TheStreet.com publishes selected emails received by the publication and its staff members. To send an email intended for publication in this section, write to letters@thestreet.com and include your full name and city. Letters may be edited for length, style, clarity and accuracy.

Hot Dog Wants To Be A Weiner

Re:

Hot Dog Still Won't Hunt

In the mid-80's the oil industry crisis forced me out after a lengthy. I landed at a

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

in Houston, Texas starting over at roughly 25-30% of what I had been earning. Although at the time I intended it to be only temporary I was struck by the incredible difference between the retail business and the industry from which I had come. I had gone from being a mid-level management supervisor with about 40 employees under his supervision to being a "chooch" on the floor. I knew that education wise and knowledge wise I was a step ahead of the others around me, however, we were all equal. The adjustment was incredibly difficult. Later, I worked my way into management and ended up staying for twelve years. My ties to HD are still strong in the regard that I hold a good deal of company stock that I need to see continued advancement in order for me to retire soon.

When I read your article yesterday I printed out several copies of it and drove directly to the store where I last worked in Corpus Christi, Texas which is 52 miles, one-way. I still play golf with the managers there and had planned to confront them with your article. With luck, when I arrived at the store a regional staff meeting was taking place and they were on a break. I confronted my old store manager and the regional manager (whom I also know personally) a told them I was getting tired of waking up to articles such as yours and that I didn't want my dreams going up in smoke. It was well taken and they showed due concern. Maybe this was the purpose behind your writing.

Maybe if your article hits enough bulletin boards we'll see changes that even you and I will recognize. Employees that have been attacking the HD are heading in the wrong direction. They should be taking their problems to management. They will listen. Bernie Marcus wants everyone to treat each customer as if it was their own mother but at the same time he wants your mother to get the same service from others. My message here is "don't give up. We can change things".

-- Robert Jones

(received 1/31)

Just a quick remark about Home Depot's service. As far as I can remember (about 10 years or so), it's always been pretty crappy. Lines so long I would just bail on my purchases, it's impossible to get a hold of someone to ask a question or get a good answer, and so forth.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, HD opened a store in East Palo Alto last year, which was just pure genius. It's right next to Palo Alto which has been undergoing massive contracting work on houses, the employees are helpful in a completely un-HD like way, it fills a geographic hole where there was no nearby Home Depot, and it's great PR to be a leader in revitalizing a city like East Palo Alto.

So I guess in summary, I'd just say that if you ask folks in a public forum what they think of a store, you will get mostly negative comments because people with positive experiences are less motivated to email you. If you asked me about Citibank for example, I could whine for a really long time about them even though you know perfectly well they are a good outfit.

-- Colin Jensen

(received 1/31)

I read your little article about your experience at the Home Depot in New Jersey. I found it rather amusing. Home Depot here in Rhode Island is where I have been employed for almost two years. I started out as a cashier, then went on to be a returns associate, service desk associate, head cashier and now I work in hardware as a sales associate.

I will admit that "we associates" at Home Depot aren't rocket scientists, however many and most of us are trained in our positions and are continually trained. During our hiring periods, we hire many people that show an interest in growing with the company. Some join with the experience already, others are hired because of their willingness to learn. Perhaps your shopping experience at the New Jersey store wasn't all you thought it should be, but keep in mind that at least we are providing jobs and the tools to learn our company. And perhaps the next experience you have with us will show you that the same associate that you met, will soon show you more than you need to know. We are always learning.

-- Sue W.

(received 1/31)

Just wanted to drop you a quick line about my Home Depot experiences. Last May the opened a new Home Depot in my hometown of York, PA. I have been very pleased by the store and compared to the Lowes down the street, the salespeople are very knowledgeable and friendly and have helped me out on many occasions. Last summer I installed a new kitchen from top to bottom using mostly the advice and recommendations of the guys working in the HD kitchen department. I have to admit that the store doesn't seem nearly as full of shoppers as it did last summer, but I still love shopping there! Just had to present the other side of the story.

-- Eric Williams

(received 1/31)

Home Depot: Pass or Play?

