Why I can't root for Woot anymore

The big daddy of daily deal sites has descended into chaos. Crave writer Amanda Kooser reminisces about the good old days and shares her sorrow at what Woot has become.

Woot monkey
The Woot monkey doesn't have much to scream about anymore. Woot

Gather 'round, children. Let me tell you a story. There once was this Web site called Woot. All the geek boys and girls (including this one) gathered there at midnight Central Time to refresh their pages and delight in the new deal of the day. They poured in for great festivals called Woot-Offs and chatted together to their hearts' delight. It was a time of magic and commerce and geekery run wild.

Not all good things last, though. One day, this geek gal woke up and realized she forgot to check in on Woot the night before, so she went to the site. There was a Woot-Off going on, but she didn't jump into the comments section to join in. Instead, she said "meh," and went back to work. Woot had lost its luster. Here's why.

I suppose it was inevitable. Woot was acquired by Amazon back in 2010. That didn't have to mean the end of Woot as we knew it, but it did. Woot founder Matt Rutledge resigned in the middle of 2012, saying he didn't fit in at the big online retailer.

PowerSquid on Woot
I bought three of these! This one silly item racked up 452 comments back in 2008. Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Here's the thing. Woot and its burgeoning community of geeks who got together to buy crazy things such as screaming monkeys, Leak Frogs, and refurbished televisions, didn't fit in at Amazon, either. It was just too eccentric to slot smoothly into a big company that thrives on being orderly. So all those crazy edges got hacked off until it did fit. The community of people who would run comments up into the thousands began to fade along with the deal-of-the-day focus.

Months ago, I bought a hair dryer from Woot. It was a half-hearted purchase, a last hurrah. I miss those days of buying PowerSquids for $4 and a 3-pound wheel of blue cheese for $35. I no longer stay up late watching Woot-Offs. I no longer check what crazy things my fellow geeks are posting in the discussions, mostly because those crazy, funny things simply aren't there anymore.

If you check the Woot community discussions, you'll see I'm not alone. Plenty of people are complaining about the sheer masses of deals now posted on Woot. "There is too much on each page and it really destroys the simplicity that was an integral part of Woot! to me," writes Wooter suzika. What was once a quaint little site has become an unwieldy behemoth. "Boy, what an ugly/busy/convoluted site," writes Wooter SockV.

Some of the deals are just 20 percent off or so, not the killer bargains they once were that could hit a discount of more than 50 percent. I don't really blame Amazon for taking Woot in the direction it has. This approach is all Amazon knows. It's just too bad it had to stomp out a fun little corner of geek commerce and camaraderie in the process. But hey, that's business.

Every now and then, Amazon throws longtime Wooters a bone in the form of a screaming Woot monkey or a Woot Monopoly game, but it just serves to remind me of how much fun Woot used to be. I don't know if it's just a matter of Woot fading into mediocrity, or if the whole deal-of-the-day genre is tapped out. Are you still a Woot devotee or has your passion faded? Tell me in the comments.

 

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