Remember when you could get just about any software tool on the Web free? Then for a while Internet Access itself was free. Most of you probably know why, too -- and as a matter of fact, you probably had money in the market (at least via your retirement plan or 401K). Part of the so-called dot-com bubble was inflated by supposedly high-value stock floating on investor capital without any real earnings (and in most cases very little potential). It seems curious to me that 40 years after the movie "The Graduate_1," the stock market can be carried on a "wave of the future." If the cultural reference is lost on you, the principle shouldn't be.
So commercial activities on the Internet (strange that it should be called the dot-com bubble when so little of it seemed to be about commerce) moved towards earnings, which is not only fine, it is what should have been going on from the beginning. Nobody expected it to last forever (at least anybody with any sense), but the idea was to give us a little taste, write off the expense and make up the difference on the back end. Well, I think we've hit the back end.
I don't think the potential for continually expanding earnings isn't there anymore, I just think that we're hitting a plateau where sales techniques have become so aggressive (after a long period of nearly pathetic passivity) that they are offensive and unwelcoming. Sometimes you are led into purchases that you don't know that you made.
I'm going to have to contest two charges made to me this month. One of them is a presumptive agreement that I mention in another blog post here, and the other is based on a check box that I didn't "uncheck" indicating an "interest" in a product. I indicated an interest by not "opting out" and then I got a message to the effect "Congratulations, you just bought it."
Sorry, Mister, but you're the one who just bought it -- in case it's not clear, I mean the farm. If this is another obscure cultural allusion, look it up -- it will be in the same department as "six feet under." Sales aren't powered by muscle -- they are powered by offering value in the form of goods and service at a price that the market will bear. The market will never bear strong arm tactics, and they will soon be met by enforcement -- either natural market forces or legislation.
Pray for legislation, because natural market forces are still "law of the jungle." You can't have your customers and eat them too.
Footnote: (1) "The Aquarius" at The Daily Reckoning