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Author: ultimatespinach Three stars, 500 posts Feste Award Nominee! Old School Fool Global Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 5162  
Subject: A modest request of TMF Date: 5/6/2012 2:59 PM
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As a charter subscriber to Global Gains devoted enough to be paid up through the end of 2017, I'm very sorry to see the service terminated. It's been a great companion in my efforts to understand the planet beyond the borders of the good ol' USA. Someone wrote on one of these threads that it was a great complement to his/her subscription to The Economist, and I agree.

Parenthetically, I'm not sure I understand the economic rationale that's been advanced. I realize this is my own problem, TMF can do what it likes whether I get it or not, and I certainly don't begrudge it the right to make business decisions in its own interest. But if it now intends to pay Nathan to run a free international portfolio on Fool.com, it will surely derive less revenue from his efforts than it derives currently from GG. So, to echo a few others, why not simply eliminate the printed newsletter, which must represent the lion's share of the cost, and fold the existing GG site into Nathan's new, more widely-available portfolio. That would allow the GG community, small though it might be, to stay together if we have the will, at what must be the relatively nominal cost of maintaining the boards.

The most disturbing aspect of this development to me is its impact on my view of TMF. I was a charter subscriber to Hidden Gems as well, and an early subscriber to SA, so Tom, David and their various accomplices have had a big influence on my education and amusement as an investor. I got to engage Tom personally on the HG boards numerous times as a know-it-all novice, and I recall both his wisdom and good humor with fondness. Later, as a GG subscriber, I got a Beijing restaurant recommendation from Bill Mann that led to a wonderful night out. Bill also favored me with a remarkably honest explanation, over the phone, for marketing pitches I had attacked on the boards. I will always be grateful for the consideration of those guys in particular.

In my experience, dealing with a variety of consumer-facing businesses, there is a line businesses can cross beyond which the consumer begins to perceive them as caring about little more than sucking as much money out of them as possible. The most obvious examples are the many internet-based offers of books or CDs or DVDs to help you accomplish this or that self-help goal; no sooner have you provided your credit card number for the service you want than you are inundated with pitches for ten more, before the first has provided a dime's worth of value for the investment you've already made. Other, more traditional businesses also devolve into this transparently money-hungry profile. The airlines, for example, which once emphasized customer service (yes, I'm that old) and now simply sneer at the customer while piling on every conceivable additional fee. Buy a Dell computer and you are sentenced to a lifetime of "reminders" of add-on services you need to buy right away. And so on.

For a long time, TMF seemed devoted to the education of the individual investor and the debunking of the b.s. being sold by the financial services industry. It earned a reputation for devotion to the actual needs of its customers, many of whom paid for nothing more than the occasional book. Evidently, this proved a great model for altruism, not so great for business. So it launched the various paid newsletters. These represented a genuine value, in my opinion, offering the printed and digital wisdom of Tom, David, Bill and a growing cadre of young analysts for a few hundred bucks a year, depending on just how many of the letters you wanted.

It was at the next stage where they lost this particular customer. They began upselling the customer base to more expensive services. They used (and continue to use) the interminable marketing pitches made famous by various hucksters of renown. (Bill's frank explanation, by the way, boiled down: They work.) The most obvious tell that they were no longer operating in service of the customer was that you had a devil of a time (and still do) determining the price of these services. You were required, apparently, to wade through interminable sales pitches, which, being an ADD sort, I was never able to do. In any case, paying thousands of dollars a year to investment advisers is precisely what I came to TMF to avoid. My intent was always to direct my own investments; both for the edification and the savings, because I am congenitally cheap.

So I stuck with the letters, which I still considered a good value. Alas, they did not stick with me. Tom abandoned HG, but I stuck with it because Bill was still there, and I followed Bill as he blazed the trail to GG. Then Bill was drafted into asset management. I found I was no longer in sync with the HG advisers, so I regretfully gave it up. But I considered Tim a worthy successor to Bill at GG, so I stayed. I took GG's sales pitches literally and invested in a lifetime of learning about the world and its businesses by using offered discounts to buy a subscription way into the future.

I still feel like I'm just getting to know Nathan and Nate, and now the whole thing is going away. TMF's main dogma on investing is that it is a lifetime pursuit, accomplished most wisely with a long-term time horizon. And yet none of the TMF vehicles in which I've invested has turned out to be long-term at all. Once GG goes away, my only remaining subscriptions will be to SA and RB, because David's presence is still palpable there.

Which (finally), brings me to my modest request. I have reviewed MDP's portfolio and find it is not for me. I do not need to pay anyone to suggest I buy Microsoft stock. Thanks to many years of reading TMF, I feel more than capable of making that decision, or not, on my own. So converting my GG subscription to MDP will be a waste and if that is my only alternative, I suppose I will have to cancel. But I would happily accept applying the years that remain on my GG scrip to my existing scrips to SA and RB. Perhaps other GG patrons would receive such an offer happily as well. Why not offer a slightly more flexible choice than the proposed MDP-or-nothing option? Why not offer to convert remaining GG scrips into those of any of the other letters -- SA, RB, IV, II -- (assuming TMF does not intend to kill off any of those imminently), perhaps with some bonus time attached to compensate for the relatively more expensive cost of GG?

As I say, just a suggestion, but from TMF's point of view, I would think converting existing GG scrips into other scrips would beat the cash outflow of a bunch of refunds.

My thanks to all who made GG an interesting, vibrant service during its lifetime. I've learned a great deal. Thankfully, I still have The Economist.
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