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10 Best Stores for Customer Service

The holiday season can be a stressful time to go shopping, with all the crowds rummaging for deals around you. But one thing can make the experience tolerable: quality customer service.

Rock-Bottom Prices!

Welcome to the lowball culture. In a world of sluggish growth, excess capacity, and depressed expectations, buyers of goods and services—labor, houses, and restaurant meals, among others—have come to believe that desperate sellers should take any offer they make. But that kind of systemic bargain hunting can create a dangerous spiral: employers short-change workers, workers buy fewer goods—and the overall economy suffers.

Five Failing TV Shows We Should Take Off the Respirator

There are issues so polarizing, so emotionally draining, so morally fraught, that we never really solve them as much as we table them for a while. Euthanasia is one such issue, which has come back to fore during the vigorous debate over American health care.

Is Fiber the New Protein?

Debbie Fireman is a self-proclaimed fiber junkie. The 41-year-old marketing exec from Penn Valley, Pa., eats fiber-rich foods "all day long," including whole foods like fruits, veggies, grains and beans.

PERISCOPE

Terrorism: Al Qaeda's Men in IranAs U.S. troops try to fend off "guerrilla" attacks in Iraq, American spies and diplomats are increasingly preoccupied with a scary group of Qaeda operatives in neighboring Iran.

The Practical Futurist: What's Ahead For 2003?

As regular readers know, I'm not much for specific predictions about the future, except when I'm writing science fiction. As computer pioneer Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it, and that's just what practical futurists should do every day.

A Bad Case Of Cruise-Sickness

Within 24 hours of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the world's largest cruise lines had already agreed on and begun implementing a plan for new security measures that ranged from shifting routes to avoid potential terrorist targets to adding bomb-sniffing dogs, x-ray machines and extra personnel to check all luggage.But the industry's response to the attacks went well beyond boosting security measures.

To Bail Is To Fail: Stick With Stocks

Here's how the Federal Reserve describes the stock-market outlook: "Investment in capital equipment... has continued to decline. The erosion in current and prospective profitability, in combination with considerable uncertainty about the business outlook, seems likely to hold down capital spending going forward." Translation: it's time to bail.

Finally, The Net Gets Real

Patrick Ahrendt came to Silicon Valley seeking the dot-com gold miner's dream. The 31-year-old marketer and his wife left their home in southern California and moved to the only house they could afford, in a dusty farming community called Turlock,90 miles from Ahrendt's new office in San Francisco.

Between Net And Debt

To Internet investors, amazon.com is considered a Net blue-chip company, one of the biggest, most-established and best-known companies in the Web world. But to hard-boiled Old Economy types who analyze corporate-debt offerings, Amazon is a junk credit.

Bigger, Better, Brighter

Europeans are willing to trust their mobile phones with a lot: Their precise whereabouts. Their credit cards and car keys. In a few cases, their family planning.

Is Inflation Really Dead?

I have a theory that inflation is not quite as dead as it seems, and now is as good a time as any to explain it. Just last week, the Federal Reserve declined to increase short-term interest rates - the standard weapon against rising inflation - because inflation doesn't, in fact, seem to be rising.

Saying 'No' To Fund-Raisers

FUND-RAISER. AS THE PARENT OF THREE ELEMENTARY school boys, I've come to loathe the word. I know other parents cringe, too, when they realize that yet another fund-raising ""opportunity'' is at hand and that for the next few weeks, they'll be busy helping their children sell everything from candy to popcorn to magazines.

Fighting The System, Everywhere

Q: I'm 68 and would like to give my home to my daughter. She and her husband both work hard, but with three children they're having a tough time managing.

The Morning After

NOWHERE DO HEARTS LEAP HIGHer at the sight of newly elected Republicans than on Wall Street. As midterm-election results rolled in last week, bond traders set aside the crash helmets they've been forced to wear this year.

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