I've got a red-hot icebreaker for you.
The next time you find yourself in a dwindling social situation, where it seems as if the conversation is running on fumes, just fling the following question into the mix:
"What do you think about Jim Cramer?"
It's as easy as that. Cramer is a polarizing figure. Some people love him. Some people hate him. Either way, everybody has an opinion on financial journalism's reigning rock star.
I'll confess to being entertained -- and on occasion enlightened -- by the Mad Money star. However, there is nothing I hate more than when Cramer opens up the phones to kick off the Mad Money Lightning Round.
In rat-a-tat-tat fashion, callers will swap booyahs and holler a ticker symbol Cramer's way. They'll get a snappy line or two in response, occasionally with a silly sound effect as an exclamation point.
It may be entertaining to watch, but it's the equivalent of nails against a chalkboard to me as an investor. After all, we're all looking for stock ideas. It's just not right to boil down due diligence to the ring of a cash register or a charging bull.
Every lightning round finds me with the same three-word plea that is never heeded by Cramer.
"Tell me more!"
Walk a short mile in Cramer's long shoes
Let's play a game. I'm going to pretend to be hosting Cramer's lightning round. And you're going to throw out the names of some of my favorite stocks. I'm going to splice out all of the ego-massaging banter and get right to the nitty-gritty one-liners.
- OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN ) : Online dining reservations? Feed me, I'm yours.
- Rackspace Hosting (NYSE: RAX ) : It's the host with the most. To server man? It's a cookbook, baby.
- Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) : It's iPhone season. Even a dummy like me has a smartphone these days.
- Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) : If you're going to play the networking game, you may as well be a router rooter.
- Visa (NYSE: V ) : Paper or plastic? Swipe away, my friend.
Did any of that work for you? I hope not. It may be a worthwhile exercise to boil down a stock's buy thesis to a Cramer sound bite or a cocktail-napkin scribble, but you really need to know more than what five seconds of a talking head will tell you.
OpenTable is the undisputed leader in setting up restaurants with online reservations. It is growing quickly, and now virtually sets up foodies with dinner dates at more than 10,000 eateries.
Rackspace is a provider of dedicated hosting services, but its biggest growth spurts are coming from its ability to host cloud-computing applications. Even in this dark chapter of IT spending, Rackspace delivered first-quarter revenue and profit gains of 21%.
Apple has to share the smartphone market with the snazzy Storm and Pre challengers, but they're all growing at the expense of conventional handsets.
Cisco's earnings have been smacked in this economic slowdown, but investors have a great chance to buy a pillar of the tech world for just 18 times this fiscal year's depressed profitability.
Visa and rival MasterCard (NYSE: MA ) are sorely misunderstood credit card giants. They simply market the cards, so they aren't on the hook for overspending defaulters. That's on the dime of the issuing banks and institutions such as Capital One Financial (NYSE: COF ) . Credit cards will continue to be a popular transaction enabler.
You have to be hungry for more
Fleshing out snappy sound bites to a few sentences -- as I just did -- is better, but it's still not enough.
As a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers analyst team, I don't settle for bullet points. When I recommend stocks to subscribers of the growth-stock newsletter service, my advice comes in the form of a thorough buy report, complete with financial data and dozens of exploratory observations. There's also a Q&A session with a fellow analyst.
Due diligence doesn't end there, of course. A vibrant community of analysts and subscribers continues to discuss the recommendations, with updates as the fundamentals change for the better or worse.
Does Mad Money do that? Of course not. It may be weeks, months, or even years before a stock is revisited during the show's lightning round. And, as you can expect, you'll be left hanging with the same three words.
Tell me more.
Whether or not you join me and my fellow analysts for a free trial in time for the next batch of monthly recommendations, never settle for less information than you deserve when the time comes to plunk down your hard-earned money on a stock.
You deserve better than that.
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This article was originally published May 28, 2009. It has been updated.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that wedding vows may take all of two words, but stock relationships need more. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. OpenTable and Rackspace are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy