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.

Ready? Go.

  • Intuitive Surgical (NASDAQ:ISRG): Robotic arms in the surgery room? Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.
  • salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM): They say that salesforce.com is the poster child for cloud computing, but I say it's an America's most wanted poster.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) (NYSE:CMG-B): First you roll the burrito, then you roll in the money.
  • Novatel Wirelss (NASDAQ:NVTL): The MyFi mobile hotspot is a hit. I call it the My Buy.
  • Visa (NYSE:V): Visa? It's everywhere your portfolio wants to be.  

Next caller?
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.

Intuitive Surgical is growing because its robotic surgical arms improve operating procedures and reduce surgeon fatigue. salesforce.com has been on a growth tear since it provides Web-based enterprise software solutions at a lower price point than conventional software programs. Chipotle's "food with integrity" mantra, high-quality eats, and lightning-quick service have made it a standout in the quick-service restaurant industry. It's one of the few eatery chains that have grown their comps in this environment.

Novatel Wireless does have a hit with the MyFi. It is just superior to the USB mobile broadband modems that only power one laptop. The MyFi can connect up to five devices to the Internet. Visa is in the same mold of its rival MasterCard (NYSE:MA) in that they have dodged the brunt of the financial services meltdown. As credit card marketers it is the issuing banks that bear the credit risk. Visa and MasterCard simply lay back and collect their transaction fees.

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 Intuitive Surgical, salesforce.com, and Chipotle 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. Intuitive Surgical, salesforce.com, and Chipotle are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Chipotle is also a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy