Dead Trees and the Net

Readers weigh in with thoughts and insights.
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TheStreet.com publishes selected email 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.

The Net Doesn't Always Equal Convenience

James Cramer:

In response to your column on the

demise of newspapers, yes, the Internet is environmentally better than newsprint, to be sure. I live in

AOL International

on weekends, reading other journals online from around the world. I cut and paste what I need. It is efficient.

But somehow, the romance of sitting in a sidewalk cafe anywhere in the world sipping a perfect cup of espresso and reading the news -- from a computer screen -- does not suit my fancy.

It is certainly a changing environment, but I am not altogether in favor of replacing one with the other. I prefer choice -- at the time and place I want it.

-- Patrick G. Vale

(received 4/27)

James Cramer:

Your view on the

demise of newspapers is right on except for one point: the printing of online articles. It just won't happen. It takes too much planning beforehand. If I'm going to the beach, I don't want to have to sit down, scan the paper for articles of interest, print them and then go. It's not practical and people won't do it.

I need to be able to pick up my electronic paper-reading device (an ultra-thin, folding LCD screen with enough memory to hold a couple of newspapers and magazines simultaneously, where I can download my subscriptions with the touch of a hot-sync button) and stuff it in my beach bag. That will be the way people read the newspaper at the beach, on the train, in the airplane, etc.

-- Bill Dyer

(received 4/27)

Investors Expectations, Out of This World

Justin Lahart:

In response to your article

Retail Investors Will Rage Against the Dying of Go-Go Growth, I think you could have better highlighted the difference between daytraders and typical retail investors. I would argue that daytraders will be able to continue to make money even in the face of a significant downturn in the market.

True daytraders don't care if the market goes up or down. They can play the market either way as long as the liquidity is there. Obviously, daytraders can make a lot more money if a stock jumps 25 in a session vs. an 1/8 point decline, but you get my picture.

What is truly scary is the expectations of the everyday retail investors who "dabble" in online trading. These investors have seen unprecedented gains in their investments in

AOL

(AOL)

,

E*Trade

(EGRP)

,

eBay

(EBAY) - Get Report

and a host of other technology stocks. A day doesn't go by when a co-worker, a friend or relative doesn't quiz me on the latest .com stock they read about on the Internet or heard about through a friend. The expectations of these investors are out of this world.

The daytraders may see a shake-out in a prolonged downtrend, but it's the retail investors, the investors managing their own $1,000 to $25,000 portfolio with limited diversification outside the tech arena, that will really be rocked.

-- Rebecca Lennon

(received 4/27)

The Oracle of Omaha

Christopher Edmonds:

In response to your column

*Extra* Countdown to Omaha: The Buffett Experience, I'm a Class A and B shareholder and hang onto the Oracle's words just like everyone else.

I feel that

Berkshire Hathaway

(BRK.A) - Get Report

is sitting on a mountain of cash.

Warren Buffett

continually says he can find very little to buy in today's market.

I know it's anathema to pay out a cash dividend to shareholders. However, in light of current conditions, just exactly why not? As a shareholder, it really wouldn't hurt my feelings!

-- David Hooker

(received 4/26)

Hindsight About Hayes

James Cramer:

In response to your column

Cramer Looks Back: Hayes Turns to Mush, you wrote: "They missed the first quarter by a mile. They missed it by so much that they needed to raise more money. We turned them down. Instead they arranged financing with a group of sharp money managers who insisted on a structure that, the moment I saw it, I knew could knock the company for a loop."

With the growth of the Internet, it seems as if Hayes has a wonderful future ahead. The stock only traded as low as it did because of the way the extra cash was raised. Adding to your position through some kind of a secondary would have given you even more control over how the company arranged its financing and operations. This would have prevented the short-selling.

-- Tom Verbeke

(received 4/26)

Trying Time at Toys R Us

James Cramer:

In response to your column

Marooned on the Island of Misfit Toys, you're not the only one disgusted with this store. After pulling one of those stupid tickets for a

Game Boy

cartridge, standing in line, paying at the register and then standing at the secured area while the clerk searched for the cartridge, voila! They were out of that title! Where's the inventory control? I was then told to go stand in line at customer service to get them to refund my credit card.

I vowed to my wife never to shop there again. I have since discovered the bliss of

eToys

, the

Amazon

(AMZN) - Get Report

of the toy world. Great selection of Game Boy titles, upgraded shipping typically at no charge, gift wrapping, etc. I do love the Net.

-- Jay Fearrington

(received 4/26)

Stuart Helps Level the Playing Field

Cory Johnson:

Regarding your story

Advertising Lights the Candle as Online Brokers Catch Fire, thanks for cutting through the bull. I have gotten so tired of hearing the talking heads discuss how bad these ads are for the investing public. I like Stuart. I hate the

Discover

ads, but like the

Ameritrade

(AMTD) - Get Report

ads.

Wall Street is not only for the rich anymore. The battlefield has been leveled, although simple online traders lack the firepower of the larger establishment. I thought we strive to keep our markets fair. Equal access only helps to keep it equitable.

The talking heads treat the people who watch these ads and trade online like children. Look, I know that drinking a certain brand of beer is not going to send supermodels running to my house, and online trading probably won't afford me my own island one day. All ads glamorize their products, and online traders are smart enough to have realistic expectations.

-- Chris Gadd

(received 4/22)

Good article. I agree the persons in the ads, although a bit on the unbelievable side, are harmless. If you believe that these ads are true or that you'll make millions easily, you deserve what you get.

However, another point is to be made. The ads suggest how quick and easy it is to trade. NOT! I am a computer consultant, ergo adept at technology. However, the slow Web response, long telephone hold times, and plain outages, etc., is all legend from these discounters.

