5 Things That Shouldn't Be Sold Online (But Totally Are)
The Internet is a big place. Policing it to make sure people aren't skirting the law in some way with 100 percent effectiveness isn't possible. So while it's definitely worked wonders for our access to products and information, it's also made some of the world's more nefarious purchases easier to make than ever. We talk about a few examples on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Keith Carey and Jeff May. That's also what I'm talking about in this column. Surprise!
I put switchblades on this list for a few reasons. For one, it's just been my understanding throughout the entirety of my life that switchblades were highly illegal. I knew this because after watching the Leif Garrett classic The Outsiders as a child, I asked my dad if I could buy a knife like the one in the movie someday.
None of that novelty comb bullshit, either.
He crushed my dreams by informing me that they were outlawed a long time ago. Because I live by the letter of the law, I never thought about it again, assuming that switchblades were a relic from the past that the world would never see again. I was helped along in this thinking by the fact that I only ever saw them in movies or TV shows about Fonzie-looking motherfuckers living in the 1950s. That brings us to my second reason for including switchblades in this article, which is that it provides the perfect excuse to once again share this video with the world:
That's French pop star Serge Gainsbourg on an old-timey variety show performing a tune called "Chez Les Ye-Ye" with an assist from one of the most enthusiastic backup dancers in recorded history. The moment that makes this video one of my favorites comes around the 0:55 mark, when Serge and his dancer friend both inexplicably pull out switchblades ...
They sure are good at being French.
... and then carry on as normal. I'd wear that video on a T-shirt if I could.
Anyway, sharp edges and live music will always be a weird combination, but that the knives in question here happen to be switchblades should come as no surprise at all. At that time (the song was recorded in 1963), the switchblade was the universal symbol of danger and violence in pop culture.
In the real world, their use was associated with gang violence. Magazines and newspapers throughout the 1950s were littered with unsettling tales of the violence and destruction gangs of switchblade-toting youths were inflicting on terrified citizens. The scare reached such a fever pitch that in 1958, the United States Congress enacted the Switchblade Knife Act, which effectively made the admittedly rad-looking weapon illegal to own.
Because of all this, I've had absolutely no reason to think about the legality of the switchblade. That all changed when I happened upon a website called uniqueblade.com. It doesn't matter how or why -- what matters is that I immediately noticed an interesting item listed for sale in the sidebar.
Switchblades!? What!? Since when has this been allowed? Well, in the United States, the answer is "since sometime around 2009." That's when the Switchblade Act was amended to allow "spring assisted" knives. What are those? Switchblades, basically.
"How'd you cut your finger?"
The only difference is the type of mechanism used to open the blade. Seeing as how they're essentially the same thing, this prompted several states to loosen their restrictions on the switchblades your grandparents knew and loved. That doesn't mean they're completely legal everywhere. Several states still ban them completely. This is information I expected to find somewhere on the uniqueblade.com site. A big, flashing warning that residents of Michigan can't buy switchblades, or something along those lines. Instead, I only found this:
Well how are people supposed to have fun in New York City now?
Given their recent epidemic of subway face-slashings, putting the kibosh on knives in New York City strikes me as a good idea. But shouldn't there be a few more restrictions listed? Speaking of which, there's another terrifying weapon of yore that's all of the sudden shockingly legal-ish again ...
Brass knuckles are another weapon of moderate-to-mass destruction that I assumed were at least sort of hard to find. I'd always been told they were illegal, despite also owning a set for a while as a teen. They looked like they were homemade, and I'm still not 100 percent sure where they came from, other than that they were just laying around the house one day. My grandfather was a cop, and he liked to bring shit home -- which also meant that I had ready access to a four-inch-high stack of mostly black-and-white crime scene photos for a few years as a kid. So a set of brass knuckles really wasn't that startling of a find.
Still, they were kind of terrifying. As mentioned previously, they looked like they were made by a dude who did blacksmith work on the side out of his garage on weekends. They also kind of looked like maybe it was a skill he picked up in prison.
If he'd learned as a child like the masters, he'd have been way better at it.
