Stupidity is contagious. It gets us all from time to time. Even respectable companies can catch it. Let's take a look at five dumb financial events this week that may make your head spin.
1. The best weapon is the one you never have to fire
In a move to sell PCs in a moribund market, Dell
This is corporate buffoonery on many different levels:
- $20? That is more than the street price on Iron Man DVDs for what is just a PC-tethered download.
- The shelf-life of the promo is limited. What will Dell do when You Don't Mess With the Zohan is next week's hot new title, or the new Indiana Jones flick the week after that?
- "Personalize select Dell systems and get Iron Man included," reads the promo. It almost makes you believe that Dell is giving it away, right? Nope. Several steps into the checkout process you get hit with the $20 fee.
- "By getting your content preloaded, you can start enjoying your favorite movie as soon as you get your new Dell without the hassle of searching for and downloading your content, saving you time," promises Dell. I have a better plan. Buy DVD. Insert DVD. Save precious hard drive space.
2. Bare Stearns
Do you remember that J. Geils Band chart-topper from the early 1980s? The one where the chorus went "na na, na-na-na-na, my analyst is a centerfold"? Maybe it was angel instead of analyst, but life is about to imitate my paraphrased art as Playboy
Playboy's been a bottom-feeder before. It had a "Women of Enron" feature shortly after the energy trader's catastrophic collapse. However -- from what I've been told -- that pictorial consisted mostly of Enron office secretaries. Does Playboy really think it's going to get primo financial analysts and floor traders to bare all for a magazine with fading circulation levels? Is it that bad? Does Playboy realize that naked short selling is not what it thinks it is?
If Playboy is able to pull it off, I'm betting on "Bare Stearns" appearing somewhere in the pictorial, along with the obvious tongue-in-cheek wordplay on Lehman.
3. You say you want a TiVo-lution
I'm a fan -- and a shareholder -- of TiVo
Buyers get the first year free, only to pay $99 a year to renew the service. In theory, it's great. TiVo is essentially staring at a risk-free way to create healthy high-margin recurring revenue. So who is going to buy it? Diehard DVD and CD burners don't strike me as the type to pull up to annual tollbooths for a TiVo emulator. TiVo has also had a hard time getting people to pay for its own television service, stuck at the 1.7 million mark for TiVo-direct subscribers for some time now.
Don't get me wrong. I love seeing TiVo move away from burdensome hardware subsidies and into low-risk technology-licensing royalties. I just think this particular product will flop.
4. Highway to Sell
Since when did Wal-Mart
I'm a fan of retailer-specific exclusives. It creates foot traffic. However, is a straitlaced Wal-Mart aware of AC/DC's bad boy image? Does it think that guitarist Angus Young in a schoolboy outfit will spur back-to-school sales? Has it actually checked what the lyrics to songs like "Big Balls", "You Shook Me All Night Long", and "Highway to Hell" really mean?
Wal-Mart has been tethering itself to celebrity spokespersons like Beyonce Knowles and Garth Brooks in the past to shake its vanilla bean ways, but you don't arrive at cheap chic through association. What's next on the marketing front? I hear Jerry Seinfeld is available.
5. Here is my baked Apple turnover recipe
RBC Capital Markets and Morgan Stanley downgraded Apple
It's a fair gauge, but does anyone really believe that Apple has peaked? Even if the market is slowing, Apple continues to grow its market share in computers and smartphones. Yes, the pie may be getting smaller, but that is only temporary. Apple is positioning itself for a big bounce by gaining on its competitors during the downturn.
You don't downgrade a stock for that. In fact, since Apple's stock had already surrendered a third of its value before the bearish calls, it would actually make more sense to deliver an upgrade.
Silly analysts. They're Playboy airbrush artist fodder for sure.
Let's beat the dumb drum:
Wal-Mart is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Playboy is a former Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Dell, Marvel, and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of dumb and smart business moves. Investors can learn plenty from both. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, save for TiVo. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.