Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As I do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
Let that marinade for a bit.
OpenTable -- the undisputed market leader in electronic reservation books for eateries and Web-based restaurant bookings for foodies -- is nothing at all like Zagat, which is really more in the camp of a vetted and seasoned Yelp.com.
Unless Google plans to get into the enterprise software business by reaching out to restaurants with its own booking engine for ressies, how does this hurt OpenTable? Zagat is still there, informing people on places to eat and dives to avoid. Google Maps, and perhaps Google Offers, will get a boost through proprietary content, but it's not an affront to OpenTable at all.
Things heated up for Netflix when the Stop the Cap! blog posted that streaming through Netflix was being limited to a single device on some plans.
"No Netflix member is limited to less than two concurrent streams," countered Netflix VP of Corporate Communications Steve Swasey, but other blogs began posting the same thing before multi-device concurrent streaming returned by Wednesday afternoon.
So what happened? Perhaps more importantly, Netflix's own Terms of Service and FAQ warns that simultaneous streaming on more than one device isn't available with some plans.
"If you are on the Unlimited Streaming plan, the Unlimited Streaming 1 DVD out-at-a-time plan or a limited streaming plan, you may watch only one device at a time," read the FAQ as of last night.
Confusion and controversy aren't what a dot-com darling needs as it raises rates by as much as 60% this month.
3. Sam Walton is a bad Santa
Sensing the economy weakening heading into the telltale holiday season, Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) is bringing back the layaway option it discontinued five years ago.
If you're too young to remember layaway, it's basically when someone pays in installments for a product and can pick it up after payment is complete. There's no interest involved (obviously -- the money's going the other way).
It isn't a very popular service these days for obvious reasons. For starters, shoppers can just save up on their own. Plastic -- either in the form of credit to pay later or debit to pay now -- is more pervasive.
I'm not knocking Wal-Mart for bringing back an outdated shopping method, especially in this soft economy and given Wal-Mart's low-income clientele. Wal-Mart makes the cut this week because of the penalties they're attaching to the plan. The department store chain is also adding a $5 non-refundable service fee and $10 cancellation charge for orders that either aren't picked up by Dec. 16 or canceled by the buyer.
I don't want to be a Wal-Mart greeter on Dec. 17, that's for sure.
Misses happen every week, but this is the second quarter in a row that the clothing and accessories maker fails to live up to its own guidance.
G-III is now targeting a profit of $3.05 to $3.15 a share this fiscal year, but good luck to any investors buying on the dip because they can buy in for less than eight times this year's projected profitability. You do realize that G-III's near-term vision can't be trusted, right?
5. Four simultaneous tuners, and nothing's on
TiVo (NAS: TIVO) finally introduced the TiVo Premiere Elite digital video recorder. The new box has four tuners, so a couch potato can record four shows at the same time while watching a fifth channel.
Really? Is this even necessary these days? Anyone who can afford the $500 DVR and the monthly subscription fees is probably already well-versed in streaming technology. With so much new content available on demand, will there ever be four "can't miss" shows that can't be seamlessly streamed later?
I doubt it.
At the time thisarticle was published Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.
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