Re:

Pass on Home Depot

Your points about

Home Depot's

(HD) - Get Report

customer service and cannibalization of stores are valid. Here in Arizona, however I have lots of clients who are home-builders and contractors who will only go to Home Depot because the employees and prices are better. They seem to hate

Lowes'

service. So if there if hardware and lumber is to be bought, with the

Fed

cuts, who is going to get the biz? HD and Lowes have put everybody else out of business.

I'm not savvy enough to time the market, but I do want to report a very positive experience with Home Depot. We have experienced excellent service while planning a building project and have always encountered very helpful personnel at our local store! Our area will be getting a new Home Depot Expo in the near future and if it is anything like the Atlanta store I will be a customer!

-- N. Little

(received 1/23)

I am a Home Depot employee and have been for the past two years. Started part-time, went to full-time and now am part-time again. You are right on with your concerns about HD. They have a multitude of problems all seeming to stem from the need to grow, grow, grow, inflate the bottom line and ignore everything else.

I am one of those old (not yet retired) HD associates you talk about. I work in the paint department and have a 35-year background in the painting business. Unfortunately, I'm not considered any more valuable than the recent high school dropout chasing carts in the lot. Their expansion has been so rapid, that they have exhausted their supply of seasoned managers and are now promoting kids with no supervisory background and totally lacking in people skills. These kids are driven only by the numbers and have little if any regard for individual employees. The original HD leaders, especially Bernie Marcus, stressed a team concept and respect for the individual associate. Their philosophy was built around the concept that the store associates were the most important employees at HD and that the business was run from the bottom up. This concept has fallen by the wayside in the quest for greater growth and profits.

It is very difficult for a family to exist on the wages paid at HD. Every hourly employee I know, with a family, has to work another job to make ends meet. Even finding another job is difficult because their work schedules change every week. The attrition rate at the store where I work has been over 45% in the past year. The old pros are leaving for better, less hectic jobs as you can attest by visiting your local HD. Bigger is not always better. Your advice to stay away from the stock is sage. Thanks for listening.

-- Bill Koester

(received 1/23)

You Need An Opera Before The Fat Lady Can Sing

Re:

Dear Mr. Levitt...

You are forgetting a basic principle of law: Our legal system is built on precedence. No new law or regulation is really in effect until it has been tested/interpreted by the courts. As such,

Regulation FD

is not in effect until the hammer falls on the first case.

As a parallel from 100 years ago -- US Antitrust Laws were not in effect until that first Standard Oil case.

What are lawyers doing, you say? We are waiting and watching until we have a case that will set a clear, strong, and well-defined precedence. In the mean time, brokers may be able to lift some money from individual shareholders pockets by trading on early information. Still, it is worth waiting for that one case.

-- Inge B. Kristiansen

(received 1/30)

Can Buzz Be a Friend?

Re:

PMC Sierra: A Favorite Child Fails

This was a great week for Buzz. He saw his stocks bottomed.

Greenberg

sounds bullish.

Greenspan

is easing. Tax cuts are on the way. You have to be in the camp that's running up the stocks.

Your readers know your relationships with Buzz. Why not become the guy's friend, letting the readers know that the guy's not so bad, that the guy might actually make them money. The guy's fund went out of business. Maybe he learned his lesson. Maybe he learned that fundamentals matter and he's actually starting to do some really good research. He's still a buy and hold kind of guy, but so is the average American. At this a moment in time when it's good to buy and hold Buzz knows when to buy. Cramer knows when to sell. Vwala, you've got a winning combo. They have to keep reading to know when to sell, even though that could be a two years from now.

One likes people much better when they're battered down by a prodigious siege of misfortune than when they triumph. Buzz could be likable.

-- Alan Groff

(received 1/28)

Flattery Will Get You Nowhere

Re:

Sycophantic Analysts, Stop and Desist!

Until fairly recently (six months ago), I never listened to conference calls. But when I first began listening I assumed that all the gratuitous compliments uttered by analysts whenever a company met or exceeded estimates were just one of those time-honored things that Wall street analysts did that had no real meaning. But after reading the

transcript of the chat on the

JDS Uniphase

(JDSU)

call and your column this morning I realize I was being naive. It gives me all the more reason to be even more cynical about the motives of analysts. Thanks for the heads-up.

