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Post: The Margin: At the ‘Mall of Warren Buffett,’ Berkshire Hathaway encourages shareholders to shop till they drop

Most folks come to the Berkshire Hathaway

annual shareholder meeting in Omaha hoping to gain some financial wisdom from Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, the respective chairman and vice chairman of the company. And they also want to learn what Berkshire has in store for itself.

But first they must take care of business. As in shopping for deals.

A day before the Saturday meeting at Omaha’s CHI Health Center, shareholders are invited to attend what is billed as the “Berkshire Bazaar of Bargains.” It’s essentially a gigantic emporium, held at the center’s exhibit hall, in which Berkshire-owned companies sell some of what they make — often at a nice discount. And they occasionally feature items that are exclusive to the event. It’s all a bit like a visit to Mall of Warren Buffett.

So, we joined the crowd on Friday and saw what was available. Here are some of our more noteworthy finds…

Just what you always needed: A Buffett rubber ducky

Charles Passy

A Buffett bath toy

Oriental Trading, a Berkshire company that offers a range of party supplies and favors and other fun items, comes to the bazaar with all manner of Buffett-themed goodies, be it a Buffett beach ball ($2) or a Buffett beach towel ($10). Of special interest this year: A T-shirt that featured images of Buffett and Munger and declared “The boys are back” — no doubt a reference to the fact the meeting was returning to an in-person format after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Still, the biggest seller remains the Buffett and Munger rubber duckies ($5 for the set). Each year, Oriental Trading comes up with a different style of ducky and said it sells about 3,000 sets at the event.

Shareholders could tour a model of a NetJets plane — and then rent one starting at $220,000

Charles Passy

Have plane, will travel

Berkshire may be big into trains — the company owns freight railway BNSF — but Buffett has a thing for planes as well. His private jet is one of the few luxuries the notoriously frugal Buffett allows himself. So it’s perhaps no surprise that among Berkshire’s holdings is NetJets, a private firm that essentially rents out planes to big spenders. And we do mean big: The cheapest “deal” to be had at the bazaar was 25 hours of NetJets flight time for $220,000.

Did someone say fudge?

Charles Passy

Chocolate and more chocolate

Buffett’s sweet tooth is the stuff of legend — he often munches on candy from See’s, another Berkshire brand, during the meeting. So it made sense that See’s has one of the most popular shops in the bargain bazaar. There was plenty offered there, from chocolate walnut fudge (a Buffett favorite, $29.50 for a large box) to a basic chocolate bar ($2.95). Shoppers could also score a relative deal for a “Berkshire Box” of bonbons ($14).

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, seen here at 2019 annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, have a hand in picking the books offered for sale at the bazaar

Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Warren and Charlie’s favorite reads

The bazaar is all about Berkshire brands — with one exception. The Bookworm, an Omaha bookstore, sets up shop, with Buffett and Munger’s happy permission. There’s a reason for that: During the event, it sells books, at a slight discount, about financial subjects near and dear to Berkshire shareholders, with Buffett and Munger having a hand in the selections. The biggest sellers, according to Bookworm proprietor Phillip Black, are children’s books, such as the Buffett-themed tome “The Oracle’s Fables: Life Lessons for Children Inspired by the Oracle of Omaha” ($16). Black explained the robust kiddie sales thusly: Many of the customers are grandparents looking for gifts — and they’ll often buy multiple copies of the same book to play fair with all the grandkids.

If you can’t afford or carry home an air fryer (even one that’s on sale), there’s always $5 pizza seasoning…

Charles Passy

Air-fried to a crisp

Air fryers have caught on recently as a quick, healthy tool for cooking. And sure enough, the bazaar had one for sale — courtesy the Pampered Chef. And talk about a price cut: The $289 fryer was marked down to $185. Pampered Chef events manager Shauna Fah said the deep discount was made knowing the item might be a tough sell since it’s a bulky thing to take home. But by midday Friday, she was fairly certain Pampered Chef would sell out its bazaar allotment of 100 air fryers.

The best deal at the bazaar

Charles Passy

Free face masks

Yes, free. Fruit of the Loom, yet another familiar name among the Berkshire family of brands, was happy to sell you lots of stuff — the line to enter its shop was one of the longest at the bazaar. But you didn’t have to wait if you wanted to pick up a gratis five-pack of cotton face masks. Alas, no Buffett (or Munger) images on these — they were the plain-white variety.

It’s five o’clock somewhere…

Charles Passy

A boat worthy of two Buffetts

Forest River, a Berkshire subsidiary, had a cool vessel for sale at the bazaar — in this case, one designed with the help of singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett of “Margaritaville” fame (he’s not related to Warren, though Warren jokingly refers to him as a “cousin”). The boat is all about the Buffett (as in Jimmy) laid-back lifestyle, replete with a built-in bar (perfect for making margaritas, of course) and hammock. At a price of $199,500, the item was among the most expensive at the bazaar, but Buffett (as in Warren) offered it at a 10% percent to shareholders. As he noted in Berkshire’s annual report. “Your bargain-hunting chairman will be buying a boat for his family’s use. Join me.” As of midday Friday, Forest River had sold 14 of its bazaar allotment of 25 boats.

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