Woot? Meh.
July 6, 2014 7:13 PM   Subscribe

This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You
So there sat Bezos at the breakfast table, faced with a question for which he was apparently unprepared. Many painful seconds passed without an answer. Rutledge let the pause lengthen as long as he could bear it and was just about to tell his host to forget it, when Bezos finally spoke. He looked down at his plate. Bezos had ordered a dish called Tom’s Big Breakfast, a preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. “You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Rutledge remembers Bezos saying. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.” Not until Rutledge had returned to Dallas and related the story to his anxious employees—now Amazon’s employees—did he realize just how absurd that explanation sounded. Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed.
posted by the man of twists and turns (38 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Now I want to know if he ever paid St. Louis that 8 grand.
posted by gingerest at 7:35 PM on July 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

That was really heartening to read.
posted by bleep at 7:39 PM on July 6, 2014

I signed up through Mediocre and I think I bought them a huge roll of butcher paper as part of the Seligman experiment. I figured it would be something both horribly uninteresting and potentially useful, in that at least they could use tape it to the wall and write on it until they decided to get whiteboards. Or paste it over any posters or clocks they'd gotten tired of.

Then there was the Classic Daily Deal Site Kickstarter campaign, which is basically a low-budget revival of Woot's Bag of Crap. No idea what's going to be coming out of that, though I guess that's the point.

I never bought anything from Woot until long after Amazon had blandified it, and I'm not sure I'll be getting particularly engaged with Meh. But I like that Rutledge is stirring shit in a more constructive way than most web entrepreneurial ventures are these days.
posted by ardgedee at 7:39 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've eaten the breakfast octopus, and it was pretty good. But this:

Rutledge says the top-level Amazon executives are all geniuses, but there’s a quick drop-off

Ouch! I can feel the burn from here.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:42 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was wondering where the Woot Bag of Crap went... I never realized amazon bought woot and brought and end to them.

I still use the ipod nanos I got from my first ever BOC, along with a handful of sandisk sansas, one of which I got Doom working on. Those sansas were probably the best mp3 player I ever used.
posted by hellojed at 7:42 PM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

My only BoC win was, as I recall, a sheet of stickers and a 3-pack of PDA styluses (I didn't have a PDA) shipped in a box big enough for a medium-sized dog.
posted by Foosnark at 7:49 PM on July 6, 2014

Actually that reminds me in Woot's heyday I never bought anything because anytime there was something I would buy there were always a bunch reviews saying the item was a cheap, defective piece of crap.
posted by bleep at 7:51 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually that reminds me in Woot's heyday I never bought anything because anytime there was something I would buy there were always a bunch reviews saying the item was a cheap, defective piece of crap.

And yet I still couldn't tear myself away from the computer during a Woot-Off because WHAT IF?!
posted by Room 641-A at 8:09 PM on July 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Yep, exactly. The idea was addictive.
posted by bleep at 8:24 PM on July 6, 2014

I got a reasonable refurbished monitor and many refurbished razer mice off woot for cheap. Does the new amazon woot still do that? (Refurbished products are of course always a gamble, but that's where the big deals are).
posted by Pyry at 8:28 PM on July 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was wondering where the Woot Bag of Crap went... I never realized amazon bought woot and brought and end to them.

Oh, the Bandoliers of Carrots still crop up occasionally. A friend snagged one last week.

I got to the Kickstarter too late for one of the fukubukuro bags, but I did throw in a dollar. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do next.
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:39 PM on July 6, 2014

I am saddened by the fact that I didn't know about this until now, missing both the Seligman and the fukubukuro.

I successfully acquired three Bags of Crap during the 'good old days' (the only thing from any of them I still use is, ironically, a duffel bag); as the site grew, they have made acquiring them more challenging and/or random, and I've given up on that. But I continue to check the site most evenings at 10:05PM Pacific (Midnight:05 Central). The expansion from "one daily deal" to "12 daily deals and 20+ weekly deals" actually reduced the frequency at which I found something I'd like there (or maybe I just became a smarter consumer). One of the first things I bought is one thing I'm still using, a blood pressure cuff gadget, but most of my favorite Woot! acquisitions are trivial and decorative: the vintage Etch-a-Sketch, a stuffed pig with wings, a USB panic button.

