For as long as there have been laws, there have been black markets to sell whatever those laws prohibit -- drugs, guns, whatever Han Solo was shipping on behalf of Jabba during his smuggler days. But not every law is as clear-cut as "machine guns and heroin are bad," and not every black market item is as menacing as those. In fact, you'd be utterly baffled to see what's getting traded in the shadows these days, considering it includes things like ...
#5. Flight Attendant Uniforms (Yes, for Fetishists)
With the economy in the crapper, Japanese airlines struggled with bankruptcy, trying to rebuild their image and their finances. This of course led to some job cuts to crews and flight attendants. Unfortunately for the airlines, the female staff they had previously let go had neglected to return the uniforms, presumably adding them to their cosplay wardrobes (because we understand that's what all Japanese women do, without exception).
If the vows aren't spoken in front of a giant underage love pillow, then the marriage is null and void.
Freshly laid off and presumably bitter, the ex-employees turned to selling their possessions to make rent, and they were pleasantly surprised to discover that there is totally a market for stewardess uniforms in Japan. And we're talking to the point that a single uniform is worth thousands of dollars.
Officially, the airlines had prohibited the sale of their uniforms for fear that someone would be able to purchase one and use it to sneak their way past security and into restricted areas, which is a completely legitimate concern. However, as the pink-slipped stewardesses were to find out, it seems like that's not really what the people buying the uniforms have in mind.
"Now come back in an hour with half a flat Diet Coke and tell me my bag isn't tucked under the seat enough."
In a revelation that is equal parts disturbing and reassuring, it appears that most buyers are not budding terrorist cells looking to infiltrate airport security, but simply uniform fetishists looking to infiltrate women dressed as airline employees.
And these people are devoted to their role-playing fantasies -- just the jacket sells for hundreds of dollars, while the full New Japan Airline flight attendant uniform sells for the equivalent of more than $3,000. The uniform from a rival airline is priced at nearly twice that.
The three evolutions of stewardess -- Uniform, Uniforce, Unimaster.
Moreover, uniforms that have been worn are considered more valuable than new outfits and garner a higher price, which should come as no surprise in a nation that sold used panties in vending machines.
Self-loathing is only a twist away.
#4. Mega-Flushing Toilets
The staggering majority of Western households have at least one toilet, so it may seem strange that there could be a black market for them. But imagine this: You've just given your shiny new eco-friendly low-flow toilet its inaugural poo-slam. You stand proudly and push down on the lever, only to be filled with panic as the commode gives a halfhearted gurgle and spits all your waste back into the bowl, spilling out over the lip and forcing you to take immediate action: shout upstairs to your mom that burglars broke in and shit on the floor.
"And you don't want to know what they did to my bed sheets."
Ever since 1992, American toilets by law could use only 1.6 gallons per flush. Being used to flushing power in the range of 3.5 to 5 gallons, Americans with brand-spanking-new toilets suddenly found themselves with toilets that couldn't handle their dookies.
People found themselves having to flush several times just to hide the shame of persistent floaters and eventually got fed up with it, deciding to smuggle in high-flow toilets from Canada at the risk of hefty fines or even imprisonment, because yes, installing high-flow toilets is against the law. Plumbers found themselves braving $2,500 fines to secretly install the less eco-friendly toilets. Some homeowners would install the toilets themselves, and others modified low-flow toilets to make them more powerful.
For an in-depth look at the lives of hotshot toilet modders, try "Fast and Furiously Allergic to Corn."
Some desperate bear-shitters would even pull off a sly deception, displaying a law-abiding toilet conforming to the 1.6-gallon flush regulation for inspectors before switching it for an illegally competent model once the inspectors left, which is surprising on two fronts: one, for the ingenuity of people wanting to flush their dinosauric poo submarines with dignity, and two, for the realization that "toilet inspection" is a real, actual thing.
This isn't even addressing the sort of "fact finding" mission one has to go through in order to actually get a high-flow toilet across the border. You have to live close enough to the Canadian border to drive over and get one, or know somebody who does who would be willing to run porcelain for you. Or you could call around to commercial fixture warehouses and see if they have any old high-flow units lying around. It's quite a trail of breadcrumbs, and in each conversation you have along the way, you are implicitly telling everyone that you shit like a demon.
"Yes, hello? Do you have high-flow toilets? Perfect. Because I fire out logs the size of Howie Mandel."
#3. Breast Milk and Sperm
If you had a list of "things not to purchase from shady sources," you would think that "bodily fluids" would be right up there alongside "health insurance" and "children." But you would be wrong. Dead wrong.
Filthily, stickily wrong.
We've written before about the difficult yet lucrative market for human sperm -- some of the males reading this paid their rent that way. But in some countries, selling your sperm means risking jail.
That's because in Canada, the Assisted Human Reproduction Act was passed in 2004, prohibiting monetary reward for sperm and egg donors, which led to marked shortages in sperm banks. The reason for that was simple: If you don't pay people for doing something, chances are people aren't going to want to do it. Even if that thing is masturbating.
"If you aren't going to pay me, I might as well go back to doing it in my neighbor's mailbox."
However, the demand for donor sperm did not decrease, which lead to under-the-table chili peeling. In Canada today, more than 90 percent of the semen used for artificial insemination is from back alley sperm deals (which is illegal) or from profit-based sperm banks in the United States (which is also illegal). Anyone caught seed smuggling in Canada is facing up to 10 years in jail and a $500,000 fine.
Not that the ladies are left out of the bodily fluid black market. They can always sell their breast milk.
Is it too much to hope that they sell it specifically to babies?
Many women, after giving birth, produce much more milk than their new baby will realistically need. So what does a responsible adult do with the extra milk? She pumps it out and sells it online, earning as much as $20,000 in a single year. In one lady's case, she made enough money off of her surplus breast milk in just three months to afford a new laptop and a wedding dress.
While it's technically legal (as in there are no laws against it as of now), the FDA is very concerned about the handling of the milk. Milk can go bad in a lot of ways, and this is a completely unregulated market conducted over the Internet. So it's unlikely that the donor was adequately screened for diseases, and the milk probably wasn't handled in a way that would make it safe for a baby's consumption. And when you can make that much money off of something the female body regularly produces without any kind of regulation, you're going to attract some disreputable people, including some women who turned up positive for child-friendly illnesses like HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B and C.
The vanilla, chocolate and banana flavors of the breast milk world.
Even if the mother is clean, the categories of breast milk are puzzling, to say the least. A browse of online milk sellers boasts milk from mothers of "fat babies," milk from moms who are willing to give free samples to prove "quality and safety" (the process used to determine these attributes is not adequately explained) and even milk from women who are willing to sell their breast milk to men, because let's be honest, they have more money than babies.
And as if the horror wasn't complete, some customers have relayed stories of having paid a truckload of money for "clean" breast milk, only to receive a nonrefrigerated bag of curdled milk in the mail.
"... so you're saying a trampoline won't make it frothier?"
Hey, speaking of which ...