-- Demetrio Meduri

(received 1/26)

Play Ball!

Re:

Action Alerts, Explained

I think you're doing a great job and service. I must admit that, while I haven't taken up any of your positions from your alerts yet (because I am a chartist), I have been keeping my eye open for the right moment as I define it.

Bottom line for those guys who sent you angry emails when stocks went down, everyone is still needs to take responsibility for their trades. Defining their risk/reward situation is their job, not yours.

You are like

Joe Torre

, the manager of the

New York Yankees

, calling the plays from the dugout. However, it's up to us guys on the field to execute and make the plays.

-- Mike G

(received 1/25)

Thanks For Not Leaving Me Wide Open

Re:

Action Alert: Openwave, Redux

I really appreciated the heads up on

Openwave

(OPWV)

. I didn't feel betrayed by your quick about-face, I felt grateful. It was not my kind of stock, but I bought it anyway after missing the moves on

Tupperware

(TUP) - Get Report

,

Target

(TGT) - Get Report

, and a few more I care not to think about. The heads-up allowed me to get out up 10, more than worth the subscription. That anyone is self-destructive enough to cancel a subscription on a low-risk recommendation when it's down less than 10% is their problem, not yours.

Also, about

RealMoney.com

in general, while I read every word you write, you are not the only writer I count on for the educational value I receive. What I like most is the sense that everyone is really telling it as they see it. I don't feel any one is shading their words to accommodate an unseen hidden agenda, which is the feeling I get everywhere else. This site is one in a million.

-- Donna Sabin (received 1/25)

Who's the Boss?

Re:

Psychology Is the Boss Now

From your note on

Compaq

(CPQ)

: "I am so tempted to say that all of this kind of optimism is the real bunk. But who am I to buck the consensus when there is so much money being made?"

Who are you to say? Jim Cramer, that's who. The whole point to reading your writing is that you buck the consensus and help your readers make money. If you aren't going to buck the consensus when you see something that you think is wrong then what good are you?

This reminds me of early last year when you detailed your trading in the Buzz and Batch stocks and seemed to reveal an internal conflict. On one hand your hedge fund responsibilities dictated that you trade these stocks because they were "what's working now". On the other hand you knew that the valuations weren't there and danger was present but not acknowledged because the Street was making up new valuation metrics as it went.

Now you have hung up your hedge fund hat and are Mr. Long-Term. Mr. Long-Term must point it out when he thinks the consensus is wrong and money is being made. If he is correct in his analysis he will save the rest of us from making the same mistake that the consensus is making. In the short run, the consensus is always right. But great long-term money-making opportunities exist when the consensus is wrong and you have the conviction to take and hold the other side of the crowd's trade. Is this not the essence of

Warren Buffett's

(and many others) investment style?

I think that the note on Compaq deserves a rewrite. In the meantime, thank you for you entertaining and enlightening writing.

-- Kris Samiec

(received 1/24)

RealMoney's Porridge Is Just Right

Re:

Shaking Hands With Mister Softee and Friends

Thank you for writing that piece! "I don't know if in six months this thesis, this mantra, will work for weeks, if not months because in three months I know it will be higher" - That's the perfect timeframe of insight that I need, that's gold to me as a retail

RealMoney.com

subscriber. I'm not a minute-to-minute scalper of 1/8 or 1/4 points nor a 6-months-or-more investor and that's why I'm a RM subscriber. If I were the former, I'd use daytrading software, realtime charts, Level 2 and

CNBC

, and, if I were the latter, I'd just read magazines, newspapers,

Yahoo! Finance

or the day-or-two old articles for free on

TSC

.

And I agree with you on the

Trading Track, there's good stuff there. I especially like reading

Jay Shartsis'

insights (options-related), but they're all helpful. It's another great format in addition to the Trading Diary and the Columnist Conversation.

