Freebie factor weighs heavy on portfolios
At least one Hong Kong company is giving away freebies related to its services. Stand up Hong Kong Ferries, which gives shareholders a free harbour cruise after the annual general meeting, complete with food.
Of course, there is also the beer 'product sampling' after the San Miguel annual general meeting, a notorious event thanks to the little old ladies who turn up and get pie-eyed.
In the UK, it's such a big deal there is even a book telling you what freebies you can get. The trend was even taken up by the government privatisations, where shareholders could get discounts on their water and electricity bills.
One shareholder friend there is really big on it. He's got Trust House Forte shares (cheap rate at all THF outlets such as hotels), Burton Group (discount suits), Amstrad (special prices on computers) and shares in a number of sportswear firms. No need to keep a record of his portfolio - he can just look in the labels of his clothes.
I don't know the terms of the British Government privatisation of the nuclear power stations, but I hope they are not generous. 'Pick up a souvenir chunk of uranium on your way out, ladies and gentlemen.' Hong Kong Ferries seem to be turning a corner. They've always had bad press, like most low-margin transport facilities. Nobody feels moved to write to the newspapers saying that their bus arrived on time.
But the shares of the ferry firm have been shooting up in value. And even picky customers like the way the boats to the outlying islands have been refitted and renovated.
Dan Wong, of Cheung Chau, was horrified to find burns from a cigarette lighter on the new panelling in the toilets of one of the ferries. 'What kind of idiot tries to set fire to a ship when he's locked in the smallest room with his trousers around his ankles?' he asked. Sign seen outside Union Church in Kennedy Road by passer-by David Dunbar: 'Avoid the Christmas rush. Come to worship this Sunday.' Several readers, including Dennis Levanthal, Diane Coogias and Scott Hatch, tell me that to 'get canned' is US slang for being fired from your job.
Interesting. In Cantonese, the colloquialisms for 'You're sacked' are 'Your squid is fried' and 'Your mushroom is boiled'. Incidentally, the Diane who is mentioned above works for a company called Safety, Accident and Failure Experts Ltd. I wonder what her colleagues who focus on the third of those specialisations have on their name cards? 'Vice-President, Failure'? Information on a packet of Sesame Cereal of Shui Heung, bought by Renate Reddermann of Hong Kong: 'Suitable for all apes'. It's not just Asians who write ridiculous things. A feature from the illustrious Times of London in this newspaper on Saturday said Alanis Morisette's head was 'several light years too old for her shoulders'. A light year is not a period of time, but a distance. Five ways to brighten up the lives of the poor schmucks who take pizza orders on the phone, from The New York Times: 1. Tell them to put the crust on top this time.
2. Ask what the order taker is wearing.
3. Tell them to double-check to make sure the pizza is, in fact, dead.
4. Ask for the guy who took your order last time.
5. When they say: 'Will that be all?' snicker and say: 'We'll find out, won't we'.' Ian Watson, of Stenhouse Portfolio, takes issue with this column's suggestion that the ostrich is an African rather than an Australian bird. Global Ostrich Holdings and other companies breed the creatures in farms in Australia, he says.
Ian, a fish gave birth in an orbiting space station experiment a couple of years ago. It doesn't mean the baby fish are aliens from outer space. Other pedants, including Nick Thompson of Wharf, wrote to say that the British flag is called a Union Jack when on a ship and a Union Flag when on land. I still maintain most people call the flag a Union Jack even if it is on a pair of underpants 500 kilometres inland.
Bill Teng, who started this debate by saying that the Union Jack cannot be flown upside down, even if the white lines are thicker on some diagonals, sent in this diagram as proof. Just turn the page upside down and have a look at our flag up in the top right-hand corner.
Good grief. He's right. It is the same upside down.