Earlier this year, Power Balance admitted that its wristbands, which it purported would increase one's 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 abilities.
It feels like there's a lesson in there somewhere.
Sadly, Power Balance is only one company that got caught among hundreds that are also 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 exposure of those bracelets will act as a harbinger for greater consumer skepticism throughout 2011. In such a 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 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 tradeoff is that you have to walk around in public wearing scoliosis moon boots.
I'd rather gamble on cellulite than the chance one of my legs grows longer than the other.
The nascent toning shoe industry is already valued at about $4.6 billion, and Shape-Ups are 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 which 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." Doctors 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 movie theaters. What's more, despite the horrific headaches and eyestrain attributed to the format, now objects can clumsily jump off your television screen as well. TV manufacturers have created 3D televisions, which they're touting as having the best picture of any TV to date, and they 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 get handsy 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.
One of the luxuries of living in a developed country is that our water is sanitary, all of it. In the United States, we pay about 1 cent per gallon for clean running water in everything from our sinks and toilets to our yards. But at some point over the last decade, we collectively said, "Fuck that. We want to pay 5 cents an ounce, and we want it to come in a bottle with some goddamn mountains on the label."
Anyone who drinks bottled water will tell you that it's cleaner and tastes better than water from the tap. They use words like "crisp" and "pure" when describing it, because those words invoke snowmelt trickling over a slab of stone, and also because they are idiots. Bottled water is actually held to less rigorous standards than tap water, and sometimes no standards at all. In fact, bottled water that doesn't cross state lines (about 70 percent of it) isn't subject to FDA regulations. Plus, most of it's not coming from that mountain on the label, because that's an illustration. Instead, it comes from local sources, such as the lakes, springs, and reservoirs from which we get tap water.
Oh, also the bottles are toxic. Not only do carcinogens from the plastic leak into the water, but the plastic is porous, which makes it a more hospitable environment for bacteria. So countless companies have built empires on packaging an inferior product to one you already get for free, in millions of plastic bottles that will never go away.
Hands down the most ubiquitous of all useless items, the toilet seat cover preys on the fears and shame of people in public restrooms across America. Granted, they're generally free for defecators, but gas stations, shopping malls, office buildings, and even strip clubs are shelling out money for a product that has no business existing. The fact is, it's nearly impossible to catch a disease or a parasite from a toilet seat unless you have severe open wounds on the backs of your legs or butt cheeks. Assuming that's the case, then go home. What are you doing at a bar in the first place?
It would also require the germs to be present on the seat to begin with, and as it turns out, toilet seats are about 50 times cleaner than phone receivers. If you're thinking, Yeah, but I so rarely touch my phone and my ass at the same time, then consider that a toilet seat is also significantly cleaner than a keyboard or a mouse. Take a minute to scroll through your browser history to get a good idea how much more genital attention your computer gets than a toilet seat.
Nothing is filthier than a laptop.
The covers also fail to protect you from contact with urine, since tissue paper notoriously dissolves into paste when exposed to the slightest drop of liquid. Urine soaks right through the covers, which is entirely logical when you consider that thousands of these get flushed down toilets every day. Despite all of this, no one ever questions the sanitary qualifications of the toilet seat cover, and consequently, companies with names like Rest Assured and Health Gard continue to pump out a tree pulp that serves no purpose other than to protect peace of mind.
I look forward to the day when these are finally pulled from restrooms, the day we collectively realize how we've blindly accepted such an absurd product, the day humanity declares it would rather see actual human feces on a toilet seat before this bullshit. Ooh, was that ... did I go too far?