It seems like a sell sign.
With Amazon.com Inc.'s stock falling to earth, founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is bidding for a one-pound meteorite on the company's online auction site. Symbolism aside, here's something to give investors pause: Bezos is being outbid.
The 403-gram meteorite, which the seller said crashed in China 500 years ago, is only one of the items sought by the 35-year-old billionaire. Bezos keeps a low profile by calling himself "Jeff," never letting on that the site is his creation and that he could afford all the curios in cyberspace. An Amazon.com spokesman yesterday confirmed the CEO's online identity.
Bezos's taste? It runs from the high brow to the low. Since March he has spent $11,100 for a signed photograph of Albert Einstein and $39.99 for a miniature model of Thomas Edison's first lamp. He also bought a 1970s Elmer Fudd pencil sharpener for $3 and a "great rhinestone **puppy** pin" for $12.99.
He dropped $810 for a collection of "Star Wars" action figures and trading cards, which included a Darth Vader collector's case and an Imperial Snowtrooper. For $3 he bought a 8-by-10-inch black and white photograph of Shirley Temple dancing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
As a seller, Bezos parted with an Alanis Morissette CD, which fetched $10, and also sold a terry cloth Sheraton Towers hotel robe. In describing the item, Bezos said he had worn the robe only once -- "Can't assure who else might have worn it previously" -- and said he had paid the hotel for it.
Like its chief competitor, eBay Inc., Amazon allows participants to build a reputation online by encouraging buyers and sellers to publicly rate one another on the site. Bezos has won mostly high marks, with one buyer exulting, "Such a good experience I would definitely do business with him again."
But a buyer who paid $56 for Bezos's red Swiss army knife was less impressed. "Sent him a check 30 days ago, haven't gotten my item yet," wrote the winning bidder on May 15. A day later, the knife arrived and an update appeared: "Slow delivery, but item arrived. Call it 3 stars" out of a possible five.
As for the meteorite, Bezos bid $225 for it June 9, but quickly was overtaken by three other shoppers and as of yesterday, he needed to offer $285 to leap back into the lead. The auction ends Wednesday.
Among the questions raised by this online activity: How does a guy in the middle of the online book and auction wars take time to sell his Swiss army knife? Why did it take 31 days to mail the knife if Amazon.com can deliver thousands of books all over the world in less than three days? And should investors fret about Bezos's financial footing if he doesn't pony up $285 for the space rock?
The Amazon spokesman said yesterday that Bezos was traveling and could not return a phone call.
CAPTION: Among the items Amazon.com chief Jeffrey Bezos has bought or sold online: a signed photo of Albert Einstein; Swiss army knife; Alanis Morissette CD.