The only thing I ever actually buy from them any more is an occasional $12 t-shirt (most recent: Public Service Announcement; most favorite: Mr. Spork, 404 Heart Not Found, Bunnies Forever.

The tongue-in-cheek product descriptions were not that novel to me; I'd been a Trader Joe's customer since the '70s. And back then (I think I've told this one before), when I was breaking into Radio, their local radio commercials were live scripts to be read by the DJ on duty... filled with puns and tongue-twisters, they were either loved or hated and I included my reading of one in every Audition Tape I sent out. TJ's also became more subdued in its wackiness upon its own acquisition by a megacorporation, Germany's Aldi Nord but not TOO much.

I wish Rutledge and Company the best of luck and look forward to checking out the Meh's at five minutes after Midnight, his time.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:02 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

This actually reminded me of some fond old school internet memories, probably from around 10 years ago.

Mainly, #woot. No, not the twitter hashtag, their IRC channel. I forget what server it was on, but it was the same one that hosted G4, techtv, and even briefly the old 4chan IRC(which got booted from several servers, i remember, and probably quickly became regarded as something you wanted on your server about as much as "~+ISIS general discussion+~! Todays topic: spread spectrum hobby RC transmitters for IEDs, fail or win?")

That channel was the raunchiest shit. It was sad watching it slowly become a ghost town.

I actually had no idea, or at least had forgotten that amazon bought them. I noticed that their site had fallen to somewhere between sucky and irrelevant, but i didn't make the connection that their soul had actually been actively sucked out.

Thinking about it, i might still have an absurdly cheap hard drive from one of their deals. I remember being bummed out that i didn't get a BoC and get an iPod, like other people were talking about. Then again, i had no fucking money back then, so...
posted by emptythought at 9:07 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was really sad when Woot moved out of town; it seemed like one of those local shops that was just going to keep growing (and hiring local writers and editors). It's a shame that Amazon swallowed it up and then regurgitated it in a lesser form.
posted by limeonaire at 9:22 PM on July 6, 2014

Customers who ate octopus for breakfast also destroyed all the book shops.
posted by w0mbat at 9:36 PM on July 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

I used to love Woot! and had no idea that Amazon had bought them out, but it hasn't felt like the same place since they expanded into so many "deals."

I notice I'm developing an instinctive sort of curl of my upper lip whenever the word Amazon enters my visual field. Hunh.
posted by aryma at 9:55 PM on July 6, 2014

I've been coming up with any reason I can to show that "breakfast octopus" quote to everyone ever since I first saw this article.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:11 PM on July 6, 2014

Finding out that Amazon bought them just a bit before woot went to hell explains a lot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:21 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only thing I bought from Woot! (before the soulectomy), was the ROK-101 t-shirt. Still looking for the pictured amp.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:42 PM on July 6, 2014

The comments on that article are extra-special.

Also, so that's what happened to Woot? I can cross that mystery off my list.
posted by 26.2 at 11:25 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed.


But not always.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:32 AM on July 7, 2014

So the consumption of woot was a metaphor of Amazon, being trapped in a bland, sterile prison for decades, seeking to return to life by consuming life?
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:24 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

> I got to the Kickstarter too late for one of the fukubukuro bags

I suspect that it's the stuff from Project Seligman that they didn't want. We'll find out soon I guess.
posted by ardgedee at 2:30 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

The only good thing about Amazon's acquisition of Woot was the announcement video, which featured a rapping plush monkey who rhymed "Amazon" with "pajamas on."
posted by Boxenmacher at 6:10 AM on July 7, 2014

When I lived in St Louis, there was a woot office two blocks from my house, behind the sushi place at Arsenal and Grand. I had always wondered if that was the woot, and what they were doing inside there.
posted by slogger at 6:40 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Bezos' mediocre Bond villain schtick is the sand in the oyster that creates another pearl like pre-amazon woot, then fine, I reluctantly consent to not nuking amazon from orbit for another year or so, plus I buy a bunch of cheap stuff there I can't get anywhere else and work prime like a rented mule.


I just read that above sentence thing ^ and it makes me seem like I might be on acid, I'm not though, I'm not even on coffee.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:54 AM on July 7, 2014

The hint that woot had been purchased was when they created the sub-site "sellout.woot.com".

