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Retailers are rolling out discounts early. Let the holiday shopping season begin.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2010 4:08PM

This post comes from Melinda Fulmer of MSN Money.


Retail giant Wal-Mart has fired its first shot in the holiday toy wars, dropping prices on everything from a Nerf dart gun to a poochie potty-training Barbie.

With budgets tight, analysts expect many retailers to start cutting prices ahead of the usual Black Friday shopping kickoff, so families can spread out their holiday spending.


But, says Jim Silver, editor of, they won't necessarily be slashing prices on all of the hottest toys.


Her great-grandfather may have founded the company, but she still can't get any help from AT&T's customer service. Sound familiar?

By Teresa Mears Oct 12, 2010 1:29PM

Updated 11:55 a.m. ET Oct 13.


Here's what customer service has come to: Even a descendent of Alexander Graham Bell can't get AT&T to fix her phone.

Helene Pancoast, a 72-year-old Miami artist who is a great-granddaughter of AT&T founder Alexander Graham Bell, lost her phone service three weeks ago. She has been stuck in bureaucratic limbo ever since.


UPDATE: After her story appeared in The Miami Herald and on MSN, Pancoast heard from AT&T, and her phone service was restored Wednesday morning. Since then, she has been receiving calls from friends she hadn't heard from in years.


People with a wedding or a baby on the way can profit handsomely when well-wishers buy gifts.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2010 12:35PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Milestones such as getting married or having a baby aren't cheap. Of course, gifts help -- and more than ever, now that a growing number of retailers are offering registrants a kickback.

This month, Babies R Us became the latest to launch a registry rewards program, joining a number of retailers -- including Macy's, Bon-Ton, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond -- that give a rebate or discount back to the registrants.


Scammers are using Facebook to target your friends and their money.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2010 11:04AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


As more and more people use Facebook and other social networks, the probability that someone you know will be ensnared by a phishing e-mail grows.


Phishing, as it applies in this case, is when someone tries to steal your login credentials by sending you an e-mail that looks like it's from the network itself. The e-mail will look as if it came from Facebook, but the links inside will go to another site that looks like Facebook, where you'll unwittingly log in and give up your credentials.

This scam works because while people are usually on guard when they get e-mails that appear to be from their bank -- though phishing for bank credentials still works more often than it should -- they aren't as aware when they get an e-mail that appears to be from Twitter or Facebook. ("Oh, Jim sent me a shotgun in Mafia Wars. Must log in to see!")


The only positive in getting your Facebook account phished is that you don't lose any financial information directly. That's why scammers have turned to the "mugged abroad" scam.


As the holiday season approaches, here come the predictions about where and how much we'll spend. Also, is Black Friday becoming passe?

By Stacy Johnson Oct 12, 2010 9:16AM

This post comes from Michael Koretsky at partner site Money Talks News.


You know the holiday season is almost here when economists and forecasters start predicting just how much we'll spend on gifts -- and they all contradict each other. Take a look at these new reports:

  • "After a ho-hum 2009 and a disastrous 2008, holiday retail sales are expected to increase a more moderate 2.3% this year," proclaims the National Retail Federation.
  • "In almost every category this year, there is a drop-off in intended purchases," cautions market research firm NPD Group.
  • "The overwhelming majority of shoppers will maintain a tight grip on their wallets as they hit the stores this holiday season, with 83% expecting to spend the same or less on holiday gifts compared to 2009," says business consulting firm Accenture.

Even though the experts don't know exactly what will happen by the end of the holiday shopping season, their reports give the rest of us some tips on what to do -- and not do -- as we  begin to shop. 


Does it matter that people didn't like the compostable bag? And was it really that environmentally friendly? Many voices weigh in.

By Teresa Mears Oct 11, 2010 4:24PM

We apologize that we're a little late getting to last week's top news development, which was that Frito-Lay is no longer selling most Sun Chips in compostable bags because customers found the bags too noisy.

And maybe the bags weren't that environmentally friendly after all.


What does this mean for the future of the planet?


Temp work is the new normal. But you can still position yourself for full-time work if and when that's a possibility.

By Karen Datko Oct 11, 2010 4:17PM

This guest post comes from Pop at Pop Economics.


Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics told us how bad the job market was in September. The economy shed 95,000 jobs, many of which were temporary census jobs that we expected to lose all along. But local governments, which are struggling to balance their budgets, also shed 76,000 people.


In a few months, we'll probably move to positive job growth, but even that doesn't necessarily mean the unemployment rate -- which stands at 9.6% -- will drop. Every year, about a million new adults enter the workforce as students graduate and immigrants start looking. That doesn't even count the discouraged workers who've temporarily given up looking and might try again as the jobs picture looks better.

The bottom line is that the economy needs to add 100,000 to 125,000 jobs per month just to keep the unemployment rate even. Anything less than that, and the unemployment rate will go up, despite jobs being added.


Even in the best-case scenario, where job growth hits the high rate it did in the late 1990s (about 200,000 per month), it would take until 2017 before we got back to the 5% unemployment rate we enjoyed before the recession. Of course, very few economists expect jobs to grow nearly that fast.


Instead, employers are stocking up on part-time, temporary, and contract workers.


Caution: Shipping clubs and other deals can be costly. Here's what to consider before you sign up.

By Karen Datko Oct 11, 2010 2:23PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Nothing is more annoying than seeing a great online deal upended by high shipping and handling costs. Shoppers abandon almost half of their potential purchases at checkout, and high shipping charges are the No. 1 reason.

In response, stores have stepped up free shipping promotions and formed "shipping clubs," which charge an annual fee to cover postage on all your orders, no matter how small. The most recent entrant, ShopRunner, launched last week with an offer of unlimited shipping at a consortium of stores, including Toys R Us, The Sports Authority and GNC -- for $79 per year. And Borders and Barnes & Noble launched clubs earlier this year as part of their store loyalty programs, priced at $25 and $20, respectively.


A break on shipping seems like a welcome respite, but the math works out solidly in favor of the retailers.



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