Previous “Ridiculous Products” posts

Ridiculous Products: Idiotic COVID-19 Touch Tools

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

If you’ve been reading the news online, watching television, listening to the radio, or having conversations with any other human beings, you may be aware that there’s a global pandemic going on. It’s smart to take some basic safety precautions to protect yourself and others. This includes social distancing, frequent hand washing, and wearing a mask when you go out.

What you really don’t need is a fake metal finger to touch things for you. And yet, in recent days I have been shown five different variations of a “touch tool”, via ads on Instagram and other places.


These are promotional images from five different products.

Firstaball1, just how many elevator buttons is the average person pressing in a day, particularly these days? And secondaball2, has no one considered just using a knuckle?

I suspect part of the reason I’m seeing this pop up so much is that I just can’t stop clicking the ads. The first time, my sheer amazement at the stupidity of the idea compelled me to learn more. Since then, I’ve been stunned that hey, there’s a different version of the same nonsense again. The various robots working behind the scenes are undoubtedly mistaking my clicks for serious interest in this ludicrous concept.

From the $6 “Clean Key” by “Vetted Security solutions” (who also offer an optional $15 Tiger King-themed paint job) all the way up to the egregiously expensive $35 “Keychain Touch Tool” from Peel, it seems everyone is looking to cash in by making a touch tool. Three of them are even using the exact same “Clean Key” name! One claims to be “The Original Clean Key”, but much like a Ray’s Pizza in New York City, you should be skeptical.

Meanwhile, KeySmart’s version of the CleanKey has the benefit of looking sort of like a Tommy Gun:

If you get this model, you can make rat-a-tat-tat machine gun sounds as you imagine you’re blowing away the virus. You won’t be, of course, but it’s fun to pretend. Keep the change, ya filthy pathogen!

KeySmart’s site features an infomercial-style video, which included this delightfully cheesy frame:

The “As Seen On TV” production values you see should tell you a lot about what we’re dealing with here.

However, the version I’ve seen advertised most often makes a point of focusing on quality. The COVID-KEY is made by Milspin, a company which sells “high end CNC products for American patriots”. That appears to mean making accessories for motorcycles and firearms that feature all manner of trademark infringement, as well as juvenile quips like “Get McFucked”. But hey, if you need your handgun to show off the brand of chewing tobacco you favor, Milspin has you covered:


Barvd 🙊

Milspin is making their own claims to originality, urging customers not to fall for “the knock-off pre-order China made keys!”, which appears to be a jab directed at KeySmart.

Regardless of who makes it, or in what country, a touch tool remains a useless waste of time, energy, and material. The design implies you should attach it to your keychain, where you also have, ya know, keys. If you really feel the need to avoid pressing buttons, those keys themselves have you covered pretty well.

It’s true that a standard key can’t grip and pull, while these tools can. But after they do, they’re going into your pocket or purse. Unless the tool is sanitized after each use, it’s just going to serve as a possible vector for moving the virus onto your other possessions. When you reach in to pull it out again, you’re definitely getting virus all over your hands.

The idea for this trumpery3 is itself like a virus, one which has infected metal fabricators across the internet. It’s often said the great minds think alike. The proliferation of these touch tools makes it clear that dumb minds think alike as well.


Footnotes:

  1. This is an amazing formulation I received in an email from someone for whom English was a second language. I have since adopted it for comedic purposes. ↩︎

  2. Honestly, “secondaball” cracks me up even more, but I seldom manage to get to it in conversation. ↩︎

  3. Unlike the two previous example this is a real word in the dictionary and everything. It has centuries of history, but I learned of it only recently. It’s a fancier way of saying “crap”:

    I can’t believe “trumpery” hasn’t gotten traction in the past four years. Let’s change that! ↩︎

Sadly, the Coupons Do Not Work 

Friday, January 31st, 2020

For years and years, CVS has been the butt of jokes related to their absurdly long receipts. The fact that they continue to print these ridiculous monster receipts despite the widespread mockery might indicate it drives more sales. However, the fact that no other store has followed suit would seem to indicate the opposite.

Whatever the truth is, you can now buy a scarf or necktie patterned after the receipts.

