I had a chat with a flight attendant the other day while on the plane back to Montreal. The flight attendant said that she loves the hotel that she stays in when her airline goes to Toronto. So I asked her, which hotel is it? She said it’s the Intercontinental Hotel. For those who don’t know the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto is right behind the CN Tower (Toronto’s most important landmark: the CN tower is for Toronto what the pyramids are for Egypt) – needless to say, it’s one of the most expensive hotels out there. The night is about $300 + tax during the low season!

From what I understood from her, most airlines (especially those that are broke) go with the most expensive hotels for their staff. So I thought to myself, how much money would these airlines save if they go with cheaper hotels? Or better yet, how much money would they save if they buy a nice big villa that will host all their staff? If they are spending about $3,000/day then surely they can afford a nice flat (that will become part of their capital) or a villa in less expensive countries. Of course, having a dedicated place means that more staff is needed to clean, but really how much does it cost to hire a full time maid to attend to that flat and to the needs of the airline’s staff.

Agreeably, some companies do not have enough money to buy these large flats or villas, but do they not have the will to make a decision to go for a cheaper (yet still nice) hotel?

I agree that the job of a flight attendant is very hard (it is very hard, by the way, I’m not being sarcastic – imagine that they have to deal with mostly insane people all the time who think that they are entitled for a five star treatment for their $800 tickets), and s/he needs to have a good night sleep. But going for a cheaper hotel does not mean they won’t have that sleep.

So, how much would that airline save a year if they went for a $100/night hotel instead of the $300/night one? If they have a staff of 10, then it means a saving of $730,000.

And that’s only for one route…

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

I was at Heathrow yesterday in a connecting flight. I was hungry so I decided to have lunch. I elected to go with the same lunch I had nearly a month ago at the same place. The total bill was for £14 (including tip). I gave the waitress $25 (I’m talking US $) in cash as I was stepping out, telling her that this should be more enough (thinking that I overtipped). But, the waitress told me she wanted to check whether this is enough or not. I waited for a couple of minutes and then she told me: “you still owe us 20 cents”. So I had to give her another dollar. I then told her that according to my calculations, I overtipped her for an extra $2.6 because I had the same lunch for the same price a month ago, paid by credit card, and I got charged for $22.40 (they calculated the rate at $1.6). Sure the foreign exchange rate might fluctuate in a month, but not that much! She told me that the forex rate in shops at the airport is much higher than the normal rate, and they often charge an extra 10-15% on top of the normal rate. Their rate was 1.8 (e.g. 1 pound equals $1.8).

I was personally under the impression that it’s better to pay in cash than in credit cards at airports, because Visa (and MasterCard) charge people an extra 1% over the bank rate. Apparently, I was wrong, because I didn’t know that shops charge 10-15% over the normal rate.

Stick with using your credit card at the airport – it’s always the lesser of the two evils. Unless, of course, the cash you have on hand is in that airport’s currency.

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

If you have checked AAPL’s stock today, then the thing you would have noticed (other than the stock dropped 3%) is that it has this cute little blue square that looks like a “D” (for dividend). Yes, you’re right, Apple paid a dividend today for the second time since November 1995 (that’s exactly 17 years ago) – first time was back in August. It seems that Apple has conceded to the fact that it now must compensate for the bad products it’s releasing to make sure that investors won’t just dump the stock.

But, how much did Apple pay?

Well, it has paid $2.65 per share as dividend, which means that in total, Apple has paid $2.5 billion (there are 940.69 million AAPLs) – not that bad, but considering the stock has dropped by almost 7 times that amount, I don’t think it was a great day for Apple investors.

AAPL shares are extremely overvalued as the company is now facing increasing pressure from Samsung, Microsoft and the likes. Apple, as a company, has lost all of its competitiveness when it released a very disappointing (and overpriced) iPhone 5. Yes, there are many Apple fans out there, and they just buy Apple because it’s Apple, but the majority wants the latest in technology – something that Apple is no longer offering.

