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Too Many Positives Make a Negative for Online Retailers



There is a term for those suspiciously enthusiastic online reviews and testimonials that read like they were written by the business owner or paid for.

It’s called “astroturfing,” and according to Canada’s Competition Bureau, it’s the practice of creating commercial representations that masquerade as the authentic experiences and opinions of impartial consumers.

While companies that engage in such practices believe they are doing themselves a favour, researchers in The Netherlands and Germany have found that overly glowing product reviews can do more harm than good.

Such reviews encourage more people to buy, but they also increase the probability of returns, and for a simple reason: The higher an item is rated, the more shopper expectations rise.

“Once the product has been purchased and inspected at home it may not meet these high expectations formed at the moment of purchase due to the reviews,” according to the researchers, Alec Minnema and Tammo Bijmolt at the University of Groningen and Sonja Gensler at the University of Münster.

In fact, most products are not returned because of product defects but because customers are simply disappointed by the product overall. Only five per cent of returns in the electronics category are related to defective products, according to data collected by the researchers.

Returns are an expensive problem for online retailers – as much as 30 per cent of products purchased online are returned, at a cost to retailers of between $6 and $18 per return, say the researchers.

In the U.S., customers return $264-billion (U.S.) worth of products annually. A one per cent decrease in the returns rate could reduce costs by an average of $17-million for large U.S. retailers, according to the researchers.

They found that a one point increase in positivity in reviews increases the likelihood of purchase by 9 per cent in electronics and nearly 15 per cent in furniture. It also increased the probability of returns — 11 per cent in electronics and just over 10 per cent in furniture.

“Retailers should provide information that sets the right expectations for customers,” the researchers concluded. “Currently, many retailers encourage customers to write reviews. Given our results, it is important that the reviews reflect all buyers’ opinions regarding the product.”

The data was collected from a major European online retailer between 2011 and 2013 and included 8.8-million page-views that resulted in 631,063 purchase transactions for 2,164 different products in electronics and furniture.

The retailer asked to remain anonymous.

No good deed…

You’re at a critical point on a project at work. After long hours spent collecting data and puzzling over how to approach the problem, you are flying down the home stretch, finish line in sight.

A colleague appears at your desk, distraught. Her proposal just got torn apart in a meeting and she needs kind words and coaching.

What happens next?

If you want to get ahead at work, new research shows, you may have to turn her down.

Organizational citizenship behaviour (OCB), has long been regarded as a win-win-win – the person who needs help gets help; the person providing the help gets a psychological and social boost from the interaction and the business benefits because everything runs more smoothly as a result.

But research led by Klodiana Lanaj at the University of Florida explores the idea that helping may consume so-called regulatory resources – the reservoir of internal energy you draw upon when you pay attention, persevere at a difficult task or manage emotions.

“My recent research suggests that responding to help requests at work is a double-edged sword,” wrote Lanaj in a recent article at

“On the one hand, helping co-workers in need is energizing and replenishing, particularly when that help is perceived as beneficial to co-workers – in other words, when you can see that your help has actually made a difference,” she wrote. “On the other hand, helping co-workers in need drains that helper’s cognitive and emotional resources, leaving them too tired and depleted to perform subsequent work tasks.”

In a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Lanaj and co-authors Mo Wang at the University of Florida and Russell E. Johnson at Michigan State University, surveyed 68 managerial and professional employees every day for 15 consecutive workdays. They asked them to report how many times they responded to help requests and whether they thought their help had been beneficial. They asked them to report on their energy levels.

It turns out that for some people, the energy expended by helping drained their own resources to the point where they had less energy to pursue their own work.

Particularly at risk are those inclined to be the most helpful – people who highly value collective interests and adhering to moral obligations regardless of the costs and rewards of doing so.

The researchers suggest that such people should be more judicious in their helping, or that they counteract the depleting effect of their actions by taking breaks, having a nap or a coffee.

The study also recommends that help-seekers ask themselves if they can solve the problem without assistance, perhaps by consulting a manual or an online resource.

“It’s important for help seekers to realizing that asking for help (especially when it is done multiple times per day) has detrimental effects on helpers. This is not to say that co-workers should avoid seeking help, but that they ought to consider the magnitude and solvability of the issue before doing so and avoid continually seeking help from the same person.”

Snappy comebacks show charisma

The socially inept nerd who can answer trivia questions lightning-quick is a pervasive stereotype, but mental speed is actually a marker for charisma, according to research.

