:Snagging Deals at the Opening Reception
Berkshire Hathaway shareholder Curtis Joe Walker was back at the jamboree again this year, bringing Warren Buffett straight to you. Here are his stories.
On the Friday night before Berkshire's Annual Meeting, Warren Buffett hosts a party at Borhsheim's Jewelers. The free drinks food entice throngs of people to crowd into the shopping mall and overflow tent in the parking lot. Typically (at least in my unscientific gathering of data), less than half of the crowd actually owns any BRK stock, and many are locals out for a little fun. The end result is long lines for everything, and good opportunities to meet people. In the spirit of frugality, I've come up with a good plan of attack when it comes to filling my belly with the free stuff.:The Meeting
First, skip the tent, it's got more food, but less booze. Go straight for the mall, where 50 or so bartenders are in a frenzy to serve everyone. When you get to the bar, order two drinks. They have Coke, of course, if you're not a drinker.
Two drinks in hand, head to the food line of your choice. Spend the next 15 minutes shuffling towards the food and downing the drinks. If you're lucky, your empty stomach will facilitate a nice buzz and take the edge off your fear of crowds.
Once you get to the food, grab two plates and hold them like playing cards. If you're coordinated enough, go for three. I've seen a Jedi Buffet Master sucessfully attempt 4 plates, but with any luck, you'll be too buzzed to manage that. Typically, the menu is salad, melon, cheese, BBQ meatballs, chicken wings and roast beef. Grab as much as you can, they never run out, but you don't wanna bother with the line again....MORE
Hitting the line for Berkshire at 6am isn't a whole lot of fun after an evening spent scoring free gin and meatballs at the reception, but such is life. Arriving any later is a guarantee for a lousy seat in one of the overflow rooms. This year, attendance was up by 5000 to 35,000. this number represents a 14% increase in passes, though the stock faced a 9.6% loss in value vs the 37% in lost value of the S&P 500 in 2008.
The gates always open at 7, but the annual financial comedy montage doesn't start until 8:30. A free breakfast consisting of Coke and cheese danish await the hungover and bleary eyed. This year's montage featured several clips from British comedy duo, Bird and Fortune, a collection of Geico spots and a full length Cirque du Soleil-inspired Fruit of the Loom commercial. The usual animated intro video was cut short in honor of the current cashpocalypse.
Due in part to last year's protesters stealing three of the coveted Q&A slots and very few tough questions about how Berkshire is being run, a new policy of random selection was imposed. In addition to this, three members of the financial media formed a panel to field the best of 5,000 mail in questions. Andrew Ross Sorkin, Becky Quick and Carol Loomis of Fortune....MORE
The Berkshire tradeshow is another unique feature of the self proclaimed "Woodstock of Capitalism." On display as pure eye candy was a 1935 Duesenberg SJ553, a one of a kind land yacht belonging to Paul Andrews of the TTI subsidiary, but originally owned by Mrs. Forrest Mars, Sr., parent and grandparent to BRK's new partners in the Wrigley purchase.
Clayton Homes had a brand new model of modular housing dubbed "iHouse." Previously manufacturing only traditional style mobile homes, the iHouse offers a new style along with new materials that are less toxic to build and live with. Energy savings is part of the package too, with energy efficient windows and a solar roof option. It's something new, and might usher in a whole new class of greenneck prairiebillies. The 1 bed, 1 bath house can be expanded to 3 beds and two baths and is completely configurable through their website.
In addition to the company booths, Berkshire sets up a couple of its own vendor areas hawking memorabilia and books. In the past, the bookstore was a crowded nightmare of popularity, but a new design and location allowed for easy access to the myriad books on sale at discounted prices.
Not every Berkshire company is represented on the floor, but nearly every booth present had something for sale, with the proceeds going to charity. Rather than giving away ice cream bars for free, Dairy Queen sold thousands of them for $1 each. Geico was on hand to write up insurance policies at a special shareholder rate. Ginsu had smokin' deals on their line of not-TSA-Approved products....MORE