When I first saw woot, I thought the idea was genius - their goal looked to clear between 1k and 10k per day, depending on what they were selling. Also the general attitude of hating on you, themselves and the products was win-win-win. I still have things from woot that still work, including a pair of RC cars that are exceptionally good for the price. It looks like they've brain-starved woot for the new business, although woot is still in my daily check list (mostly for t-shirts).
posted by plinth at 7:11 AM on July 7, 2014

They have never shipped to Canada, so they're dead to me. It didn't stop le hilarity of a Toronto startup I was at working out an insane plan for Buffalo NY-based drop shipping just after Woot started. Yes, they spent over $100 on shipping and brokerage for something worth about $10.
posted by scruss at 7:16 AM on July 7, 2014

The hint that woot had been purchased was when they created the sub-site "sellout.woot.com".

Actually, that came almost three years before Amazon came a-courtin'. It was originally a partnership between Woot and Yahoo Shopping.

(Which, I suppose, highlights the point that Woot was already on a downward slide before then, though Amazon certainly accelerated it.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 8:22 AM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Woot was dead to me when they stopped just charging $5 flat fee for shipping.
posted by General Malaise at 11:23 AM on July 7, 2014

Woot was dead to me when they stopped just charging $5 flat fee for shipping.

They still have that. In fact, it's a $5 flat fee for as much stuff as you want across the now-sprawling site.

The only thing I can think of that you might be referring to is that it's not $5 across an entire Woot-Off?
posted by Shmuel510 at 11:44 AM on July 7, 2014

Yeah, I should have been more clear.
posted by General Malaise at 12:17 PM on July 7, 2014

I was a hardcore wooter for about five years, 2006 - 2011. I checked the sites every night, even on vacation, and texted my friends if there was a woot-off or Bag of Crap. In the forums, I have the black box that marks 100+ purchases. I lost count of how many BOCs I bought. (It's around ten.) I have three different Woot in-joke shirts. My watch, TV, receiver, and subwoofer all come from Woot.
Then they sold their soul. What part of "One Day, One Deal" does Amazon not understand? I stopped checking the site, and have made only two purchases since 2012, both of them shirts. I wonder if Woot is being used as a case study in Marketing classes yet. They were loved, but then they abandoned the things that made them special, and (from what I have seen), their customers lost interest.
posted by Tool of the Conspiracy at 1:13 PM on July 7, 2014

It seems to me it's like the retail equivalent of what happens to niche cable TV channels:
  • They start off and struggle a bit, but muddle through and try to provide a different/new option.
  • A core fanbase comes in, and the place starts to do better.
  • The niche thing begins to do better, if not well, and attracts the interest of bigger money. New investors come in, and the plan is now to bridge the gap between the general public and the smaller community who are already users.
  • Beloved features get taken down to make room for more mainstream stuff, until the place is but a husk of its old self.
  • See: TechTV, SciFi.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:35 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Meh.com has their Day Zero sale today, open to Kickstarter backers only. There's a hard limit of 1,413 purchasers possible -- the number of Kickstarter backers. So far (8:30-ish AM EDT) the uptake seems kinda' light: 1,200 people visited, 300 shirts bought. Maybe people will circle around and buy later? I dunno; that seems very un-WootMeh-like. Maybe people on the west coast are going to be shopping at conventional times rather than at the tick of 11 PM, so the big rush won't happen for three for four hours yet. Maybe the item on offer was generally considered underwhelming.

Since the exact launch date hadn't been announced, it meant nobody was camping on the refresh button and buying on impulse, like in the good old days. I'm guessing tonight's Day One sale is going to go down a little differently.
posted by ardgedee at 5:36 AM on July 8, 2014

Appropriately, the first open-to-the-public Meh offering is a Roomba.

Meanwhile, over on Woot, the moderators are smacking down any direct references to Meh. People have tried posting the Roomba deal on Deals.Woot; that's been deleted. They've tried posting questions there asking why that deal was deleted; those questions were deleted.

A couple of more cryptic queries have been allowed to stand so far, as has one of the entries to this week's Shirt.Woot derby.
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:13 AM on July 9, 2014

Okay, that shirt design is hilarious. Albeit only as an in-joke.
posted by ardgedee at 11:10 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Aforementioned entry to the Shirt.Woot derby got third place.

Woot! is selling a Meh. shirt. I can't tell you how tempting it is to get this, but the recursiveness might kill me.
posted by ardgedee at 4:09 AM on July 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

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