These three companies just didn't live up to Mr. Market's expectations last week. Sometimes an earnings stumble is a signal to sell, but digging in the dirt is also a good way to find turnaround candidates while they're getting beaten down.

Today, we'll pay no mind to the man behind the curtain. Wait, what?

PAY as you go -- elsewhere
Our first victim this week is payment processing expert VeriFone Holdings (NYSE:PAY). Analysts expected around $0.34 of adjusted income per share on $257 million of revenue, but had to settle for a couple pennies less on stronger-than-expected sales of $259 million.

Granted, that's solid 12% sales growth over last year's numbers. But while international sales showed a 26% improvement, North American revenue dropped 6%. Think there's something to these worries about domestic consumer spending?

CEO Doug Bergeron did indeed pin the North American slowdown on "macro-economic trends" but nevertheless reported strong sales of wireless payment processing equipment. The postal systems of both Canada and the U.S. placed large VeriFone orders in the quarter, putting as many as 27,000 fresh installations in service windows across the continent, and another 20,000 point-of-sale systems are going into Australian taxicabs.

So the company is not out of growth opportunities, even if it gets to skim fees off of fewer and smaller credit card transactions at the moment. This is not the best time imaginable to buy into such a trend-sensitive stock amidst massive upheaval in all kinds of financial markets. If you're interested in this sector, warts and all, you could do better with more diversified players like NCR (NYSE:NCR) or Income Investor recommendation Pitney Bowes (NYSE:PBI).

MIND the step
I promise: no more bad ticker puns. Mitcham Industries (NASDAQ:MIND) is the name, and geophysical information is the game.

The company sells seismic detection systems and services to oil and gas exploration contractors. Its sales clocked in at $17.5 million, producing a neat $0.16 net profit per share. But the four analysts who follow this stock (all of whom recommend that you buy it, by the way) had expected $200,000 more in sales and a penny more in EPS.

CEO Bill Mitcham said that the company's seismic equipment leasing segment grew sales by 20% over last year, despite a couple of delayed shipments where the customer couldn't get its exploration permits in time. Mitcham recognizes revenue when they ship out their equipment, so if a customer has to wait to move forward with a project, so does Mitcham.

This is a tiny business that operates on a global scale, with distributors across North America, the former Soviet Union, Australia, and Singapore -- just to name a few exciting markets. Despite its diminutive size, Mitcham is a global market leader. Larger players Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) and Dawson Geophysical (NASDAQ:DWSN) aren't as focused on a single oilfield service as Mitcham is. As black gold gets harder and harder to find, demand for seismic cavity detectors should grow unchecked until the last driller gives up hope of ever finding another well.

Lumpy order flows notwithstanding, Mitcham will reward its investors every step of the way there.

The man behind the curtain
There was just no way to write this column and leave Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH) untouched. As you have heard a million times already, the great wizard of Oz was just some guy with a megaphone, and this great financial house was built out of cards. Now it's all tumbling down.

The company announced preliminary estimates for a net loss of $5.92 per share, which was about double what analysts were expecting. The losses included $5.6 billion in net mark-to-market adjustments, much of which was due to residential mortgages. And that wasn't even the end of Lehman's troubles -- the company has filed for bankruptcy, and the stock is trading below $0.20 per share as I write these words, down from a 52-week high of $67.73. Ouch.

Let me just note that you could have seen this disaster coming a long time ago, despite the fact that according to Thomson/First Call, seven Wall Street firms were still telling you that Lehman stock was a buy last month, compared to zero sell ratings. Know who your friends are, Fool.

Foolish finale
Some of these underperformers are victims of larger circumstances, while others might have only themselves to blame. It's up to you to decide which down-on-their-luck companies should be able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and which ones are stuck in the mud for real. For the record, I see only one keeper in this trio, and it's the smallest, least famous of them all.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in the companies discussed this week. Pitney Bowes is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Dawson Geophysical is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy, and you can see his current holdings for yourself.