After the dot-com crash, companies such as (Nasdaq: AMZN) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) fell off my radar. Yeah, I liked Amazon's Internet retail store idea and its brand, but it didn't seem like a hypergrowth story that would last. eBay had a fabulous model, but I figured that eventually people would run out of things to sell, or the economy would make it less profitable. Turns out I was more or less right about eBay. But did I blow it on Amazon!

I paid no attention to the stock, even though I regularly purchased stuff on Amazon. I thought retail was too economically sensitive. I was so wrong, because Amazon became more than just a brand name. It became the Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) of the Internet ... and beyond. Yes, Wal-Mart has most anything a person could want, but you must drive there to get it. Here in Los Angeles, it's not convenient to get to at all. To most people, time is money. So is convenience. And that's one reason I think Amazon has hung around.

Amazon accomplished what I never seriously believed it could do. I can buy just about anything and have it delivered, without any lines to wait in for purchases or returns. It's also helped Amazon that most people seem to think of it as a discount retailer, so they gravitate to it, expecting a deal.

There's one more thing -- everyone equates book buying with Amazon. Its brand name has that much power. Yes, some folks like to wander into Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) or Borders (NYSE: BGP). But I find myself choosing Amazon 99% of the time. It wouldn't surprise me if many other folks did, too. Apparently, people also turn to it for music.

So I took my eye off the ball and was shocked to discover Amazon is estimated to grow earnings 50% this year and 33% next year. The company has billions in free cash flow and cash on hand.

The takeaway here is that we can get discouraged after a big market crash and swear off certain investments. We can also analyze a company and dismiss it for any number of reasons. However, you should always check back in on those candidates. The story may have changed and, with it, the prospect of big returns.

Fool contributor Rick Steier owns no shares in any company mentioned. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. and eBay are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on eBay. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.