Skip to content

Diversifying the agita

The big rewards (and the big agita) come from stocks like BABA, CYBR, GPRO, CELG, and GILD. But they don’t provide a good night’s sleep every night. That’s why I also own BRKA and Vanguard’s VFIAX, Vanguard’s low cost (0.05%) S&P index fund. Diversification is a half-way free lunch — unless you also own stuff that’s seriously out of favor,  like oil, gold and other commodities — the miners, the service companies, etc. Yuch.

Fun shopping experiences. There aren’t many fun bricks and mortar shopping experiences left. But go into Bed Bath and Beyond’s Chelsea, NY store and you’ll experience fun shopping. The place is packed with merchandise to the ceiling and shoppers wall to wall. The salespeople are helpful. You can’t walk out of the store without bags of great stuff.

The stock hasn’t been pretty for the past year.


Earnings have been flat. But not because the customers don’t like the store, but because management is investing in all the right things — from mobile software to a new huge stock buyback. Read the latest earnings call transcript — click here — you’ll see why. Do read it. It’s one of the best I’ve ever read. Here are some excerpts:

Although there are required capital investments, and incremental expenses related to this initiatives which will increase technology costs and depreciation as well as other expenses as a percentage of net sales, in the short-term we are confident we are making the appropriate investments to provide a seamless and compelling customer experience across the in-store, online, and mobile shopping environments.

To re-familiarize and update you on some of our key initiatives, we are continuing to add new functionality and assortment to our selling websites, mobile sites, and apps to improve the customer experience through such things as more effective search results with type-ahead search and related search functionality, registry kick starters, expanded delivery capabilities to allow delivery of larger items to customers’ homes, international shipping, international credit card acceptance, and customer consultation scheduling for in-store visits.

We are continuing our deployment of systems, equipment, and increased bandwidth in our stores, which will enable customer Wi-Fi and new multifunction devices for store associates and provide the means for in-store digital shopping experiences for our customers, including in-store digital messaging of product information and customized brand messages as well as other customer facing applications.

These efforts will also result in systems for stores to optimize shipment costs for home deliveries as well as to improve inventory ordering and workforce management. We are improving our customer data integration and customer relations management capabilities. We’re strengthening and deepening our IT, analytics, marketing, and e-commerce groups to more efficiently and effectively reach our customers through whichever channels they want to interact with us.

We are opening an additional distribution facility to support our growing direct-to-customer shipments and the growth of our health and beauty care offerings, and we are furthering development work necessary for a new and more robust point-of-sale system, which for example over time will allow customers to shop and pay using their mobile device at a register in our stores, receive or redeem personalized item-specific coupons, receive a selection of multiple item price deals, pay with foreign currencies, and obtain foreign language receipts.

As we have mentioned previously, through the investments we have made and will continue to make, our customers can purchase products either in-store, online, or through a mobile device for in most cases either in-store pickup or direct delivery from one of our distribution facilities, stores, or vendors.

I visited the Bed Bath and Beyond store on the way back from getting this year’s flu shot. (Good idea. Everyone should get one.)

I also popped into Macy’s 34th Street flagship store also. It’s just undergone a $400 million 4-year makeover. For the New York Times story on the makeover, click here. Frankly, I think the “makeover” is just plain awful. The carpets are ratty. The entrance doors are the same from 500 years ago. The whole place is depressing. Susan went there to buy some flatware — it was on sale for Veteran’s Day. She said the cardboard display was awful. Pieces were missing. “This is not the Macy’s I remember,” she said. She loves Bed Bath and Beyond. “The merchandise is well-displayed and clean looking.

Time saving tips:

+ Whenever you buy anything, make sure you write down its model and serial number. Item: Last night, one of the hinges on the Thermador oven door broke. I tried to buy a new hinge. There are “50-60 different hinges,” said the nice serviceman. They wouldn’t come to fix it until I had the model number. It took an hour to find the model number. I’m not a Thermador fan.