-- Vincent Lu

(received 1/23)

The Other Side of the Coin

Re:

State of the Web: AOL-Time Warner, the Great Corporate Story of This New Century

Your recent missive on

America Online

(AOL)

Time Warner

(TWX)

really gave me a new perspective on the merger. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I was really focusing on what TWX would do for AOL. Sure, there were a lot of hard assets but, in my mind, it was just another stodgy media company with an egotistical CEO, runaway expenses and relatively low year-over-year earnings growth. Frankly, I figured this merger was the best gift

Ted Turner

ever got. From an investment perspective, I just wasn't that jazzed about the merger. I figured I could make more money elsewhere. I wasn't even thinking about how AOL would benefit its newly acquired TWX businesses.

However, you stated the obvious: All the established media companies are spending massive amounts of money to develop a significant Web presence. This would seem to be a HUGE financial burden on them because of the slowdown in advertising spending. These old media companies are really left with a Hobson's choice: If they don't spend the money to build their Web presence, they are sealing their fate because they'll be left behind when this economy heats up again. If they DO spend the money, they will continue to bleed massively in a current financial environment that rewards reduction of expenses.

Time Warner has successfully sidestepped this dilemma. I suspect that, despite the almost 70% run-up in the stock since Jan. 1, the market has yet to fully realize that this new company is a bonafide money machine. When this Internet frenzy began a few years ago, it was built on the notion that the Web would change the way people got their information, thereby changing the way advertising dollars would be spent. Seems to me that AOL is now the first company to begin realizing the profit potential of the Internet Revolution.

-- Dan Fitzpatrick

(received 1/22)

Keep On Truckin'

Re:

Missing the Sushi, Not the Stress

I understand what you meant by this column. After 15 years as an over-the-road truck driver, I ended up being a truck dispatcher. Supposed to get six' weeks training; after two weeks they said you're on your own. My job was to keep track of the 400 trailers, my 12 city drivers, coordinate loads for them, moving trailers into position for the over-the-road drivers, making sure various shippers had empty trailers, calling shippers to find empty trailers, threatening shippers when these trailers were not empty, well, you get the picture. I was the first in every morning and usually the last to leave, six days a week. The stress was unbelievable.

For some sick reason, I enjoyed it. In the mornings, I had a game plan which usually was gone by 10 a.m., but I guess I liked the camaraderie of our team doing the impossible every day. It was like a two-minute drill with no timeouts to win the game, all day, every day.

I'm not there any more and I emailed you when you announced your retirement. Our head dispatcher had his small intestine removed; another dispatcher had a heart attack while I was there; the safety director died of a heart attack and I have a pacemaker/defibrillator (I'm 44 years old). Don't ever forget you made the right decision. I know I did.

-- Mike Heger

(received 1/20)

TST Recommends

Was 2000 the Internet's Chernobyl?

Re:

State of the Web: An Explosive Analogy

The analogy you have proposed is as "novel" as intriguing. It seems however mostly confined to the high level of the initial expectations and to the amount of business that has disappeared or seems in the process of doing so.

What makes the analogy less sustainable is the fact that nowadays an assessment of the nuclear power business cycle can cover its entire history (from the Manhattan Project through the Chernobyl accident) and must recognize that even in the "green" Germany, existing power plants will be kept operational for another 30 years -- while in France they don't even talk about cutting down nuclear power. Therefore the related operational and servicing business will be kept alive for a long while (unless something bad happens again!) and the real business loss is confined to the relevant legacy value of intellectual property and manufacturing facilities.

If the Web issue is now considered, we should also recognize that it only relates to the 1998-2000 dot-com financial episode of the HTML language-use evolution within a much wider Internet history (also born like nuclear power from the U.S. Department of Defense). The explosive nature of the (so far) business failure seems to be a direct result of both the explosive growth of Web pages (and related HW/SW infrastructures) and the very fact that "from a Web page, nobody can tell you are a dog!" (as one dog was telling another one on a 1993

WSJ

cartoon).

I have the impression that the sudden rise and fall of the so-called Web economy financial bubble has created a temporary haze that prevents everyone from seeing things in the right perspective (such as making a distinction between the events of the New Economy (which began in the early '90s with the IT-based re-engineering process of business organizations) and the events of the Web economy illusion. The fact that in 1994 the New Economy process adopted the same TCP/IP protocol and HTML language of the Web and gave a totally new direction to its re-engineering approach (the Net-based Economy) does not imply that any company providing tools which also contributed to setting up the stage for the 1999-2000 Web economy's take off and fall down will follow the ill fate of the Web's dogs (and now nobody would dare to tell who may not be a dog, after all!).