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

Back in June, I asked one of my banks for two credit cards, one in Canadian Dollars and the other in US Dollars. I didn’t need them but I thought it was good to have them as a backup plan in case I have a problem with any of my other cards while overseas. So they sent me the cards, and I traveled. Thankfully, I never needed these cards during my travel but I felt it was a good thing that I made them. Or so I thought…

The moment I got back to Montreal I checked my mail, and I saw 4 statements from my bank for these cards – the first two were due on July 11, and the second two were due on August 10. Here’s what happened:

  • My bank “did me a favor” and offered, for the very reasonable fee of $99, 2000 Air Miles that I will never ever use in my life. That offer was on my Canadian card. Because I missed the payment on my first invoice, they charged me an interest for that offer on my second invoice.
  • My bank charged me a $25 fee (which they said they were going to waive when I asked for the cards) on my US Dollar card. Again, I got charged interest on my second invoice.

When I saw that I missed the first payment, I panicked as I thought this would have definitely affected my credit score (a credit score is everything in the US and Canada for those who don’t live in this part of the world) and I called the bank (that was August 9th). I told the lady on the other line the story, and she reversed both charges – she also reversed the interest. I then asked her: Will this affect my credit?

She told me no, because you only missed one payment on your credit cards, but your credit card score will be affected when you miss two consecutive credit card payments. She explained to me how the process works in details:

  • You owe some money on you credit card, the bank sends you a statement.
  • You can pay the full amount of your statement or just the minimum payment.

  • If you missed the minimum payment then you will be only charged interest on next month’s payment (which what would happen if you didn’t pay the full amount anyway). You will also be alerted that you must pay at least the minimum payment.

  • If you missed the next month’s payment, then your credit score will be affected, and they might increase your interest rate immediately.

  • If you missed another payment, then your credit score will go down further, your interest rate on all your products will increase (with that bank, because you will be deemed a high risk client), and your credit card will be blocked.

  • If you still don’t pay your credit card, then the bank is most likely to seek legal action against you. Generally, Canadian banks do not resort to collection agencies – they have their own collection departments.

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

My friend was contemplating buying some RIG shares for the long term, so he asked me whether Transocean pays dividends or not. I didn’t know what to answer, see, the short answer is Transocean doesn’t pay dividends.

However, that answer can be modified to Transocean doesn’t pay dividends at the moment – the thing is Transocean was supposed to pay dividends back in May of this year, but it didn’t. It did pay dividends from May 2011 until February of 2012 (every quarter -as scheduled) though. The yearly dividend, on average, was about 1.5%.

Transocean used to pay dividends regularly from 1993 until 2002 – but these dividends were negligible (they were about 0.2%/year).

I have no idea whether that dividend skip back in May was a glitch in their accounting system, or whether it’s a decision to no longer pay dividends. I personally think that Transocean should not pay any dividends at the moment, simply because they’re losing money at the moment, and there are still many restrictions on off-shore drilling.

But will RIG have dividends in the future?

I think it will. You see, Transcoean (unlike many other US listed companies) has a successful business model and it will not fail. The thing is they’re still feeling the pain from what happened a couple of years ago in the Gulf of Mexico.

But, one can argue that they were doing fine for nearly a decade and they haven’t paid a dime in dividends. That is correct, but the fact that they started paying somehow decent dividends (1.5%) for the past year means that they now have someone in upper management thinking that dividends is a good idea to lure investors. I’m not sure if Transocean will pay dividends forever, but I think they will start doing this the moment they become profitable and for at least a few years.

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

I remember I spent several months being an active contributor to Answers.com, giving real answers to real questions, and feeling good that I was able to help someone somewhere. I did leave a link to one of my websites in each of my answers – after all, I did want to increase the traffic to my website. It was all fine until I received a warning a few years ago to stop “promoting” my own websites. Huh? So the folks at Answers.com think that they want to make money from their hard working users (I was replying to 30 questions nearly every day) without giving something in return?

That was back in 2008-2009. In 2010 I created another account and started doing the same (yes – it was a mistake), and I received the same message after my contributions were nearly a thousand on that account (again, all my answers were real). I have stopped using Answers.com ever since.

Fast forward to one month ago, and everyday I receive literally a hundred emails from Answers.com that states “Hats Off – You’ve Been Recommended” or something similar. I used to get one of those every 3 or 4 months. I can’t remember. But now to get a 100 a day means only one thing, they are tampering with this. They have most likely created a script that will send this email to each and every person depending on his recommendations – this way they think they’ll be getting their money generating users to slave for them again for free, thinking that they can buy them with some fake points on their website!

