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.
(NASDAQ:ETFC): That E*TRADE baby sure has a way with words. Buy, buy, baby!
(NASDAQ:PWRD): Online gaming is booming in China. Talk about living up to your name!
(NASDAQ:MELI): Is this the eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY)of Latin America? Si!
(NYSE:EJ): If you're going to sell houses, you may as well do it in China.
(NASDAQ:SMBL): Do your heart -- and portfolio -- good. This spread maker is like butter, my friends.
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.
E*TRADE is struggling to turn a profit and bury its home loan demons. But while rival online broker TD AMERITRADE
MercadoLibre isn't just the eBay of Brazil and Argentina. It's more like eBay in the 1990s, growing quickly -- but with an earnings multiple to match. E-House is the leading real estate agency in China. It's a hot market, obviously. Revenue climbed 48% in its latest quarter, with earnings soaring 65% higher.
Smart Balance makes heart-healthy buttery spreads. Despite commanding higher prices at your grocer's dairy section, Smart Balance has gained market share for 30 quarters in a row. It is cashing in on its brand allure by rolling out Smart Balance peanut butter, popcorn, and even sour cream.
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 Perfect World and MercadoLibre 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.
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. Perfect World and MercadoLibre are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. eBay is both a Stock Advisor and an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy