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 boo-yahs 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 ) : The top dog in online restaurant reservations? I'm starving! Table for one, please.
- VCA Antech (Nasdaq: WOOF ) : This is no dog, my friends. Pet care is an investor's best friend.
- Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) : Let me introduce you to the thinking investor's Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) .
- rue21 (NYSE: RUE ) : I know that 21 is a good hand in blackjack. It's looking like a good one at the mall, too.
- Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) : B-U-Y A-U-Y? It's as good as gold!
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 isn't just the leader in online reservations for fine eateries. The company has an entire ecosystem incorporating its electronic reservation books that it leases out to hungry restaurants. It must be doing something right if it continues to grow in a ho-hum sector. VCA Antech has nearly 500 pet hospitals, allowing it to cash in on the economies of scale in what has historically been a very fragmented sector.
AMD is more than just a thorn in Intel's side. Now that regulators are beginning to crack down on Intel's practices, the No. 2 computer chipmaker is about to win a larger cheering section. At the very least, even Intel is going to need AMD to stay competitive in the near-term.
rue21 recently went public, but it's no sleepy retailer. Net sales soared 41% in its latest quarter, with comps clocking in 13.5% higher. Stack that up against mall hipsters like Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF ) , where comps are still running negative.
Yamana Gold is more than just the obvious inflation hedge play on rising gold prices. Revenue and earnings soared 50% and 180% respectively in the company's latest quarter, fueled by healthy production and buoyant commodity prices.
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 we recommended OpenTable and VCA Antech to subscribers of the growth-stock newsletter service, our advice came in the form of a thorough buy report, complete with financial data and dozens of exploratory observations. There was also a Q&A session with a fellow analyst.
Due diligence doesn't end there, of course. A vibrant community of analysts and subscribers continue 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 you join me and my fellow analysts for a free trial in time for the next batch of monthly recommendations or not, 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.
This article was first 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 VCA Antech are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Intel is an Inside Value choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Intel. The Fool owns shares of Abercrombie & Fitch. The Fool has a disclosure policy.