The thing is Answers.com is no longer a public company (it was a public company before with symbol NASDAQ:ANSW) and it’s now a private company owned by (most likely) a single person. That person might have thought – “hey, how come my revenue from this website is dwindling every month? Let’s do some measure to increase the traffic shall we? And let’s get some idiots who have already worked on our website and we kicked them out to slave on our website for free again!” and that’s how I got bombarded with their “Hats Off…” emails for the past month or so.

Answers.com makes money from Google ads and other ad networks, and the more traffic they have the more money they’ll get. But in order for them to make money, they must think about giving something in return to their contributors – although I think that they’re beyond redemption at this point and there are better options out there for people to help and get help.

Answers.com, these are bankrupt measures that you’re taking! Why don’t you be a pioneer and offer some kind of real reward to your contributors instead of creating scripts to fake that all of a sudden “they’ve been recommended”!

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

I had an overdraft charge this morning – the thing is that I used the wrong account to make a purchase, and I got dinged with a ridiculous $30 ($29.95 to be exact) just because I bought some fruits worth $7 with my Interac card at the local grocery. In any case, I felt really bad about it and I called the bank and told them that I wanted my money back, and they happily refunded the overdraft fee. So I asked the lady on the phone, “how many times can I get dinged overdraft fees? I mean, what is the maximum number of overdraft fees that I can incur in a single day?”

Her answer was, “Sir, it’s unlimited – every time you make a purchase and you go below 0 you’ll have to pay overdraft fees”.

“Unlimited”, which means that one can owe the bank literally hundreds of dollars if he does this all day (I mean if he’s crazy enough to do this all day). So I thought, what’s the point and what’s the benefit for someone to be allowed to spend a few dollars extra on something that he may or may not need? Most people get overdraft charges by mistake – they never intend to withdraw more money than they have – they just don’t know how much money they have, and that’s why they think that the card will stop working once they run out of funds – but it doesn’t – it gives them the couple of dollars that they need extra, and then it dings them 15 to 20 times that amount.

I think the whole concept of overdraft fees is unethical, the bank can simply block the card when it runs of out of money, the same way they do it with credit cards. But the job of the bank is to suck our hard-earned cash from our pockets, regardless of the means.

I’m wondering whether the regulators monitoring these banks are aware of these unscrupulous activities or not. And if they are, and I’m sure they are, then how come they don’t do something about it? At least make this as an opt-in feature, where people would have to accept getting charged ridiculous amounts in exchange for a couple of bucks to buy a coffee, rather than not being able to buy that coffee at all.

Is our financial system, and those monitoring our financial system completely corrupt now? Is the financial system there to protect our interests or just to benefit from us?

Governments across the world should intervene to prevent this unethical activity which is doing absolutely nothing for the economy.

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

August 13, 2012 | In: General

Top 10 Stocks to Hold Forever

Most of us don’t think about buying and holding stocks, but we’re there for the quick money. We buy some shares, we wait until they go up (or until they go down below a certain threshold), and we sell to make some money or limit our losses. I have to admit that most investors, including myself, are not really contributing to the well being of any company – we’re just enjoying the free ride to make some money for our retirement.

But why is it that we don’t buy and hold stocks?

Well, there are two major reasons for this:

  1. We’re in this for the money, and only for the money.
  2. Most of us don’t think that there are companies out there which stocks are really worth holding.

The first reason we can’t do anything about it, but how about the second one, is it true that there are no stocks out there that are worth holding for the very long term?

I personally don’t think so – I think that there are many stocks currently trading that are worth to buy and hold for ages. Here are the top ten that I can think of:

  • 1. McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD): When people stop eating cheap food (in all the meanings of the word), then you can start worrying about this stock. This stock has went up even in the darkest times.
  • 2. Philip Morris International Inc. (NYSE: PM): If you have no problem with the ultimate sin stock and destroying people’s lives, then buy some PM for yourself, your son, and your grandson. Despite all the anti-tobacco regulations and all the crazy warnings on cigarette packs, this stock is here to stay. By the way, I think PM got a boost because of Mad Men – smoking is now returning to be a trend.

  • 3. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG): Although there is an increasing number of dirty and smelly people, I suspect people will continue to 1) take showers, 2) wash their hands, 3) die their hair, 4) (hopefully) shave and brush their teeth, and 5) wash their clothes. Procter & Gamble has important products for all that (and more!). That stock will be here in 100 years from now – maybe under some other ticker, but it’ll still be here.

