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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week

Jimmy Dean ... Rock On
Gives Sara Lee a frosty reception

3. Guarantee and Sympathy

As if he were singing a ballad, singer and sausage-entrepreneur Jimmy Dean this week showed a major corporation just how darn angry you can get when your woman up and leaves you.

On Wednesday, Dean -- whose fame derives not only from hits like Big Bad John but also from the meat company he founded in 1969 -- announced he'd won an injunction barring food giant Sara Lee (SLE) from using the singer's personal guarantee or endorsement on Jimmy Dean products.

So Sara Lee, which bought Dean's company in 1984, can forget about using the "Jimmy Dean Quality Guarantee" used in 1990s ads: "Every Jimmy Dean product meets my highest standards for taste and goodness. And I personally guarantee it."

A Sara Lee spokeswoman says the company had begun phasing out Dean's guarantee in 2003, though the company believes it still has a right to use it.

As for why Jimmy Dean might no longer want to guarantee Jimmy Dean products, look to Sara Lee's 2003 decision to end Dean's longstanding consulting agreement with the company. If Dean is not associated with the company, says a spokeswoman for Dean, he doesn't want to be endorsing or guaranteeing its products.

Dean says Sara Lee was going after a younger customer; denying that, the spokeswoman says that the company had shifted its marketing focus away from the person Jimmy Dean toward Jimmy Dean products, particularly "value-added products" that "our consumers were desiring."

Whatever. All we know is that we'll never be able to listen to Sara Lee's classic baked-goods jingle the same way. The man who wrote "Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee" apparently never met Jimmy Dean.

4. Mamma.com Told Me Not to Come

Every now and then, we have to remind ourselves that the stocks that we write about aren't simply ticker symbols with prices attached to them. They're actually companies.

At least we think they are.

Case in point: Mamma.com (MAMA), the Montreal-based search-engine company that said Wednesday it probably wouldn't file its year-end 2004 financial statements on time, owing to its parting of ways with auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Mamma.com, which bills itself as "The Mother of All Search Engines," says the PwC split arose from the Securities and Exchange Commission's informal investigation into the "intense trading activity" in Mamma.com stock last year -- intensity which returned this Tuesday, when the stock jumped 36% on nearly 20 times its usual trading volume.

But for all the times we've mentioned Mamma.com, we realize that we've never actually used the darn thing. So we gave it a shot this week.

Our verdict? Mixed. Mamma does a decent job of giving you a reasonable selection for general topic searches. Typing in "used books," for example, gives you a decent view of the used-book landscape on the Web. It's roughly the same top results you'd get with Google (GOOG).

But if you're looking for exhaustive results, you'd better look elsewhere. If you search for something not so mainstream -- say, "dumbest things on Wall Street" -- Mamma.com delivers 36 examples in no discernible order. Type in the same phrase on Google, and you find 95 times as many entries.

So Mamma may be the mother of all search engines, but she doesn't quite get around as much as the rest of them.

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