What Does the HST Tell Us?

I got a very well organized and informative guide in the mail today called “What changes –and what doesn’t change– under the HST”, which may be one of the very few things I like about this new Ontario tax scheme.

Governments often use taxation to try and influence of buying behaviour of their citizens, so I thought I would take a look and see what behaviours the government is trying to change with the HST:

  • Smelly Ontario – Apparently they want us to dry-clean less, with taxes going from 5 to 13%
  • Drunk Ontario – Alcohol will be taxed at 13% instead of the old 17% (although they footnote that they will stop people from drinking so much with ‘other fees’)
  • Lazy Ontario – Gym, athletic memberships, fitness trainers, hockey rink rentals, hall rentals, hunting licenses, fishing licenses and golf green fees will increase from 5 to 13%
  • Ugly Ontario – Hair stylists, barbers and aesthetician services up to 13% from 5%
  • Lawless Ontario – Legal fees will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Cold (winter) and Hot (summer) Ontario – Electricity & heating bills to go from 5 to 13% tax
  • Flooded and Electrocuted Ontario – Home visits by plumbers, electricians, etc. will go from 5-13% as will home renovations
  • Digitally-divided Ontario – Internet access will now be taxed at 13% instead of 5%
  • Wild Ontario – Landscaping and snow removal up to 13% from 5%
  • Homebound Ontario – Hotel rooms (from 10%), taxis, campsites, domestic air, rail, boat and bus travel all up to 13% from 5%, as does fuel for your car, unfortunately you will have fewer magazines to read at home since subscription magazines also go from 5 to 13%
  • Double-dipped Ontario – Remember that new car that you paid 13% tax on, well now the government makes 13% again –up from 5%– when you sell it used!
  • Suburban & Condo Ontario – New homes over $400,000 will be taxed at 13% instead of 5%, and AFAIK can only be found in the suburbs or in condo dwellings. Real estate commissions will also be taxed more, at  13% instead of 5%.
  • Scurvied Ontario – Vitamins up to 13% from 5%
  • Stiff & sore Ontario – No reduction on Viagra tax, they are increasing taxes on massage therapy from 5 to 13%
  • Entertained Ontario – Tickets for professional sporting events and movies will DROP from 15% to 13%.
  • Alive Ontario – Death will cost you more, with funeral services taxed at 13%, up from 5%… sure as death and taxes.

    In a 5 Star World ***** Who Wants Second Best?

    If you shop online (and if you’re reading this, you probably do) when was the last time that you purchased something that wasn’t 5 stars?

    The online shopping world abounds with star rating systems, or their ilk.  If you buy on eBay, you probably wouldn’t even consider buying from someone who had less than a 99% feedback rating. If you look at reviews on CNET, Consume Reports, etc. you hesitate on that purchase if it isn’t an ‘Editors Pick’ or a top rated product in its category.  Considering buying that album from iTunes? Going to see a movie? Finding a contractor…  This list could go on.

    The fundamental driver of this is the notion everybody has that they deserve the best.  But when you pick something with 5 stars, is that what you are really getting?

    Aside from blue jeans (the one thing the human race has perfected), its hard to imagine that there is one product that satisfies everyone.  5 stars just means the people that take time to rate stuff online, and arguably find this rating valuable, rate that product very highly.  This is a very small percentage of the online population IMHO.  Accuracy here is fighting a large selection bias.

    But if you have a product, and you can’t get to first place, is there any benefit to trying to be second?  I don’t think so.

    The people that use ratings as their primary decision criteria will not buy your product.  Why would they?  You can offer a lower price than the #1 option, but then you really are just giving away money –and potentially a lot of it– to grab a few people that are willing to take second best because of a lower price.

    If you are faced with this situation, you are better off instead selling to the audience that isn’t buying stars.

    As usual, Malcolm Gladwell says it best:

    Why I Love My iPhone…

    I was enjoying an audio book called “Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School” by John Medina and I ran into a situation which really made me stop and think about just how awesome mobile internet is:

    The author was describing a pivotal event in his life, that guided him to a career in math and science.   It was a trip with his mother to see the Disney Movie “Donald in Mathmagic Land” which he cited as one of the best uses of pictures to teach a subject.  It apparently was also good enough for an Oscar nomination in 1959 (won by ‘Glas’,  -a movie on glass-blowing set to a jazzy score- so in hindsight perhaps not a hot year for short films).

    I had the sudden urge to pause the book, and get a visual idea of what he was talking about.  A quick search on the iPhone’s YouTube application found the short (below in 3 parts) and I was able to watch it, then return to the book with a much richer perspective on what the author was trying to explain.  Imagine trying to do that on your PHONE 3 years ago? Wow!

    So not only does my iPhone allow me to get through 2-3 books per month (in contrast to my previous 0), but I can also get much more context on the material I am ‘reading’. Pure heaven for a geek like myself!

    And some good mathemagical tips on playing pool:

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