It’s been a busy month here for us at BigFatPurse. We have just moved into our new office and minor renovations are underway. We have been furniture shopping and checking out appliances.
Just the other day, we were in the office and realized that we are running low on toilet paper. We were expecting visitors and it would be embarrassing to be caught without. I decided to pop out to the supermarket at Plaza Sing, hoping to do a grab and go. It won’t take more than a few minutes, I told myself.
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And so I got to Cold Storage at basement 2 and located the toilet paper section. My game plan was rather simple. I have no specific preference or loyalty to a particular brand. As long as it doesn’t feel like sandpaper it will do just fine. I just needed to find one that is most value for money. Easy enough, I thought.
And here is where the fun starts.
Toilet Rolls vs Toilet Rolls
Toilet rolls are not merely toilet rolls. Some of them are lightly scented. Others are chlorine free. Some come with 12 in a pack, others 10. Some are printed with pretty dolphins, while others plain. And then there are 2 ply ones, 3 ply ones, and even 4 ply ones. And brands, they scream right out at you. Is Kleenex meant to be softer and a better buy than the obligatory housebrands?
Focus, I told myself. Buy value. Do not be thrown off track by these distractions. I started zooming in at the prices.
Ten rolls for $4.30, that’s pretty decent. But wait, there is a pack going for $4.90 that has a dozen rolls in it. That works out to be slightly cheaper isn’t it? Hang on, the rolls look aneamic, how about the extra value pack touting 35% more surface that actually cost just $6.50. Wait a second, if a roll is 3 ply and thicker does it mean I can use less paper per occasion? Will it make better sense to pay more for more plys?
It doesn’t help that the price tags on the shelves do not correspond to the actual product just above it. I had to take in the price, search for the actual toilet paper pack, process the value of that particular product compared with others and come to a decision on it.
It was an extremely tough exercise. With all the rolls of paper staring back at me, I became overwhelmed. My mind went blank and I became totally paralyzed. More than once I feel like just grabbing any paper and walking away. Even then, which ones do I grab?
Decisions decisions decisions
The decision to buy toilet paper should be an easy one. The actual cost difference between each product on the shelf is a matter of cents at most. Most people cannot tell the difference between brands. And choosing to buy whatever paper now is not an irreversible decision that has lasting implications deep into the future. In the hierarchy of decisions, it should rank the lowest of the lowest.
How then does the decision to buy a stock rank? The actual cost of the stock will be thousand of times that of toilet paper. Stocks are highly differentiated. No two stocks are identical. A right decision might have you ending up with a multi-bagger while a wrong one might see share prices go rock bottom. The difference terms of dollar value is huge. In terms of decision making, buying stocks is definitely a higher order decision than toilet paper.
Yet toilet rolls and stocks have much in common. Stocks sit in the exchange very much like how toilet paper sits on the shelf in the supermarket. Some cost less while others cost more. They all have many different features. Toilet rolls may cost more because they are thicker. Companies might cost more because they are expected to grow faster. One might buy a particular toilet roll for the scent, just like how one might buy a particular stock for the yield.
For an investor who wants to make an informed stock picking decision, the variables are endless. Financial ratios, management competency, business and industry growth projections, technical analysis and the list goes on and on. More often than not, without a proper framework to anchor their investing decisions, investors simply give up. Many do what I did with the toilet rolls. Grab the ones that are easiest to buy.
Come visit us!
BigFatPurse readers, thank you for sticking with us over the years. We are now at 38 Orchard Road #02-00 (Just above Dhoby Ghaut MRT next to Citibank). We are home proud, so do come visit us and check out our toilet paper!
PS. Drop us a text first. We could be out buying toilet paper.