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Dot-com bust again?
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Most Kershaw County residents will no doubt recall the dot-com bubble of about 15 years ago, when a host of new Internet-based businesses saw their stock prices soar to stratospheric levels, only to come crashing violently to earth a short time later. Many of these companies had dizzyingly fast ascents on the stock market even though they produced no profits; some were barely more than concepts. The investing world declared that such a thing would never happen again, that investors had wised up to such pie-in-the-sky behavior.

But as people -- including supposedly savvy mutual funds managers -- have struggled to produce healthy returns for their clients, many have shown a proclivity to reproduce the dom-com bubble. Groupon is scheduled to have an initial public offering -- selling stock to the public -- next month, but whereas the company was once valued at $25 billion, that value is now plummeting among a variety of factors.

Groupon is an online couponing company. It offers daily deals in cities throughout the country, most of them with merchandise and services of various kinds at half price. The idea was that it would be a good idea for customers, who would save money, and for businesses, which would attract new customers who would conceivably come back and pay regular price. Groupon, of course, took a hefty cut for its role in putting the deals together.

But many merchants have complained they have lost money on the coupons and that the customers using them have no loyalty to them once their coupon has been used. Additionally, a host of competitive couponing companies have evolved. And finally, critics have accused the company of shady bookkeeping prices. The result is that the bloom is largely off the rose, and it remains to be seen what will happen when the public stock offering is held.

Investors naturally look for high returns, especially at a time when cash and certificates of deposit are bring anemic ones. The rush to jump on the Groupon bandwagon early proves once again that history does indeed repeat itself, and that the more things change, the more they stay the same.