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Top 5 Failed Brick and Mortar Internet Stores

By Brian Briggs filed Wednesday, June 2 3:00 AM ET

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Many have heard of the “I Sold It on eBay” stores, or at least of the “We Sell Your Stuff on eBay” store in The 40-Year-Old Virgin movie. At those stores, customers bring their unwanted items and the store sells those items on eBay. According to the company's website, they are the top seller on eBay. However, you may not have heard of some of the other Internet-related brick-and-mortar stores that haven't been so successful.

eBay StoreLet Me AltaVista that for You – It was the early days of the Internet, before Google ruled the roost in search. AltaVista held a share of the crown, and decided to capitalize on the search engine's online success by opening a small number of brick-and-mortar stores. In 1996 the company opened 10 storefronts in the Silicon Valley area. Trained search consultants would perform searches for people without Internet connections, or for customers who just didn't know how to spell. The experiment lasted for about 7 months before all the stores were closed.

I'll Stumble 4 Ya – In 2002 Boy George, front person of the 80s pop group Culture Club, paid social sharing site $2 million to license the concept of social sharing in the real world. The name of the store, a clever play on the group's 1983 hit “I'll Tumble 4 Ya”, attracted the interest of passersby to the company's London store. However, no one would pay Boy George anything to just click a mouse button for them, and the store closed in two weeks.

I Can Explain that XKCD Comic to You – Eric Brickman was tired of having to explain the popular XKCD comic to his friends, so he started charging them. When that paid off, he decided to go national with a chain of 40 stores in 15 states. Unfortunately for him, his friends were the only ones to pay for his service, and creditors took possession of the stores. Brickman is now looking for someone to fund his idea for a manned-mission to the sun.

Geocities-ify Your Home – In 1998 when venture capital money roamed the Earth, interior designers Isaac Frankenschmidt and Eliza Woodberry pitched an idea for a line of stores that would help people make their homes look more like pages on the popular Geocities websites. An initial round of funding helped the pair open 6 stores in southern California, but they quickly learned that no matter how much they liked the designs on Geocities, no one else did.

I Can Read those 4chan Comments to You – An idea dawned on Internet entrepreneur Wallace Chang that not many of people who post on the imageboard site, 4chan could read, so why not open a service to read comments to those people. As entertaining as some of the comments were, Chang underestimated the demand for such a service, and he closed his Michigan Avenue store after 3 months. Rumor has it that the store only had one customer.


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