Amazon is doomed. Thousands of you read Friday’s column, a pathetic plea for tips, and, 72 hours into the experiment, $151.79 has been sent my way, net of Amazon’s $45.04 in fees. For my part, I am grateful. This is $151.79 more than I ever expected to earn from this web site. Enough to buy a dozen denim shirts. But for Amazon, I am afraid.

How far can Amazon go on $45.04? Especially when it must have to split its fee in some way with the credit card companies that do the actual billing?

Alan Light: ‘I just went over to and gave you a $20 tip. Since they state they will not disclose the names of donors to you, I’m wondering how you know they pay you all of it. Is there any independent accounting?’

Alan raises an interesting point. Let us assume that, for the 1,262 columns I have written in this space, 1,000 of you decided to click me an average of a penny. You know – a penny for your thoughts? That would be $12,620, less Amazon’s fees. Almost enough for a new car. Now you’re talking! Unless, that is, Amazon just kept all but $151.79 of it. How would I know?

I’m joking! Amazon is beyond honest. Jeff Bezos just sent me 10 one-cent stamps along with the electric hair trimmer I ordered (not a book about hair trimming, an electric hair trimmer!) to spare me ‘the hassle of an extra trip to the post office’ now that the first-class rate has jumped a penny. (Don’t get me started on that.) He just wanted to be nice. I am quite sure $151.79 was my entire take. I have the greatest readers in the world, and if they are a bit tight with the tips, who am I – who begs them to turn out the lights when leaving the room and drive used cars – to do anything but applaud?

Still, it is interesting how much people (including me) have come to expect from the Internet for free. You know the QuickBrowse service I frequently tout in this space (and of which I am a part-owner)? The following is an actual letter (not an e-mail, a letter) recently received from one of its users in the heart of the country:

Dear [Quickbrowse],

Just one week ago on the dates of January 25-26, I logged onto the Internet, like I do everyday, and to my surprise my homepage ( wasn’t working. Instead it showed a screen that showed there was a server error on the side of

This circumstance threw my whole day off. Quickbrowse’s service is very valuable to me. I have come to rely on the convenience and dependability of the site to gather the information I need everyday. It saves me an average of 30-40 minutes a day – sometimes even more. Because of the Quickbrowse downtime on January 25-26 it added an extra 60-80 minutes of surfing time to my days. As I am sure you are well aware — time is money. I consider my time very valuable, as do many other people/clients. So as you can tell this disruption of service cost me dearly that first day. The second day (January 26) I logged on hoping (praying) that your service would be up, however, I was disappointed again. This being the case I sent email to just like the “error page” told me to do. A few moments later I receive a “Mail Delivery Subsystem” failure of delivery notice, has no such customer service address. So not only did the second day cause a lower productivity for me, it made me upset because I couldn’t tell anyone within your organization about it.

I hope we can solve this problem in a mutually agreeable way. [Emphasis added.] I have already submitted a complaint to and will continue with six other consumer rights/customer service organizations — enclosed is a proposed list. What I want is to be ensured that can be a reliable homepage — that this situation will not occur at regular intervals. Further, I would like the Web site to be in your QbSelection>Business>E-Commerce section. This is a Web site that offers reliable and informative data that helps me make more informed decisions. I am sure it will help out some of your other users as well.

Quickbrowse makes me a more productive individual and offers a more efficient use of my time. I look forward to your reply and resolution to my problem, and will wait until February 19, 2001 before seeking help from the enclosed list of consumer protection agencies. Please contact me at the above address.

Sincerely . . .

The fact that Quickbrowse is free seems all but irrelevant. We come to rely on certain things and we want them right.

[Kevin Rasmussen: ‘I’ve been looking forward to the advent of the clickle so that I can leave a tip to show my appreciation. However, I won’t use the Amazon system because of their track record of using personal information in what I feel is an unethical way.’]

[Tom Wilder: ‘I just ‘tipped’ you $1.00. Now if you can just cut down on the Democratic drivel and Gore whining I might find some more $ to send you.’]

[Kurt Hemr: ‘Those who think you spend too much time on political matters should tip more, on the theory that the wealthier you are the more likely you’ll be to see the Republican point of view.’]


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