Shed a Symbolic Tear for Lost Tech Stocks

The demise of a stock ticker symbol does not have as much national and global significance as thousands of lost jobs or millions of lost investment dollars.

But for the e-commerce romantic — and I don’t think I’m the only one — it hurts to see these symbols of bellwether online businesses disappear without fanfare.

Some of us even had our personal favorites, as well as others that we found bland or baffling. But the shakeout has been indiscriminate. Memorable stock symbols that we’ll all carry with us into old age have fallen, alongside symbols we had trouble keeping in our heads even when the stock they represented was in the triple digits.

Hey, COOL

It pretty much goes without saying that the coolest stock symbol of all was COOL, as in Outpost.com (Nasdaq: COOL).

Before long, when you try to plug the symbol COOL into Yahoo’s Finance pages, you’ll be told there’s “no such ticker symbol.” Because very soon, COOL won’t exist.

Outpost.com is still around, but it’s a public company no more, as it is being acquired by brick-and-mortar retailer Fry’s Electronics.

Sounds Like

In some ways, being absorbed into another company is one of the cruelest stock symbol fates. Just ask online grocer Peapod. Its symbol, PPOD, was pleasant to the ear and a perfect fit for the company in a number of ways. For one thing, PPOD was easy to remember, because it was spelled just like the company name sounded.

COOL was a cool ticker symbol, to be sure, but maybe not as easy to remember as EGGS, the symbol of fellow failing site Egghead.com. How long will it be before another company comes up with a ticker symbol that makes you hungry for breakfast?

Some long-gone symbols weren’t quite as elegant. ETYS, for failed dot-com eToys, made you mad to buy a vowel, as did WBVN for Webvan and MTHR for MotherNature.com. But there was little doubt who those tickers belonged to.

Of course, one might ask, who even remembers MotherNature.com?

Can’t Touch This

The answer is, plenty of people. And that’s just the point. These symbols weren’t just letter combinations. There were representative of the hopes and aspirations of the first wave of dreamers and workers in e-commerce.

Now, there’s little that’s new on the dot-com scene to capture that romance.Now, it’s all about multichannel sellers. How mundane. More sensible, perhaps, but mundane all the same.

The pure plays were different. They only existed on the Internet. You could never touch them. But their stock symbols gave you a taste of something special.

Four-Letter Words

No doubt, some investors spit when they speak some of these four-letter “words.” When COOL shares sell for two bits each, after previously going for US$45, it leaves a funny taste in your mouth.

To the rest of us, though, the symbols are echoes of a bygone era. Each time one is retired, the pure-play reality takes another step toward becoming history, something future generations will read about but not experience.

Well, at least we’ll always have AMZN and EBAY. Won’t we?

What do you think? Let’s talk about it.


Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.


1 Comment

  • hysterical. rent the movie dot.com or start-up.com and see a couple of guys literally blow away millions of dollars that was borrowed from investors. it boggles the mind. if you did that with housing or credit cards, you would be forced to declare bankruptcy AND maybe go to jail.

    i think i saw one too many companies come in with a vague notion of what they could do, but were more than willing to sell and take the money while they were at it. reality hurts, but at least no one gets taken for a ride.

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