Never buy a company's shares for the shareholder perks is the old adage, but they can provide some consolation in a bear market.
Shares are certainly having a rough old time of it so far in 2016 but sadly there are not so many companies offering perks as there used to be, and the field seems to be dominated by four main sectors: brewing; retail (clothing); travel & leisure; and telecoms.
Among what used to be called the beerage, Fuller, Smith & Turner (LON:FSTA), Greene King (LON:GNK), Marston's (LON:MARS), Shepherd Neame (ISDX:SNA) and Young & Co (LON:YNGA) all offer perks of one form or another, largely in the form of discounts rather than free beer (because as we know, there is no such thing as free beer).
Wine drinkers tend to get a bit overlooked, but if you are partial to a case or two of increasingly trendy English wines, ISDX-listed Chapel Down (ISDX:CDGP) might be more your speed. Having said that, even Chapel Down does a range of beers, and these have received the thumbs-up/bottoms-up here in the Proactive Investors office.
Not that we as journalists are looking for perks of our own, you understand (but the contact details are at the bottom of the page).
Among apparel retailers, the discount vouchers offered by Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS) might be seen as the main appeal of the shares for the long term buy & hold merchants, given the shares have drifted down 5p to within one shilling (5p) of their 52-week low in the wake of the news that chief executive officer Marc Bolland will be stepping down.
For that all-important interview for Bolland's next job, Moss Bros (LON:MOSB) might be just the thing. The top hat and tails specialist offers eligible shareholders a 20% discount on full price merchandise, which is handy to know if you are off to Newbury Racecourse (eligible shareholders get two-day member badges a year).
Clothing retailers not beginning with the letter M are also well represented among the perks payers.
Primark-owner Associated British Foods (LON:ABF) offers free samples worth about £30 to shareholders who take the time to attend the annual general meeting – I presume this takes the form of garments from Primark rather than lumps of sugar Silver Spoon or slices of bread from Kingsmill, but I could be wrong.
Brown (N) Group (LON:BWNG), the home shopping specialist, does what seems to be the standard 20% discount on purchases from its mail order catalogues, while Next (LON:NXT) pushes the boat out and offers a 25% discount.
Should your clothes need dry cleaning, Johnson Service Group (LON:JSG) offers a sheet of discount vouchers worth £50 off their dry cleaning to shareholders who have 200 shares or more.
Commercial TV is awash with holiday adverts at the moment so now might be the time to check out cruise operator Carnival (LON:CCL), which provides an onboard credit to shareholders who own more than 100 shares, or Irish Continental Group (LON:ICGC), which offers a 20% discount on passenger and car ferry services between Ireland and Britain, or a 10% discount on services between Ireland and France.
Too skint to go abroad? Try Merlin Entertainments (LON:MERL), the theme park operator. 317 is the magic number for Merlin; it is the minimum number of shares you need to hold to qualify for 40% off either a two adults Merlin annual pass or an annual pass for a family.
All of these details are available online, but what if you do not have an internet connection? Never fear! A handful of telecoms companies offer shareholder benefits.
BT (LON:BT.A), KCOM (LON:KCOM) and Telecom Plus (LON:TEP) also offer discounts on products and services, though in KCOM's case some of them have to be purchased from the company's shop in Hull; a case of "to Hull and back"..
An internet connection is now considered so essential that it comes under the category of a “utility”, so the telecoms companies' offers should, perhaps, be lumped in with National Grid (LON:NG.), except their benefits programme sounds more like penance than a benefit.
The company operates a two day programme that aims to give shareholders a better understanding of the business. National Grid will cover the costs, including shareholder travel to and from the event, so if you were planning an annual trip to London (or Inverness, or Sellafield, or wherever the event is held) then this might still be a bargain.
Thanks ... but no thanks.