Category Archives: Society

Gift cards, benefits for customers or not?

Gift cards have become very popular during the last years. I often found this concept strange and was wondering what the advantages and disadvantages were of offering or receiving a gift card. The big question is: do gift cards offer consumer benefits or inconveniences?

The strange principle

Basically, a gift card is a card containing a monetary value that can be exchanged at one or more merchants. The card is purchased for an X value from a merchant by the person offering the gift.

In comparison, a person can give $100 as a gift to a loved one or buy a $100 gift card from a restaurant chain and give it as a gift to a loved one.

Who is the winner?

The big question: why a gift card? For some people, this may look a better gift than receiving money directly. In both cases, the monetary value is the same. It’s only the form that changes.

Let’s look at the different possible scenarios about gift cards. The buyer being the person who buys the card, the recipient being the one who receives the card and the merchant being the entity that sells the card and also the entity that will exchange its value to the recipient. The gift card was purchased at a cost of $100 by the buyer.

Scenario 1: the recipient goes to the merchant and buys for exactly $100 of good with the gift card. The value is spent.

Scenario 2: the recipient goes to the merchant and buys for $80 with the gift card. The remaining amount is $20. The merchant generated $20 in extra. In the end, the buyer offered an $80 gift that cost him $100.

Scenario 3: the recipient goes to the merchant and buys for $120 of good with the gift card. He has to pay an extra $20 because the card covers only $100. The merchant made $20 extra.

Most of the time, the amount spent with a gift card is not exactly the same as the one paid by the buyer of the gift card. It’s quite difficult to make a purchase with an amount that reflects a predetermined value. Unless the amount spent is exactly the amount of the card as in scenario 1, the merchant will generate more money, either because the buyer did not claim the full amount of the card, or because the buyer bought a little more than the value of the card.

Another aspect is that not all gift cards are used by the recipients. Therefore, sometimes, the merchants keep the value of the card. If you receive a card from a merchant and you don’t need their products or services, you’re not likely to use it. Therefore, give it to a friend. You will lose the gift you were given and also waste time finding that friend who may be using it.

Concerning the monetary value, the merchants are the winners. There is virtually no loss for them. Some articles mention that consumers tend to spend more in-store than the value of the gift card.

Conclusion

In conclusion, gift cards can represent a more interesting offer concerning the form than receiving money directly. However, for both the recipient and the buyer, there’s no monetary gain. Therefore, these cards are relatively more expensive gifts than giving a gift in cash. In addition, it takes more time for the buyer and the recipient. Since time is money, there’s still a loss. Finally, if you really want to give a $100 gift to a loved one, give them $100 in cash. The value will remain the same and could be used anywhere and especially for more essential things.




The impact of housing refugees

Several Syrian refugees have been housed in several countries during the last months. Generally, citizens are in favor of housing the refugees. However, the impact of housing refugees has not been discussed in a strategic way. There is obviously a cost to this housing.

 

The sad reality of refugees trying to escape the war in their country. Very often, they take big risks to find a better world.

The sad reality of refugees trying to escape the war in their country. Very often, they take big risks to find a better world.

The housing of refugees has a cost

The federal government of Canada announced the budget that will be deployed for the housing of refugees. The money of this budget comes from taxes paid by citizens. In principle, this money which is now available for the housing of refugees, is cut in other areas and will not be available for these other sectors.

The government doesn’t say that other areas will get less money. The reality is that there is always 100% of the budget invested. If we want to get more money in one area, we have to move it from other sectors.

There is the question of choices. In a society where all people are constantly asking for more money in all sectors, it’s impossible to meet expectations without making cuts. Therefore, there’s a choice to make about priorities.

 

Could the costs be an investment?

The housing of refugees can be a significant cost at their arrival. However, these refugees are likely to integrate the society and occupy jobs. In the long term, we expect them to contribute to the society and to pay taxes. These amounts could offset the initial cost of the housing. So the refugees could be more an investment than an expense in the long term.

 

Question of choices and options

Richer countries feel they must help the citizens of poorer countries. This appears to me to be the only option to change the fate of countries in need. However, the help can take many forms. Housing refugees is an option. In the context of the Syrians, we know that they are fleeing the war. Countries could also fight the war to eliminate the source of the problem and to ensure that refugees don’t try to leave their country. Right now, there is the housing of refugees and also the war.

 

Conclusion

Helping certainly includes costs. Whether it’s housing refugees or participating in the war to eliminate the problem, the costs are significant. These costs imply that we cut in other sectors of the society. No matter which option is favored, we have to house the refugees for the immediate needs and also act in the long-term in the countries of the refugees to cut the source of the problem. Both measures are necessary. The big question now is probably more about balancing everything for helping others with the financial resources that are always an issue in every sector of our society.




