Gosh, I love
. I'm willing to forgive it for the screwed-up order for my son's
controller, which it claimed it couldn't get after it said it could. I'm willing to forgive it for the half-hour spent on hold (almost to the minute) until an operator answered the phone to straighten out the only screwed-up order I have ever experienced with it. And I'm willing to forgive it for making my column look foolish with a stock that has touched the moon.
But I've got to hand it to Amazon for the speedy deliveries and fabulous execution that helped keep this a smooth (and happy) holiday season at my home. Haven't a clue how it does those two- and three-day deliveries. Love the emails that let you know what has and hasn't been shipped. Now
customer service. I even know one short-seller who isn't currently short the stock who bought almost
of his holiday goods at Amazon. He, too, raved about the service and prices, though he did note that it's probably losing money on each of his orders.
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Which brings us to the reality of the situation: It may very well be that the reason I like Amazon so much -- its fabulous execution and fair prices -- is the reason it's doing so poorly. As you may have
heard, Amazon this morning said its revenue for the fourth quarter will come in at more than $650 million. That's a huge gain, but the whisper was that there would be a seven in front of the "hundred million" instead of a six. Amazon also disclosed that as a result of its fine execution, its losses won't be narrower. And it also will take inventory-related charges because it carried too much in the way of toys and electronics.
But it may be simpler than that: Sounding like a broken record, money manager Jeff Matthews of
this morning told me, "The numbers stink and the model doesn't work." Matthews was
quoted here a few months ago saying just that. He cited a number of issues, including the apparent slowdown in Amazon's growth. "The numbers," he said at the time, "show that Amazon's core business of books, music and videos has already matured, right before our eyes ...
in Internet time."
Now some analysts are saying that Amazon will have its first down sequential quarter ever in March. Amazon, of course, will say that it's not operating for the short term or to please Wall Street. CEO Jeff Bezos, in fact, was quoted the other day saying that he doesn't even keep track of his company's stock.
Maybe so, but based on the number of Amazon boxes Matthews saw in his neighborhood at Christmas, he says, "If they can't make money now, when can they?"
Oh, and by the way, Matthews says that his puts on Amazon expired worthlesss. (Most shorts have exited most Internet stocks after having been so badly burned.) Oh, well, maybe this will help cheer him up: Forget that incomplete I gave him in my
report card a few weeks ago for his Amazon comments; I've revised it to an A. (But, hey, herbonthestreetsters, hope does spring eternal and just as investors file into
before every new movie, you can bet they'll do the same at Amazon before the
fourth quarter. And, personally, I hope they find a way to make it work because I'd hate to go back to bricks and mortar.)
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He welcomes your feedback at
email@example.com. Greenberg also writes a monthly column for Fortune.
Mark Martinez assisted with the reporting of this column.