An E-Commerce Holiday Wish List

They say it is better to give than receive. In that spirit, here’s a list of holiday wishes not for myself, but the companies still flogging away, trying to get e-commerce right.

These are wishes, mind you, not predictions or forecasts. In a perfect world, we’d all find just what we want under the tree or in our stocking Christmas morning. But we all know it’s not a perfect world.

Making a List

For EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), I wish for a time machine. With it, Meg Whitman could go back into the past and adjust her prediction about how much eBay’s Auction for America would make by Christmas Eve.

Who knows? Maybe EBay will make its US$100 million goal. Maybe the folks over there have quietly been sneaking up on it. But last we checked, they weren’t close.

And yes, I’d rather Whitman modify the pledge than make the lofty goal.

For one thing, all the accusations about how donations have been distributed to the victims of the terrorist attacks have tainted the pure outpouring that came in the days after September 11th. And for another, EBay was in some ways taking money out of the pocket of some of its sellers, money they may be missing around the holidays.

Checking it Twice

For Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), I wish for at least one quarter of pro forma operating profits. It’s not that much to ask, is it?

Even though the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is frowning on overusing cute accounting methods to show profits, Amazon deserves to get a profit whatever way it can.

Besides, Amazon needs a quarter in the black because it’s what Jeff Bezos promised all year long, starting back in January when the company cut 15 percent of its workforce loose and said it was aiming for fourth-quarter profitability.

Well, time’s up. Here’s hoping the big brass at Amazon get what they asked for, and promised. Because if they don’t, it might get a tad ugly.

Naughty and Nice

For Buy.com, I wish for an attack of amnesia, to help us all forget that it was a public company for a while.

Buy.com should be content to live out its day plying its trade in a quiet, off-the-beaten path location — where regulars visit and word of mouth brings new customers once in a while — without being tormented again by the vagaries of the stock market and PGA tour sponsorship deals gone awry.

For Egghead, I wish for an eraser to wipe the slate clean. There may be more terrible ways for a dot-com to leave this mortal coil, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Hack attacks, bankruptcy, failed acquisitions, takeover by Amazon for pennies on the dollar. Time to take a deep breath and start over again with a fresh sheet of paper.

My deepest wish for Webvan is that someone cleaning out a warehouse could find a couple million dollars stashed under a rug somewhere. This money could be divided up among all the people affected by the washout that was Webvan. Each of them could frame the dollar they get as a reminder.

On the 12th Day of E-tail …

For e-tailers in general, I’d wish for some real improvements in the way things are done. A faster way for consumers to find out what the shipping costs are really going to be. A better explanation of privacy policies right there on the home page. A higher rate of successful order fulfillment.

And for us all, I wish for a 2002 in which we remember what really matters. And that now and again we can find ourselves so wrapped up in the possibilities and intrigue of inventing a new industry from scratch that we forget ourselves and think, just for a second, that it’s 1999 all over again.

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


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