They weren't brass. They might have been bunk bed frame metal, for all I know. I was just absolutely positive I would never want to get hit in the face with something like that. I mean, given a choice, I'd take just never getting hit in the face at all, but I accept that it's bound to happen someday. When it does, I really don't want that fist to be wrapped in rings of solid metal.
Maybe it was the DIY feel of the set I owned that had me falsely assured that brass knuckles were mostly a thing of the past. I had my "cage rattled" -- to paraphrase noted scientist B.o.B. -- when someone sent me a link to this picture of a clip art man laughing at the notion that anyone anywhere is smoking tobacco out of an adorable yellow pig-shaped bowl.
However, those knives are definitely for murder.
While I share his sentiment on the tobacco issue, what caught my attention more than anything else was the assortment of brass knuckles down there in the bottom-left corner. I understand that they aren't made of brass, but they still look plenty capable of destroying a face. When did stuff like that become so easy to find?
Well, for one thing, my understanding of the illegality of brass knuckles was a little off. Turns out they're barely regulated at the federal level, but are indeed outlawed in some states. Several sellers skirt the law by labeling them as novelty paper weights or belt buckles. State laws apparently mean nothing online, though, because a quick search turned up a site called brassknucklescompany.com, where you can choose from an array of different skull-fracturing options. There's no "belt buckle" shit here. They say so right on the site. A set of actual brass knuckles will set you back less than $30. There's also a plastic version, presumably for when you need to beat some ass at a place with metal detectors.
When do you not need to do that?
As for those restrictions that are supposed to keep a person from owning this kind of thing in various parts of the country, this site approaches the issue in much the same way as the knife site from the last entry.
NYC-based switchblade buyers welcome! For some reason!
But who needs throwing stars and brass knuckles when you have all those guns around, anyway?
I know that this one probably isn't surprising anyone. Nevertheless, I feel it's my civic duty to at least remind people that mail-order brides are in fact real, and aren't just from jokes about your lonely uncle who up and married an Asian woman out of the blue one day. They're very much a thing, although Russia seems to have ascended to dominance in the bride-exporting business, and you'll be hard-pressed to get the sites where you can definitely not "shop" for one to admit that's what they're up to. Case in point: Have a gander at this disclaimer on the mail-order bride site rosebrides.com:
See? Totally legit.
Sounds pretty convincing, right? Now check out the sidebar to the left of that disclaimer:
So no, you can't just add a girl named Tatiana to your cart and have her delivered to your door, but the people running this site know what's up. At some point, you're handing over some money. If that exchange doesn't happen up front, she's probably going to collect like Nicole Kidman in that Birthday Girl movie you've almost certainly never seen.
Of course, with all due respect to the suspected mail-order bride who killed her husband's son and ex-wife, if anyone is at risk in a transaction like this, it's most likely to be the woman. If you don't believe that, there are many stories of men who tried to (or did) kill their mail-order brides that might change your mind.
If all of the controversy and potential danger surrounding Russian mail-order brides has you too creeped out to find true love, maybe you should look into a different country. All of the copy on rosebrides.com might reference Russian women specifically, but they have lots of other stuff in stock and ready to ship as well -- including women from almost every country and lots of dudes from the United States.
It's your one-stop shop for all things "romance that will probably ruin someone's life"-related!
Sure, you've read stories of people ingesting "synthetic" drugs like bath salts or spice and promptly freaking the fuck out. But have you ever wondered what those drugs are or where they're coming from? After all, nearly every story like that includes the not-at-all-minor detail that these drugs can easily be found in smoke shops and convenience stores all over the country. With that being the primary delivery method, you'd think the feds could put a stop to the problem pretty easily. But you'd be wrong.
Keeping law enforcement on their toes since 1927.
For years now, the government has been banning the chemicals used to make this new wave of illicit substances. It's an effort that's been rendered almost completely ineffective for one simple reason: Whenever The Man makes a new chemical illegal, it's just replaced with something else that produces the same effect in users. For example, when one of the main chemical compounds used to make spice, JWH-073, was banned, it was simply replaced with other variants, like JWH-200 or CP 47,497.
Where do enterprising young chemists find these chemical compounds? Online, of course! In addition to all the fake weed supplies you can buy, there's also a plethora of chemicals available that mimic the effects of MDMA, LSD, and pretty much anything else you can name.
