The Best, The Only, And The Unexpected

I’ve covered stupid products before.
Sometimes they’re advanced (albeit delusional) scientific concepts like the MotionPower kinetic energy capture concept or its bastard child, the grocery store version. Sometimes they’re infomercial products like the JumpSnap or the HD Vision Ultras. Sometimes they’re massively overpriced novelty items like the Porsche watch. Throw in the shirt pocket digital projector, the doggie raincoat, and the trash-freezing trash can, and I’ve got quite a penchant (pronounced the snooty way) for consumer advice. God forbid I should, in my career in advertising, have to sell something I think is stupid. I will have to bring all of my not inconsiderable intelligence to bear on the issue, and it might be stressful.

I swear, this is on the first line of Google Images results for “stressful”

Anyway, I haven’t done anything from that gold mine of the unneeded that is Hammacher Schlemmer for a while, so I figured I’d take a gander through their “New Arrivals” and see what I found. The steps for selling something at HS are these: 1) find a problem no one has, 2) create a product no one needs that fixes the problem no one has, and 3) charge a price no one can afford to buy the product no one needs to fix the problem no one has. For your viewing pleasure, a sampling.

The Germ Eliminating Razor Sanitizer – $30

Description: “uses safe ultraviolet light to eliminate up to 99% of the germs that can accumulate on a razor…viruses and bacteria like Streptococcus, E. coli, and Salmonella.”

The Problem: What the fuck were you shaving? A pig carcass? How the hell did you get E. coli on your razor? Or Salmonella? That comes from raw eggs and chicken. Not only are these entirely unrealistic examples, but whatever you’re burning off your razor was already on your face. Like 5 minutes ago. So clearly it doesn’t pose a threat to your personal well-being.

There’s also a scientific bone to pick here. UV light is a form of electromagnetic radiation, which comes in bundles of energy known as photons. UV light kills things (and causes cancer) by breaking down the chemical bonds between molecules. Whether a particular form of EMR can break down chemical bonds depends on how much energy its photons have, and UV can do that. The more intense the light, the more photons there are (though each one has the same energy as it would with less intense light) and the more bonds can be broken. The practical upshot of this little science lesson is that if you want to kill bacteria, you can use a little bit of UV light that comes from a bulb powered by two AAA batteries, or you can kill more germs faster with a bigger source of UV light that you probably encounter every day. Anyone catching on yet? Which leads me to:

The Alternative: Go outside. That is literally all you would have to do to render this completely obsolete. Just go outside for a few seconds a day and the sunlight will kill the germs on your face before they even get on your precious razor. You know how they say that sunlight is the best disinfectant? Well they say that because sunlight is the best disinfectant. That’s all it takes.

The Supine Reading Glasses – $50
Description: “allow you to read while lying supine in bed, eliminating the need to crane your neck,” using “two optical-quality glass prisms that bend your vision 90 degrees.”

The Problem: Umm…well…look at the fuckin’ things. You just know that after laying there for a while reading you’re going to forget you’re wearing them, sit up, get totally disoriented and trip and crack your head open on the doorknob and they’ll find you, dead and alone (definitely alone), wearing some unidentifiable chunks of glass on your face. And again, science comes back to bite us in the ass. Science is persistent that way. They say they bend light 90 degrees, which is probably true. But 90 degrees is not what you want. I illustrated for you what 90 degrees looks like on the little diagram they provide.

Science does not care for your desire to read while supine.

As you can see, bending your line of sight 90 degrees will allow you to look only at your own chest. For fifty bucks. Rather than:

The Alternative: SIT THE FUCK UP, YOU USELESS BASTARD

The Perfect Position Pet Bowls – $130
Description: “enables bets to eat with their neck and head in proper alignment, aiding digestion and relieving muscle and joint strain.” Apparently “floor-bound bowls…force pets to crouch uncomfortably.”

The Problem: That seems unlikely. Given that most animals, young and old, eat from ground level, I’d guess they’re used to it. They don’t crouch, either, they just bend their heads down. I’ve never heard of a single animal having digestive or joint problems from eating in the same position as every other quadruped for the last hundred million years. Oh, and another thing? This make-your-pets-eat-from-shoulder-height contraption, this $130 violation of nature, is made of plywood and weights 24 pounds.

The Alternative: Not buying it. That’s it. Just don’t.

The Easy iPod Media Sharer – $100

Description: “allows you to easily share music, video, and pictures between two connected iPods without the use of a computer”

The Problem: Apparently it’ll transfer a three-minute song in five seconds. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of control over which or how many songs are transferred, so let’s say all of them. If you have 5,000 songs, you’re looking at 7 hours of transfer time, versus about 5 minutes via USB 2.0 through a computer and some free software. Oh, and the battery only lasts 1.5 hours, which is about 1000 songs. Useless.

