Week's Winners, Losers: Liking Dislikes, Selling Out Sellouts

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There were plenty of winners and losers this week, with the world's largest social networking website operator ready to give its 1.5 billion active users a new way to express empathy and a casual-dining chain offering a promotion that tarnishes its own brand.

Shopify (SHOP) -- Winner

You may not know Shopify, but it has friends in high places. The provider of cloud-based e-commerce solutions got a double shot of validation this week. On Wednesday it announced that retailers will be able to sell products on the Shopify platform right through their Facebook (FB) pages.

Then it was revealed that it was teaming up with Amazon.com (AMZN) as the online retail giant's preferred platform as it migrates small and midsize merchants off the Amazon Webstore platform that is in the process of shutting down. Shopify is promising merchants that it can complete the migration of Amazon Webstore data with no downtime, and having Amazon's blessing can only help.

Olive Garden -- Loser

Darden Restaurants (DRI) is giving Olive Garden's Never Ending Pasta Pass another shot. The chain repeated last year's promotion, offering 1,000 cards allowing you unlimited pasta meals during a seven-week run for just $100. This time it added a family pass at $300, good for the passholder and three guests.

Some will argue that the pass is a winner. The chain sold out of the 2,000 passes just as quickly as they were made available online. However, associating Olive Garden with gluttony and cheap pasta isn't the kind of free advertising that does a struggling brand any favors. Olive Garden has struggled with drawing guest traffic for more than two years, and this isn't going to change that.

Cheap Tablet Seekers -- Winners

If you are holding out for a tablet but can't afford an iPad, Amazon has a tempting value proposition for you. The dot-com darling is expanding its line of Fire tablets and that now includes a seven-inch device that retails for a mere $49.99.

It's a price point low enough to make some serious noise this holiday shopping season. It's not going to be confused with the new iPad Pro, but its spec sheet is more than enough for you to use it as an everyday tablet if the petite size works for you. Amazon will likely be introducing millions of people to its digital ecosystem later this year as a result of the aggressively priced tablet.

Conn's (CONN) -- Loser

There are lingering concerns when it comes to consumer electronics retailing. An analyst at Stifel Nicolaus downgraded shares of Conn's on Tuesday, pointing to the problematic credit performance of the chain's deadbeat customers. Average account balances from borrowers and delinquency levels continue to rise and the analyst finds that more troublesome than any potential turnaround in sales.

Facebook (FB) -- Winner

The leading social networking website may not be a lovefest for much longer. Mark Zuckerberg revealed at a town hall meeting Tuesday that Facebook should be rolling out a "dislike" option soon.

Facebook users have been asking for the option for years. It would give them the appropriate way to express empathy during times of crisis as well as voice displeasure when products, services, media and other things disappoint.

There may be some legitimate concerns that the thumbs-down option could make it easier to bully others or generate friction, but the best value of any data is when it's honest and covers positive and negative feedback. It may be controversial, but I'm giving the thumbs-down a thumbs-up.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Amazon.com and Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Looking for a winner for your portfolio? Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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