  • 4. Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL): While Procter & Gamble has all the brands that Colgate-Palmolive has (and much more), Colgate-Palmolive is a company that is loved by people – they make one of the most used toothpaste on the planet, and they also care about the local communities. Colgate-Palmolive is an excellent stock to buy, and to hold!

  • 5. Kellogg Company (NYSE: K): Humans have been having breakfast since their existence – I don’t see that trend going anywhere. And what a better way to start the day than with good old bowl of Corn Flakes made by Kellogg’s whether it’s tomorrow or a hundred years from now? Oh, and I’m confident that many people, including myself, are not going to start their day with a Chinese cereal (yes – my TV may be made in China, my clothes may be made in China, my car may be made in China, but by God I’m not eating any cereals – or any other type of food – made in China!)

  • 6. United States Steel Corporation (NYSE: X): True, the most important steel corporation in America (and perhaps the world) suffered a lot from the recession that started in 2008 and that still haunts us. But we all know that the recession will not stay, and new construction will resume, and steel will be in demand again (even in greater demand in the medium and distant future). X is a complete bargain at the moment – buy it!

  • 7. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT): People are getting more and more frugal, especially in the west (by west I mean western countries, and not the American West). Wal-Mart is a synonym for frugality. Wal-Mart sells cheap foreign made trash (including clothes) that people use on a daily basis. The stock is here for a long time, but as you can see I don’t like their business model. By the way, a couple of decades ago, Wal-Mart used to sell good quality stuff made in the US.

  • 8. International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM): This is the only IT company that you will see on this list. IBM started its business selling PCs, and then shifted away from that model and started selling services, mainly overpriced IT consultancy services (such as installing a switch for $50,000 – true story that happens nearly every day in IBM) to large companies and to governments. IBM was successful at both endeavors. A company that completely changes its business model depending on the market is a company that will continuously succeed. IBM is always a bargain!

  • 9. Ford (NYSE: F): Yes, I know many people have lost a lot of money on this stock in the past few years, but the thing is, Ford is healing from the worst crisis that hit its business for a long time now – and it’s doing a very good job at that. People will still buy cars in a century from now, and Ford is still a good car (better than many out there, including Fiat, Mazda, Renault and the likes).

  • 10. L’Oreal (EPA: OR): The only non US-listed company in this list, L’Oreal symbolizes beauty for women, and all women want to be beautiful. I’m pretty confident that this will not change at all! Women will always buy L’Oreal products. By the way, L’Oreal is very similar to Colgate-Palmolive in its production policies encouraging local labor.

  • As you can see in this list, I haven’t included any bank (as I think all banks are doomed), no oil companies (because I don’t think we will use oil even 50 years from now), and no IT and technology companies (with the exception of IBM; I think all IT and technology companies, including Apple, are doomed since IT is very tricky and requires a lot of agility to keep up with new trends).

    This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

OK – clearly this is not a post about the stock market or anything related to the stock market. In fact, this is not a post – it’s a rant. I visit a lot of websites on a daily basis and I post a comment if I like what I read (regardless of whether I’m in agreement with the author or not) – no, make that I try to post a comment if I like what I read.

The thing is many websites use captchas right now and these captchas are getting ridiculously hard – it sometimes take me 10 refreshes to find a one that I can actually read! I mean, if spam bots that decode captchas are getting better than us reading them then the whole concept of a captcha is flawed and should be substituted with something else. This spam prevention method no longer works – it’s becoming more annoying and it renders the commenting functionality barely usable.

Take a look these captchas and see if you can figure the letters on any of them (Note: I have generated these captchas in sequence – I haven’t selected the ones that are unreadable – I’ve just selected 5 captchas in sequence):

Unreadable Captcha #1

Figure 1: Can you read this? (Oh, and shall I include the semi-column in the second word?)

Unreadable Captcha #2

Figure 2: Or maybe this? (Funny first word – I wonder whether Google filters words from these captchas)

Unreadable Captcha #3

Figure 3: How about this one? (I can make a few letters from the second word, and what’s that beneath the first word)

Unreadable Captcha #4

Figure 4: Perhaps this one? (Is the first word detatel or detated? Either way they both don’t make sense!)

Unreadable Captcha #5

Figure 5: This one is a classic – the only letter I can make from the second word is “U” – and I don’t know if it’s uppercase or lowercase.”

What I have noticed that most catpchas have at least one unreadable word – where you try to guess what the letters are.

