The New England Patriots were panning for gold this week, but there were no Hidden Gems. The team members were presented with their Super Bowl rings after winning their second championship in three years last February. The rings were the biggest ever, weighing in at 3.8 ounces and 5.05 carats. Each ring is made of 14-karat gold with 104 diamonds. The team would not release the rings' value, except to say they were more costly than the $15,000 rings given out after the 2001 season.
Imagine, if you were with the team through both Super Bowl victories, you're now walking around with nearly half a pound and more than $30,000 worth of jewelry on your hand. The thought of it just makes us tired, not to mention paranoid about losing these gems.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- eBay Made Easy
- Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Hidden Gems
- Mandalay Says "I Do"
- Discussion Board of the Day: Saving Social Security
- Push-Button Burgers at McDonald's
- Quote of Note
- More on Fool.com Today
eBay Made Easy
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
Auction is powerful, but there are those who haven't accepted the Way of eBay
Through the physical environment of 3,400 UPS Stores, those of us who are still too nervous, lazy, or technologically skittish to use eBay will be able to drop off goods like old computers, cameras, DVD players, and so forth. AuctionDrop will take care of the rest.
According to the Journal article, AuctionDrop isn't the only company that is currently aiming at this lucrative niche. For example, Circuit City
Several trends sweeten the prospects. Given an improving market for PCs, many people might want to auction off their old clunkers to help finance the new. Snazzy, high-end plasma and digital televisions are tempting consumers, hinting that older models could end up in the halls of eBay.
Meanwhile, fears of the growing incidences of auction-related fraud could push some toward a middleman-like AuctionDrop; though its site doesn't make any extra assurances to guarantee against fraud, one might hope it has expertise in avoiding the latest scams.
Given the strong (and, to my way of thinking, slightly baffling) power of eBay, all the players mentioned seem destined to benefit in one way or another.
eBay will welcome the added exposure to the uninitiated, as well as the additional influx of goods for sale (and it certainly stands to reason that some of the AuctionDrop customers may one day knock out the middleman). UPS heightens its profile with consumers by getting in on the eBay allure and makes some money in the process by providing the shipping and packaging for AuctionDrop. Last but not least, AuctionDrop gets a cash cut of the sales.
One might wonder what UPS rival FedEx
Alyce Lomaxdoes not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. She has never used eBay and has to admit, that pre-IPO, her thought was, "That'll never work!" She always much preferred the concept of anotherMotley Fool Stock Advisorpick,Amazon.com
Shameless Plug: Motley Fool Hidden Gems
The only thing harder to find than a hidden gem is a great small-cap investment newsletter. The good news is that if you find one, you've found the other. That is, so long as you found the newsletter, not the gem. Rather than put up with any more of this doublespeak, take advantage of the new, bulked-up Motley Fool Hidden Gems at the low charter rate -- but only until June 20.
Mandalay Says "I Do"
By Tim Beyers
Look, I love Vegas as much as the next guy. In fact, I can't wait to get back and sidle up to a poker table, or maybe try Lakes Entertainment's
Tuesday, the board of Mandalay Resort Group
You can't really blame MGM for going to the well to hook up with Mandalay, for, as fellow Fool Jeff Hwang recently pointed out, it is the sex kitten among the casino operators on the Vegas Strip. But can this marriage last? Well, unlike most shotgun weddings in the Nevada desert, these two actually dated before heading to the altar. MGM and Mandalay each own a 50% stake in the Monte Carlo resort, which recently helped put some sizzle into Mandalay's operating results.
But not all is well for the happy couple. Should the two be joined as expected, the result could be a $13 billion mountain of debt, almost twice that of the combined entity's annual projected revenue of $6.6 billion. As W.D. Crotty has reported, that makes The Donald's ailing Trump Hotels
Indeed, as Trump's experience proves, not much good can come from a debt load that heavy. So for MGM and Mandalay, the honeymoon could be very short. And their offspring -- new properties to be created on undeveloped land they own on the Strip -- may be forced to accept unattractive terms to finance future building.
I don't think there's much question that the MGM-Mandalay marriage will be consummated, resulting in a few very beautiful children who will bring more glitz and glamour to the Strip. But will this pairing make money for you, the investor? Don't bet on it. You'd be better off looking into some of these deals, uncovered by our Foolish analysts:
- Alliance Gaming's
(NYSE: AGI)misfortune could be a break for you.
- Ameristar Casinos
(Nasdaq: ASCA)turns pennies into profits.
- Harrah's Entertainment
(NYSE: HET)rakes in the dough.
Discussion Board of the Day: Saving Social Security
This week, the Congressional Budget Office reported a Social Security surplus and pushed out projections that the program will be depleted by 2052. The 10-year reprieve leaves a little wiggle room but little comfort. Is Social Security worth saving? If not, what's the alternative? Discuss your views with other Fools on our Retire Early discussion board.
Push-Button Burgers at McDonald's
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
Will you soon get a burger at the touch of a button? McDonald's
Prior to the company's impressive turnaround, service figured in customer dissatisfaction. Theoretically, a push-button system that delivers orders straight to the kitchen could cut time and alleviate confusion, as well as pare down frantic lunchtime lines. Also, imagine how the technology could help speed up the drive-thru lane. (It should be noted that these kiosks are meant to run simultaneous with traditional ordering, not replace it.)
Such automation is becoming more prevalent. How many of us hardly ever even see a bank teller anymore? Many grocery stores have the self-scan option. My local AMC Entertainment
These businesses allow you to choose whether you'd rather interact with another human being to make your transaction or push some buttons and expedite a simple process that doesn't need assistance. Meanwhile, the increasing frequency of credit and debit card usage has made such automation easy to implement.
Of course, paying for a movie ticket may be easier than delivery of hot, prepared food. As you've already guessed, your burger and fries don't come shooting out of the kiosk. Instead, an employee rounds up your order and brings it to you.
Throughout its turnaround, McDonald's has been upping the ante in finding innovative ways to attract a crowd, with ideas including music downloads and DVD rentals. Its creative use of technology may well prove that thinking out of the Happy Meal box is working.
However, in this case, the test isn't quite the innovation that other theories have been. Rival Burger King is also testing the same idea in a few of its stores. If successful, one can imagine that such fast-food giants as Wendy's
If the test's a success, you may someday be pushing buttons for burgers at a McDonald's near you. Any method that McDonald's can dream up to serve patrons more quickly and attract more loyal customers could only help to grow its top and bottom lines. However, one might worry that the system could wind up breeding chaos, turning restaurant outlets into a great, big McMess. For now, we wait to see.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.
Quote of Note
"The wages of sin are death, but the benefits include dental, major medical, two-week paid vacation, pension fund, and stock options. Actually, taken as a package, it's a rather attractive deal." -- Tim Mefford
More on Fool.com Today
Be skeptical when you see lists of recommended stocks, and think for yourself, says Selena Maranjian in Fools Don't Rush In.... Betting on quick-moving security plays? You better read Seth Jayson's Portfolio Terror Alert first.
For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.