Why is woot com so cheap

Matt Rutledge

At least that was how Rutledge told the story to his co-workers when he returned to Dallas, Texas. There he founded Woot.com in 2004 and had great success with it. Rutledge, who ran an electrical wholesaler of around $ 50 million in the 1990s, invented the so-called Daily Deal: Every day at midnight, a new product went online at an extremely low price. Mostly electronics, gadgets, computer stuff. Things Rutledge knew about that he needed to get rid of. But sometimes also a cheese wheel or an ax. “I recognized a niche as a wholesaler,” Rutledge said in an interview prior to the takeover by Amazon. “Products are so short-lived these days. Every few months something new comes out and manufacturers need to get rid of the old stuff as soon as possible. Everyone is just panting for the latest - but I realized that there is still a lot of potential behind this. "

What made Woot a success wasn't the prices. Above all, it was the humor that Rutledge and his team used to sell their wares. If a remaining stock had an absurdly ugly color, this was not concealed, but instead was extensively acknowledged in the product description. “If we don't describe what's wrong with a product, people are right to think that we have no idea. Most traders make the mistake. They pretend that every product is perfect. "

Products that did not go away despite dumping prices were regularly sold in "Bags of Crap": There were three products for a few dollars - you just didn't know which one. Most of the time, they were sold out within minutes. Some product descriptions were skilful satirises on spam mails of alleged Nigerian princes in financial difficulties, others on Edgar Allan Poe. Because Rutledge knew: Customers who feel well entertained will come back. While classic online trading primarily pays attention to the conversion rate - i.e. the proportion of visitors who also buy - Rutledge was not in the least interested in this metric. In 2008, however, the site had over a million daily visitors and annual sales of more than $ 160 million. Amazon first got involved through a stake and eventually bought the entire store, including Rutledge and his people.

A cheer for mediocrity

Jeff Bezos had ordered the octopus to understand. He probably succeeded too, but the middle management at Amazon was less successful. The management level at Amazon consists of geniuses, so Rutledge later in retrospect, but after that it went quite steeply downhill: "Unfortunately, one or two levels down there were people who were not able to understand our special business model and our growth drivers." Under Amazon's leadership and the pressure to grow fast at all costs, Woot began to lose his magic. Instead of one deal a day, there were suddenly many. Instead of making fun of the defects of a product, the salespeople became more well-behaved. The once sworn fans wandered off. Something for which Rutledge blames himself: He did not manage to assert himself in the company and to protect the interests of the Woot community and employees.

He had committed to stay with Amazon for three years, but after two he couldn't take it anymore. How much this premature departure cost him cannot be found out. Rutledge doesn't like giving interviews at all. His new website should speak for itself. Because after its contractually stipulated non-competition clause expired, Rutledge immediately founded Meh.com. While “woot” stands for enthusiasm in hacker and gamer language, the expression “meh” also symbolizes onomatopoeic the exact opposite: mediocrity. Shrug. Indifference.

Rutledge and his colleagues, many of whom left Amazon with him, are doing what they do best again. A dirt cheap product a day, described in a funny and honest way. The first product they launched in July 2014 was “the best vacuum cleaner robot you could buy in 2007”. A more recent example, a neck pillow: “Shaped to give your neck maximum comfort. Or, you might find it awful. It costs seven dollars, just risk it. "The note follows:" Imagine how bad a pillow would have to be so that it is not worth seven dollars. It should smell like gasoline or be home to a hornet's nest. Or the purchase would have to make you the target of a murderous group of religious fanatics. But don't worry, this pillow is far too boring for that. "

The website is weird. And educational

Meh.com likes to target stupidities like pointless bloated model numbers like KVR-513-000004R / W / 6. Product photos are also often embellished with the help of hand puppets or other props. If you don't want to buy anything, you can click on a large "Meh" button and, in addition to the great product descriptions, enjoy a daily nonsense video, a nonsensical survey and many other things. “We wanted to build an online shop where you don't have to buy anything to have fun,” is Rutledge's motto.

In addition to the special humor, it is transparency that distinguishes Meh.com from Amazon's Woot and the countless other daily deal sites that are now out there. Rutledge reveals how many people were on the site today, how many of them have already struck and how many have clicked "meh". It even reveals the total sales of each product so far, and under the heading “Who buys all that shit?” You can see which state most buyers live in. This in times when courts have to explain to other online shops again and again that it is not only forbidden, but also shabby, to mislead customers with false claims such as “only three items available”.

And while the opinion prevailing elsewhere that the customer only accepts free shipping, Meh.com charges five dollars in shipping. Unless you become a VMP (Very Mediocre Person), it only costs five dollars per month. And while you can allegedly not do business online without free returns, Meh.com will at most reimburse the purchase price for defective products. If you are simply not satisfied, the FAQs (which are more entertaining to read than 99 percent of what is called entertainment on the Internet) advise: “Just put it on Ebay - as cheap as you got it, you might even earn more what about it. Or hone your reputation as a generous patron by giving it away to someone who is not as picky as you are. ”The shop doesn't bother with newsletters and rating begging either, and a Twitter and Facebook presence was only reluctantly and explicitly Wish set up by fans.

You are certainly far from the sales figures of the old Woot site. The daily sales of Meh.com are usually five, sometimes only four digits. But that's not bad for Rutledge, because the shop is only part of his Mediocre Laboratories. Even if the 50-strong company does not publish any figures, a large part of the income is likely to come from another business: under the name Middling, they provide logistics and infrastructure for other online and offline retailers - thanks to the knowledge gained from more than 20 years of successful business Online trade.

Various experiments planned by the “mediocrity laboratories” ensure more fun than money. For example, a shopping website where you always get what the person ordered before you. But even if only Meh.com of such crazy ideas proves to be viable in the end - it is likely to be the only shopping website that has its own anthem. She wrote the band “They Might be Giants” (also equipped with weird humor) for the advocates of mediocrity. The title: “They Could Try Harder” - they could try harder. For someone like Jeff Bezos, such a phrase would be a grave insult. Matt Rutledge takes it as a compliment. ---