I think we have reached the point of nonsense when it comes to spam protection – we don’t need this – there must be a better way to protect us from spammers while ensuring that the website’s usability is not affected.

In case you’re wondering who you should complain to for this captcha product (it’s called recaptcha), then it’s none else than Google – the Internet king. Good luck with that! I find it very weird that Google, despite all its efforts to make the web a better place, insists on keeping this product that should be flushed down you know here.

Perhaps I’m slowly, but surely becoming dyslexic – because I’m sure I was able to read these captcha words a few years ago – but now I can’t. I honesty can’t!

Oh, by the way, a response to the captcha people telling us to read books – we are reading, that’s why we’re trying to comment!

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.

I bought yesterday some hand soap – I usually buy them in bulk, and they last for a year or so. I buy a brand called Softsoap (it’s very prominent here in Canada) as they have a huge variety of hand soaps – some have unbelievable scents!

I bought about 12 of the “Black Orchid” scented Softsoap. For those who don’t know, these hand soaps have a unique scent that are so beautiful you’ll never want to wash with anything else. The 12 of them were only for $20. So, when I was relaxing at home, I took one of these bottles, and I read the information on the back. It was made by Colgate-Palmolive and it was made in the US. Interesting!

I then thought about all the Colgate-Palmolive brands I have used, they are many, and they include shampoos, razor blades, hand soaps, toothpastes, toothbrushes, detergents, body wash, deodorants, etc… Literally all of their products are the best, and I use them all! Not only that, all of their products are affordable, and they’re not made in China!

Did you read that? They’re not made in China! Yet they are very cheap and they are of the highest quality (I can’t think of a better quality than Colgate-Palmolive when it comes to my daily hygiene). What’s interesting about Colgate-Palmolive is that not only they do not sell us Chinese products – but they sell us home made products. For example, if you’re in France, you’ll most likely buy a Colgate-Palmolive product made in France. If you’re in the US, you’re most likely to buy a Colgate-Palmolive product made in the US or Canada. Colgate-Palmolive has always a plant near you, which is the best thing that an international company can do – since this will create jobs elsewhere (making the company look not greedy) and reduce inflation effects on the company should inflation goes significantly up in one of the countries (China is a great example).

Colgate-Palmolive is an ethical company (I think it’s one of the most ethical companies out there) with solid financial sheet, and an infrastructure that can weather the effects of any financial crisis in any country (they have plants everywhere, they have jobs everywhere, and they sell high quality non-cyclical products that all people need on a daily basis).

Now, let’s examine CL’s stock:

Colgate Palmolive (CL) from 1997 to 2012

Figure 1: Colgate Palmolive (NYSE: CL) from 1997 to 2012

Look at the image above, do you see the trend? That stock seems to go up no matter what! It has more than tripled since 1997 – and while that not might not be an achievement when comparing it to some other companies such as Apple, it is still impressive – even more impressive when you know for sure that this company, unlike Apple, is going to be here a 100 years from now. (I’m not saying that Apple is going to disappear for sure, but I’m just saying that the possibility for Apple vanishing in a hundred years is very high since Apple is an electronics producer).

Before giving my opinion on whether Colgate-Palmolive is a good stock buy or not, let me list these facts:

  • Colgate-Palmolive does not sell us Chinese products – it sells us products that are made somewhere close to us.
  • All Colgate-Palmolive products are excellent and they sell very well.

  • The Colgate-Palmolive brand means quality – lots of quality.

  • Colgate-Palmolive is trading at a P/E of 20 years – while we know for sure that this company is staying for the next 100 years or so.

  • CL’s average volume has been consistent for the last few years – although it has slightly contracted to about 10 million shares per day in 2012 from an average of about 12 millions shares per day in 2011 – but that’s not really important.

  • Colgate-Palmolive, as a company, is valued at about $54.20 billion, nearly 9% above the market value of $49.76 billion.

  • Colgate-Palmolive pays decent dividends every quarter – totaling about 2.5% of the value of the stock every year!

As you can see from above, Colgate-Palmolive is a solid company that is here to stay, with a consistent stock and it has paid decent dividends every quarter for the past 25 years (since 1987). It has only missed one quarter, which was back in April of 2006. Colgate-Palmolive is a good – very good stock. What are you waiting for?

This article (as well as all other articles on this website) is an intellectual property and copyright of Fadi El-Eter and can only appear on fadi.el-eter.com.