Old folk at lunch

Thursday, December 18, 2003


Former New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon is famous for commenting that the constant flow of emigration from New Zealand to Australia "raises the IQ of both countries" -- implying that the Kiwis who emigrate are stupid but Australians are even stupider. That comment is only one example of a generally derogatory view of Australians almost universally held in New Zealand: Much like the attitude of Canadians towards the USA --- and for similar reasons: resentment of a more affluent and capable big brother.

I was therefore rather amused by something that happened recently. A few months ago I bought some shares in one of the icons of New Zealand industry -- Fisher & Paykel, best known for making high-tech washing machiens. Yesterday I received a dividend cheque from them -- to my amazement. These days dividends are normally deposited directly into a shareholder's bank A/c. Shortly after you buy into a company, they send you a form asking for your bank particulars and thereafter the money just appears on your statement. Fisher & Paykel sent me no such form, however, so I had to make a special trip to the bank to deposit their pesky cheque -- which I regard as a prehistoric thing to have to do.

But it does not end there. I resolved to write to them and ask them to deposit my dividends directly in the future. But nowhere on the documentation that came with the cheque was there any address that I could write to! So I looked up their Annual Report, a big glossy production with lots of colour photographs, graphs, auditor reports and all the usual nonsense that you expect of a company annual report. But there was no address anywhere there either! Which is probably illegal, I would think. It was only by digging out the envelope that the report came in that I found a return address on the back of that. But that is not the end of the story either! Included with my cheque was a cheque to someone else with their dividend! Which I of course promptly sent on to the correct recipient. If that is how bright a New Zealand high-flyer is, it does not say much for the average Kiwi.

I guess NZ Pundit will never forgive me for saying that.