Old-timers at run-of-the-mill companies never admit it, but they have to be sick to their stomachs when they read the business pages these days. Can you imagine the raw jealousy and envy of the people who run companies that do auctions or classifieds or books or drugs or CDs?
It's bad enough that in less than a year
has a market capitalization that pretty much assumes the doom of both auctioneers and newspaper classifieds. Now
, with the stroke of a pen, has doomed eBay!
Of course, it really is the strength of Amazon that reignited these stocks Monday. Here you have a company that has continually beaten back its critics and reinvented itself every time the posse caught up. Market cap too big for just books? OK, how about CDs? Market cap too big for books and CDs, how about drugs? Market cap too big for books, CDs and drugs, how about online auctions? And its customer base just keeps growing and growing and growing.
Meanwhile, we keep being told that
is going to crush Amazon when it gears up online, but I say, forget about it. Wal-Mart has geared up already. But Wal-Mart doesn't want to be another Amazon online. There are built-in negatives to Wal-Mart's continual embrace of the Web. It detracts from the mission of getting people to go into the stores to make impulse buys. It takes away from the Wal-Mart touch. When you order something from the company's site you end up dealing with suppliers directly that just don't care as much about you as much as Wal-Mart does. That can leave you with a bad impression of Wal-Mart even when Wal-Mart has nothing to do with it!
More incredible is the market's amazing blind eye toward any execution risk on the part of Amazon. Heck, do we really think that it is so easy to be eBay? Can Bezos just wake up and declare that he owns whatever market he wants? The market seems to say so. (This despite when I go to Amazon these days, it never has any new recommendations of books for me like it used to and lately it hasn't delivered with the speed it once did.)
One day the doubters of Amazon may be right. But in the interim, they have lost so much money that their doubts have proven to be colossal investment mistakes. Days like Monday tell us that skepticism when it comes to the Net can only hurt you. How long can that last?
Perhaps the question is asked wrong. How long can the doubters stay short before they are put out of business by the Net and all of its successful spawn?
Maybe that's the real investment question.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At the time of publication the fund was long eBay and Wal-Mart, though positions can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column by sending an email to