They are not ramping staff quickly enough and not training people. More important, their technology response is reactive and not proactive.

They promise quick and easy, but as a customer with experience at multiple brokers, I can tell you they are not delivering.

I think when we have ever-increasingly busy market days, the inability of people to trade will be a prime source of trouble. The small people who use these brokers will get hurt or, at least, miss opportunities.

This has happened and is happening every day, I have firsthand knowledge! It will only get worse as they get new accounts and are slow to respond with more resources.

-- Tom Vayda

(received 4/22)

I was just thinking today about how this ad with

Stuart and Mr. P just works and works and works. They're not stilted into a script but allowed to be themselves. They come across as intelligent and real. But the ditzy mutual-fund-owning soccer mom? I can't believe a dim bulb like that really exists in suburban America. They should have let these two actresses write their own script or filmed them coming in for a real trade.

Whom do I consider to be the real threat to the sanity of the market? Regulators or members of

Congress

who think they are doing the public a favor by stepping in to restore "order." Let's hope we don't see any of that.

-- Mark Johnson

(received 4/22)

Working Hard vs. Hardly Working

Gary B. Smith:

In response to

Charted Territory: The Hard-and-Fast Truth About Hard Work, I thought it was an excellent piece on the stupidity out there.

The market is America's new form of gambling. I will bet you that people are trading Net stocks instead of playing the lottery.

Isn't it ironic that

The History Channel

recently aired a piece on

Charles Ponzi

? Most Net stocks are just that, a Ponzi scheme. Why not buy the companies that provide the tools for the Internet, like

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

,

Microsoft

(MSFT) - Get Report

, etc.? They are safer and more predictable.

-- Tom Gasper

(received 4/21)

Gary B. Smith

: You're absolutely right about the

virtues of hard work. The thing is, people who work hard already know that it is much more rewarding to work hard and achieve rather than becoming wealthy, prestigious or successful just by getting lucky.

I used to be bothered by those who hopped onto hot stocks and rode them to triple-digit gains, while I ground out profits on my swing trading. I was also bothered by those who had everything in life handed to them. I don't care anymore. I would not want to be like them. You can't buy the personal satisfaction that comes from setting goals and from working hard to achieve them.

-- Glen Bowman

(received 4/21)

Alternative Fund

Joe Bousquin:

In response to your story

Life After Janus Twenty -- Some Alternatives, I found that you have missed an easy way to play Janus Twenty: the

American Skandia Advisor Funds'

(JCGAX)

Janus Capital Advisor Funds, also run by

Scott Schoelzel

. It has class A, B, C and X shares. Additionally, the assets in this portfolio are smaller, which could represent an advantage.

-- Kevin Feeney

(received 4/21)

Cendant's Eruption

James Cramer:

I read your

story about the day of

Cendant's

(CD)

debacle and your helicopter journey to Montserrat with interest.

What devastating news to receive while flying to Montserrat on a chopper. Well, James, I am going to re-enact your journey this Wednesday. I am traveling by ferry from Antigua to Montserrat to visit friends and conduct business. Hopefully, my day will not bring any sad news from Wall Street. I am a small investor and can't afford to lose the few dollars I invested in Cendant after its fallout.

The volcano has remained relatively quiet for the past few months. We don't expect it to erupt in a big way. I hope the market and Cendant remain calm like the volcano in Montserrat.

-- Abul Alam

(received 4/18)

I share the sentiment about the

mistake Cramer and his partner made back in 1998. I am still stuck with 5,000 shares of stock that were bought at 18 and are now a penny stock. My $90,000 mistake, perhaps a penny on the dollar to Cramer, is more than a nightmare.

I am glad that you don't just publish success stories. There are plenty of mistakes and lessons out there for readers to learn from.

-- Keyin Worth

(received 4/21)

A Welcome Slap on the Wrist

James Cramer:

Congratulations on

Cramer Looks Back: Access Beyond Blazes Into Nothing and the other pieces in the series reviewing your misses in 1998.

Most financial writers stretch their arms to pat their backs for their one or two correct calls. They conveniently forget their blow-ups. It is far more educational to learn from mistakes. It's refreshing and all too rare that someone walks readers through the thoughts and details of blunders.

-- Andrew M. Cantor

(received 4/21)

In Defense of Lernout

TheStreet.com

claims that

neither

Herb Greenberg

nor his associates at

TheStreet.com

have a position in

Lernout & Hauspie

(LHSP)

or

Quarterdeck

(the CEO of Lernout had been the CEO of Quarterdeck). It remains unclear still whether they ever

had

a position in Lernout or Quarterdeck. Regardless of the Clintonesque phrasing

TheStreet.com

might prefer to use, many investors like me will keep wondering about the motives for the manifest distortions in Greenberg's reporting on Lernout & Hauspie.

On April 7, Greenberg

wrote "Never mind that Lernout faces the same SEC restatements as Network Associates and other companies whose stocks have been shredded. Never mind that analysts have slashed its earnings estimates in anticipation of SEC-mandated restatements. Never mind that Lernout & Hauspie, once again, has delayed the report of its earnings."

But at the time of this article, Lernout had already released a few days earlier the results of the SEC review, yet Greenberg reported it as if it were still facing SEC restatements.

Greenberg

also wrote "But seriously, folks, based on Money's estimates, Lernout trades at more than 80 times expected earnings." On the day of the article, Lernout was trading at approximately 40 with a Street EPS estimate of approximately $1 per share for 1999. This equates to a P/E of 40 and not 80 as Greenberg cited in his article.

-- M. De Volder

(received 4/13)