Amazon buy irreverent “snarky” site Woot
Giant online retailer Amazon.com has agreed to buy irreverent “snarky” site Woot, which sells one thing at a time and makes fun of its customers and itself. Woot has been a wholesaler to Amazon, and CEO Matt Rutledge said without exclusive deals, the business model would be “stupid.” Amazon has been Woot’s sole outside investor.
Amazon.com, which sells practically everything, has agreed to buy Woot, an online discount retailer that offers only one product at a time. “Today,” Woot CEO Matt Rutledge wrote in an open letter, “is a big day in Woot history” because “I woke up to find Jeff Bezos the Mighty had seized our magic sword.” The terms of the agreement were not announced.
The company, which Rutledge said earns “a living on snarky commentary and junk,” started in July 2004 as an employee store and marketing test site for an electronics distributor. Based in Carrolton, Texas, Woot also owns several specialty sites, including wine.woot.com and shirt.woot.com. The site, which defines itself as “an online store and community that focuses on selling cool stuff cheap,” has about 2.75 million registered users.
‘The Way We Always Have’
Rutledge said the company plans to “continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot — with a wall of ideas and a dartboard.” He added that, organizationally, it will be as if one person is added to the organizational hierarchy, “except that one will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office Relevant Products/Services furniture.”
The main Woot site specializes in electronics products, a single one of which is offered until the supply is exhausted, or until midnight central time, at which point it’s replaced. If an item sells out before midnight, no new item appears until midnight.
Woot is also a wholesaler to Amazon and others, which gives it access to exclusive arrangements. Rutledge has told news media that, without exclusive deals, “the whole construct of this business model is rather stupid.”
In July last year, Amazon bought online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos.com for $847 million, and in January 2008 it purchased audio-book retailer Audible for $300 million. Amazon had been Woot’s sole outside investor.
Some retail-industry observers have noted that Amazon and Woot represent opposite ends of buying motivation. Some people browse Amazon, but mostly buyers are looking for a particular item, while Woot is the kind of site one visits to see if the daily special is something you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
In addition, Amazon has been careful to cultivate the image of a highly responsive, infinitely huge store, while Woot is a small and irreverent shop that often makes fun of itself and its customers. “We offer no guarantees, we allow no back orders, and we have no waiting/notification lists,” it says on its web site. “Too bad.”
In a FAQ on its site about whether a customer Relevant Products/Services can talk to a live person, the site says no, because it’s busy getting new products and shipping orders. To get product answers, it recommends Googling for a manufacturer’s site, as well as a “dating service Relevant Products/Services, Magic 8 Ball, or Ouija board for general life solutions.”