Bad at Rounding and Writing

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

After posting yet another tale of my Apple Dumbwatch on October 7th, I heard from several readers who correctly guessed that my screenshot might be from earlier in the month. In fact, I’d actually taken it on October 4th. Given that, it appeared that the Activity app might actually be doing live or live-ish updates to the required per-day average. Did that explain the seemingly bad math? It turns out the answer is yes, but it also exposes several other issues. Let’s have a look.

First, I looked back at a screenshot from earlier in the day on October 4th. This was snapped at 4:02 PM:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, this says “about 79”. I had 2,236 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (counting the 4th) remaining. How does that math check out?

2,236 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.86 minutes/day

Now, 79.86 minutes per day is sort of close to “about 79”, but it really ought to be “about 80”. Also, remember that at 4 PM, the 4th is already 2/3 over.

My original image was from 10:37 PM of that same day, October 4th. Here it is again:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

As you can see, I’d done some more Exercise minutes since 4 PM. I now had 2,214 minutes left to obtain, and 28 days (again, counting the 4th) remaining. The math on this actually works out to just over 79 minutes:

2,214 minutes remaining/28 days remaining = 79.07 minutes/day

That certainly is close to 79, though again, if you do 79 minutes a day, you’ll come up short. Worse, at this point the 4th was nearly over, yet it was still being counted in the averaging. That seems like a problem.

Finally, I did a check on the 7th, at 11 AM. Here, you can see that the estimate has gone up, as I’ve fallen slightly off the pace:

Challenge stating 'Earn this award with 2560 Exercise minutes - that's about 79 minutes a day'.

One more time, let’s check that math.

2,107 minutes remaining/25 days remaining = 84.28 minutes/day

As before, this is close enough to “about 84” for Apple’s purposes, at least. Clearly, Activity is doing live tracking as the month progresses, rather than just doing one calculation (2560 minutes /31 days = 82.58 minutes/day)). That’s a nice idea, but there are several obvious problems here. Specifically:

  • The current text fails to indicate that the estimate provided is for the remainder of the month. Something like this could be an improvement:

    “Get 2560 Exercise minutes this month to earn this award. You’ve earned 453 minutes so far, so you just have 2,107 left to go. That’s about 84 Exercise minutes a day, for the rest of the month.”

    That would make it much more obvious that this estimate is for the rest of the month.

  • Activity is counting the current day in its averaging, no matter when in the day you are. Surely at 10:37 PM, or worse, 11:59 PM, the current day should not be counted fully in the averaging.

  • Finally, anything over X minutes should be rounded up to X+1 minutes, to avoid ever coming up short. So, 79.8, and even 79.1, should become “about 80”.

It seems I was incorrect in maligning the Apple Watch’s math skills. However, its rounding skills could definitely do with some improvement, as well as its copyediting.

Ridiculous Products: Sexy Beyond Burger Costume

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

Today marks the first day of October, which means it’s time to buckle down and decide what type of sexy you’ll be this Halloween.1 Will you be a sexy nurse? Perhaps a sexy pirate? You can even be a sexy Mr. Rogers.2 You know you have to be some kind of sexy, and the options are nearly limitless in the awfulness that is 2019.

New this year is a sexy Beyond Burger costume. This is problematic in multiple ways. In addition to its name likely being a trademark violation, it’s also the sexualization of a veggie burger. That’s more than a little bizarre, which I suppose pretty standard when it comes to modern costumes.

Initially, I thought the bestworst3 part of the whole thing was the headband. Multiple fake meat purveyors have had restaurants place little flags on their burgers, to serve as a tiny form of advertising. This costume goes with the more generic “plant based” phrase, which has become incredibly trendy in 2019, but the idea is the same.

However, this implies 1) That your brain is plant-based, which sounds sort of like an insult, and 2) That there’s a massive toothpick stuck right through your skull. The latter is actually rather on-point for a proper, scary Halloween costume, so maybe this horrible idea could be redeemed with a bit of stage makeup and effects.

There’s no redeeming the actual worst part though, which is this:

A stamp on the rear end of the costume says 'Certified Not Grade A'.

