Facebook makes as much as $42 million off pointless "Gifts"

Nicholas Carlson · 09/02/08 09:40AM

After too much math, Jeremy Liew of Lightspeed Venture Partners estimates that Facebook earns between $28 million and $42 million allowing its users to buy icons as gifts for each other. Lightspeed came up with the revenue numbers by watching how much users spent on the icons for a week and then multiplying that number by 73.3. Uh, why not 52? Because Facebook Gift sales go up during the holidays, just like real useless merchandise. We'll let Liew explain the rest of his math, below. Bring your coffee:

Botched software upgrade costs J. Crew $3 million

Owen Thomas · 08/27/08 01:20PM

Luxer-than-thou retailer J. Crew has mostly avoided the economic pinch, since its customers barely notice that they're paying $4 a gallon for gas. Instead, the retailer has been laid low by buggy software, reports the Business Technology blog. One outraged customer, shown here, was billed $9,208.50 and shipped baby-size shirts, not the mediums he'd ordered. J. Crew's net income in its most recent quarter fell 12 percent from the same period last year to $18.1 million, and the company said it spent $3 million to fix the problem. Do the math: Had J. Crew not had the software problem, its income would have been up 2.5 percent. It's a shameful comeuppance for J. Crew CEO Mickey Drexler."Retail is detail; Mickey lives that," a Wall Street analyst told the New York Times in March for a profile which tracked Drexler's obsessive visits to stores, where he talked to customers at length about style and fit. Alas, no such attention to detail was on display when it came to J. Crew's website — which increasingly is how customers interact with the company. Drexler reads and answers a lot of email, according to the Times. But it sounds like he should spend less time in stores, and more time camped out in the datacenter.

Netflix shipping system crashes for two days running

Jackson West · 08/14/08 02:00PM

Woe be unto Netflix if my parents don't get the latest installemnt of Foyle's War. In an email sent out to customers and a notice posted to the site, the DVD-by-mail company says it is having problems with its shipping system affecting around a third of the company's customers. It has now persisted for two days. So if your friendly mail carrier doesn't show up with a red envelope or three today, don't blame it on a Postal Service "blue shorts of death" error. Graciously, the company has preemptively offered a credit for any delays. Why not tout its online-video offerings, like Watch Now streaming on its website or the Roku set-top box? Oh, right, website outages and inventory problems. But hey, at least if your request gets returned "404 Not Found," it won't cost you a stamp. Netflix's alert, after the jump:

Tiffany, eBay extend unstylish spat

Alaska Miller · 08/12/08 05:00PM

Luxury goods-maker Tiffany — you know, the one which sells the gays their wedding rings — is appealing a federal district court's decision clearing eBay of responsibility for counterfeit product listings. The jewelry company sends eBay 135,000 takedown notices a year, and wishes eBay would do more of the work for it. eBay's play-it-cool response: "Tiffany's decision to carry this litigation on after the District Court's decision doesn't do anything to combat counterfeiting." Much like eBay itself. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

Amazon offers 1-Click, PayPal-like services to other online stores

Paul Boutin · 07/30/08 11:20AM

Checkout by Amazon and Amazon Simple Pay are two different levels of PayPal-like services Amazon.com quietly launched on Tuesday. No press release, no front-door promo. Simple Pay works a lot like PayPal — customers at another e-commerce site can use it as an alternative to entering a credit card number. Checkout by Amazon goes further, letting websites make use of Amazon's 1-Click ordering and allowing shoppers to put Amazon.com purchases in the same virtual cart. Previously, Amazon had required retailers to set up on Amazon.com itself. Now, the company is looking to get a piece of the action any way it can.

Amazon.com and TiVo enable couch-potato lifestyle

Alaska Miller · 07/22/08 06:20PM

Finally realizing the dreams of advertising professionals since the 1950s, Amazon.com and Tivo announced new features to closely integrate shopping with TV watching. Viewers of talk shows — where pitching movies, music, or books vaguely masquerades as entertainment — will now have an opportunity to buy exactly what's being discussed on TV! Fancy the newest obsession of Oprah in her book club or like the CD being flogged by David Letterman's new favorite band? Just buy it with one click of TiVo's remote, and Amazon will deliver. If you like obvious product placements now, you're going to love the future. [NYT]

Justin.tv to let users launch their own home-shopping networks

Owen Thomas · 07/22/08 11:40AM

At first we found lifecasting the most depressing thing around; now, the practice of living your life attached to a camera seems depressingly popular, Silicon Alley Insider reports. Justin.tv has reached 1 million registered users. The site still has no business model, but CEO Michael Seibel says the company is working on an online payments system that will let lifecasters hawk wares to their viewers. Cancel that bit about lifecasting being a downer: The prospect of letting a million QVCs bloom is far scarier.

