End of the Free Lunch (April 1963)

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Fri Mar 9 02:52:42 UTC 2001

   Perhaps influencing the Milton Friedman usage is this, from the NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, 4 April 1963, pg. 35, col. 4:

_Annual Meetings Revolt_
By Ken McKenna
   It's annual pain-in-the neck-time for the nation's great publicly held corporations.  To more and more companies, that's just what spring and the seasonal istitution known as stockholders' annual meetings have come to mean.
   The initial move appears aimed at shareholders' rudimentary senses.  The free lunch is going out.  Even though cold and usually encased in a white cardboard box, the free meal had been enough to build up attendance and help create a festive atmosphere that had little to do with money.
(...)(Col. 5--ed.)
   When American Telephone & Telegraph Co. abandoned mass feeding last year, only 3,500 persons turned up to hear the yearly report on company progress.   religious holiday partly accounted for the sharp drop, still in fatter years attendance had reached 20,000.
   This year one cigarette company gave up serving $6 lunches at a fashionable New York hotel.  It seems that stockholders complained that other stockholders were stealing food from the company by stuffing leftovers into purses and pockets.  Company stock costs about $40 a share.
   U. S. Steel Corp. also has decided against passing out cardboard boxes filled with sandwiches.  The official explanation reads that the decision "is in keeping with the corporate-wide program to reduce costs wherever possible."  Like other companies avoiding hungry stockholders, Big Steel rescheduled next May's meeting for the afternoon.
   Privately, company officials concerned with annual meetings will admit that such frivolities as box lunches at stockholder gatherings have fallen from favor.  With the broading of stock ownership over the last decade, many companies seized upon the annual meeting as an ideal device to show their management wares, with the physical confrontation of the shareholders and top executives.
   This was the heyday of the gimmick.  Some companies (Col. 6--ed.) entertained shareholders with skits and stage shows.  Flashy displays of products were exhibited.  Other comapnies bragged about themselves in promotional films covering corporate operations.

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