Felix Salmon

Why online shoppers pay with cash

Here’s a reminder, from Stephanie Clifford, of just how two-tier the US economy has become:

Kickstarter of the day, Flint-and-Tinder edition

If you want an example of Kickstarter-as-QVC which is extremely likely to fail, look no further than Flint and Tinder. The brainchild of one Jake Bronstein, the idea is to create a new company making boxer shorts in the USA. “It’s about more than underwear,” he says in the video. “It’s about redefining what it means to be Made in America.”

A tale of two retailers

The two biggest expectations-defying retailers of the past decade were Sears Holdings and the Apple Store. Expectations could hardly have been higher when the former was created: it was one of those rare deals where the stock of the acquiring company went up on the news, and in an article headlined “Eddie’s Master Stroke“, Businessweek waxed positively rhapsodic about the prospects for the company becoming the next Berkshire Hathaway. Three years earlier, of course, it had published a column headlined “Sorry, Steve: Here’s Why Apple Stores Won’t Work“.

The Groupon roadshow

Here’s something I haven’t seen before: an IPO roadshow appearing online for the world to see. (Click the link on the left; the link on the right basically just takes you to a copy of Groupon’s S-1.) In fact, I’ve never seen an IPO roadshow pitch before. They’re boring! And, they feature senior executives looking uncomfortable wearing ties in front of a dark-grey background, talking to slides!

Canine umbrella stand datapoint of the day

The right-hand column of page A3 of the NYT — the first thing you see when you turn the front page — has historically been home to slightly silly luxury-goods ads from high-end New York retailers. Today is no exception, with Tiffany at the top and Brooks Brothers in the middle. But there’s clearly money in e-retailing again, because the bottom slot has been bought by 1stdibs, which uses the space to advertise this “rare umbrella stand in the form of a collie dog by Piero Fornasetti”, yours for $4,600.

Amazon arbitrage of the day

One of the best travel books ever written (indeed, one of my favorite books, period, ever) is The Surprise of Cremona by Edith Templeton. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find: your best bet is to track down the 2003 Pallas Athene paperback with an introduction by Anita Brookner.

Thomas Kinkade: Bad, not evil

Hamilton Nolan is snarking gleefully over the fact that Thomas Kinkade, whom he calls “Painter of Darkness”, has lost a round of the endless litigation he’s been involved in for years now, ever since he took his company private in 2004. Now I’m no fan of Kinkade. But the plaintiffs in this case are trying to make a pretty astonishing case: that they’re owed damages on the grounds that Kinkade talked a lot about God, and thereby fraudulently persuaded them to place their trust in him.

Excising the cheapest options

Alex Tabarrok wonders why no stores stock cheap (as opposed to expensive) HDMI cables, and Kevin Drum — who used to manage a Radio Shack — recounts his own tale of looking for a simple patch cable: