Just when Crocs ( CROX) investors thought it was safe to get back in the water...yeah, you know what happened...CHOMP! Traders took a serious bite out of the shoemaker's stock Tuesday, sending it down almost 40% to just over $16 after the company issued a weak outlook for its fiscal third quarter because of soft sales in its consumer direct business and lower than anticipated margins. Crocs said it now sees earnings of 31 to 33 cents a share when it reports on Oct. 27, well below its previous guidance for a profit of 40 cents a share. Revenue is expected to range between $273 million and $275 million vs. a prior projection of $280 million. Prior to the revision, the average estimate for Crocs' quarter among Wall Street analysts was right in line with the company's guidance at 40 cents a share on revenue of $280.5 million. It seems the lemmings on the sell side may have gotten a bit too used to simply filling in the blanks in the old Excel spreadsheet on this one. Prior to this warning, Crocs was a model of earnings consistency, beating Wall Street's consensus profit view more than 90% of the time, according to research from Birinyi Associates. That track record helped the company regain some Street cred after its shares free-fell from $70 in October 2007 to $2 in October 2008, but it may have also led analysts to get lazy with the channel checks. On Monday, before the warning, Crocs was still the ultimate comeback story of the last 5 years. Its shares were trading above $26...the sky was blue, the birds were singing...and then...CHOMP! For the fourth quarter ending in December, Crocs expects year-over-year percentage growth in the low teens from its 2010 quarterly total of $179.2 million. Wall Street's estimate is for revenue of $220.8 million in the quarter, implying an increase of roughly 23%. That consensus, of course, will shortly be taken down, yet one would hope that Crocs is being conservative with its fourth-quarter guidance so as not to repeat this week's catastrophe. As a rule, Wall Street analysts don't like to be snake-bitten or, in this case, Crocs-bitten, by management. Fool them once, shame on you. Fool them twice...you know...CHOMP! -- Written by Gregg Greenberg in New York.