With seemingly everyone convinced that the tech industry is currently experiencing a bubble, and more and more every day appearing certain that the pop is imminent, The Wall Street Journal is now reporting on the latest metric by which we can gauge how close we are to the edge of financial ruin: Sales of ping pong tables. Apparently, the paper argues, the humble ping pong table is the must-have feature of tech offices nationwide, and the sale of the tables — or corresponding lack thereof — correlates with the health of the industry overall. And guess what, kiddos: Sales are bad.
“Last year, the first quarter was hot” for sales, Simon Ng, who owns San Jose's Billiard Wholesale, explained to the paper. Now, however, “there’s a general slowdown.”
Ng isn't the only one who believes there is some sort of relationship between table sports and technology industry growth. Russell Hancock of Joint Venture Silicon, a company that tracks economic trends, sees something there as well. Buying a ping pong table “tracks most closely with startups that hit that threshold where they’re taking out office space,” he told the paper. “That’s when you’re going to get your first ping-pong table.”
Ng told the Journal that Yahoo, which is reportedly laying off chunks of its workforce, hasn't purchased tables "in a looong time." Intel, which just last month announced it would cut 12,000 jobs, also stopped buying tables a while ago. Google, on the other hand, has kept the orders coming.
Maybe, however, the companies have simply already purchased all the tables they need? Regardless, the good folks at Yahoo want everyone to know that their company is still a fun place to work. “I can assure you that people are still playing ping pong at Yahoo,” Yahoo spokesperson Carolyn Clark told the paper. Whether or not that means anything for a company that has struggled in recent years to find its footing is anyone's guess. And anyway, there's a different indicator that, according to venture capitalist Joseph Floyd, works better than table tennis: "You could probably track Odwalla juices.”