Rewards and recriminations

Memo to media and other companies: make life difficult for customers at your own risk. BusinessWeek this week exposed the direct impact of Sony’s rootkit fiasco, noting that sales of Van Zant’s “Get Right With the Man,” one of the discs affected, plummeted from 887 to 25,802 in Amazon.com sales rankings in the last three weeks. Trey Anastasio’s weekly album sales have fallen by more than half.

In the Internet age, consumers respond heartily and rapidly to positive and negative changes in the commercial landscape. Easy video downloads on iTunes? Boom! A million sales in a few short weeks. Music CDs exposed as harmful to personal property? Bam! Sales fall through the floor.

Expect to see more and more of these effects as the general populace becomes more attuned to corporate habits, thanks to the simplicity of exposing the good and bad via email, forums, and blogs.

Just don’t bring her back to the store

Wal-Mart is getting attention for carrying high-end jewelry online this holiday season. A quick scan of walmart.com shows mid-grade diamond rings for around $5,000. Example: this 1.0 carat, G-H clarity, SI2 quality diamond in a simple solitaire setting for $5130.

Out of curiosity, I went to bluenile.com to compare prices, unsure whether Wal-Mart was willing and able to keep its trademark low margins on high-end merchandise. And it’s close. I pieced together this G-clarity, SI2, 1.01 carat diamond in a similar setting. Total price: $4605. Spending $5130 could have upgraded me to 1.08 or 1.09 carats with H clarity. I also could have spent a lot more money on the same size stone with better balance or other features. (SI2 isn’t all that special in the diamond world.)

In all, though, it’s not such a bad buy. Wal-Mart appears to be pricing some fluctuation into its list price, but its quality and cost are certainly fair. Zales charges $6999 for virtually the basic ring.

I am neither a jewelry nor a diamond expert, so this is just a casual observation from someone who knows a thing or two about buying diamonds. I’d personally go somewhere other than Wal-Mart (and Zales, for that matter) to buy my engagement ring. But for the casual shopper, it looks to be as honest as any storefront jeweler.

Retail Media

Today marks the public debut of my new weblog: Retail Media, a discussion of the increasing efforts by consumer-goods retailers to harness the power of the media. The blog is off to a juicy start thanks to Nordstrom Silverscreen and Saks’ new children’s book (read more). Retail Media will be updated regularly as retailers and brands make continued forays into publishing, broadcasting and interactive content. See you there.