All the main IT companies of the early '90s (

Intel

(INTC) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

,

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

,

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

, etc.) are still in a solid position to at least successfully compete with the other multimedia broadband newcomers during the next stage of the New (Net-supported) Economy.

In the long term, the fission stage of the nuclear power experience will certainly be remembered for the illusions, the controversies and the deceptions and fears it has actually brought to our society, as well as for the very poor modeling and planning of the critical waste disposal issue (but this is common to any other nonnuclear aspect). Hopefully many lessons can be learnt from such experience.

The Web-bubble episode, on the other hand, will likely remain a not so relevant (and not so uncommon) example of investors' (and analysts') hysteria. ... Very much like a tornado it can hit and go (over a year term) but should not be turned into a global warming trend! Right? Wrong? The future will tell.

-- Maurizio Traversi

(received 1/18)

It's in the Way That You Use It

Re:

Remember Patience. Remember Cash -- Especially When Funds Rush In

401(k)s were the biggest gift ever given to Wall Street, and the ignorance of the average 401(k) investor is why things work as you say. The well-off middle and upper middle class max their annual 401(k) contributions in the summer, so the money spigot to the funds gets turned down, and then on January 1 it gets opened full blast again. So we got some buying recently -- no surprise really, since the funds have more bucks coming in now.

The nuance no one seems to notice though is that the average 401(k) investor is unaware that they can change what fund their money goes to from their plan selections, or worse yet they are in a plan that only allows these changes during a very few open periods throughout the year. This not only encourages "buy and hold no matter what", it enforces it. I once asked a electrical engineer what mutual funds he had in his 401(k), he told me he didn't have any mutual funds, he had this thing called "a Janus." Hmmm.

-- Kit Cohan

(received 1/18)

My Grandma Invests Better Than Me?

Re:

Action Alert: Philip Morris

I really enjoy your Action Alerts. What a change my portfolio has made since last year at this time! It looks like something my grandma would own. They make a lot of sense right now and I feel a lot better about my investing (I haven't invested in 2 years). No,

Philip Morris

(MO) - Get Report

hasn't run up 15 like

Juniper

(JNPR) - Get Report

will, but it won't decline 20 points on bad news from

PMC-Sierra

(PMCS)

or whatever. My tech-related investing is reserved to a mutual fund right now.

-- Chris Morris

(received 1/18)

Patience Is a Virtue

Re:

Remember Patience. Remember Cash -- Especially When Funds Rush In

I am so glad you wrote that piece. I am by no means a market expert, and I must admit that the people running these funds probably know more about Wall Street than I'll ever know.

However, I am constantly astonished at the lack of patience I see by these fund managers. I am a trader, and getting the best possible entry and exit price is crucial to me. I know that these mutual funds managers are not really traders but wouldn't you think they'd at least care what price they're buying and selling things at? It can make a difference, even over the long haul.

Maybe it's their youth that causes them to be so jumpy -- I know that many managers are quite young. But, for whatever reason concerning their lack of patience, it drives me crazy. I wish these people would just think, then act.

-- Kevin Schultz

(received 1/18)

You Say You Want a Revolution

Re:

State of the Web: An Explosive Analogy

I always enjoy your writing. Your insight into the nature of business and business trends is something I always look forward to. Your piece on the Web this morning is no exception. Last year (after the meltdown in March and April) I began telling my friends that when the history books are written about the last 10 years of the Web that they will mark this as a giant false start in the new industrial revolution. I believe the revolution will occur; but these last years have been marked with wild shots in the dark producing a lot of broken glass, some flesh wounds and few direct hits.

Remember that when the first industrial revolution occurred in America it wasn't a flawless venture either. For example, there were many railroads built that never should have been put down, because railroads were hot and everyone wanted and needed one. The fallout from too quick an entry into the new technologies of that time was often disastrous, but the changes did eventually take hold.

