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The Tooth Fairy

From what I can tell, the Tooth Fairy has at least some purpose.  I don’t remember what I felt when losing my teeth at age 7, but it’s certainly possible that some kids have a negative experience.  The Tooth Fairy seems like a way to improve this experience, because hey, free money!  Who needs a stupid tooth when I can buy candy with this dollar!  (Irony?)

What about Santa?  The fat guy who somehow gets into houses without chimneys – how on earth are parents explaining this part nowadays?  Not that a fat guy could have fit down a chimney in the first place, but maybe kids wouldn’t know that.  In fact, I’ll bet at least one kid has tried to climb up or down a chimney just to see if it’s possible.  But I digress.  Santa appears to have been popularized in our society in order to promote Coca-Cola, I mean, in order to make kids behave.  Be good, or Santa won’t bring you any presents!

My argument here is why can’t it just be “Be good, or Mommy and Daddy won’t buy you any presents*“?  I wonder if there’s a psychological reason why it’s better for behavioural development for there to be some outside party evaluating all this.  And that’s assuming that the use of Santa Claus does in fact help matters (has there been a study done?)

From my education in psychology and pedagogy, external rewards such as presents may be an effective way to improve behaviour in the short term, but decrease the likelihood of good behaviour in the absence of such rewards.  So maybe Santa Claus is worthless after all, and parents should say “We’re getting you presents because we love you, but be nice, because other people matter.”

Back to the Tooth Fairy.  What makes this a good idea?  I wonder if children would accept the idea that their parents would give them money every time they lost a tooth.  I can’t think of anything better at the moment.

I’m done what I wanted to say, but I might as well add that the Easter Bunny is even more useless and unbelievable.  So a rabbit hides eggs all over the place?  Not a chicken?  Okay.  My dad never pulled that wool over our eyes.  He made the egg-hunt like a treasure hunt: each time you found eggs, they came with clues to where the next ones would be.  Love you, Dad.

* Parents referring to themselves in the third person is a topic for another day


Shoe size on display

My friend mentioned that the most common shoe sizes on display for women’s shoes are smaller, and we were trying to figure out whether there was statistically significant research showing that smaller shoes on display results in better sales.   If there are, who would have researched that?   A company or a university?

Pizza chains

What do the following intersections have in common? Queen and Bathurst, Woodbine and Danforth, St Clair and Vaughan, Gerrard and Greenwood, Church and Wellesley? Answer below.

Today I learned Pizza Nova, a pizza chain based in Ontario, is family-owned and operated. They’ve been my favourite pizza place since I was a kid. There was a Pizza Pizza across the street, but of course we always chose the better pizza. The thin, crisp crust with fantastic toppings? Hell yes.

So why is Pizza Pizza evidently the most popular pizza in Ontario? They don’t have the best pizza (it’s really just all dough), they’re not the only chain that lets you order online, and they don’t have the best deals (Domino’s has much better pizza and fantastic prices). So I can’t figure it out.

Some ideas of why they’re successful:
They marketed pretty well. The 967-11-11 song was really catchy. But I preferred 4-3-9-oh-oh-oh-oh Pizza Nova any day.
I think they employ(ed) some business strategies that make their chain the default choice. Especially for large orders; it seems like everyone buys Pizza Pizza for large functions, and then it’s in people’s minds when they next order? I don’t know too much about the psychology of marketing and consumer choice.
They place their stores in great locations: the corner lot. Visible from about twice as many places, whatever it costs for a corner lot is probably worth it. Most Pizza Pizza stores I know are at corners. This is the answer to the question at the start of the post.

What I do like about Pizza Pizza:
– the dipping sauce
– when they first introduced fries to the menu, they called them Fries Fries.

What I prefer about almost every other chain:
– the pizza, i.e. the whole reason you’re getting food in the first place

Affordable Housing

I read a couple of recent articles in the newspaper that reported on a possible plan to include affordable housing in most/all new developments. Sounds like a great idea, since integrating different economic statuses has been proven effective; see St. Lawrence Market (and the opposite idea ineffective; see Regent Park).

Okay, but then developers say that’s not fair, whine whine, etc. It might not be fair to them, but it’s my understanding that development is a fairly lucrative business. Especially when you’re building condos that are sold before construction even begins. Hell, I could theoretically afford to build a condo if I make $35M in revenue before actually building anything.

So the developers say that the revenue lost by having some cheaper units will be passed on to the rest of the buyers. And I think they say the same thing when regulations force them to build green roofs or any other “inconvenient” extra expense.

To me, on one hand, fine. Either the buyers pay a bit more, or the government has to subsidize the affordable housing / green roofs / other, which comes from taxpayers anyway. You can’t really force the developers to lose some profit because of our equity agenda.

On another hand, this seems underhanded of the developers. Even if governments say, for instance, ‘1 of every 3 buildings you do must be affordable housing, and it must represent 20% of all units’, then they will sell units from the other 2 for more money to compensate. So if we make developers contribute to affordable housing, the costs are just passed on to others anyway.