+ GreatCourses has a college course called Understanding Investments, delivered by Professor Connel Fullenkamp of Duke University. The 24 lectures of 30 minutes a piece are presently on sale for $39.95. Bill Gates turned me onto this operation. He says he watches their courses (on his laptop) all the time. This course sounds worthwhile. Thoughts? Good for the kids? Good for us? Click here. Fullenkamp also teaches a course called Financial Literacy: Finding Your Way in the Financial Markets. For more, click here.

+ The fastest way to speed up your computer is to replace your spinning-platter hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). These things are amazing. Lately they’ve become very cheap. And I mean very cheap. For a collection from Rakuten (the old, click here. My preference is for the Samsung or Kingston drives. Buy two. Keep one as a cloned backup. I tend to like 128, 256 and 512 gb drives. You don’t want the weird sizes, like 240 or 250 gb.

+ I’m just writing a chapter on Why NOT to invest in private companies, especially biotechs. I’ll publish the words later. For now, don’t even think about it.

+ Look at this: My friend Dennis downtown New York gets 50% higher FiOS speed than I do. Really annoys me. I thought I was the king of the Internet. Today’s tasks: fix the oven door and up my FiOS speed. The big lesson remains: Speed really matters. Item: Professor Fullenkamp’s course is 10.5 gigabytes. Downloading it on Dennis’ FiOS line is much faster than mine.


Beautiful New Yorker work. Latest cover:


Great cartoons inside this issue:

SecretShadowGovernment Notbuyinganything familyofhisown

Harry Newton who is enjoying the indoor tennis from London on The Tennis Channel. It’s great to watch Federer play. It’s like watching a beautiful ballet. He’s so perfect. It’s amazing how much tennis players earn these days. Andy Murray has earned more than $25 million in prize money. Not as good as Jamie Dimon, but better than a slap in the belly with a cold fish. And Andy Murray is probably honest.

I updated the list of favored stocks and funds — see the right hand column. Sometimes I write favorably (or unfavorably) about stocks and forget to update the list. My apologies.


  1. Barry Merchant says:

    It’s bad enough that you get flu shots, but even worse that you use your platform to misinform others. Flu shots are a moneymaking scam by the pharmaceutical companies……just like the bogus products promulgated by Wall Street. Please, I beg you, read this new article that explains why the shots are unnecessary, don’t work, and are harmful.


    “Why do drug companies push the flu vaccine? “It’s all about money,” says Dr. Blaylock. “Vaccines are a pharmaceutical company’s dream. They have a product that both the government and the media will help them sell, and since vaccines are protected, they can’t be sued if anyone has a complication.”

    Doshi’s article “is a breath of fresh air,” says Dr. Blaylock. “This article exposes in well-defined and articulate terms what has been known for a long time — the flu vaccine promotion is a fraud.

    “Here’s the bottom line,” says Dr. Blaylock. “The vast number of people who get the flu vaccine aren’t going to get any benefit, but they get all of the risks and complications.”

  2. Lucky says:

    Woke up this morning, all lights on our LG refrigerator door control panel were out…frig was working fine. LG referred me to local service man who suggested I “re-boot it”…I did and all control lights came back on and the ice dispenser worked again. Best service call I never had!

  3. Scooter says:

    I’m in fly over country and I get 125 Mbsp down and 25 Mbps up.

  4. MileHigh says:

    Harry – I agree with you about Bed Bath & Beyond being a business that seems to be doing all the right things. From a consumer’s view point, I find their stores to be the ones that actually get it – pleasure to shop at because they have neat stores that are well organized, smell good, and have helpful employees! The best part is that they actually help you solve problems.

    We recently sent our daughter to college and I cannot tell you how much they made our lives easier. We bought everything she needed online and they had an arrangement with the university where they deliver everything to the dorm room. All we had to do was pack her clothes and unpack the boxes that were already waiting in her dorm room. What a concept – give customers what they want!