I guess the thinking was that since it’s not animal meat, your ass can’t be Grade A. But like the plant based brain, this too looks like an insult to the wearer. How about “Certified: Better Than Grade A”? Or “Certified: Hot!”. Anything would be better than this. Also, your ass kind of is animal meat, when you get right down to it.

This one detail alone is almost as bad as the previously featured Bad Ass socks. The total of all of it is much worse.


Footnotes:

  1. Alternately or synonymously, “slutty↩︎

  2. This may be a new low, and even more ridiculous than the Beyond costume. It’s also deeply, deeply weird, so weird that I don’t feel I can cover it properly. To each their own, I know, but if you’re a person who finds this appealing, I don’t know what to say to you. That hairpiece is something else. ↩︎

  3. I was torn as to which word to use here, and wound up creating a new one instead. I rather like it. ↩︎

A Cool New Way to Die While Camping 

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

A floating tent seems like a bad idea on every single level, and yet Smithfly apparently can’t keep up with demand.

My Lone Black Friday Purchase

Friday, November 24th, 2017

When I wrote about the Pringles “Thanksgiving Dinner” on Wednesday, I considered tying in the following image, which I had recently seen:

This image appeared in a tweet, and while it was the source of much amusement, its provenance was entirely unclear. I assumed that this was an earnest Pringles knock-off, perhaps found in some South American country where intellectual property could be infringed upon with impunity.

In fact, I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to figure out just what was up. After chuckling about the Prongles slogan (“Once You Pop…THAT’S GREAT!”), I spent a few minutes trying to nail down if Pringles actual slogan had been “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop” or “Once you pop, you can’t stop” (Answer: Both, apparently). That search led me to a set of truly ’80s-tastic commercials which included a young Brad Pitt. This ad in particular really cracked me up, due to the nonsensical way one of the guys is literally pouring chips on his own face: 1

The spot gets even better, as a few seconds later another tank-top wearing bro is spotted double-fisting two cans of Pringles all over his own grill:

What a mess these dopes are making! How many takes of this do you think they did? I’d like to imagine it was dozens. These ads were certainly good for some laughs, but further Googling revealed nothing more about Prongles. I eventually set the whole thing aside as an amusing but unexplained curiosity.

This morning, however, branding analysis site Brand New featured an article about Prongles. I was a bit disappointed to learn that this was not an earnest knock-off. Instead, it was a prank by the folks behind party game Cards Against Humanity (CAH). In previous years, CAH has had outlandish Black Friday “promotions” including 2014’s literal boxes of bullshit, as well as 2015’s nothing, where customers paid $5 and receive absolutely nothing in return. Prongles are a bit of a departure from that style, but they’re pretty damned comical nonetheless.

Because I was driving by a Target in New Hampshire, I figured I’d stop in to see if I could find a real-life can of Prongles. When I arrived just before noon, Target’s door was in normal working order, so I can only assume it had been repaired since the store’s early AM opening. I wasn’t sure if I’d find any Prongles, nor where in the store they would be, but it seemed worth a few minutes of my time. Wandering through the grocery aisles, I spotted a single canister mixed in with real Pringles.

My first thought was that someone had intentionally placed a lone canister here in the hopes that an oblivious snacker would be fooled by them. Another possibility is that someone spotted the Prongles first elsewhere in the store, then said “Oh, this is what I wanted!” when they found the real Pringles. Either way, finding this mixed in was just perfect.

I quickly snapped a few photos, including a good comparison shot, then snatched the can up. I couldn’t find a full display anywhere in the food section, so I headed to the toy area. I found the Cards Against Humanity games section, but no Prongles display. Eventually, I asked a Target worker, and boy did I get lucky. When I showed him the can, he said “Ah, I stocked those yesterday! They’re on the end cap of aisle E1”. I walked over to find an empty shelf, where the tag said something like “CAH Game”. It seemed I had found the very last canister in the store. I purchased it for $3, and headed on my way.

Over lunch, I contemplated if I should open the can, or if that would ruin its value as an idiotic collector’s item. A web search revealed that the canister really did contain nothing but potato chips. In fact, it appears that CAH actually just re-branded chips from a company called “Good Crisp”.


