Current affairs

January 13, 2022

Italy's largest bank is the now the Mafia, report says

Europe isn’t the healthiest of economies right now, though you need a degree from the Ivey School of Business to understand what’s going on.

1213609_gunAusterity this. Debt downgrade that. Whatever.

Yet here’s a report even us laypeople can figure.

In Italy, where borrowing rates continue to drop, a new report claims the Mafia has become the country’s largest bank.

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January 11, 2022

Sask. man visits ER 150 times in one year: premier

What’s in an anecdote? Well, plenty. Just ask Brad Wall.

65898_emergency_roomIndeed, the Saskatchewan premier must’ve known the fire he would spark this week when he casually noted a case of spectacular misuse of Canada’s health care system.

According to Wall, a man in his province once visited the emergency room 150 times in one year.

For those firmly in the “best health care system in the world” camp, this is not the news you want to hear.

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January 09, 2022

$2 billion in gift card value to go unredeemed this year

Over the holidays, I was fortunate to receive a $25 gift card to Chapters.

Stock-photo-14022945-gift-card-greenSo, I went out and bought Michael Lewis’ latest book, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. Even at 30 per cent off, it still went for something like $22, after taxes.

Is that more than it costs on Amazon, even with shipping? Of course it is, but what was I supposed to do? It was a gift card, and it had to be used.

Perhaps, though, my use-even-if-it’s-not-the-best-deal approach to gift cards puts me in sparse company.

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January 04, 2022

Will women keep the traditional shopping mall experience afloat?

Stereotypes are a funny a thing.

Stock-photo-17362847-shopping-activityOften, they’re wildly unfair, prefacing how we perceive a person or group before, you know, actually perceiving them.

Yet they endure, and even within the realm of economics, they are allowed.

Which is why, after a recent media report wondered if Amazon would kill the traditional shopping experience – move most commerce away from the real world to the online realm – a Forbes writer can come back and say, “No, no, women love  shopping, they’ll keep it afloat,” and we all shrug and move on.

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January 03, 2022

Today marks the first day of "Black January" for fitness biz

If you made a New Year’s weight loss resolution, how un excited were you for Tuesday’s lunch?

1272846_dumb-bellWhat was it, celery and quinoa? Maybe an acai berry smoothie? Dare we say … flaxseed?

Indeed, for holiday gluttons, the first work day of the New Year is just the pits, but not so for those in the fitness biz.

Because, much as “Black Friday” in November gives retailers a major spike toward their year-end bottom lines, gyms and health clubs may well enjoy their own “Black January” the first month of the year.

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December 30, 2021

Which website has the worst customer service?

When it comes to business relations, few methods alienate consumers more than poor customer service.

827556_signStores can have lousy selection, sky-high prices, whatever. That, we will complain about but with an even temperament. Though feature a snotty sales clerk or pestering telemarketer, and consumers will never forgive. Or forget.

Want proof? Read some of the comments on our post two summers ago wondering who has Canada’s worst customer service.

As a spin on that, at a time when online shopping is the perfect antidote for chaotic holiday crowds, we ask: which websites and online retailers have the worst customer service?

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December 29, 2021

Crooks watching for TV boxes put by the curb to know which houses to rob

By law, any and all holiday crime stories must be linked to Home Alone  and a requisite YouTube clip.

Stock-photo-18579229-burglarBut, wait! This one really compares!

Much like the Wet Bandits casing upscale Chicago neighbourhoods, real-life crooks are reportedly doing the same in the U.S., scoping out homes not for suitcases by the door but what’s waiting at the curb instead.

Your garbage, cops say, may just be an invitation for burglars to come on in these holidays.

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December 28, 2021

Cruise recreating Titanic's fated voyage sells out

Right now, near Prypiat, Ukraine, chances are a group of nervous tourists are navigating the site of history’s most damning nuclear disaster.

RMS_Titanic_3That site, of course, is Chernobyl, which was not only where fatal catastrophe struck 25 years ago, but now where voyeuristic visitors come to tour the grounds, too.

It’s called “extreme tourism,” and people love this stuff. They consume tragedy as their own way of tribute to the dead, but also, I imagine, in part for the same macabre reasons serial killer memorabilia has become a real thing.

In any case, extreme tourists – or simply history buffs, however you want to label things – will have another chance to tempt fate next April. That's when they’re recreating the Titanic.

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December 23, 2021

When in doubt, Canadians turn to credit cards during the holidays

Things in Canada aren’t so great right now.

210703_shopping_bliss__presents_no_Oh, they’re pretty good for Canada. Our national economy is growing faster than analysts could predict, and production capacity is beginning to finally approach pre-recession levels.

Yet on the ground, where the economy’s performance is really felt, consumers have puckered up tight. We discussed Canada’s plummeting consumer confidence in this space just yesterday.

But as a new report details, we can throw all that aside during the holidays. Thanks to credit cards, today’s debt concerns will be January’s problem.

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December 22, 2021

Why is Canada's consumer confidence so low?

Look, we get it. The recession was awful, particularly nasty for millions of Canadians.

Stock-photo-17885595-mmmmhhhBut even with an expectation that a recovery would not be 100 per cent smooth sailing, more than two years since the Bank of Canada officially declared the downturn dead we should be back on our feet, at the very least.

Though the latest Index of Consumer Confidence shows not only are Canadians worried about our economy, their confidence is at its lowest level in more than two and a half years.

In other words, we feel the same about Canada’s economy today than we did smack dab in the recession’s darkest days.

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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...