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More from the trenches:
Came off as a ranting lunatic and blathering idiot all rolled into one this morning on
"Today's Business." (Yeah, yeah, so what else is new?) Couldn't shut myself up when I got on the subject of the way companies are griping about the
new get-tough policy and the reaction to the mere mention in this column of
Ashok Kumar. The audacity of companies to say the SEC is getting too tough. The blind faith of investors who think
stock is without risk. Down here in the trenches, you just know you're witnessing an event in the making. You just know that somewhere, somehow, the amount of money that will be lost will be incomprehensible. (Of course it felt that way last week, last month and last year!)
So, what about Dell? Dell is one fabulous company.
will go down as a visionary for his ability to slip through the middle and beat an arrogant industry at its own game. And as a PC manufacturer, Dell has executed exceptionally. But critical comments by Kumar and others have nothing to do with the excellence of Dell as a company or the genius of Michael Dell as a CEO or the ability of Dell to pull off its game plan without a hitch. It has to do with the value of Dell's stock and whether that value can be maintained if quarterly sales momentum continues to slow.
But to hear the true believers, there will be no dinging of Dell. "You and Kumar are clueless," writes reader Greg R., who insists he isn't being blindly optimistic. And he says that it wasn't the prospects of a split driving Dell's stock, as this column and others have suggested, but "the realization that Dell continue to dominate. ... Computer sales are better than ever, and it's primarily Dell. ... Dell is unstoppable!"
Maybe Dell as a company is, but at some point, even Dell the stock has its limits.
, a distributor of electronic products outside the U.S., continues to put a positive spin on its own story. Well, ahem, today
, one of the largest electronics distributors, which does biz in the U.S. and Europe -- where the economies are strong -- blew up. Yet CHS, which does a good deal of its business in Brazil, Latin America and countries where business is lousy, is supposedly doing well.
Regardless of whether I get my coffee maker from
, the issue is whether the company can overcome its tainted image of poor customer service and execution. The only emails in defense of Shopping.com have come from purchasers of books, a trend that suggests that it's easy to distribute a commodity. However, operating an online department store is harder than it looks, and whoever gets it right -- if they can make money at it -- stands to do very well.
"I believe you have tripped across what will prove to be the Achilles' heel of Net shopping," writes Ralph Bartholomew of Worland, Wyo. "In this age of doing everything on the computer, someone forgot that real bodies will be necessary to handle customer service." His gripe was with
. "If your coffee maker doesn't arrive," he adds, "could I interest you in a CDE drive?"
Then there was Vince Garrenton, who wrote about how he finally gave up with Shopping.com after trying since Jan. 1 to buy a
13-inch TV. "They informed me that they did NOT know the status of my order and would have to contact the vendor and then update me." (Boy, that sounds familiar.) He canceled the order and went to
Scott Grosskopf, on the other hand, was told by Shopping.com that it couldn't "obtain the item" he had purchased, so it cancelled
a novel way of doing business.
Finally, where's the gunpowder?
Today the honorable
fired an empty bullet with his "hostile react-o-meter musings."
"The goal is to make money," he writes. "Sometimes being right makes you money, sometimes it doesn't. I like it more when it makes money.
"This is not a paper exercise."
Couldn't agree more, Jimster. It's an online exercise, and in the quest of making money, many investors appear to be forgetting that in order to keep the money, they should also be asking how they can lose that money.
Herb Greenberg writes daily for TheStreet.com. In keeping with the editorial policy of TSC, he does not own or short individual stocks. He also does not invest in hedge funds or any other private investment partnerships. Greenberg writes a monthly column for Fortune and provides daily commentary for CNBC.