How do you think paying your retirement? With your credit card?

How do you think paying your retirement? With your credit card?

How do you think paying your retirement? With your credit card?

Probably in a few days, you will receive your credit card account statement of the holiday season. Maybe you are like many people who are not able to pay their credit card in one payment. When you look at your credit card account statements, how much money do you plan to save for your retirement?

 

If you don’t have the money to pay your credit card, do you really think to have some for your retirement?

A significant number of people turn to debt consolidation services to be able to pay their debts and avoid bankruptcy. This service is useful, but it demonstrates that many people have no economy and retire being poor.

According to surveys, many people pay their Christmas gifts with their credit card, even if they don’t have the money to pay them at the time of purchase. They’ll have to pay them over a period of several months after Christmas. This fuels the debate about the retirement plans and in what conditions these people will live their retirement.

The problem is mainly that many people retire being dependent on social assistance from the government to survive.

 

The government must plan for retired workers

The previous facts demonstrate that people cannot be fully responsible for their situation. The government must step in and take some of people’s responsibilities for their retirement.

People don’t like paying taxes. They prefer to manage their finances. However, many people don’t know how to manage their finances and even less how to plan their retirement. If it wasn’t about the social assistance of the government, they would be homeless.

It becomes clear that the government must plan for people who don’t plan. Even with education, finances remain an emotional area and people love spending. We live in a consumer society where credit is easy to obtain. It’s also easy to get into debt.

 

Conclusion

There is no doubt for me that the government must step in to ensure a minimum income for people when they retire. Educating people and developing financial management measures help people, but it’s not enough. What we’re more likely to see is many people continuing to depend on the government’s welfare and being in a situation close to poverty during their retirement.

If you really want a good retirement plan, think how you use the credit and that could say a lot about the quality of your retirement.




What information should we archive about our society?

What information should we archive about our society?

What information should we archive about our society?

We live in an era of information and communication. Internet has certainly helped spread the information and its development. Have you ever thought about the amount of information that we archive each day? It’s really a lot. Therefore, it’s essential to preserve only the archives that provide value to our society.

We don’t need to archive everything. We may ask ourselves why we should preserve certain television shows more than some others. We need to determine what the archives will be used for. The answer doesn’t seem necessarily obvious. Many times we know decades later with hindsight.

For example, in the sector of video games where I work with my company of independent games, the number of games has been increasing for decades. There are plenty of good games from the 80s that are still available today. Although they represent a minority of games, the principle of information that accumulates and dilutes the other games is present. Archives of games are only growing. The names of games are getting very similar because of a lack of originality. Despite this, I find important to preserve the older games. They have a historical value and serve as inspiration for the gaming community of players and developers.

Here are certain archive types that seem to accumulate over time.

  • TV News
  • Movies
  • Television shows
  • Radio shows
  • Songs and music
  • Books
  • YouTube videos
  • Website archive (web page and the different versions over time)
  • Software (applications and video games)
  • History of nations
  • Archaeological data

 

Problems related to information archiving and why should we care?

We can think that the information management will become less and less effective as  the archives grow.

I asked myself what information would be important to archive. Archiving everything is an aberration. When searching for relevant information, some information could dilute the important information.

In addition to archiving the present, we’re archiving the history of ancient nations. For example, we’re archiving the history of ancient Egypt over several thousands of years. Imagine the amount of information that we’re archiving.

Some notable problems arise with information archiving.

  • Dilution of new information: Unless being able to search by date, we often get old results. The amount of results makes the selection of relevant information much more difficult as the amount of information grows.
  • Costs of maintenance: Archiving information requires a cost for the maintenance and the access to the archives. These costs can become very high because we tend to archive more information.

 

Solutions

In my opinion, there are no solutions that can actually solve the problem very efficiently. Here are some solutions.

  • A voluntary solution would be to delete older archives and keeping the most significant. However, this selection is based on standards that are difficult to establish.
  • An unconscious solution that already exists is to let the people decide on a collective and unconscious way how to keep the archives. For example, the day when everyone has deleted or destroyed a book, it’s probably because it will no longer be valuable enough to be kept related to other books.

One way or another, archives tend to grow at a problematic pace.

 

Conclusion

There are no right or wrong answers. We don’t know exactly when we will need these archives. We’d need to clean it up from time to time. The main point is to be aware of the problem. Nevertheless, I feel we’ll have a phenomenal amount of information and very difficult to manage in a generation or two.




Are the connections between politics and the private industry sane or insane?

Are the connections between politics and the private industry sane or insane?

Are the connections between politics and the private industry sane or insane?

Many people say that political parties are funded by the private sector. This is why parties are biased in their political decisions and they respond sometimes to private interests before democratic interests.

