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2012: If Buffett worried about technology disrupting any of Berkshire's subsidiaries?
CLIFF GALLANT: Thank you. Just on that general topic, it is true that in the past some of your investments have been fairly affected by technology, in newspapers or World Book.
Are there other businesses where you’re concerned about technology affecting them, for example, you know, Amazon or online grocery stores? Could they affect a business indirectly, like McLane?
WARREN BUFFETT: Amazon is a tough one to figure. I mean, Amazon — it could affect a lot of businesses that don’t think they’re going to be affected today in the retailing area. It’s huge. It’s a powerhouse.
I don’t think it’s going to affect a Nebraska Furniture Mart, but I think it could affect some of the other retailing operations THAT we have. It won’t affect the Nebraska Furniture Mart.
I should report to you that in the first four days: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week, our business at the Furniture Mart is up about 11 percent over last year, so you people are doing your part there.
We had — on Tuesday we did over $6 million of business. Now, those of you who are in the retailing business, thinking about a Tuesday and 6 million-plus of volume, we’ll do more probably today, but those are huge, huge volumes.
And we’re going to go to Dallas here in a couple of years. We’ve got a 433-acre plot of ground down there, and I think we’re going to have a store that will make any records we’ve set in the past look like nothing.
Going back to Amazon, though, in terms — GEICO was very affected by the internet, and at first, we missed that.
I mean, we — GEICO’s got an interesting history. It was mail originally, if you go back into the late ’30s and early ’40s, and it was very successful. And then it moved — not leaving mail totally behind — but it moved to television big time.
And then the internet came along, and I thought, originally, that only young people would look for quotes on the internet and that — you know, I mean, I never would have done it. I would have been calling on a rotary dial phone, you know, and saying — when they said number, please, first, I have to get my quote on GEICO — forever.
But it just changed dramatically, you know, to the internet.
So, things do change very significantly, and if the consumer finds something they like to do better in some new way — and Amazon has been an incredible success. It’s very hard to find people who have done business with Amazon that are unhappy about the transaction. They have happy customers.
And a business that has millions and millions of happy customers can introduce them to new items and then, you know, and it will be a powerhouse, and I think it could affect a lot of businesses. It’s hard for me to figure out.
CHARLIE MUNGER: I think it’s almost sure to hurt a lot of businesses a lot.
WARREN BUFFETT: Which ones do you think it will hurt the most, Charlie?
CHARLIE MUNGER: Well, anything that can be easily bought by using a home computer, or an iPad, for that matter.
WARREN BUFFETT: Which of our businesses do you think it can hurt?
CHARLIE MUNGER: I won’t be buying the stuff because I’m habit bound. Besides, I almost never buy anything. (Laughter)
But I think it will hugely affect a lot of people. I think it’s terrible for most retailers. Not slightly terrible, really terrible.
WARREN BUFFETT: Well, with that cheerful assessment, we’ll go to station 10. (Laughter)