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Case Rip Cord Returns to the RC

Some RC reruns:

Anasazi Exclusive Salon Products, Inc.: The Artistic Director decided to name the company after an ancient Native American tribe because of their innovative artistry, oral tradition, and social awareness. He neglects to mention that this tribe disappeared suddenly and without a trace around AD 1300 for reasons still unknown to archaeologists today. Perhaps the VCs would want to know such a fact if the founders are planning to pattern themselves so completely after the Anasazi? Also of note is that “Anasazi” is a Navajo word meaning “ancient people who are not us.”

Apple Computer and Ford Motor Company’s Value Enhancement Plan: Could Apple CEO John Sculley save Apple like he had Pepsi? No, of course not. Didn’t you see the case nimbly foreshadow his doom when they mentioned his affiliation with a lesser MBA program in Philadelphia? Also, Steve Jobs named the new Apple computer “Lisa” after his daughter, after apparently failing to read the case about Edsel Ford and his family. And this Ford case, which focuses on the family’s preoccupation with liquidity in the face of marital failures, shows the first problematic relationship between the Ford and Firestone families, as Exhibit 5 shows William Clay Ford’s marriage to Martha Firestone.

Leadership Online: Barnes & Noble vs. Amazon.com: The case says Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ graduated summa cum laude from Princeton, but he seems to have some serious issues understanding scale. Some questions for him: If his statement that “There aren’t any 800-pound gorillas in bookselling” is true, where are the profits? And where does he get the slogan “Earth’s biggest river-Earth’s biggest bookstore?” Neither half is true. Sure, the Amazon carries more water than the Nile, but big rivers are measured like golfers-by length. Maybe he’s just avoiding Africa because the gorillas live there? Barnes & Noble went on to challenge the second half of the slogan in court.

And how about that sweet video of Bezos from Cyberposium 2000, where he said a 400-square foot warehouse was the same size as a one-car garage. Now a room twenty feet on each side is awfully big for one car, but I guess Bezos only drives cars large enough to hold a couple gorillas and their library. And was anyone else disturbed by that maniacal laugh after he said people described his company as “Amazon.org,” because they’re clearly a not-for-profit company? Is it any wonder the software driving these companies’ customization software was derived from computerized dating applications?

Singapore: John Andrews wrote in The Economist: “Singapore was doomed to live on the wits of its people. They were not a promising mix.” That’s not very nice, and this guy probably chews gum. Glad they proved him wrong.

Tax Cuts of 1964: Chairman of President Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers Walter Heller writes, “Our economy is basically healthy, but one doesn’t treat an elephant’s earache with an eyedropper. (This metaphor has not been certified by [Harvard Professor and Ambassador to India John Kenneth] Galbraith.)” Wonder if Galbraith ever gave the endorsement, or if Heller was forced to come up with something else?
The Origins of National Income Accounting: Quite a quote from Vladimir I. Lenin, “Socialism is first of all accounting.” Now we see why HBS, the bastion of capitalism that it is, names our Accounting course “Financial Reporting and Control.”

A special thanks to Michael Polay (OA) for this week’s first two EC cases:
India’s Intellectual Property Rights Regime and the Pharmaceutical Industry: This MITI case provides a very subtle example of branding. “[The chairman of an Indian pharmaceutical company] claimed that he made every Pfizer product and sold them around the world for a fraction of the price that Pfizer charged. For instance, [they] manufactured the active ingredient in Viagra, sildenafil citrate, for 2 cents a pill, and marketed it in countries such as Yemen and Sudan under the ‘Erecto’ brand.”

From Geek to Man: Excerpts from : Michael Lewis writes in his classic, “A geek is a carnival performer who bites the head off live chickens and snakes. Or so says the red American Heritage dictionary. At Salomon Brothers in London, a geek means whatever the traders said it meant, and they had two definitions, neither of which bore any resemblance to the dictionary’s. Upon my arrival a trader told me that a geek was both (a) ‘any person who sucks farts from swans’ and (b) ‘a person immediately out of the training program and in a disgusting larval state between trainee and man.’ ‘I,’ he said, ‘was a geek.'”

Talbot’s-A Classic: “Older customers were concerned about the skirt lengths.” Why not keep the dirty old men out of women’s stores?
Winthrop Park Development: This real estate case looks at the HBS grad who renovated Grendel’s and the other buildings on the block down JFK Street between the House of Blues and Tower Records. The developers had to fight the city of Cambridge and a group of communists called the Cambridge Historical Commission to make improvements to the buildings. At one commission meeting, “A 14-year-old girl got up to decry the demolition of buildings ‘she would not be able to show her grandchildren.'”

One of these buildings was known as the “Blue Victorian,” and it was moved about fifty feet and rotated ninety degrees to face JFK Street, where it now houses Peet’s Coffee House. Interestingly, it is no longer blue. The case also states, “The ideal use for the heavily trafficked Mt. Auburn/JFK corner was MacDonald’s.” No wonder Cambridge and the commission won’t let fast food chains into Harvard Square-they can’t spell them correctly. In a related story, what’s the difference between

McDonald’s and Finagle-A-Bagel, anyway?
Please send the answer to that question along with comments on your cases to [email protected]

March 4, 2002
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