The Week's Winners and Losers: Delta's $5 Airfares, Delayed Deliveries, Chrome Shines, McDonald's Dissed

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delta fare glitch
John Amis/AP
From airfares that were too cheap to be true to delays in Santa's delivery schedule, here's a rundown of the week's best and worst news from the business world.

Delta (DAL) -- Loser
Folks hoping to save on post-holiday travel must have been pinching themselves on Delta's website on Thursday morning when they saw fares for as little as $5. It was a glitch. Delta caught it, shut down its site, and fixed it. However, there were still plenty of folks booking roundtrip flights for just a few bucks.

Delta knows that it would be disastrous to cancel all of the bookings. It will honor the lower fares. However, in a cutthroat industry where fares mean everything the move could hurt Delta's bottom line on flights that would've filled up with folks willing pay full fares. Kudos to Delta for doing the right thing, but it still wound up making a costly mistake this week.

Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winner
Retailers typically take days to let the market know how the holiday shopping season played out, but Amazon waited only until the day after Christmas to gush about its accomplishments.

In a press release on Thursday Amazon detailed its success during the critical season.
It sold enough Hot Wheels cars to cover the entire length of Daytona's famous speedway. It sold enough running shoes to outfit all of the runners of the 10 largest marathons.

Amazon is prone to use this kind of colorful language, but those looking for hard numbers would be impressed to learn that during the third week of December a million people signed up for Amazon Prime -- the online retailer's loyalty shopping club that provides a year of subsidized deliveries and online perks for $79 a year. It also sold a record 36.8 million items worldwide during Cyber Monday.

Yes, Amazon is still the top dog of e-tail.

UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX) -- Losers
Amazon may have been the big winner of the holiday shopping season, but the parcel delivery specialists aren't looking so hot. Several orders placed for shipped deliveries failed to arrive on time by Christmas Eve, and the brunt of the blame seems to be falling on UPS and FedEx.

There's always a little bit of Grinch in every online retail Christmas, but this week the shortfalls seem historically significant. Too many people were placing last-minute orders slamming the UPS and to a lesser extent FedEx fleets.

As traditional retailers continue to offer online sales to folks wanting to avoid heading out to crowded malls it's a safe bet that online retail will continue to gain in popularity. UPS and FedEx better make sure that they are ready for even more orders next December.

Chromebooks -- Winner
Google's (GOOG) foray into netbooks hasn't been as successful as its Android mobile operating system for smartphones and tablets, but it seems to be gaining in popularity as a cheap alternative to MacBooks and Windows-fueled laptops.

Amazon's press release offered up its hottest sellers, and in the laptops category two of the three bestsellers were Samsung Chromebook and Acer Chromebook. It's easy to see the appeal of the portable devices running the Web-based Chrome operating system. They're cheap, starting at less than $200. They naturally don't run Windows, but apparently there are plenty of people that have steady online connections and don't need to play Windows-based PC games or run Microsoft Office. This could be why Microsoft (MSFT) was pointing its anti-Google Scroogled marketing campaign at the Chromebook in recent weeks.

McDonald's (MCD) -- Loser
Activists won't have McDonald's McResource Line website to kick around anymore. The fast food giant is shutting down the website after another embarrassing incident. Reports indicate that the internal website dedicated to helping McDonald's employees recommends that they don't eat too much fast food so they don't get overweight.

McDonald's counters that the comments were taken out of context and that it has beefed up its selection of healthier offerings including salads, oatmeal, and smoothies. Either way, this wasn't the first time that activists pushing McDonald's to pay its employees more found ammo within the chain's internal resources.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, FedEx, Google, McDonald's and United Parcel Service. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Google, McDonald's and Microsoft.


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