to city, the upfront cost of buying a home is only a little more than renting in some areas of the country.

Which means, with interest rates still relatively low, this might be the time to seriously evaluate the decision of whether to rent or own, say realtors.

Let's say you’re renting now for $1,300 per month. Assuming a mortgage rate of $5.25%, $1,300 will be equivalent to a monthly payment on a mortgage of $218,000, based on a 25-year amortization.

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Is a happy worker a more productive worker?

If there’s one thing the world’s employers might all agree on, it’s this: a happy worker is a productive worker.277152_smiley_face

But where is the proof? Offices with jerks and misconduct and toxic atmospheres can still be profitable, so it’s not as if this theory is written in stone.

Heck, even the 1977 New York Yankees – often characterized as the least cohesive team in baseball history – managed to win the World Series. Who says malcontents can’t still get things done?

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July 26, 2021

10 investing myths that simply won't die

Remember the scene in “Jurassic Park” where the guy who was so sure a T-Rex couldn’t see him if he held still ends up getting eaten? Later in the book, some naïf asks what killed the man. The wry answer: “He was misinformed.”

I’ll say.

When it comes to investing, misinformation can be very costly and it comes in many forms, including phony business rumours to spur stock activity, bogus quotes attributed to public figures, vengeful flames against companies from disgruntled customers or employees, and so on.

And sometimes the problem lies in commonly held beliefs that simply don’t hold water even though they’re repeated frequently, particularly when markets get choppy, writes Brent Arends in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal.

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July 24, 2021

New site lets you rent a friend for $10/hour

Body odour. Swastika tattoo. A propensity to watch Two and a Half Men.

Crude depictions, yes, but all of these could be viable reasons you don’t have friends.

Yet, if you’re looking and have the cash – $10 an hour, that is – don’t fret. Introducing: RentAFriend.com.

I happened to stumble across this latest social networking attempt on the Web this week, catching an article highlighting RentAFriend.com’s founder in the Daily Telegraph.

The site, as you might have extrapolated, is just as its name suggests: it’s an eHarmony/Lavalife/Plenty of Fish-type domain for everything except dating and sex. Just … friendship.

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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...