Another possible (and likely) twist to the Internet revolution that occurred with the steel revolution of the 1800s was that the infrastructure that supported the railroads made possible the skyscrapers of the 20th century. And the steel industry was already in place when automobiles came about, too. In other words, the first ventures of the industrial revolution really just laid groundwork for the real changes that took place much later.

In the short term, we may not see revolutionary changes in our lifestyle and business style. But it is hard to imagine a 22nd-century world that isn't profoundly affected by the Internet revolution of the 21st century. For the short term we may only see new business patterns slowly evolve out of the Web, but something wild and unexpected will surely happen that will catalyze change, but only when the infrastructure of the Net has been laid. At least this is what I hope.

-- Frank Gates

(received 1/16)

What's Black and White and Red All Over?

Re:

They Are Not All Penguins!

Just read your "penguin" column, and with respect to analysts and biz perspective, it's spot-on as usual. No arguments. We have often exploited the sham analyst pumps here (long and short), but kept our ear to the ground for those that are on the level with something of consequence to offer.

That said, your comment about real penguins being "dumb" is, also as usual, not appreciated. Penguins are not "dumb" either in relative or absolute measurements; and your comments (rooted in sheer ignorance of these rocking black and white creatures) is as absurd as it is unkind.

Might I suggest you stick with business as your field of strength; as these broad swipes at certain animal groups (as was your previous worthless snipe at cows) are not only unwelcome and ill-informed, but outright upsetting.

I, as many in said audience, respect your writings because they are displays of powerful insight, with years of knowledge, training and experience behind them. Yet as a lover of penguins (again, as many who read you), your little asides of insensitive foolishness are growing tiresome. Really, penguins are truly tender, charming and beautiful creatures, and you are utterly mistaken as to their cognitive prowess (a bit of research and knowledge goes a long way prior to making such declarations); so please stick to what you know, as you otherwise need not insist on showboating this ignorance, as well as your insensitivity, at the expense of your audience.

-- Gerardo Pallares

(received 1/14)

The Pressures of the Analyst

Re:

Cramer Analyzes the Analysts

As a former analyst at a high-visibility firm, allow me to concur with much of your thesis. Regarding downgrades, there are two problems aside from investment banking pressure. First, the customers don't really want to hear it, either because they're so in love with their own stocks they don't want any contrary opinions, or else they view the resultant drop in the stock price as a personal attack on their investment performance; and second, as you know, when the time is right to sell, it's usually based on a hunch, or very wispy evidence. At that early point in time, no analyst can really make a convincing case, because there is no hard evidence, so why risk the wrath of the company, the bankers and the customers? Once the company has announced the bad news, then the analyst is safe to revise estimates downward, etc., even though at that point the stock is already down.

-- Melinda Reach

(received 1/12)

A Donut Short of a Dozen?

Re:

Why Buy Now? Because Companies Aren't Stocks

As a restaurant franchisee, I'll give you the perspective of the

Krispy Kreme

(KREM)

guy. First, let me say, they are very successful, and are making money at the unit level (the exact opposite of Boston Chicken). And, I walked 4 miles in the snow one night as a kid to get my Krispy doughnuts. No kidding!

These guys never intended to get rich on the stock. They knew that the money would have to be made in the units. So, they look at the current situation and say, "These Wall Street guys must be nuts. Why is my stock worth 20x other restaurant chains? This will not last, so I'm taking my money and going back to making doughnuts!"

It's as simple as that.

-- Scott Womack

(received 1/10)

Rumors: The Edge the Small Investor Needs

Re:

Dear Mr. Levitt...

I disagree with your views that rumors should not appear on the website. If rumors are swirling around in the interest of full disclosure, it would be more helpful if we knew about them and chose for ourselves whether to discount them as opposed to not knowing what might be affecting a stock's performance. It as if you are saying we wouldn't know what to do with the information if we had it.

-- Charles Rosa

(received 1/9)

Rumors: More Harm than Good

Re:

Dear Mr. Levitt...

Amen, Jim. Let the message board jockeys play the manipulation game. Protecting the integrity of

TSC/RealMoney

is of paramount importance. Quality breeds quantity.