Australian researcher William von Hippel at the school of psychology, University of Queensland, recruited 400 participants and assessed them for intelligence, mental speed and personality, and had them rate one another on a charisma scale.

Participants who were able to answer common-knowledge questions more quickly were evaluated by their peers as being more charismatic than participants who responded more slowly, according to the results.

While mental speed is a sign of a high-quality brain, in much the same way that physical speed is a sign of high-quality muscles, the key finding in the research emerged after the results were controlled for IQ.

While speed is a predictor of charisma, IQ is not.

“It turns out it’s more important to be fast than smart if the goal is to be charismatic,” said Hippel.

Mental speed allows people to judge the demands of the situation, mask inappropriate initial reactions, consider a repertoire of responses and their social acceptability and make time-sensitive, humorous associations.

In other words, they’re less likely to put their foot in their mouth.

“When you’re talking to someone, particularly about an emotional topic or when you’re trying to make a joke, you have to respond within a certain window of time,” according to Hippel.

“For example, if you surprise me by telling me you’re gay, even if I’m cool with that, if I take too long to say that’s no big deal you won’t believe me and you’ll think I’m bothered by it,” said Hippel. “Same with making a joke — if it takes too long it’s pathetic rather than funny. So a faster thinker will have a wider repertoire of responses that (s)he can consider in the necessary time frame than a slower thinker.”

Quicker thinkers also notice opportunities first, giving them an advantage in the workplace and business, Hippel said.

“Because people intuitively know that smarter people are also faster, they’ll also be perceived as more intelligent,” said Hippel.

The bad news is Hippel said there is no way he knows to train to improve mental speed.

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Beauty Week is back at Hudson’s Bay in Toronto and it’s time to get glam



Beauty enthusiasts rejoice! Beauty Week at Hudson’s Bay is back in Toronto for another year. It’s time to stock up on all of your fall essentials and, maybe discover some new ones. 

From Friday, August 18 to Sunday, August 27, you can expect a truly elevated beauty experience in-store with incredible special offers, limited-time gifts, and exciting activations. 

If you’re a diehard beauty lover, you’ll already know that Hudson’s Bay is the place to shop thanks to its extensive range of over 195 skin and makeup brands from both luxury labels and masstige brands — including Tata Harper, Estée Lauder, YSL, Nars Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown, and so much more.

Throughout The Bay’s Beauty Week, visitors can take in some at-counter activations and interactive expert-led tutorials, where there will be chances to get makeup touch-ups from top-tier brands, try a spritz of the most alluring fragrances, and sample tons of new products.

This year’s Beauty Week highlight is the ‘Best in Beauty’ tote, a meticulously-curated selection of 30 deluxe samples from an array of top-tier brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm and Shiseido spanning skincare, fragrance, and makeup — all in a super sleek bag.

The tote, which is valued at over $300, is retailing for just $39 and is a fantastic way to explore new products (without breaking the bank). However, there is a limited quantity, so if you want to get your hands on one, you’ll need to be fast.

Wondering exactly what Beauty Week’s free gifts with purchases entail? If you spend over $95 at Lancôme, you will receive a six-piece set valued at $130. Or, you can get an Estée Lauder gift valued at $170 with purchases over $80. (And that’s just to name a few.)

If you’re a Hudson’s Bay Rewards member, you’ll also get $20 in Hudson’s Bay rewards when you spend over $100 on beauty.

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The Canadian Armed Forces are hiring for several non-combat military jobs



The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have several non-combat jobs, some of which do not require a college degree or past work experience.

Life in the forces has several benefits, such as paid education plans (college, university and graduate-level programs), 20 paid vacation days, health and dental coverage for you and your family, maternity and paternal leave, and pension plans. You can learn more about the benefits in detail here.

And to make it easier to gauge if you qualify, the listings also include related civilian jobs to see if it’s your ideal role.

Financial services administrator

Related civilian jobs: Financial records entry clerk, financial manager, accounting technician, bookkeeper, budget officer, cashier clerk, business planner technician, and verification manager.

Description: You’ll help budget resources for all military activities besides providing financial assistance.

Education: You need to have completed Grade 10.

Duties: As a financial services administrator, you’ll be responsible for bookkeeping and managing budgets. You’ll also provide support in accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Work environment: Those in this role work at CAF bases, on ships or overseas. You might also be expected to help special operation units, recruiting offices, schools, and medical organizations.