The future is here!
As stated earlier, when one of these drugs ends up on the wrong side of a government ban, something else just comes along to take its place. A good example of this is something called mephedrone. It was first created in 1929, but it wasn't until 2003 that people realized you could take it to get the party started. Its effects on users are similar to those of ecstasy. Or at least they were before the feds harshed everyone's mellow by banning it.
No worries! Shortly after the ban, rumors started swirling that a new chemical, the similarly-named mexedrone, would be widely available soon.
In the run-up to its release, there were articles about what people who decided to try it out should expect. In some cases, people actually pre-ordered it like it was a goddamn video game.
But if shady European websites aren't your thing, you can at least pretend drugs are legal at another, more well-known site ...
All Sorts Of Drug Paraphernalia (Are Eligible For Amazon Prime!)
I'm convinced that there are two major corporate entities that are just itching to get in on the recreational weed racket. The first, obviously, is Jack in the Box. Have you seen their commercials? I feel like one day soon, we're going to see one of those bullshit "secret menu item" articles and it's just going to casually end by telling us that if you ask for "extra lettuce" at Jack in the Box, they'll sell you an eighth of Blue Dream for $35.
I'm all for it, by the way. Almost as much as I'm for the idea of the other company that's clearly gearing up to get into the weed game to finally make a move. I'm talking about Amazon, a website where you can currently purchase just about everything you need to do drugs except for the drugs themselves. What are you into? Is it cocaine? If so, you can pick up this absurd contraption:
Everyone will think you're the coolest!
That's a gold vacuum-cleaner-shaped sniffing tube, for those who like to deliver the news of their raging coke habit with a side of humor. It's ostensibly not for use with illegal substances, but the name of the thing is "Coke Hoover," so make what you want of their warning. One thing's for damn sure, though: If you have designs on using this to play Monopoly, you can fuck right off, according to the product description.
Who even thinks that way, you disgusting freak?
Right, but what if you like a cocaine rig with a few more tools? Something that says, "Don't worry, I've been doing this my entire life."
It's not what you think! Unless you think it's for doing rails of coke.
Does that work? It's got a razor blade and everything! If you're wondering how sellers get around whatever laws may exist to keep people from buying cocaine tools, they use the same "tobacco use only" warning that accompanies bongs and one-hitters and such. It's just that they're referring to snuff, a form of tobacco that you sniff. It's been around forever, but nobody uses that shit. I'm pretty sure the only reason it still exists is so cocaine paraphernalia can be sold freely online.
If you're looking to get the most benefit possible from your Amazon Prime membership, but in a way that also helps you discreetly snort blow at the office, then order this easy-to-conceal glass vial with free two-day shipping!
You can't afford not to buy it!
Oh, and as for those warnings about not using the stuff you buy on Amazon to have fun with drugs, don't even think about putting anything but tobacco in this discreet party pipe:
Why would you do that?
What makes you think that's for drugs? Is it the gas mask? I bet it's that. Or maybe the fact that it's shaped like a skull. It's almost certainly one of those two things that leads some to mistakenly believe that this apparatus is meant to be used with cannabis.
Sometimes you don't even have to be looking for drug supplies for a plethora of them to fall into your lap. This Reddit user made an innocent turkey baster purchase (although saying you bought a turkey baster almost never sounds innocent, for some reason) and noticed something strange about the "customers also bought" and "frequently bought together" suggestions.
Breaking Bad IRL!
Right. That's basically a meth lab starter kit, if you were unsure. You were, right? You didn't already know what a meth lab entails? If you did, is there some kind of work reason behind it, or are you just cooking meth regularly? That's totally understandable if so, seeing as how the meth on Amazon is still fake.
Familiarize your kids with it today!
It's fake for now, anyway. Give it a few years.
Adam is on Twitter. You should follow him there @adamtodbrown.
For more crazy things you can buy (but totally shouldn't), like celebrity hair, check out The 6 Most Terrifying Items People Actually Collect. And you'll want to pick up a flamethrower after you read 7 Items You Won't Believe Are Actually Legal.
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