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Discontent Provider

File this under ''We just don't get it.'' The American Society of Travel Agents has helped create an unusual telephone message that members play for customers on hold--a rant against booking your trips online. About 1,800 of its 26,000 members play the recording. ''The Web contains tons of fraudulent misinformation,'' declares a confident voice. ''There's no guarantee that all your reservations will coordinate as you hoped.'' (Travel site Expedia Inc. insists its error rate is minuscule.)

The 15-second mini-screed concludes with a reminder: ''Unlike trying to do it yourself on the Internet, they [agents] have expertise to save you time and money. So why put yourself through the hassle?'' Uh, maybe because the Net doesn't put you on hold?

By Dennis K. Berman

Reality Bytes

Could the Net leave a banker on a street in skivvies? Yes, now that reality-TV has gone digital. The idea: Get people to do weird things, like eat jars of mayonnaise, and post the video online. Viewers vote and winners get cash. ''I bought a suit from a banker for $700 and left him on the corner in his underwear,'' laughs Morgan Spurlock, founder of New York-based

IBetYouWill, which hopes to make money on ads, isn't alone. Berlin-based dished up the ''RealityRunner,'' who was dropped off in Germany's capital Aug. 1. Viewers watched the site for clues and paid to make guesses about ''RealityRunner's'' exact location. If a runner lasts 24 days without getting caught, that's worth $10,000. Netizens who solve the case swipe the prize, which a Dutch fan did in the first go-round. A $100,000 run is planned next year in New York. It's not the million Richard won on Survivor. But you won't get Sue the Trucker mad.

By William Echikson

Virtual Voodoo

Your boss has you steamed: An assignment that could have been dumped on the person in the next cubicle landed on you instead. You're focused--very, very focused--on revenge. You might tell her off, but that's too confrontational for the likes of you. How about a curse instead? Not a verbal tirade. Voodoo. lets you e-mail voodoo curses to anyone who ticks you off.

Just enter the e-mail address of your target, choose a virtual voodoo doll, and select a curse from options like ''Hurts, doesn't it?'' The victim gets an e-mail with the message and an image of the doll riddled with pins. Best of all, there's no way to trace the curse. What's in it for Pinstruck? Not much: The site was built to show off Gaithersburg (Md.) Web designers Steem LLC. But that doesn't make sticking virtual pins into your boss's effigy any less sweet.

By David Rocks

Too-Spicy Spam

Unwanted smutty e-mail is bad enough, but you can delete it without opening it. Imagine pornographic instant messages hitting your screen unannounced--at work yet. Gee boss, I...

Despite fierce protections, some America Online users (including one of our editors) are being spammed by instant-messaged porn. Rivals gloat at the IM leader's little problem, but AOL Interactive Services President Barry Schuler says complaints are rare. ''AOL has the highest level of protection in the industry,'' he insists. And clean-living customers can block offending screen names.

Even pornographers say porn spam is dumb. ''It isn't cost-effective,'' says David G. Marshalak, CEO of Tampa-based Entertainment Network. Wannabe porn kings can send only one note at a time. Marshalak says small-timers use it to get leads to sell to bigger players. Not exactly a hustle that'll land you in a penthouse.

By Catherine Yang

E-cocktail Anyone?

Most dot-commers say they're too busy for fun. But not devotees of the DrinkExchange, a series of schmoozing events at bars for Web yuppies in tech hotbeds such as San Francisco and Hong Kong. The purpose is to get Net heads to loosen up and get job leads. The icebreaker: You're required to buy two drinks and offer one to a stranger, forcing the socially challenged off their bar stools. began when San Francisco roommates Ali Partovi and Alan Shusterman realized they had no social lives. They sent a few friends e-mail invitations to their first San Francisco nightclub party and urged them to pass the invites along. Eighty people came. Now DrinkExchange attracts crowds of up to 1,200 in half a dozen cities--with expansion to Portland, Ore., on tap. The events are paid for by corporate sponsors. The site advertises parties through e-mail newsletters. Call it liquid marketing.

By Steve Hamm

TABLE: Who Wants Not to Be a Millionaire?

Before Nasdaq bombed, everyone talked about how great IPOs were. Here's how 2000 IPOs launched by top investment banks are doing now. We compared companies' recent prices with their closing prices on the first day of trading. So who's a genius now?

                  Number          Average Post-IPO
Bank              of Deals        Performance*

Goldman Sachs 54 +0.9%

Credit Suisse
First Boston 50 -2.3%

Merrill Lynch 27 -10.5%

Morgan Stanley
Dean Witter 34 -14.7%

* Based on prices at Aug. 24 close


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Cover for Sept. 18, 2000 issue of Contents for Sept. 18, 2000 issue

Discontent Provider

Reality Bytes

Virtual Voodoo

Too-Spicy Spam

E-cocktail Anyone?

TABLE: Who Wants Not to Be a Millionaire?

E-Mail to Business Week Online

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