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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.
  • Aug 9, 2012
    12:14 PM ET

    ‘Cutting the Cord’: Readers Respond

    On Wednesday, Pay Dirt responded to a report in The Wall Street Journal about the growing number of Americans who are ditching their paid TV subscriptions in favor of streaming and other less-expensive options — a practice known as “cutting the cord.” We offered a checklist of things to consider before making the switch, and asked our Twitter followers if they would cut their cable cord.

  • Aug 8, 2012
    5:56 PM ET

    Should You Cut the Cable Cord?

    Americans still want their TV. It’s just fewer seem willing to pay for it.

    Cable, satellite and telecom TV-service operators lost an estimated 400,000 customers during the second quarter, according to a report today in The Wall Street Journal. Some analysts told the paper that although the second quarter is typically weak, since college students temporarily disconnect dorm service at the end of the school year, the overall decline points to more consumers moving away from paid TV services, a practice known as “cutting the cord.”

  • Aug 8, 2012
    5:40 PM ET

    Missed London? Hit These Olympic Hotspots

    So you didn’t make it to London for this year’s Summer Games. That doesn’t mean an Olympic journey is out of the question.

    Savvy travelers say Olympic host cities can be great places to visit even long after the games have passed. That’s not only because they’re major destinations unto themselves – perhaps you’ve heard of a little town called Athens? – but also because many of them maintain their Olympic ties by offering Olympic attractions of one sort or another.

  • Aug 7, 2012
    6:12 PM ET

    Chick-fil-A’s Gay Marriage Stance: Good Branding?

    Chick-fil-A has taken a lot of heat in recent weeks for its opposition to gay marriage. But when the current controversy finally cools, experts say, the brand may do better than ever.

    The fast-food chain’s president and COO, Dan Cathy, made several public comments in recent weeks reiterating his opposition to same-sex marriage—those who support it, he said in one interview, were “inviting God’s judgment.” Since then, the Jim Henson Co. and Chick-fil-A ended a licensing agreement for a children’s “puppet meal.” The company’s contributions to groups that oppose gay marriage have gotten more public exposure, and political backlash has followed. The public is weighing in too, of course. On Wednesday, a group of activists is organizing a “National Marriage Equality Day” at Starbucks, a company that supports gay marriage. And last week, thousands of people stood in line for “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day,” an event kick-started by Mike Huckabee, the radio and TV host and former Republican presidential candidate.

  • Aug 7, 2012
    5:58 PM ET

    The True Cost of Making the Olympics

    Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Olympians.

    It may not have the ring of the original Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings song title, but it certainly applies – considering some of the financial back-stories at the London Olympics. Think about U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, whose divorced parents are facing the foreclosure of their Florida home. Or U.S. gymnast Gabby Douglas, whose mother filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. One of four children, Douglas all but acknowledged earlier this week how her budding Olympic career took an economic toll. “It was definitely hard on my mom, taking care of me and my siblings,” she told the New York Post.

  • Aug 6, 2012
    7:04 PM ET

    Best Olympic ‘Medal’ for Investors?

    When it comes to the Olympics, one medal comes first: gold. But which metal is best for investors?

    It seems hard to argue with the yellow metal, especially after its historic 11-year bull run. In the past five years alone, gold prices have soared 140%, to $1,616 an ounce. But even some of the biggest gold bugs question whether the shiny stuff can keep this going. And silver, while less valuable, has had nearly as good a rally — with prices rising 115%, to about $28 an ounce.

  • Aug 3, 2012
    2:05 PM ET

    CFA, CFP, Team USA: Investing Tips From Olympians

    Some financial advisers tout their stock-picking success. Others point to the many designations – certified financial planner, chartered financial analyst, certified retirement financial adviser – they have attached to their name.

    But a select few can boast of an altogether different credential – one that has seemingly little to do with investing, but that’s sure to catch many an investor’s attention: former Olympian.

  • Aug 2, 2012
    4:58 PM ET

    Is Kindle Fire Burning the iPad?

    The iPad hasn’t gotten any smaller since it was launched two years ago, but new research suggests its market share may be shrinking.

    Half of all tablet owners in the United States own Apple’s tablet, a drop from 72% this time last year, according to a new report by Frank N. Magid Associates, a marketing research firm in New York. What’s behind the dramatic drop? The proliferation of cheaper tablets, including the $199 Kindle Fire, says Tom Godfrey, the firm’s director of mobile strategy who interviewed 4,700 people for the survey. He estimates that the Fire, launched last year, already accounts for 22% of the tablet market. (Apple declined to comment, and Amazon did respond to requests for comment).

  • Aug 2, 2012
    12:37 PM ET

    Light Your Own Olympic Torch — Just $41,000

    The Pitch:

    If you’re an Olympic fanatic, why not carry the torch for the games – literally? Yes, genuine Olympic torches, including the same ones carried in the weeks and days leading up to the London summer showcase, have found their way on to the memorabilia market. And they’re going for some very gold-medal-worthy prices on eBay. An Australian dealer is hawking a torch for $41,000, touting the “chance to own an OFFICIAL piece of Olympic history” and describing the cone-shaped collectible as a “magnificent piece” that’s  “beautifully engineered.” Another seller prices a torch at a more “modest” $4,900, but concedes it lacks “the burner system inside” (loose translation: good luck lighting the thing). Still, the seller says it could be a “fantastic” piece “for your sporting memorabilia collection.”

  • Aug 1, 2012
    11:04 AM ET

    Toughest Olympic Event: Turning a Profit

    During this Summer Games, a gifted few will run short bursts at over 25 miles per hour, lift triple their body weight overhead or jump nearly eight feet into the air. But no one will ever be talented enough to calculate a precise financial return on London’s Olympic investment.

    If someone could do the math, evidence suggests the return would almost surely be negative. That’s OK. Weddings have negative financial returns, too. People still like them.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.