If there's one thing I think that most of us can agree on, it's that the internet can never have too few images of children frolicking in the surf as a naked man lingers ominously in the background. Right? That's just a given. Apparently the memo had not swung around to the marketing team of La Redoute, however, which happens to be the most popular mail order company in France. They posted the above image to their website today, apparently unaware of the offending dong terrorizing thousands of parents just looking for a good deal on swim trunks for their kids.
Jeff Bezos turned up on the Daily Show couch to promote Amazon.com's newest Kindle e-book reader. And as this clip shows, he laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Why wouldn't he?
As white-collar workers return desultorily to their desk jobs, they waste time by shopping online. To capitalize on this, a group of online retailers invented "Cyber Monday," a day of Internet discounts to match Black Friday's in-store deals. You'd think that the planned traffic from such a staged event would go off smoothly. But you'd be wrong.
The accompanying chart from TechFlash says it all: Online sales just aren't growing anymore. October's 1 percent growth over October 2007 is the worst performance measured by ComScore since they began tracking stats in 2001. TechFlash quotes Gian Fulgoni, chairman of the research firm: "We can only hope that the recent sharp drop in oil prices will cause a continued easing of inflation and a strengthening in consumer spending as [we] enter the critical holiday shopping season." We can only hope? Dude, we can get down on our knees and pray.
For decades, mankind's brightest minds have struggled to crate the ultimate convergence device, a machine so powerful that it could play Simpsons cartoons and order an extra-cheese combo at the same time. Today, November 17, 2008, that convergence has arrived. First Obama/Biden, now Tivo/Domino's. It's a great time to be alive.
A tipster sent in word that Rearden — an e-commerce startup from Foster City — is rumored to have cut 72 people. We hear the actual number is closer to 50 out of 375. The company provides a "personal assistant portal" that streamlines travel planning, reservations, and general logistics within corporations. Or something. Our tipster's contention is that no one, especially customers, is quite sure just what exactly the company does. Rearden raised $100 million in funding back in April of this year and claims to have signed off service contracts with 1,700 companies. Let us know if there's anything more.
Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, has a promising career as a cult leader. In a blog post, the online shoes-and-clothes retailer's boss acknowledges the layoffs his employees were Twittering about this morning, writing that the company had laid off 8 percent of its workforce. He all but admits the cuts were forced on him by investor Sequoia Capital. The severance packages are generous in comparison to most startups; two months or more of pay, and six months of health insurance. Sweet enough, perhaps, that people won't ask a key question about the layoffs."Tony cares about his company and his employees more than anyone else around," says an entrepreneur who knows Hsieh. His employees, even the former ones, seem to be returning the favor on Twitter. But if he loved his employees so much, why didn't he resist the pressure from Sequoia to make the cuts? We hear Sequoia is insisting that all of its portfolio companies cut payrolls by around 10 percent, regardless of the particulars of their businesses. Zappos seems to be doing well in its e-commerce niche — well enough, at least, to afford a generous severance. Hsieh's company offers free returns if the shoes its customers buy don't fit. Why didn't he just mark Sequoia's orders "return to sender"?
When Patrick Byrne, the CEO of Overstock.com, isn't issuing paranoid rants about "naked shorts" ruining Wall Street, or admitting that his online store's buggy software has been producing false financial reports, he keeps busy lying to journalists. Including yours truly. Back in 2002, I interviewed Byrne for Business 2.0 magazine, a tipster recently reminded me. Here was the exchange:
Amazon.com got a big payday when eBay bought Bill Me Later, the payment service, for $945 million earlier this month. So why isn't it admitting it? In an SEC filing, Amazon.com didn't name Bill Me Later as the source of a $150 million cash payment it will receive in return for an investment. But it's obviously Bill Me Later, which Amazon.com invested in last December. Here's the curiously vague wording of Amazon's disclosure to shareholders, and three possible reasons for it.
Starting next month, eBay will no longer allow most transactions to be paid for by check or money order. Now you must used one of the approved electronic methods, especially PayPal and certainly not Google Checkout or Checkout by Amazon. Makes business sense: Mail transactions are probably a sink on customer service resources, as payments don't arrive or bounce bounce when they do. And eBay earns no vigorish from check or money order transactions as it does with PayPal, marginally increasing per-transaction profit — as the release states, "Ultimately, it's eBay's goal to have buyers always pay for their purchases within the secure confines of eBay." There are a few exceptions, however, notably including the "Mature Audiences" category. Because really, who wants to buy a used dildo with a credit card?
A tipster tells us his boss searched Google Products for a "'Spit Happens' t-shirt" for his infant. Google found him a suitably innocent bodysuit on CafePress.com. It also found him a pair of gay porn videos, one called Nasty Nasty featuring "a stunning young man, the spitting image of a young Ben Affleck," and another called Bedrock, featuring actors who "take turns pounding each other on a bunch of iron beds," — ouch. We're not sure who to blame for the confusion here.Google is the one whose X-rated product directory turned up even when the searcher turned on "moderate filtering." On the other hand, say "spit happens" to most any man in the 18-to-34 year old demographic, and you'll either get a jovial fist bump or a politely restrained grimace. The phrase hardly connotes innocence. And the algorithm tries to give the people what they want. Maybe Google knows something you don't?