Pundits Say The Darndest Things

John Dodge, Wall Street Journal

Upshot: Of 14pet-care Web sites, 11 have "pet" in the URL. Was that Macy's parade float for Petstore.com or Pets.com? It's a branding nightmare.

Seeing Double: The sites' strategies are as similar as their names, making individual identities even fuzzier. Even Petsmart.com's CEO admits "[T]he whole segment is confused."

Hey! Look at Me! To differentiate themselves, the sites have been promoting themselves at local dog parks, teaming up with big names like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and hosting canine fashion shows.

Proofreaders' Nightmare: "I had to reread this column 20 times to make sure I matched the right 'pet' sites with the right partners, people and information."

Andy Reinhardt, Business Week

Upshot: The Net tax debate continues. This time, a business magazine stands up for ... the poor?

Crying Foul: When e-commerce is not taxed, online shoppers "disproportionately from the upper rungs of the economic ladder" get the tax break. The non-wired side of the tracks shoulders more of the local tax burden, while online shoppers supply fewer funds for public schools. State governments might have to raise the sales tax to compensate for lost e-retail sales revenue.

Quote: "The Net tax holiday is industrial policy writ large. Some might even call it corporate welfare - this time for tiny startups with gigantic market capitalizations."

Stewart Alsop, Fortune

Upshot: Gourmet fruit sellers Harry & David may be retro, but their simple e-commerce site is the apple of one columnist's eye.

Christmas '98: Repeated phone calls to Williams-Sonoma yielded only frustration with out-of-stock items. Harry & David, "even though the site was rudimentary ... had taken the time to tie together the ordering system with its inventory management system."

Christmas '99: The Harry & David Web site, still "slow and basic," did allow Stewart Alsop to quickly send his mother the same basket of pears as the year before. It had saved last year's list and even mailed Alsop a copy.

Quote: "[G]ood old-fashioned principles of customer service still matter more than fancy production values and gee-whiz programming."

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