An event drew my attention about the connections between the politics and the private industry. On October 8, 2013, the businessman Paul Desmarais died. At the funeral and at a memorial service, several people from the political sector came to the events. When people go to a funeral, it’s because they have a connection with the deceased person.

Several critics have already been recorded concerning Paul Desmarais and his connections with the politics. It’s not a surprise to see so many politicians at the memorial ceremony.

This case may be outside of the average, but it raises several questions about our democratic society. I often asked the question: Are we democratic? It’s doubtful to see private companies financing political parties. Why a private company would finance a political party? Even for a business person, the same question must be asked. People usually expect a return on their investment. What do they expect from their support to a political party?

Finally, are the connections sane or insane? The problem of corruption is an insane connection. What we see as corruption in the media already represents a visible part of insane connections. It’s impossible to represent properly the other connections that are not visible. What is certain is that people from the private industry have financial interests to see some political parties being elected rather than others.




Buy on credit without paying a penny for a year! Is it really a good thing?

Buy on credit without paying a penny for a year! Is it really a good thing?

Buy on credit without paying a penny for a year! Is it really a good thing?

Several companies offer to make purchases on credit without paying for a year. Is it something that helps or harms consumers? The credit has become easier to obtain and the debt ratio of North Americans has also increased.

 

A measure to attract consumers

In the North American society, people buy a lot on credit. Very often, they buy goods or services on credit they could not afford if the credit didn’t exist. The credit allows people to buy a lifestyle more quickly.

 

The problem of credit

Most of the time, credit comes with interests. Many people will pay more, once their good fully paid, because they pay interests on payments over several months. The reimbursement can be well managed with a good budget planning. It doesn’t necessarily represent a big issue.

There is a more subtle problem. When companies offer their customers to pay only in a year, the customers do not see their debt. For example, people buy a pool or a couch and enjoy it for a year without paying. Meanwhile, they continue to buy on credit because they are accustomed to this kind of lifestyle. They pay their credit card and a year later, the payment of their superficial purchase just comes up to the surface! The credit card is suddenly charged for several years with an extra amount.

Very often, the consumer experiences financial difficulties. Then come the debt consolidation agencies and personal bankruptcy.

Do you know many people who buy on credit without paying for a year to grow that money in a bank account? Usually, people seem to be using it to get themselves other things.

Buying a vehicle on credit when we have a job is a sensible thing. In other cases, the credit has become so ridiculous that it allows people to buy goods on credit they would buy in a single payment. Think about this coffee machine that costs $100 and paid in 36 installments with the interests. Frankly, if you are not able to afford the coffee machine in a single payment, do not buy the machine.

 

Conclusion

In general, the credit is a good thing in my opinion. It requires education and isn’t for all people. If you buy on credit, you should start reimbursing in the following month. The negative effect of reimbursing a year later makes people think they have more money to spend. It gives the impression that they have no debt and live beyond their means. It isn’t surprising to learn that the debt ratio has increased significantly over the last years.




Technological innovation vs social innovations

Technological innovation vs social innovations

Technological innovation vs social innovations

We often say that the society is evolving, but how? The evolution involves changes that are often recognized as innovation. Unfortunately, these innovations are not proportional in all sectors of the society. For example, for about 50 years, the conquest of space has made giant strides. We are now able to explore the planet Mars with robots. However, we are not more able to prevent people from becoming homeless than 50 years ago. Although today there are more organizations that protect human rights, it is in situations like these that I think there are no meaningful social innovations compared to technological innovations.

 

Why is there so much contrast between the social and technological innovation?

You have probably heard that money drives the world. We live in a world focused on the economy. Many people invest their money directly or indirectly in companies. With these investments, companies do research and development to remain competitive. These technological advances allow to take the lead and make more profits. If you make a good investment in a company, that will get you a lot of money.

In comparison, if you invest your money at the social level, you may lose it. Most people want a return. Nobody will invest in homeless or dying people.

I also believe that much of the social aspect is managed by the government. Unlike the private industry, the government does not think to innovate, but rather think to manage problems.

 

Is it possible to invest in the social sector as we do in the technology sector?

Frankly, I do not think so. We live in a world focused on the economy. If you do not have a good job or simply no job, you will probably not be part of the society. We exchange our time for money. This is not a bad thing, but that works from the moment when all people have adequate jobs.

In addition, the social aspect is primarily the job of the government when it comes to implementing social services. The democratic government is composed of political parties that are often elected for a few years with four-year terms. It is very hard to have a long-term vision and to make it reality. The non-profit organisms are founded by people who are not part of the government and have a long-term vision. Their mandate is often the life project of the founder. It could become possible if the government invested more in social non-profit organisisms that are independent of political parties.

 

Finally, what should we do?

