Is there any sweeter feeling than the joy that comes from watching a bunch of vainglorious young dot-commers who had no business becoming multimillionaires in

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How to Put More Dot-Coms Out of Business

It's not too early to start playing I-Scrooge!

Is there any sweeter feeling than the joy that comes from watching a bunch of vainglorious young dot-commers who had no business becoming multimillionaires in the first place suddenly taking it in the shorts? Indeed, there isn't. The Germans have a word for such exquisite pleasure; they call it (in loose translation): "pure malicious vengeance against those overweening geeks in their sports cars and ill-fitting Dockers shorts."

This holiday season, when so many world-conquering dot-coms are hanging by a thread, poised at the very brink of bankruptcy, hoping against hope that the spirit of point-and-click giving will resurrect their revenues and dreams, is the ideal time to put these young Netocrats out of their misery. Here are just a few strategies to spark your thinking.

Multiple "first-time" orders. Kirkland-based HomeGrocer offers $15 off your $50 order and free delivery—but only for first-time customers. So we suggest enlisting all your friends and neighbors for a weekly shopping call. Pool your resources and save! Each time, HomeGrocer has to choke down the cost of its uniformed delivery drivers and their state-of-the-art peach-covered refrigerated trucks! Be sure to maximize the convenience of home-delivery by ordering in spine-crushing bulk: 50-pound sacks of flour, whole pigs, etc.

The Nordstrom Way. Returns! Returns! Returns! And no questions asked! That's the beauty of always putting the customer first. Just imagine the distress when you "change your mind" about the $20,500 Platinum Diamond choker necklace from Seattle's BlueNile.com. Better yet, send back a pair! Some companies, like Altrec.com, the Bellevue e-tailer of outdoor gear, will even pay your return postage. The best part comes next year, when, after a seemingly flush holiday season, a flood of January returns sinks every last hope for a profit, causing earnings restatements, analyst downgrades, and an e-stock collapse for local dot-coms. Madrona becomes affordable again! We especially recommend sending back large, unwieldy items, such as a full set of Cedar Log backyard furniture to Amazon's Lawn and Patio unit.

Scary, overly personalized customer reviews. Drugstore.com, based in Bellevue, is one of many sites that feature "customer reviews" of its products—in this case, health and beauty aids. These testimonials are, by and large, five-star expressions of satisfaction. But there's nothing stopping you from posting your own customer reviews, ones that are perhaps a little more detailed . . . and alarming. "These Q-Tips cotton swabs were the cause of an internal rupture, massive hemorrhaging, and the onset of a chronic jackhammer-and-siren noise in both eardrums!" Or perhaps: "The mint flavoring in Oral-B dental floss created pustules and tongue inflammation." Or even: "As I began to apply the suppositories I experienced a strange. . . ." Well, you get the idea.

The Procter & Gamble gambit. Of course, there's always this old standby: the satanic affiliation rumor. Doesn't that Amazon 'dimpled smile' logo look rather like the ancient Near Eastern talisman for service to Beelzebub? We thought you'd agree. Why not pass it on? While you're at it, perhaps you also heard some "inside" dish about a new Amazon housewares promotion called "Asbestos is back!" Sounds like something worth sharing on the investment bulletin boards!

Customer service codependency. This is a very busy time of year for the dot-coms, and they are all short-staffed—a good time to get customer service on the line and not let go. Flirt, haggle, confess, threaten suicide, whatever it takes to tie up as many salaried employees as possible dealing with your myriad personal issues.

Join their ranks. Here you infiltrate the organization and bring it down under the weight of your own incompetence. For instance, there's nothing online shoppers like better than to receive "recommendations" from a Web site based on their prior purchases. So when a female shopper orders up, say, a big holiday bag of chocolate chip cookies from Amazon's Gourmet Foods section, you could also suggest she purchase the book Binge Breaker! Stop Out-of-Control Eating and Lose Weight! or perhaps an audiocassette of "Reprogramming the Overweight Mind." Now you're talking synergy!

These are but a few of the many techniques available for bringing down the few remaining dot-coms and finally restoring some sanity to our lives and to our real estate markets. That's a gift we'll all be grateful for this holiday season.

Mark D. Fefer is a senior editor at Seattle Weekly; Brian Miller is the film editor.

 
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