Earlier this year, Power Balance admitted that its wristbands, while purported to increase strength, balance and flexibility, instead did nothing. This came as a confusing and devastating blow to athletes everywhere who credited the magic in the wristbands with helping them succeed, and who now suddenly have nowhere else to turn for answers other than their own ability.
It feels like there's a lesson in there somewhere.
Sadly, Power Balance is only one company among hundreds that actually got caught throwing shrink-wrapped bullshit at the ignorance and insecurity of consumers. No one is willing to believe a product doesn't work until science discredits it, and science is already too busy with cancer and hoverboards. But with any luck, the exposing of those bracelets will act as a harbinger for consumer skepticism throughout 2011, in which case I predict the following five products will fall as well. If you happen to read this article in 2012 and you have no idea what these items are, then I'd like to hereby announce myself as a prophet. Also, congratulations on not dying in that Mayan disaster -- those guys didn't know what the hell they were talking about.
Refusing to let Crocs produce the only footwear promoting celibacy, Sketchers developed Shape-Ups. The shoe marries the stability of a rocking chair with the style of your grandmother's "active sneakers." They're designed to tone the wearer's calves, thighs and ass, but the trade off is that you have to walk around in public wearing scoliosis moonboots.
I'd rather gamble on cellulite than the chance one of your legs is longer than the other.
The nascent toning-shoe industry is already marketed at about $4.6 billion, and the Shape-Ups shoe is responsible for half of it. Yet, as it stands, only one independent study has been conducted to make sure they actually work. The American Council on Exercise ran a field test on Shape-Ups as well as the Reebok equivalent, Easy Tone and, surprise, they suck. The ACE released a statement saying, "There is simply no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone." Still, toning shoes continue to sell because the single ACE objective study is overshadowed by the countless "tests" conducted by the shoe companies themselves and also commercials like this.
If you've ever accidentally left an unfinished light beer in the sun for two weeks and then mistaken it for something you wanted to consume, then congratulations, you already know the flavor of Kombucha. It's a fermented tea made of bacterial waste and water that allegedly wards off disease and tastes like opening your mouth under a leaky trash bag after a fraternity party. The people who swear by it insist that it does everything from improving eyesight to fighting cancer. It's sold all over the country in health food stores, but anyone can brew their own in a basement after buying a gelatinous hunk of the yeast.
The cellars of hippies and serial killers look exactly the same.
Despite Kombucha's enormous popularity, there hasn't been a single human trial published in any medical journal. So all the claims about its superpowers are personal testimonials, and to be fair, so are all the accounts of its horrific side effects. The American Cancer Society published a statement saying, "No human studies have been published in the available scientific literature that support any of the health claims made for Kombucha tea. There have, however, been reports of serious complications and death." Doctor's linked the tea to the hospitalization of two women with metabolic acidosis, one of whom ended up dying. So the same drink that was meant to fend off deadly diseases like cancer is likely responsible for destroying a few lives as well. Best of all, the American Cancer Society warns consumers that the bacteria can be extremely dangerous to anyone with a compromised immune system, specifically people with cancer.
Somehow 3D technology defied odds and is currently celebrating a resurgence in theaters. What's more, despite the horrific headaches and eyestrain attributed to it, now objects can clumsily jump off your television screen as well. TV manufacturers have created 3D televisions that they're touting as the best picture of any television to date, and are all but unwatchable without the glasses.
It was worth selling the couch.
The problem with the technology for television in particular is that it's reliant on the accurate refiguring of objects shot with a normal camera. That's a pretty painstaking process. For anything that has to be refigured into 3D graphics quickly, like a football game, there's going to be some clunky alignment and some inevitable nausea when your eyes can't adjust properly.
And of course, those goddamn glasses. Not only are they uncomfortable, but while wearing them, you can do nothing else but watch the screen. For anyone who eats, uses the Internet or persuades a date to allow a hand in her shirt while watching television, these tasks will all be significantly harder while wearing magnifying ski goggles. No one seems to be taking into consideration that this technology has the capacity to ruin high school dating forever.