A Facebook payments system? Zuckerberg not sure he wants your money after all

Nicholas Carlson · 07/17/08 05:20PM

Facebook will not launch a payments system for its platform application developers at the upcoming F8 conference. Inside Facebook says though Facebook engineers are working on a system, it just won't be ready in time — even though Facebook began asking developers to participate in a payments beta test last December. Silicon Alley Insider offers a stranger explanation: The Facebook payments system hasn't come out yet because Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg "hasn't bought in to the idea completely."

eBay profits rise 22 percent, in line with seller rage

Paul Boutin · 07/16/08 06:20PM

eBay's second-quarter net income rose 22 percent to $460 million, as PayPal and other newer businesses led broad-based growth. The total value of all goods sold on the site in the quarter was $15.7 billion, up 8 percent from a year ago — which suggests that the sustained whining of smaller sellers who are displeased by the inclusion of listings from the likes of Buy.com, which pays lower fees to sell items on the site, has mattered less than new sales generated by the larger merchants. [Wall Street Journal]

eBay cleared on counterfeit lawsuit

Paul Boutin · 07/14/08 05:40PM

"In a long-awaited decision in a four-year-old trademark lawsuit against eBay brought by the jeweler Tiffany and Company, Judge Richard Sullivan of the Federal District Court in Manhattan ruled Monday that the online retailer does not bear a legal responsibility to prevent its users from selling counterfeit items on its marketplace." [New York Times]

Facebook's marketplace quits updating and nobody noticed

Nicholas Carlson · 07/10/08 10:00AM

Facebook has a Craigslist-like marketplace where users can buy and sell things. Or, at least, for now it does. Product manager Jared Morgenstern launched the marketplace in May 2007, but Facebook hasn't updated marketplace listings since the middle of last month. AllFacebook's Nick O'Neill wonders if that means Facebook plans to phase it out with its upcoming site relaunch. If so, it's going to be great loss for all those Facebook users depending on "Natural Techniques You Can Try @ Home To Re-grow Lost Hair."

Why outsource when you can replace humans entirely?

Jackson West · 06/27/08 04:40PM

When online shoe retailer Zappos isn't paying newly trained employees to leave the company, it's replacing them entirely. Robots developed by Kiva Systems zip around a Zappos warehouse picking up items and deliver them to their meatbag underlings for packing, and then move the packages to another small group of primates where the boxes are shipped. The only problem I foresee is that the robots have wheels, so when they inevitably take over, they won't be buying any shoes from Zappos. [CNET]

eBay demolishes "level playing field" for Buy.com

Owen Thomas · 06/17/08 05:00PM

On eBay, some merchants are now more equal than others. eBay signed up Buy.com to sell on the site with a special deal: no listing fees, a perk which has allowed Buy.com to litter the site with junk listings like a single AA battery — an offering that makes no economic sense under the rules that apply to other eBay sellers. That goes against the site's core principle of a "level playing field," reiterated here by founder Pierre Omidyar, in an interview with current CEO John Donahoe, just two months ago.

Auction site eBay gets out of brokering TV and radio ads

Jackson West · 06/12/08 04:20PM

While the occassional videoblogger might put up sponsorships for sale through eBay's auction site, networks and radio stations weren't so interested, so eBay is cutting its few deals with cable networks loose and ending its partnerships with Bid4Spots in brokering AM and FM ads. Which is a shame, because I was totally going to buy some radio ads right after I purchased some Beanie Babies. [Industry Standard]

Amazon.com invests in a home shopping network, but not Diller's

Nicholas Carlson · 06/09/08 03:40PM

Amazon.com's new, new thing is straight from the 1980s: a home-shopping network. Live on your TV! Amazon today announced an investment in the Talk Market, which the flacks call "a user-generated TV Shopping Channel" because businesses can upload and edit commercials on the site. [PR Newswire]

Bid for relevance

Owen Thomas · 06/03/08 01:40PM

Through higher fees and other changes, eBay is trying to push auctioneers off its site, as consumers favor fixed-price purchases. [BusinessWeek]

Amazon.com exploits corporate welfare in the Keystone State

Jackson West · 05/30/08 03:00PM

Texas isn't the only state going after Amazon.com for abusing the Supreme Court decision that requires mail-order retailers to collect sales taxes only on purchases in states where the company has a significant physical presence. In Pennsylvania, which is about to become host to a new Amazon distribution center, a local editorial is questioning the legality of the company avoiding state sales taxes by putting the warehouse titles under the names of subsidiaries.

Vancouver couple offers baby for sale on Craigslist

Jackson West · 05/28/08 05:40PM

A Vancouver couple listed their week-old newborn for sale on Craigslist for $10,000, prompting a horrified user to call the police. When the cops arrived, they found the tyke breastfeeding and the parents claimed it was a hoax. Which didn't stop the authorities from confiscating the baby. Susan MacTavish Best issued the by-now boilerplate statement that reads "Misuse of Craigslist for illegal purposes is absolutely unacceptable to us." Those kooky Canadians just hate the free market. When they aren't unjustly subverting self-interest with their free health care, they're criminalizing the trade in human babies. Once Peter Thiel builds his Objectivist paradise at sea, expect him to make another fortune on PayBaby. (Photo by Badr Naseem)