Postal clerk

Related civilian jobs: Mail clerk, mail sorter.

Description: You’ll provide postal services to members and their families at bases and establishments.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: As the postal clerk, you’ll handle mail duties.

Work environment: Besides a postal office, you may work on a ship or a mobile postal van. You might be expected to serve with Royal Canadian Navy, the Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force in Canada and abroad.

Dental technician

Related civilian jobs: Dental assistant, dental hygienist.

Description: You’ll be helping dental officers provide dental services to CAF members, their families, and dependents.

Education: Level II dental assisting diploma from an accredited college or a National Dental Assisting Examining Board (NDAEB) certificate.

Duties: Those in this role will be responsible for various responsibilities, including disinfection and sterilization of dental equipment, applying rubber dams, placing cavity liners, and controlling bleeding. In addition, you’ll assist in laboratory procedures like creating casts, custom trays, and mouthguards.

Work environment: This role will require you to work in a military dental clinic, a Mobile Dental Clinic, an Air Transportable Dental System, or onboard a ship. You might be expected to work on a base in Canada or other operations in other parts of the world.

Human resources administrator

Related civilian jobs: Records administrator, data entry supervisor, receptionist, office manager, executive assistant, payroll clerk, and information management technician.

Description: Provide administrative and general human resources support.

Education: Grade 10. No previous work experience or related career skills are required.

Duties: In addition to human resources administration and services, you’ll be handling pay and allowances, managing automated pay systems, and maintaining personnel records.

Work environment: HR administrators work at all CAF bases in Canada. They also work on ships and overseas to support the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, or Royal Canadian Air Force operations.

Medical assistant

Related civilian jobs: Emergency medical responder, ambulance and first aid attendant, registered nursing assistant, licensed practical nurse, and hospital orderly.

Description: Successful candidates will help treat the sick and injured in CAF units. You’ll be assisting and supporting nursing and medical officers.

Education: Minimum of Grade 11 biology, Grade 10 physics or chemistry, and Grade 10 math.

Duties: You’ll provide initial care and essential life support treatments in trauma cases. You’ll help with health assessments (hearing and vision tests, perform basic lab procedures, etc.) and initiate and manage medical records and reports. You’ll also be expected to provide support and first aid during training exercises.

Work environment: Medical assistants may serve with the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force or the Canadian Army as part of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. Those in this role are exposed to the same risks as the forces they support.

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Porter’s new loyalty program promises to match Air Canada’s Aeroplan status



Porter Airlines is once again stirring the pot among Canadian airline rivals, now going after Air Canada’s Aeroplan members by offering to match their loyalty status to an equivalent of their own.

The beloved airline, which recently ranked as having the best cabin service in North America, challenged the competition for the second time this year, after previously deploying a similar tactic against WestJet in the spring. 

Earlier in April, Porter presented customers with a limited-time offer to match the loyalty status of WestJet’s patrons with VIPorter levels.

Now, they’re offering Aeroplan members to seamlessly transition to an equivalent VIPorter Avid Traveller status based on their existing membership tier.

Members can then take advantage of an array of travel perks that come with flying Porter, including seat selection, baggage, and flight changes.

For those currently holding an Aeroplan membership, there are two ways to acquire the Avid Traveller status for the rest of 2023:

Status-Based Match:
  • Aeroplan 25K members = VIPorter Venture
  • Aeroplan 35K members = VIPorter Ascent
  • Aeroplan 50K, 75K, and Super Elite = VIPorter First
Flight Segments-Based Match:
  • 5 flight segments = VIPorter Passport
  • 8 segments = VIPorter Venture
  • 17 segments = VIPorter Ascent
  • 28 or more segments = VIPorter First

Members will have to first submit their applications on Porter’s website. Registration will remain open until September 6, 2023.

In order to maintain their membership level through 2024, customers will have until the end of 2023 to reach the following reduced qualifying spend (QS) targets:

  • Passport = $500 in QS
  • Venture = $750 in QS
  • Ascent = $1500 in QS
  • First = $2500 in QS

Over the past year, Porter has launched an aggressive expansion strategy, including everything from introducing longer flights on newly-purchased jet planes flying out of Toronto Pearson, free WiFi, and a new all-inclusive economy experience.

With Canadians losing both Swoop and Sunwing as WestJet incorporates both into their mainline business, Porter’s direct competition is welcome to keep prices competitive.

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