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August 2012

August 31, 2021

New tip jar design accepts credit cards, leaves you without excuse

In the good old days, back before the GOP had an official 2012 candidate and Jersey Shore  was to live forever, if you didn’t want to give out cash you hid behind one ironclad excuse.

When prompted to tip, donate or hand change to a homeless person, it was simple: “Sorry, man. No cash. I’ll get you next time.”

Done and done. On your way.

At least … in the good old days. Now technology’s getting so good that even tip jars take plastic, rendering your cashless reasoning critically endangered.

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August 30, 2021

Are Quebecers poor tippers, really?

In terms of international conflicts, a story that appeared in the Star  this week wasn’t quite Iran-Contra, nor was it the Cold War.

But after this article surfaced, detailing how American restaurants in the country’s east were handling visiting Canadian diners, it became shots fired, no less.

According to the report, Vermont restaurateurs were being forced to add mandatory tips on meals served to Quebec diners, who were alleged to be awful tippers.

But are Quebecers really that bad in the gratuity department?

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Worried that a robot might take your job? Perhaps you should be.

Machines are now getting so advanced that they’re soon going to be better than human beings at doing, well, everything, suggests Martin Ford in his book The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future

Today, robots and automation are a greater source of job loss than outsourcing, he maintains. And things are only going to get worse, he predicts.

At the Flextronics solar panel factory in San Francisco, there are robots everywhere and few human workers, according to the New York Times.

All of the heavy lifting and almost all of the precise work is done by robots. The human workers trim excess material, thread wires and screw in a handful of fasteners.

"As production speeds continue to increase, there has to come a point where the only option is to get the humans out of the loop," Ford predicts. "In many industries, automation may penetrate more rapidly than we expect simply because a threshold is reached where people can no longer keep up."

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August 29, 2021

What profession relies the most on coffee each day?

There’s a reason that, in Canada, there are two kinds of morning rush hour.

The ones that look like this, and the others that look like this.

For those disinclined to click that second link, that’s a shot of a Tim Hortons drive-thru, backed up to no tomorrow. It’s also a sign that few Canadian workers can start their day without a cup of coffee.

Indeed, while you might need caffeine before you can do your job, which profession, exactly, drinks the most each day?

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Parents of university-bound children advised to cut the strings

Any parents with adult children in university know that while "kids" like to think they're now on their own, they're often still dependent on Mom and Dad, particularly when it comes to money.

As a result, it's not unusual to receive a phone call or email with a plaintive cry for money. And virtually instant Interac and Paypal transfers only help speed up the wealth transfer.

But are you doing them a favour?

Although it may be tough, be careful how you respond to such requests, warns family therapist Jennifer Kolari, author of You’re Ruining My Life! (But Not Really): Surviving the Teenage Years With Connected Parenting.

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August 28, 2021

Republican National Convention to boost Tampa's strip club biz

Today marks the beginning of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, the place where the GOP will lay out its platform and begin the long, onerous process of picking a candidate for November’s election.

Of course, unless Mitt Romney is miraculously unseated from the top of his party, the RNC is but a sideshow, a PR bonanza that’s more posturing than productive.

In any case, on will go the RNC, in the shadow of Hurricane Isaac, no less, and like any major public event, it will act as the rising tide to its host city, floating all boats by providing to a boom to local businesses and industries.

But a look back through conventions past suggests the RNC has a particular way of boosting the one sordid industry Tampa, Fla., just happens to be known for.

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Is it ok for employees to re-sell merchandise they bought with their discount?

Employee discount programs are a popular perk. They provide employees with an incentive to "buy the brand," create an opportunity for increased sales, and make up a bit for crappy wages.

Lowes, for instance, gives its workers a modest 10% off merchandise. Apple, however, has started giving its workers a much bigger break on its products.

Usually, employees are supposed to use their discount themselves -- with a few exceptions. Employees who still live with their parents, for example, can sometimes purchase merchandise for them. In some instances, the same goes for spouses and partners.

But the usual idea is that discounted items are for the use of the employee. But what happens when that discounted merchandise ends up on Ebay or Kijiji?

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August 27, 2021

Canada lags the world in holidays, time off work: report

One week from today is Labour Day, the last chance, of course, you’ll have to wear white this year.

But to most Canadians, Labour Day marks the last in a short line of summer holidays, giving way to Thanksgiving and not a whole lot else until Christmas.

As it is, Canada’s calendar isn’t chalk full of stat holidays, and while most provinces go on a nice, little summer run (Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday and Labour Day), that’s still just four holidays total over the four prime months of the year.

In terms of these so-called “mandatory” days off, we always knew Canada was behind much of the world, but check out these nauseating numbers to find out by how much.

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Have you ever calculated the real cost of having kids?

On a purely economic basis, having kids makes little sense.

In fact, in our non-agrarian society, they provide almost no payback, particularly when you consider that student debt and high housing costs often force them to live at home well into their 29s and 30s. 

We do know that costs vary by household income (the more money you have, the more you spend on a child) and that the second one doesn't cost as much as the first.

But what's the target number for the average family?

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August 24, 2021

Not all bad: Chippendales offers Prince Harry a job

You know, this whole Prince Harry story has been kicking around for a couple days now, and no one quite feels great about it.

Certainly, the Royal Family mustn’t, and even the British papers, despite decrying the publishing of Harry’s infamous photos “demonstrably in the public interest,” say the pics shouldn’t have been printed, regardless.

But perhaps a silver lining can be found amid all that red hair.

If Harry’s latest misstep angers non-Monarchists that his family still receives dough from the U.K.’s civil list, maybe the prince better take the Chippendales job he’s been offered in Las Vegas.

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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...