Depending on what happened yesterday, I am either immensely relieved or deeply saddened — or we’re at war. But I can’t keep writing about impeachment every day, and I write most of these comments a few days in advance (which is why I don’t yet know what happened yesterday), so I am going to make a stab at resuming our irregularly scheduled programming. You know: Gummi Bears and Amazon.com shorts — all that.
Today, two true stories.
This friend of mine was on the phone with Delta trying to get a cheap round-trip from the Miami area to Washington, D.C. He’s a journalist and needed to go interview some hotshot. Fewer than 7 days in advance, no Saturday stay-over. In other words: He was dead meat.
So while the Delta agent is sorting through things, he’s tinkering with www.travelocity.com. She finds him a round-trip in the high “twos” — $298 or some such. He finds a round-trip fare (I couldn’t believe this) of $148. She couldn’t believe it, either, but when he told her the flight number, sure enough, there it was: his for $148 round-trip.
In short, this business about being able to click your way around the Web really does have its advantages and should only improve. (My friend lives in Miami Beach, one of the few places you can get Internet access via the cable TV company. So his connection is almost as fast as the one you have at the office. Ah, what I wouldn’t give for a T1 line.)
This other friend of mine got it into his head a few weeks ago to sell short a slew of soon-to-expire, way-out-of-the-money calls on Amazon.com and Yahoo. Both were selling at such ridiculous prices (and the market itself was so high) that it was almost free money. Unless each one went up yet another 20 or 30 points, he could just keep the ridiculously generous premiums he got for writing those soon-to-expire calls. Free money! End of story. And even if — it’s a strange world we live in — they did suddenly vault yet another 30 points, or even 40 or 50 points, well, he was a big boy and could handle the risk.
A couple of clicks and the positions were his.
A week later (this is a true story), Amazon had vaulted 100 points and my friend, gazing out at the Pacific from his Santa Monica condo, had lost his entire fortune, everything he had worked his entire life to earn.
Click with care. There are huge advantages to Internet trading — I constantly marvel at being able to make trades for $13 that until recently cost me $300 — but it is easier than ever to ruin yourself. Be careful.
Quote of the Day
I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year.~The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
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