So the government almost might as well build it themselves. But why should they be responsible for building housing that probably generates a net loss, and not be in the lucrative part of the business? Seriously, can’t the City of Toronto develop its own land, with mixed income housing, and actually generate itself some profit? There must be some reason… I’m guessing there’s a law on conflict of interest, except that it would allow the city to provide more social services, which seems too beneficial to ignore as a possibility. Seriously, whose interests are at risk, other than developers? The city would just be competition.

Maybe the city gets a tax from development, and that’s why they’re ok with the status quo.

…hmm, maybe those taxes are ALSO being passed on to the other buyers. Now I think that the tax developers pay is effectively 0%. I might be cynical, but perhaps with good cause!

Ride the Wind

Today, I phoned my cell phone provider to tell them I was cancelling my service. I had been procrastinating doing this for a while now. I’m going to switch to the new provider in Canada, WIND Mobile.

Canadians have some of the highest cell phone rates among developed countries (see links below). Prior to the release of WIND, three companies owned 90-something percent of all mobile subscriptions in the country. Rogers, Bell, and Telus. Remember: Fido, Solo, and Koodo are owned by the same three companies (respectively). The Supreme Court had to rule on whether WIND met Canadian ownership requirements (see next group of links below). Luckily, it was agreed that it did. The competition for Canadian mobile service now has the chance to open up.

WIND isn’t going to save me much money, but the message I sent my provider by switching is, “You could do better.” I chose to switch to WIND partly because of its good rates, but more because if people leave their current mobile providers, those providers will have to do something to stay competitive. Like lowering their prices. It’s about time. If WIND makes a big enough impact, expect to see radical changes in the way the other mobile companies do business.

The WIND “Always Shout” plan, $45/month
— Unlimited anytime calling to anywhere in Canada
— Unlimited incoming and outgoing texts
— Voicemail/call display/call forwarding/call waiting/etc
— No contract

— Must be in a WIND “home zone” (in the GTA, this currently stretches to Hamilton, Brampton, Newmarket, and Oshawa)
— Currently only works with a few phones

We-pay-too-much links:
Link: The Globe and Mail
Link: CBC news
Link: Financial Post (National Post)

Court links:
Link: The Globe and Mail

And of course:
Link: WIND Mobile

Thought 3: The Hamilton Coyotes

I would love for the Phoenix Coyotes to move to Hamilton. It seems clear to me at this point that Gary Bettman has a personal vendetta against Jim Balsillie. I wonder if it’s just Bettman who has the dream of southern hockey, or if many other NHL executives share this vision. It really doesn’t seem like it’ll work…

One of the main reasons the newspapers touted at first for this resistance was that if the NHL expands, the new team has to pay a few dozen million dollars directly to the other owners. If the Phoenix franchise were to fold, rather than relocate, the league would have an open spot for expansion, and create that revenue for owners.

Another reason suggested was the territorial claims of the Leafs (and maybe to a lesser extent, the Sabres). If the teams have veto power, then the anti-trust argument should stand up in court. The Leafs even admitted believing they have such a power. I wonder how the NHL will get around that.

Something the media hasn’t mentioned is the salary cap rules. Many teams are already struggling to meet the minimum salary range, which is tied to overall league revenue. If granted, a Hamilton franchise would probably find itself in the top 25% of revenues, up from the bottom 25%. This would mean a significant increase in both the salary cap and the floor, and the already-struggling teams (in the south, of course) would be pressed even harder. It’s possible as much as one-third of the owners would veto a move to Hamilton, based solely on their own teams’ finances.

Interestingly enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs might in fact benefit from a Hamilton team, because of the competition it would create. The front office has been able to sit back on a low-talent team for years, because they have no shortage of die-hard fans. They sell out every single game at extortionate prices. But this means the desire to assemble a winning team is secondary. However, with a Hamilton franchise, the threat of Leafs fans embracing (and paying for) the new team would make the Leafs front office work much harder for a Stanley Cup. The Air Canada Centre would almost certainly remain packed night after night. And it would be a blessing for Leafs fans and Leaf haters alike in this hockey-starved market.

Thought 2: Diamond Shreddies

I love the Diamond Shreddies advertising campaign. Sheer brilliance. A perfect satire on the “new and improved” style of advertising, because the product is neither. The key is that the product has “changed” but in only the tiniest way. Some products change the colour of the packaging or the product itself, but even that would be too much change for this sort of parody.

The campaign goes further by pitting the old and new products against each other, supported by consumer choice (“which do you prefer?”) tv ads and a website dedicated to the ongoing poll. I’m hoping that they declare Diamond the winner, and run exclusively Diamond Shreddies for a while. Should they eventually return to just plain Shreddies? They could even call them Classic Shreddies (a play on New Coke).

The advertising campaign has boosted sales (not hard to see why when everyone’s talking about them. When was the last time you talked about Bran Flakes?). I wonder when successful ad campaigns are deemed “over” by executives. Is it when sales start to slide toward normal levels? Or do they just try to create a buzz and end before the peak?

Good, good, Diamond Shreddies!