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TheStreet Open House

The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

1. Access to Grind

Get this: If Hewlett-Packard (HWP) and Compaq (CPQ) actually end up merging, the combined company will be the world's largest supplier of access devices. Access devices???

Yep, that's the inelegant term that Compaq CEO Michael Capellas used Tuesday to obscure what used to be known as personal computers. Don't focus on PC market share numbers, he told analysts: "Start thinking about the entire mindshare around access devices." The idea is, he continued, "not to worry so much particularly about just traditional standard desktop standards-based boxes, as we like to call it."

Say it! Say PC, dammit!!!

Oh, well. As Carol Levenson of debt analysis firm Gimme Credit notes, "It's not PC to call them PCs anymore."

At first blush, it would seem very odd that Mike would be embarrassed by the PC, because the merged entity will have a 19% share of the global PC market, way more than Dell's (DELL) 13%. But the fact is, Hewlett and Compaq are struggling to make money from PCs. Perhaps it isn't the PC makeover that's the dumbest thing -- maybe it's that these two companies thought it a good idea to get together in the first place.

2. Where's Al Gore When You Need Him?

Perhaps you've read about the innovative approach that some of Mellon Financial's (MEL) employees took to manage their workload at the Pittsburgh IRS processing unit. To catch up with the onslaught of tax returns arriving at their so-called lockbox this past April, workers evidently made the outside-the-lockbox decision to shred the papers rather than pass them onto the IRS.

Most likely, though, you didn't read Mellon's reasons behind not taking complete corporate responsibility for the sad affair. "We have worked closely with the IRS to ensure that we comply with all of their policies and requirements for processing tax returns," wrote Chairman Martin McGuinn on Tuesday. "We understand our policies and procedures are consistent with financial industry standards."

If that's a government-approved lockbox, say a prayer for Social Security.

3. Exodus Exodus

This week's thanks-for-the-mindblowing-insight award goes to Legg Mason analyst Todd Weller, who Wednesday downgraded Web hosting company Exodus (EXDS) from buy to market perform, one day after the resignation of CEO Ellen Hancock.

Consolidating
Investors reducing exposure
What makes the downgrade dumber than your usual, garden-variety, shut-the-gate-after-the-horse-has-escaped-the-stable downgrade, is how closely it follows Weller's prior dissing of the stock. After strong-buying Exodus for more than a year -- all the way down from a $55-plus -- Weller lowered the stock to a buy rating on Aug. 23 when it was at $1.21, in part because of the resignation of three Exodus board members. Weller's latest downgrade, inspired by Hancock's departure, came less than two weeks after that, when the stock had fallen to 65 cents.

Well, on behalf of all the optimists who bought Exodus' stock after reading your Aug. 23 report, we thank you for the Sept. 5 note. That one really changed our opinion of the company.

4. Delusions of Grande

Caffeine having replaced alcohol as the lifeblood of all journalists, we here at TheStreet.com have nothing against Starbucks (SBUX) selecting Sept. 7 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. But it does seem a little silly for the company to expect the whole world to join in.

OK, we can see the promotional value of selling a $30 "limited edition tumbler" that customers can use to get free java-of-the-day refills through Oct. 31. But the idea that consumers will jump at the opportunity to buy 30-year commemorative hats, T-shirts, coffeee mugs and gift packs -- that people will jump at the chance to "own a piece of Starbucks history," as the company puts it?

To us, that seems as weak as an extra-light decaf. Yes, we're sure that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, tightly wound marketing execs and a few fresh-faced baristas will spring for a new shirt to wear while mowing the lawn on Saturday mornings, but beyond that, we don't see the cachet. Come on, even Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia is getting tired -- and there are only about 100 of those restaurants around the world, compared with 4,500 Starbuckses. The whole thing reminds us of the old Coca-Cola brand clothing line. Remember that? Of course not. Our point exactly.

5. No Shirt, No Shoes ... No Doubt It's CSFB.

And the fifth dumbest thing is, unfortunately, the amount of labor we at TheStreet.com expended chasing down this next item.

According to the rumors circulating on Wall Street, relaxed dress codes -- once a symbol of dot-com coolness, now an emblem of the post-euphoria unemployment line -- are flying out the door faster than a Kozmo.com ice cream delivery.

A well-placed (if not well-dressed) source at Credit Suisse First Boston insists, yes, the suits are returning. Any day now the staff expects to receive a directive from CSFB CEO John Mack to start dressing in Old Economy garb. The reason, as the official CSFB rumor goes, is that Mack decided Fridays had gotten a bit too casual after he encountered a London-based employee in the office wearing nothing from the waist up but her sports bra. A CSFB spokeswoman says she's heard of the draconian dress-code rumors, but reiterates previous company iterations that CSFB has no plans to formal. She had no comment on the John Mack episode.

Despite this dress-code thing looking more like a rumor with each call we make, our CSFB source insists there's a smoking gun here -- evidence the new policy is all but in place. On Wednesday, technology research chief Elliott Rogers showed up at work in a suit -- the first time he'd been so sartorially resplendent since Amazon.com (AMZN) branched out of bookselling. "We hear you're wearing a suit. What's up?" we say, with the same sense of mission that Connie Chung felt interviewing Gary Condit. Rogers says he's meeting a client after work.

Yeah. Right.

The senior writers Peter Eavis and Scott Moritz contributed to this article.

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