Amazon buys online gadget thrift store Woot

30 Jun 2010

An online store called Woot that anticipated profitability by 2043 has been bought by Amazon for an undisclosed sum.

The company, which will operate independently of Amazon, chose to announce the news via a rap video.

Woot, which began life in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, is an electrics wholesaler run by Matt Rutledge and offers one piece of discounted technology product every day, such as an iPod until that stock runs out, while spinout versions of Woot offer T-shirts and wine. Buyers are limited to buying three of the particular item on sale that day.

Its one-deal-a-day business model has been emulated by scores of websites in the US.

Woot’s irreverent marketing style – embodied in the tagline ‘I Want One!’ – often mocks the products on sale and includes daily podcasts about that day’s sales with a humorous song, rap or skit.

The company also conducts Photoshop contests among forum users for cash prizes or a Monkey prize for an item of little or no value.

“We think now is the right time to join with Amazon because, quite simply, every company that becomes a subsidiary gets two free downloads until the end of July, and we very much need that new thing with Trent Reznor’s wife on our iPods,” wrote Rutledge in his blog.

“Other than that, we plan to continue to run Woot the way we have always run Woot – with a wall of ideas and a dartboard. From a practical point of view, it will be as if we are simply adding one person to the organisational hierarchy, except that one person will just happen to be a billion-dollar company that could buy and sell each and every one of you like you were office furniture.

“Nevertheless, don’t worry that our culture will suddenly take a leap forward and become cutting-edge. We’re still going to be the same old bottom-feeders our customers and readers have come to know and love, and each and every one of their pre-written insult macros will still be just as valid in a week, two weeks, or even next year. For Woot, our vision remains the same: somehow earning a living on snarky commentary and junk.

“We are excited about doing this for all sorts of reasons. One, our business model is so vague that there’s no way Amazon can possibly change what it is we’re truly doing: preparing the way for the rise of the Lava Men in 2012. Also, our deal means that Jason Toon will finally be released from that Mexican jail owned by Zappos honcho Tony Hsieh. No, don’t lie, Tony, we’ve seen the paperwork.

“And we need a powerful ally in case Steve Jobs finally breaks down and comes after us for all our Apple jokes over the years. Don’t think of it as a buyout; think of it as NATO!” Rutledge proclaimed.

He has promised the company culture will not change: “Amazon is interested in us because they recognise the value of our people, our brand, and our unique style of deep-tissue, toxin-releasing massage.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years