What'n the heck is MobShop?

People were making fun of the name of Accompany, so the group-discount shopping site changed it to, um, well ...

Published March 29, 2000 5:00PM (EST)

Pssst ... This dot-com is going to make you an offer. An offer you can't refuse. At MobShop, the bosses promise to get members of the family deals on cheap merchandise. Bonus: No obsequious kissing of rings required.

Mobshop is the actual, if incredible, new name for the group-discount buying site formerly known as Accompany.

It wasn't so long ago that iOwn.com was called Homeshark; that was before someone got concerned that the name sounded a little too much like "loan shark" for a company that offers loans online. But apparently the organized crime overtones of Mobshop didn't scare off Zenmark, the San Francisco naming company that came up with the name, nor the MobShop "mobsters" themselves.

Of course, it's never been harder for entrepreneurs to find domain names that haven't been taken, but it's easy to see why this one was available. Mobshop is a company name that could invite smirks for any Web start-up, whatever its business. But it's particularly eyebrow-raising for a company that's all about bringing customers together in groups to get cheaper prices.

It's true that Accompany, the company's old name, was less than felicitous. Say the name aloud, and it sounds like "a company." As in: "Who do you work for?" "Accompany." "Which company?" "Accompany?"

The promotional literature explaining the name change said just as much. "We took about all the jokes we could take," whines the marketing copy. "We tried to be as clever as we could when telling you our name. We played up the Abbott & Costello routine ..." The old name Accompany met with stares and nervous laughter, it explains. But it's hard to imagine what kind of looks the new one will draw.

"Ultimately, you want a name that people are going to react to, positively or negatively you want them to react," says CEO Jim Rose, adding that he has yet to be dubbed the Godfather at the office.

Rose sees the new name as more likely to conjure up riotous English soccer fans than mobsters. "We wanted to choose an evocative, and provocative, name for our customers and partners to associate with group buying," he says. "The word 'mob' is defined as: 'to crowd with excessive enthusiasm.' That concept suits us perfectly; we are about serving mobs of excited, empowered buyers." Ba-da-bing. Ba-da-boom.

But take away the organized crime overtones, and it's hard to imagine the customers who are in a "psychographic" that would be drawn to the idea of being part of a mob, even boisterous soccer enthusiasts. If anything, with this name, the company should play up the mobster angle on the site to distinguish itself from the scores of other generic e-commerce sites.

Got any deals on mattresses?

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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