[Photo source: Reddit user DaveLambert on Imgur]

There are a ton of interesting legal questions here. Will Pringles sue for trademark infringement? Does Good Crisp have a case against CAH for simply re-branding their product? Were either of those companies actually involved in the gag? I’ll be fascinated to see how it plays out.

Ultimately, this promotion is bizarre, and its exact purpose is unclear. The Prongles website actually claims Cards Against Humanity is getting out of the games business, but I’m certainly more than a little skeptical. The scheme has undoubtedly generated plenty of publicity for the company, and I suspect that will serve to sell many more copies of their game. If it does, I can only say good for them, and thank them for keeping reality weird. As for me, I’m delighted with the only thing I purchased on Black Friday.

Previously in off-beat retail: CVS’s Handmade Flu Shot Signs


Footnotes:

  1. As always, the video is archived here. ↩︎

No Cooking Required 

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

If the average Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t contain enough potatoes for you, try the Pringles “Thanksgiving Dinner”, which includes such monstrosities as cranberry sauce potato chips and green bean casserole potato chips.

Pumpkin Spice Everything

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

I joked yesterday that Boston Harbor now has a very slight (almost homeopathic) level of pumpkin spice flavor to it. However, unlike Boston Harbor last Sunday, pumpkin spice doesn’t actually contain any pumpkin. Instead, it has cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and of course, sulfiting agents, and it’s often used to make pumpkin dishes such as pumpkin pie.

You’ve probably noticed that pumpkin spice is taking over the world. It’s now a surer sign of fall than back to school sales, which start in June or so, or Halloween decorations, which appear in the supermarket as soon as the July 4th decorations come down. When pumpkin spice beverages appear, that’s when you know fall is really on its way.

Given the tremendous quantity of pumpkin spice products out there, I thought I was inured to the fad. And yet, it was with no small amount of revulsion that I came upon this product in my local pharmacy:


It’s very difficult to get good lighting inside a CVS.

Yes folks, for a limited time, you can soothe your sore throat with pumpkin spice cough drops. If the thought of that makes you sick, well, be sure to grab some Pepto-Bismol while you’re there.

Ridiculous Products: Kérastase Hair Coach

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The Consumer Electronics Show (also known as CES) just finished up last week, and as always, it was full of a plethora of technology you almost certainly don’t need. While it can be fun to see what’s coming in the future, it’s perhaps more enjoyable to laugh at the bizarre future some companies envision. To that end, allow me to present the Kérastase Hair Coach.

If you’ve ever thought “This hair brush just isn’t smart enough”, while also thinking “I’d be willing to spend almost two hundred dollars on a hairbrush”, then the Hair Coach is for you. Of course, it’s likely that this site is not for you, so you may wish to stop reading now.


The Hair Coach is much like Zoolander, in that it’s not an ambi-turner, and also because it’s very stupid.

The CEO of Withings, the company behind the Hair Coach, was quoted as saying “The last thing we want to do is turn a simple device into a complex device”. So naturally, his company added wi-fi and Bluetooth to a hairbrush. But they didn’t stop there. The brush also includes (taken directly from their press release):

  • A microphone that listens to the sound of hair brushing to identify patterns, providing insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage.

  • 3-axis load cells that measure the force applied to the hair and the scalp when brushing.

  • An accelerometer and a gyroscope which help further analyze brushing patterns and count brush strokes, with haptic feedback signaling if brushing is too vigorous.

  • Conductivity sensors to determine if the brush is being used on dry or wet hair, in order to provide an accurate hair measurement.

If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t brushing up to your full potential, the solution is here. If you were perfectly at peace with your hair brushing, and your life in general, I’m sorry to tell you those days are over. You’re bad at brushing, and you should feel bad about your brushing. Only the Hair Coach can save you now.

I recognize that I am far from the target market for this device. I won’t even venture a prediction that this product will be unsuccessful. I will however state, without equivocation, that this is a ridiculous product which should not exist.

Save Money. Destroy Capitalism.

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

This is a Banksy print (or more likely a Banksy-style print), which humorously depicts a line of people queued up to overpay for a t-shirt with the phrase “Destroy Capitalism” printed on it.

For reasons surpassing understanding, this print is for sale from Walmart, for a very affordable $76. It is often difficult to believe this world is real, and yet, here we are:


As seen on Walmart.com