The Alternative: Use your freaking computer. The one you already have, because you have an iPod. Just do that, rather than spending a hundred bucks on this.

So there you go. There are tons of other options for money-wasting on the website, if you’re interested in being poor and hated by all your friends, so knock yourself out.

5 thoughts on “The Best, The Only, And The Unexpected

  1. Anonymous says:

    These are hilarious! I especially dig the supine reading glasses and the first line google image for “stressful.” You can also contract E. Coli from fecal content (really not all that uncommon). Example, use restroom (deuce), poor handwashing or no handwashing, then shave, then E. Coli. Applied to face. However, E. Coli. really not too much of a concern as a skin pathogen, so unless you're licking your razor, probably still ok, albeit gross. Strep and Staph are much more common problematic, particularly MRSA, but if you're getting this it's likely colonized your own nose, so better shine that light somewhere else. Not sure about the sunlight as the best disinfectant, as a stagnant pool of clear water that has direct sunlight is still probably a horrible idea to drink. Curious about your thoughts on UV water sterilization devices? Thanks for the humor and have a great weekend!

  2. A stagnant pool of water in direct sunlight is a terrible idea BECAUSE it's stagnant. Water has an astounding ability to block UV light, so the surface of that water is completely sterile, but not to very deep because the photons can't penetrate very far into water molecules. On your skin, that's obviously not an issue. That's the reason all UV water sterilization devices require you to stir or otherwise agitate the water, so they can make contact with all of it. Fun fact: by mass, water can absorb 11 times as much energy for a given temperature change as copper, and 32 times as much as gold. It's an amazing substance.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would challenge your assertion that water blocks UV light well. Divers (SCUBA or skin or otherwise) get plenty of UV exposure while submerged. The link below would also suggest that the sterilizing UVC rays are mostly filtered by the atmosphere in normal conditions and render the “take your razor outside” treatment not very effective. I also would challenge that doing skin cultures on someone pre and post natural outdoor sun exposure would not result in “sterilization” of normal skin flora. Using the “stagnant pool” example may not be the best although the counter arguement that stagnant is bad because it's “stagmant” is also not all that great being that stagmant simply means still/non-agitated. But this could hold true for running/agitated waters of rivers and oceans also which are certainly not sterile.

    http://littleshop.physics.colostate.edu/docs/CMMAP/tenthings/UVBeads.pdf

  4. You're telling me that UVC doesn't penetrate the atmosphere, but does go through water? You have to know that doesn't make sense. And as cute as your “Baby's First Physics Experiment” source is, I'd really rather trust my own experience and research.

    1) Solar disinfecting of water is incredibly common in third world countries and, for some reason, Switzerland. Water is put in clear containers and left in the sun for 6 hours, and is disinfected by purely UVA light. The process is accelerated by temperature.

    2) The same UVA and UVB that are responsible for skin darkening and skin cancer are also capable of killing surface bacteria. They're not as good, but they work.

    My whole point wasn't that the device doesn't work, it's that it's not necessary. And I wasn't suggesting to put your razor in the sun, I was suggesting that the little time your face spends in the sun is more than sufficient.

    It's all moot anyway, since like I said, the germs are already on your face. Yes, it's possible that you could get e. coli on your face via your hands, but sanitizing your razor isn't going to prevent or help that. It's not as if your razor is going to scrape off the bacteria and then kill them. And if your razor is sterile and you shave a non-sterile face with it, you're defeating the point. It's like the toothbrush sanitizer. It's useless.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Nice rebuttal of my “baby's first physics experiment” source with no source at all. That UVC doesn't penetrate the atmosphere but does go through water is not what I said but it is not difficult to grasp that solar generated UVC does not pass through the atmosphere well (as per baby source), but UVC from sources such as the UV light disinfectant devices, etc. can certainly pass into water. Also by your own argument, if UV light does pass well into water due to it's “astounding ability to block UV light,” this “swiss” method of disinfecting drinking water would not be very effective. However, your post has proven educational in that I did not previously know about this method sited here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_water_disinfection

    Also if going outside, as you suggest were such a great method of killing cutaneous pathogens, there would be a much smaller market for treatments for skin infections such as staph folliculitis, carbuncles, furuncles or many fungal infections such as tinea versicolor.

    I agree it's moot and I also don't plan on purchasing the razor sanitizor any time soon. Perhaps this device is an attractive option for those with HCV who want to share razors with people who are HCV-negative.

    Enjoy the post and conversation.

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