Forward View
Shareholder Perks You Never Knew About
September 13, 2023

Sometimes it is nice to be surprised. I was reading Joyce Gioia's excellent new book Experience Rules: How Positive Experiences Will Drive Profit into the Future, and was blown away by a section on shareholder perks. This was all new to me!

With Joyce's permission, I'm excerpting one of my favorite chapters for this month's newsletter. There is lots of good stuff here to unpack - very nice to see a book on delivering high touch experiences when everything is going digital.

-Jim Lee, CFA, CMT, CFP
Appreciating The Value Of Investors

Loyalty programs work for customers; however, they are also effective in retaining investors. Just ask Warren Buffet, Japan Airlines, Starbucks, Carnival Corporation, and many others.

For start-ups and others, investors are critical to the survival of the company. If investors are not happy, they could pull their support, leaving the company with the problem of replacing them. The key to making your investors feel appreciated is to add value; this exceptional treatment may take many forms.

For larger, especially publicly held organizations, those investors are called shareholders, and besides making sure they are informed, some companies go to great lengths to engage those critical people who support their stock prices. Case in point is Berkshire Hathaway.

A Woodstock For Capitalists

Every year, in the first week of May, Berkshire Hathaway holds their Annual Meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Characterized as a “Woodstock for Capitalists,” this multi-event weekend features answers from the Oracle of Omaha himself, as Warren Buffet is often called, as well as Charlie Munger, his vice chairman. You must own stock to attend; however, although the cost of one share of preferred stock now goes for over $300,000, you may attend if you own even one share of BRK.B stock, which currently costs under $200.

However, Buffett does not stop there. Offering the most perks of any other company on the planet, shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway enjoy some phenomenal discounts on merchandise from Borsheim’s Jewelry and Fine Gifts and Nebraska Furniture Mart—sometimes up to 75 to 90 percent off the retail price. However, the extraordinary benefits do not stop there. Shareholders enjoy discounts on everything from recreational vehicles and modular homes to running shoes and cowboy boots at incredible prices by merely showing their shareholder credentials.

But wait, there’s even more. Throughout the week of the meeting, the pricing is reduced on nearly everything including case goods, upholstery, electronics, jewelry, sterling silver flatware, fine china, diamonds, vases, video game systems, gym equipment, GEICO insurance, brand-name watches, fountain pens, and electronics. Some people wait for months to buy big-ticket items to enjoy this remarkable pricing—and the vendors even take credit cards!

Discounted Lift Tickets And Equipment Rentals

Going to Switzerland to ski? Owning at least seventy-five shares of Weisse Arena AG qualifies for a 10 percent reduction for the shareholder and family members on all company lift tickets and rentals.

Flying Friendly Japanese Skies

For frequent fliers, this perk from Japan Airlines can mean saving big bucks. Depending on the number of shares owned, shareholders may receive up to hundreds of coupons for just holding the stock. Each voucher is worth 50 percent off the regular one-way airfare for any domestic Japan Airlines flight. The minimum investment to qualify is one-hundred shares, and the number of coupons rises as the share count increases.

Free Cuppa Joe

Owners of Starbucks shares have long enjoyed a small perk. Investors will find inserted into their annual reports a gift certificate for a free beverage at any Starbucks location.

An Extra Dividend Every Time

Carnival Corporation, owners of seven cruise lines, including Carnival, Princess, Holland America, and Seabourn, offers a unique extra dividend to every shareholder. This stateroom credit is a sliding scale between $50 and $250, depending on the class of cabin and the length of the cruise. It is a highly prized benefit of owning stock in Carnival Corporation. Said one shareholder, “it’s like getting an extra dividend, every time you cruise!” In fact, the Carnival benefit has been so successful that other cruise lines, including including Royal Caribbean Corporate, have followed suit with similar programs.

Free Fries with that?

Though it seems like small potatoes [sic], the world’s largest fast food chain, McDonald’s Corporation, rewards its owners with a surprise every year: a gift certificate for free fries or a Big Mac or some other food item. Though never formally announced, this unexpected perk comes inside their annual reports, mailed to shareholders.

See the Horses Run

The iconic racetrack Churchill Downs offers something they call their “Shareholder Pass Program.” If you own one hundred shares of their stock as of December 31st of the previous year, the company will send two free passes to the track per household. According to the company’s investor relations department, the passes are valid for free general admission at all their racing and off-track betting facilities— for an unlimited number of visits during the year. The passes will also get their shareholders general admission for the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.

Ford Motor Company

Thinking about buying a Ford car or truck? Owners of at least one hundred shares of Ford common stock for at least six months may enroll in Ford’s X-Pricing program. This nifty bonus allows them to pay 4 percent above employee pricing, depending upon the model selected.

Discounted Hotel Rooms

Registered shareholders of Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) may book available discounted hotel stays through a dedicated, controlled access website. IHG includes many brands: notably Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Candle-wood Suites, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, and Staybridge Suites.

Discounted Computer Hardware—A Perk From IBM

International Business Machines (IBM) stockholders receive a unique code that gives them access to the employee-only store, where they may find significant discounts on computer hardware.

A Goodie Box From Kimberly-Clark

We have all heard of goodie bags, but owners of Kimberly-Clark common stock have the chance to pay just $24.49 for a $45.00 box of the company’s products, which also includes coupons.

Wine Tastings And More From Willamette Valley Vineyards

Located in Turner, Oregon, vintner Willamette Valley Vineyards rewards its shareholders in many ways. Stockholders get personal attention and exclusive access and admissions to special events at the winery. Shareholders also have access to limited production wines, plus use of the winery’s tasting and hospitality facilities for their events. I can’t imagine anyone who lives in Oregon and drinks wine who would not want to have access to these exclusive perks.
Disclosure: Information contained herein is for educational purposes only and is not to be considered a recommendation to buy or sell any security or investment advice. Securities listed herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be considered a recommendation. The author and StratFI clients may hold positions in securities mentioned.

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