-- Todd Hibbert

(received 1/9)

Biotech Winter Break

Re:

Time to Bid Biotechs Farewell

As someone who has invested in biotech for some time, through a mutual fund, not individual stocks, I have to disagree with part of your thesis. Sure, biotech stock values became inflated like everything else tech and is the last group standing. I have no problem with that part of your argument. However, that has happened repeatedly to biotech stocks. Euphoria followed by despair.

The best indicator I have found for how the fund will do is the

New York Times

Science/Health section. Biotech stocks go up when there are lots of articles about new discoveries. They tread water or drop when there are no such articles. Lately, there has been a shortage of articles on biotech. One reason for that is that a lot of universities are on semester break. Professors are on vacation, labs are being run by the grad students and no new papers are getting written. Once school is back in session all that will change. Happens almost every year. Like it did when I was in grad school.

-- Philip Gribosky

(received 1/9)

Face Off

Re:

Time to Jump In With Both Feet

I can't take it anymore, you say jump into the market with both feet,

Bill Meehan

says we are going to have a recession. You two need to "get it on" in a columnist conversion, mono e mono, man to man, keyboard to keyboard...

By the way, I think you are wrong about getting in the market. Lower rates are not going to help the consumer. The consumer is getting hit by heating his house and auto gas prices for his SUV. And if history repeats itself, it looks like we are going to have a recession.

You've jumped the gun for the Bull market twice that I know of, but thanks for letting us know where you stand. And thanks for not stating something ambiguous and then claiming you were right in a later column.

-- Patrick Foley

(received 1/8)

Up My Alley

Re:

New Year, New Challenges

I have to tell you that I always appreciated your writing and insight, but for me personally, you are 10 times more valuable now, than you were prior to leaving the hedge fund business. I enjoyed reading articles geared towards 'traders' but I didn't have enough capital to play that game and even when I did try, the results weren't always great - okay, they usually stunk.

Now however, you are right up my alley. I allocate my investments monthly - a steady, reliable stream every month into different stocks and funds. When you start talking about long-term trends and staying away from tech and letting the 'pros' handle my tech investing - you really are earning every penny of my subscription. I know you changed for your own personal reasons but I couldn't be happier with the new direction of your columns.

Thanks.

-- Jimmy Nalepa

(received 1/4)

Right Back at Q

Re:

Misunderstanding the QQQ

You say holding the QQQ is not investing. How about SPY? How about the Vanguard Index 500 Trust? Aren't those good investments? They are basically mutual fund investments for people that don't want actively managed funds.

I know your stance on mutual funds is to know the manager and their strategy, and to monitor them, and bail if they have 2 bad years. What if an investor prefers index funds? Wouldn't you think it is okay to buy and hold them forever?

And if they are okay, then holding the QQQ is just a more "aggressive" index fund. I think it is a satisfactory investment, if your time horizon and risk tolerance are in line with it. It's certainly not "stock-picking," but I would consider it an investment.

On a related note, if tech earnings are coming down and fund flows are bad, then QQQ is not a great place to put your money. But if your strategy is aggressive index fund investing, you should stick with the strategy.

I have personally never bought QQQ, but I do feel strongly about this.

-- Tom Snively

(received 1/3)

Online Customer Loyalty?

Re:

State of the Web: The Question of Branding

Thank you for continuing to share your insights in the "State of the Web" columns. You are in a unique position to discuss the commercial value of the web, and many of us really appreciate it.

I want to suggest that the only loyalty that free portals will ever achieve is from superior functionality (a loyalty that can disappear in weeks). The web is almost unbelievably brutal in terms of lack of user loyalty. I use

RealMoney

because of its superior content. If the

Motley Fool

started offering superior content, I would use their site instead.

Yet, competing on content is not really something that portals can ever create loyalty from. That is why I prefer

Yahoo!

(YHOO)

. It is an incredibly efficient distributor of content provided by others. When I call up my portfolio on Yahoo, it pops up. It doesn't take 5 minutes to do so, either. The notion that people are going to use

NBCi

(NBCI)

because of its wasteful spending on TV ads is just nuts.

The plain truth is that portals are a commodity business. A few firms can make a lot of money in a commodity business -- but most firms will never achieve a satisfactory return on invested capital. NBCi appears to be in the latter category.

-- David A. Booth

(received 1/1)