The bad news is that many of the dot-coms that have not yet gone broke have begun thinking about making profits, which means that fewer and fewer will be able to send you free sneakers. (That was my favorite one — I didn’t even have to pay for shipping or register with anything more than my address. I have no recollection which dot-com gave them to me, but they came! They fit!)

The good news is that there are still some deep pockets out there.

So, where the last free Palm Pilot I told you about required a $10,000 deposit in a money market fund, this free Palm — courtesy of a Citibank dot-com subsidiary — seems to require just $1,000 in a new account. (You actually have to use the account, which may involve some fees, but check it out — the “rules” begin at the bottom of the page this link takes you to.)

That nice little find comes courtesy of my Kansas librarian e-pal Allan Tanner, who is a muggle with a tale. I hereby declare this Allan Tanner Day and offer you that tale. It’s about a dot-com you gotta love — I do — even if you don’t necessarily gotta love its stock.

Allan writes:

“My daughter, who will be a freshman at Reed College in August, ordered the new Harry Potter book from She received it Tuesday. Today she received an email from them saying they had promised to send it by Federal Express so that she, as one of the first 250,000 customers who ordered it from, would have it last Saturday. apologized for missing this delivery date, and said they were refunding the entire purchase price and shipping. That’s impressive.”

Indeed it is. I have been rooting for Amazon (the company) from Day One.

Here’s the message Amazon sent Allan’s daughter. Can you imagine something like this coming from, say, the folks who administer the dreadful General Motors MasterCard? Not in a million years.

Greetings from

This message is regarding your recent order for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.”

As you may already be aware, as a special bonus for the first 250,000 customers who pre-ordered the fourth Harry Potter book, we offered a complimentary upgrade to FedEx Saturday delivery whenever possible. However, we received well over 300,000 pre-orders for this title and unfortunately omitted a small percentage of eligible orders by accident.

We are very sorry that your book was not shipped via FedEx Saturday Delivery. Your order was one of the first 250,000 pre-orders placed on our site, and your address did fall within the FedEx Saturday Delivery range. Unfortunately, due to an error in the program we used to process addresses for this upgrade, your address was mistakenly deemed ineligible.

We realize how eagerly all of our customers anticipated the release of this book, and we hope you will accept our sincere apologies for the disappointment caused by the delay in shipping this title to you. To help rectify this situation, we have decided to refund all of our customers affected by this oversight for the cost of this book and the shipping fees incurred on this item.

Again, please accept our sincere apologies for any disappointment this may have caused. If you have any other questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Best regards . . .

It will be interesting to see whether all this good will that Amazon is building up is worth the $12 billion-plus the company is selling for.

And speaking of e-giants, you saw that Yahoo made 12 cents for the most recent quarter instead of the dime Wall Street was expecting — and that that unexpected extra $10 million or so in profit caused Wall Street to add $10 billion or so to Yahoo’s market value yesterday. Yahoo is currently gushing profits at the rate of 48 cents a year (four 12-cent quarterly profits), and you can buy ownership of one of those 48-cent profit slices for a mere $125. Of course, the idea is that the quarter billion a year in profit Yahoo is currently making (48 cents a share times 543 million shares) is peanuts compared to what it will be making in a few years. And that may be. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it’s still a pretty dicey gamble, and remain short a few shares. (Do not try this at home! If I had a dime for every dollar I’ve lost shorting stocks, I’d be rich!)

Tomorrow: A Good Site for Cheap Life Insurance


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