Economic growth has expensive tipple effects

MAYBE the economic slowdown in China really is taking effect.

We reckon this because sales of Wine Sober, the strange potion made out of cattle bones which claims to stop drinkers getting drunk, have been less than furious.

We first wrote about these matchbox-sized bottles in August last year, much taken with the idea that it would help Business Post readers survive the marathon XO-drinking sessions that are a necessary part of negotiations in China.

Indeed the brochure promoting the stuff, handed to us by Andrew Yui of importer Citilite Food Products, had ''Business negotiation (especially in China)'' as number one situation in which it would be useful.

Andrew told us last week that ''it's not quite successful because the price is too high'', so he's cutting the price in Watson's to $59 a bottle.

He also revealed how Citilite tested Wine Sober, which is actually made in Japan.

They posted them to 200 ''public relations'' women in karaoke bars and nightclubs.

''Ninety nine per cent found it was quite effective,'' Andrew said, adding that some people were inexplicably immune to its protective effects.

The other test involved messing around in a lab with Wine Sober, XO and potassium permanganate and sounds much less fun.

The other potion needed for business in China, sadly not yet available, is one that confers immunity to passive smoking.

Avisionary WITH the current focus on non-executive directors who are being charged with making sure small shareholders do not get diddled, a well-known director reminded us of this quote from a chap called Robert Townsend, who used to run the Avis car rental outfit.

''If I had my way, there would be no directors. Let's face it, they have only two functions, that is to declare a dividend and fire the chief executive if he is not doing well.

''The only bother is they never do that - they are usually his friends, and if their hands are forced, then it's usually too late.'' We remember that London-based tycoon Tiny Rowland once described non-executive directors as ''Christmas tree decorations''.

Dial-a-gift ONE of the more intriguing exclusive clubs is Hongkong Telecom's Frequent Caller Club.

No, it's not a late April fool's joke. Telecom last year launched, on a trial basis, a club where home customers with giant telephone bills get bonus points, which they can redeem for gifts.

Giant in this case means more than $2,000 a month, and at the moment every 50 cents spent on international calls above $2,000 in a month gets a point.

Collect 20,000 points and you can have - guess what? - a phone. Thanks.

Actually, most of the gifts are more inspired than this, which is just as well, as Hong Kong's cuddliest monopoly is starting to feel the impact of all these cut-price competitors such as City Telecom.

But the gifts are hardly give-aways. A customer who runs up a $40,000 phone bill in a year might be rewarded with a subscription to BusinessWeek, worth $767.

A phone-a-holic with this type of bill could save $2,000 if they switched to another phone company - and it looks like Hongkong Telecom is beginning to realise it.

Havenly idea AFTER Air Workaholic, why not Air Tax Haven? This is another idea for a ''concept airline'' which only needs a few billion US dollars to turn it into reality. Anyone with a few spare should note the numbers above.

The airline would fly between Hong Kong, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Vanuatu, non-stop, with stops in Abu Dhabi.

Complete anonymity would be given to all passengers, who would be referred to as Mr or Ms X on the tickets and issued with dark glasses at check-in.

Instead of asking passengers to put tags on the luggage, employees would offer to rip old tags off.

The aircraft would be built from the same material as stealth bombers to make them invisible to radar.

The inflight duty-free would include a wide choice of dubious passports, and if you order soon after take-off the cabin staff will make sure that the glue on the photo is dry before landing.