The Peak Dispatch: Save Money By Ditching the AC, Diagnosing Diseases with AI and Why Stores Are Making Returns More Difficult

Air Conditioning

Photo: Lacheev/Getty Images

Through its website and daily newsletters, The Peak (a ZoomerMedia property) offers Canadians the news they need to understand business, tech, and other must-know stories.

In this round-up, The Peak looks at how you can turn up the savings by turning down your air conditioning, why the days of no-hassle returns at your favourite stores may be finished and how AI is making it easier to diagnose diseases.

 

Switching Off Your AC Can Save You Money

 

If you want to save some money this summer, live like the Europeans do and try going without air conditioning. In fact, a quarter of Canadian households ditched their AC last year. Going a whole summer without AC saved around $300, according to estimates from BC Hydro. According to the province, running a fan for an entire summer costs just $6, offering a cost-effective alternative for staying cool. Some other tips to keep cool include keeping your windows and curtains shut during the day, opening them at night, and avoiding using an oven. It might seem daunting, but it’s totally possible: Just look at countries like Germany, France, and the U.K., where no more than 5 per cent of households have air conditioning. During the U.K.’s scorching 2022 summer where some days saw highs of 40 C, many people kept cool the old-fashioned way – but in the case of those temperatures, maybe we’d recommend leaving the cold air on. — Meera Raman

 

The Era of Easy Returns is Over

 

The days of no-questioned-asked returns are numbered, as retailers crack down on one of their biggest profit suckers in a worsening economic climate.

Driving the news: Across North America, merchants – especially those with online stores – are shortening their return windows (Sephora), adding return fees (Uniqlo) and, offering discounts to discourage returns (Amazon), per The Wall Street Journal. 

  • H&M Canada charges a $4.99 shipping fee for returns. At Urban Outfitters, a return will set you back $5. Footlocker Canada charges $6.99 for all mailed returns.

Why it’s happening: In recent months, huge retailers, including Lululemon, Walmart, Nike, and others, have reported they have too much inventory, which costs them a lot of money to store. Add high return rates into the mix, and retailers are looking at a scary financial picture.

  • Some retailers are grappling with return rates of ~20 per cent of total items sold. If you’ve ever bought a shirt in three colours so you can pick your favourite, you’ll get why.

Fun fact: In Canada, businesses aren’t actually legally obligated to accept returns unless a purchase you’ve made is defective, but many do it anyways to help keep customers happy.

Why it matters: Shoppers are already dialling back on spending as inflation and high borrowing rates cut into our fun money. With new crackdowns on returns, we’ll probably start thinking three times as hard about whether we really need that new summer outfit. — Sarah Bartnicka

 

Doctors Get a Hand From AI to Diagnose Patients

 

From blood tests to image analysis, AI is making it easier to diagnose diseases.

What happened: Using AI to spot patterns across thousands of cancer cell images, researchers at the University of British Columbia have identified a high-risk form of endometrial cancer that would otherwise go unrecognized, according to Nature

Why it matters: In treating diseases, timing is everything. Because AI algorithms can analyze massive amounts of data quickly, they can spot warning signs more easily than humans can. Earlier treatment can save lives and lead to less invasive treatments as well.

  • One tool tested in the U.K. analyzed over 10,000 mammograms and detected tiny tumours that would be invisible to the human eye, leading to earlier diagnosis.
  • In another recent case, researchers found that AI, paired with a specific blood test, could diagnose Parkinson’s disease up to seven years before a symptom appears.

Big picture: From helping with diagnosis to analyzing medical records to filling out laborious paperwork, AI can also free up doctors to see more patients. With 6 million Canadians currently without a physician, that extra capacity could make a big difference. — Lucas Arender

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