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Hit the border, the dollar is up

Last updated on February 7, 2012

If you just inherited 100,000 dollars from a long-lost relative, you’d better hope it’s from the right country. If it’s Canadian dollars, you can throw a big party; if it’s American or Australian dollars, you can pop some champagne; and if it’s Zimbabwean dollars, you’d better get a hanky.

Yes, the Zimbabwean dollar isn’t doing too well. Your inheritance might still buy you a car, but only if there’s a clearance sale at the toy store.

The U.S. dollar hasn’t plunged quite that far, but it’s starting to resemble Pam Anderson’s neckline. If it drops any further, Dick  Cheney might have a heart attack.

At the start of the year, one U.S. dollar would get you 1.17 Canadian dollars, which was a pleasant surprise to American tourists, including the man who exclaimed, “I had no idea those people up north had their own money.”

Today, the U.S. dollar is worth 0.94 Canadian dollars, which has created a lot of excitement among Canadians, especially all the people who like to cross the border to shop. Marketing experts have a term for these people: ‘women.’

Canadian women, even those who don’t know the first thing about finances, are keeping track of the dollar’s value as closely as they keep track of General Hospital. “It’s up by a cent!” they yell to their husbands or boyfriends. “That means, if we convert $1,000, let me see … we can get an extra set of panties!”

Go to any bank and you’re likely to find someone converting, someone with a big purse and an even bigger smile. There hasn’t been this much converting in Canada since Billy Graham last visited.

Head to the border and you’ll see a long line of cars waiting to enter the U.S. Some are filled with women – mothers and daughters, sisters and friends, eager to share the female bonding shopping experience. “Get your Visas ready, ladies,” one of them will say. “MasterCards too.”

But most don’t need credit cards – they’ve brought cash, loads of cash. (Don’t worry, they’ve kept it in a safe place, never mind that a few of them look like Dolly Parton.) Some have also brought their husbands and boyfriends along. Men are useful on these trips for three main reasons: (1) someone needs to keep an eye on the shopping bags outside the women’s fitting room; (2) someone needs to carry all the bags to the car; and (3) if they run out of cash and need to stop at a bank, someone needs to drive the getaway car.

Not only is the Canadian dollar worth more than its southern cousin, prices are generally lower in America, prompting across-the-border shoppers to load up on everything from soft drinks to software.

Wife: “How much space do we have in the car? Can we squeeze this microwave in?”

Husband: “No, it’s pretty crammed in there.”

Wife: “What about on your lap?”

Husband: “I’m carrying the refrigerator on my lap, remember?”

Wife: “What about on the roof?”

Husband: “No, we’d need to have a roof rack for that. We can’t just put a microwave on the roof. It might fall off. It’s unsafe.”

Wife: “Okay, what if we put the refrigerator on your seat and put the microwave on top of it?”

Husband: “Where will I sit?”

Wife: “Uh … what about on the roof?”

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