Overstock CEO receives honorable mention as worst exec of the year

The Big O Crap

Letters Just three days after our story on the oddities of Overstock.com CEO Patrick Bryne appeared, the "Biggest O" went and earned another dubious distinction. Byrne received an honorable mention in CBS MarketWatch's survey of the worst CEOs in 2005.

"If you're wondering why Patrick 'Sith Lord' Byrne of Overstock wasn't even among the finalists, despite his egregious and outlandish behavior, his company's string of disappointing results, his extreme IT mismanagement and the appearance that he generally runs his mouth more than his business - the reason is simple: At least his company's revenues through last quarter were still rapidly growing," wrote Herb Greenberg. "(Never mind about the other metrics!) There's always next year!"

(The worst CEO winner? Paul Eibeler of Take-Two Interactive for missing earnings expectations, struggling to get new video games out on time and watching Grand Theft Auto take on an "adult" rating.)

Many of you wondered if the notes from Bryne's call with financial analysts were real. Yes, indeed they are. You can download a PDF version of the transcript here or, if you have the time to spare, check out the audio replay here.

Now to the letters.

I'm not trying to make a joke -- Patrick's statements sound like the ravings of a very disturbed paranoid schizophrenic who hasn't been taking his medicine (not that I'm a psychologist, mind you). I just hope he gets some real help soon before he requires accomodations in a padded cell and straight jacket.

Scott Di Miceli

More importantly, one reader picked up on a key metric that we missed.

I find it very interesting that Overstocks rating at Yahoo Shopping is "Good" (3 out of 5) despite all the 1 star reviews?

At www.resellerratings.com Overstock is scoring 1.25 out of 10 over the last six months and its lifetime rating has dropped to 3.34 out of 10.

David Wilkinson

David is right. In the last six months, a total of 67 reviewers pounded Overstock for horrible customer service, tough return policies and vowed never to order from the company again.

Overstock just can't get it right. I think the folks who planned their expansion are the same ones who did the Children's Crusade. We got our merchandise in good order, purchased with a one-time debit card. (It' s something our bank is experimenting with and a very good idea.)

After completion of the transaction, Overstock tried "dozens" of times to collect again on the transaction. This according to our bank officer, speaking in confidence. That was enough of a red flag to keep us from using them again, though no harm was done at all. If they can't figure out when a transaction is complete, we want no part of them.

Jack I.

Thank you for this article. While I'm sorry for you, it's good to know that I wasn't singled out for such treatment by Overstock.com. I am currently in the middle of a similar problem and comiserated with your article on Overstock.



I think your problem with the big O is endemic with retailers in general. Retailers no longer have the drive or care about customer service or even have the fear of the BBB that they once had.

I'm sure you must have but have you reported O for mail fraud? I think shorting an order comes under that. From my personal experience they have helped many otherwise wayward online retailers suddenlyfind an order or a at least a refund.

As far as Mr. Byrne's ineptitude, what's clear is that he's crazy like a fox. This stupidity is nothing but a "Gotti" defense.


The big K at the big O

Of course it wasn't all praise. We received one critical e-mail.

Hello Patrick,

Regarding your experience with Overstock ( /2005/12/03/overstock_issues/ ):

While I agree that your experience with Overstock was unacceptable, I don't think you should use your journalistic avenues as a weapon. I feel that your article goes beyond relating a poor experience into the realm of angry rant. Your phrasing in many areas is harsh and even brutal. You give specific names of employees who may or may not have been just doing their job. I respect your right to write freely. However, it might be nice if you could ease up on the bitterness.

Respectfully, Josh

Great Article - I will definitely stay away from Overstock - it's disgusting the way they treated your order with the MP3 players and there customer service is perhaps one of the most atrocious I have ever read about, and I'll definately take your word for it.


"My bad"? Patrick Byrne is lame, as is Overstock.com's customer service. I think Mr. Byrne is a little bit of a scam artist. Great article you wrote in October on him, by the way. -

Mendel Tomas

And we close with a big one.

Hello Ashlee-

An interesting article, especially considering I had previously heard good things about them. However, nothing surprises me anymore, including formerly good companies going bad. I've had everything happen from companies backing out of warranties to the dreaded items never arriving. I don't know if it's always been like this or if it just seems worse because everyone can talk about it now.

Pretty much it's a waste of time to bother complaining about it, the only hope I've found is if enough money is involved just go right ahead and find the consumer services division of whatever state the company is in and file a complaint. Nowadays I stick to buying things from about five retailers I trust, even if they cost more. I've had too many experiences with people who charge my credit card in 30 seconds and then nothing arrives while they wait for the "fulfillment warehouse" to ship.

Which does bring me to one interesting thing. I was camera shopping this summer for a digital SLR, and thank goodness I used review websites to check up on the retailers, as I avoided the mess many people have fallen into.

It seems there's several fly-by-night companies, many based in or around New York, that spring up and offer great deals on cameras, with the exchanges going something like this:

Customer sees a bargain price on a Model X camera and places an order.

Customer immediately recieves an e-mail that they need to call as there's a "problem" with the order.

Customer calls, where the salesperson gets their credit card info, and immediately gives a heavy sales pitch for overpriced accessories. The battery in the camera only lasts five shots, you need to buy a bigger memory card, etc.

If the customer agrees, they end up spending more than the whole kit would have cost them from a reputable retailer. If they balk, the salesperson becomes extremely rude and belligerent, and after the phone is hanged up the order ends up being cancelled.

At least one explanation I've heard is these companies buy grey market cameras as complete kits, and then take all the accessories out, pricing the camera at a substantial markdown and yet never intending to sell it without all the overpriced accessories.

This happens so much and so often I'm surprised there hasn't been an investigation by somebody. If you want to see it for yourself, go to a review site like Reseller Ratings and look at the camera/video shops with low ratings, it's the same things over and over.

As it is I'm glad I got my D50 from a place without a hassle, and I plan to stick with the good companies I trust.


Scott Peterson


Other stories you might like

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021