I am not going to change the world here, but we have to start somewhere. The key is in your hands. Wherever you are in the society, there is always something you can do for someone regardless of the monetary factor. I also think that in the long term, we must change the government model.

The best solution at this time is your social involvement. Share your vision to the world: why you think the world would be better if we did things differently. Like the vision I have with my blog, I think we need better models to develop the society. In short, I believe that social innovation occurs through volunteerism and involvement of people who believe in a better world.




Would you eat too much just to eat your dessert?

Would you eat too much just to eat this delicious cake?

Would you eat too much just to eat this delicious cake?

Sometimes, when I was a kid, I wanted to go directly to the dessert without finishing my plate. My mother told me that I needed to finish my plate if I wanted to eat my dessert. The intention was good because I had good things on my plate, like vegetables. However, I see a problem about this approach.

 

The problem

The big problem is that we eat too much in general in the North American society. Even if we eat good food, overeating eventually makes us gain weight. In addition, we are tempted by desserts and other fatty and sugary foods. If you offer the choice to children between a plate full of vegetables and the dessert, they will choose the dessert. We are conditioned to eat dessert after the main meal.

Children do not usually choose the amount of food they put on their plate. Their parents decide this amount according to their best judgement. Obviously, it’s always a little difficult to determine the amount of food that another person needs. Many people have difficulty determining their caloric intake for themselves. Imagine for someone else who is growing up. This is changing all the time.

Tempt a child with a delicious dessert at the end of the main meal. In his meal, serve him a greater amount of food that he needs. It is likely that at the end of his meal, he is going to decide not to finish it to keep some space for dessert. Often, the temptation to eat the dessert is so great that the child will eat everything, even if he is not hungry. This may happen if you force him to eat everything. Children end up overeating and gaining weight. We also have observed an increase in obesity among young people.

 

The solutions

We need to change this pattern and also how the children eat.

First solution: Cut off the desserts. I know it is not easy for many, but this is often difficult because we have been accustomed from the childhood. A good habit to develop that I have adopted for me: eating dessert only on weekends and in modest quantity.

Second solution: Teach the child to serve himself and determine his food portions. I believe that children should learn to identify the good portions according to his hunger. Less is better than too much. If at the end of his plate he is still hungry, so he may serve again to complete. This is the way to learn.

Finally, the application of these two solutions at the same time is recommended. With good habits, the child will not be tempted to overeat just to have dessert. Even if the dessert is only once a week, young people will probably appreciate as much because it is not the quantity that counts, but the quality.




The end of the world might not be the one you expected

End of the world

End of the world

It seems that the end of the world would be on December 21, 2012. This is certainly not the first end of the world planned and certainly not the last. Other predictions are already passed and guess what? We are still alive. This is not the catastrophe of December 21 that I want to talk here, but a more down to earth reality that has already terminated the world of millions of people around the world: war and weapons of mass destruction.

A phenomenon that worries many nations around the world is the creation of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear weapons. Some countries are gathering the material required to make nuclear weapons. We can presume that these weapons will be used in the relatively near future. Who will be the target? Several countries are at war in the Middle East and I suppose it will be one of these countries. However, political tensions exist around the world.

Weapons of mass destruction have already been used. In 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb. The technologies are progressing rapidly and we are able to make weapons more powerful. Can you imagine the day when a nation will be able to create a weapon capable of destroying a whole country? It will probably not be a bomb, but bacteriological weapons or being able to spread viruses.

With weapons more powerful, that day will probably come and it will be the end of the world. I do not believe that the entire planet will be destroyed, but the world could face an extreme pandemic. There have been pandemics that were fatal to nations. The influenza viruses, for example. The world could relive this on a larger scale. This kind of event would shake the economy, already fragile for many countries. Once the economy damaged, this could cause more poverty and social chaos. Civil wars could be generated.

It is probably not a gigantic bomb that would create the end the world, but a series of chaotic events that would eventually kill many people. We can presume that many people would survive all these events. There have been several major cataclysms that ended the reign of several prehistoric animals, including the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. Life survived anyway.

If you look in the past, there have been civilizations such as the Mayans and Egyptians who have disappeared. However, there are people in those civilizations who have survived, but there seems to be a huge bridge between these modern civilizations and ancient ones. It is more likely that the end of the world would be the end of the world as we know it. We notice that the world is changing, but sometimes there are abrupt changes, but without being a complete end.

Unfortunately, as long as we are not going to invest more in the social aspect of our societies, this is the kind of scenario that may occur. I feel that we cannot stop change and that kind of scenario is inevitable to different degrees. I got hope that nations can be better controlled by world organisms and prevent a major attack. Because we cannot control completely the world, despite the best intentions, my best advice is: “Enjoy life!