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Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. As we do every week, let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. Jeff Bezos may be Ebenezer Scrooge
Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) is being taken to task for its employment practices overseas.
BBC's Panorama profiled an undercover employee who worked as a picker at one of Amazon's distribution centers in the UK. He would have to walk as much as 11 miles in a 10-hour shift, and the pressure to pick 110 items an hour -- with a locator tracking his position and counting down -- proved mentally and physically taxing.
It also didn't help that roughly a thousand employees at a pair of Amazon facilities in Germany staged a strike on Monday, complaining about their wages and benefits. Amazon may be a rock star at home, but it has some image-boosting to do overseas.
2. You Nook me all night long
Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS ) isn't cutting it in e-readers. Shares of the struggling bookseller stumbled after posting disappointing quarterly results -- but the real shocker was the huge drop in its fading Nook line.
Nook revenue declined 32% during the quarter, and, while the 41% drop in hardware could be attributed to Barnes & Noble scaling back on its product lines, the 21% plunge in digital content is inexcusable. There are clearly more Kindle e-readers and tablets now than there were a year ago. Why is Barnes & Nobles selling more than a fifth less digital content than it was last year?
The market has moved on, and it's unlikely that Barnes & Noble's Nook can regain its relevance.
3. It wouldn't be the holidays without Scroogled
Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) is back with a new installment in its Google-bashing Scroogled campaign. Microsoft has taken shots at Google's shopping portal, email ads, and ad-serving technology in the past. Now it's slinging arrows at Chromebook.
The attack begins with the stars of Pawn Stars, telling someone how useless her Chromebook is as a pawn trade-in because it's practically useless when there's no Wi-Fi around. Keep in mind that you need to be online to see the ad. But that's just one spot where Mr. Softy's misfiring.
The Scroogled landing page ultimately leads to a landing page that compares Chromebook to Windows-fueled laptops. Most of the points are valid, but then it argues that Chromebook users are missing out on Skype, iTunes, and other PC-based software.
"There are millions of programs that run on Windows," goes the argument. "A Chromebook can't run any of them."
It's not a fair shot, especially since there are cloud-based workarounds that are often superior to their PC equivalenta. However, isn't the nature of the argument -- that a Chromebook is inferior because it lacks the quantity of apps available on other platforms -- also the same reason not to buy a Windows Phone smartphone as opposed to one using iOS or Android?
4. Qualcomm before the storm
Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM ) made waves after Chinese regulators opened a probe into the telco chip giant's practices.
Qualcomm argues that it's been hard to do business in China since the NSA snooping scandal cast American companies in a poor light overseas. Qualcomm also suggests that Chinese companies may be singling out Qualcomm in this antimonopoly probe as a result of how the U.S. treats Chinese companies closer to home.
It's not a great position to be in, but it should be noted that Chinese regulators were starting to sniff around Qualcomm long before the NSA story broke.
5. Another turkey out of Kmart
With all of the grumbling out of holiday traditionalists lamenting the many retailers opening last night for an early jump on the shopping season, Sears Holdings' (NASDAQ: SHLD ) Kmart has been there. It's been bucking the trend by opening on Thanksgiving for years.
It hasn't worked. No one's shopping at Kmart, and just when it seems as if the discount department store chain couldn't be faring any worse, it posts yet another period of negative comps.
Well, it could've turned things around this month. It could've broken free from Thanksgiving, announcing that it wouldn't open until Black Friday this year. It would've won rare style points and perhaps even a few shoppers. Instead, Kmart chose to open even earlier this Thanksgiving.
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