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Status: Real (but possibly a publicity stunt)
image Breath Capture is a company that's selling air. Or more specifically, they're selling tubes. The customers themselves are supposed to provide the air by breathing into the tubes. They promote these tubes as a way to "Capture the breath of a loved one or friend and keep them close. Forever." So it's a gimmick, kind of like pet rocks, or buying land on the Moon. But what gets me is this claim the company makes on it site:

Breath Capture is a patent-pending method and apparatus for collecting human breath as a keepsake display.

They applied for a patent on this? It's just a tube into which you blow before putting the top on. How could this possibly be patentable? This made me suspicious enough to check out the site's registration info. Turns out it's registered to Thompson & Company, a Memphis-based marketing firm. So possibly Breath Capture is a stunt dreamed up by this marketing agency to prove that they can sell anything—even air. (Unless the Breath Capture company hired Thompson & Company to promote its product... but surely there can't be that much money in selling glass tubes that they could afford a fancy marketing agency.)
Categories: Advertising, Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 21, 2005
Comments (7)
Status: Hoax
I find this very strange. A Chinese company, King Win Laurel, has filed paperwork with the SEC indicating that it's planning to make a bid to buy oil giant Exxon for $450bn. But analysts are dismissing the bid as a prank, since King Win Laurel doesn't have the kind of money necessary to make good on such an offer. Apparently King Win Laurel has a history of making hoax bids. Last year, for instance, it made a fake bid to buy Telstra. It also tried to buy a New Zealand firm called Restaurant Brands, but that offer was rejected by local regulators. So what we have here is a Chinese firm that simply likes making fake offers to buy companies. I have no idea what it's possible motivation could be.
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Nov 02, 2005
Comments (5)
Here's a great example of satirical prophecy (defined as a joke becoming a reality). Back in February 2004 The Onion lampooned the razor industry with a spoof article, supposedly written by the CEO of Gillette, declaring that his company was going to one-up the competition by inventing a five-blade razor with two lubricating strips:

Stop. I just had a stroke of genius. Are you ready? Open your mouth, baby birds, cause Mama's about to drop you one sweet, fat nightcrawler. Here she comes: Put another aloe strip on that fucker, too. That's right. Five blades, two strips, and make the second one lather. You heard me—the second strip lathers. It's a whole new way to think about shaving. Don't question it. Don't say a word. Just key the music, and call the chorus girls, because we're on the edge—the razor's edge—and I feel like dancing.

A year-and-a-half later, Gillette really does unveil a five-blade razor with two lubricating strips. What's next? A seven-blade razor? I've said it before. Double, triple, quadruple, and now quintuple bladed razors are just a scam to justify charging more for blades. I think a single-bladed razor works just fine (and is also less irritating to your skin).
Categories: Business/Finance, Technology
Posted by Alex on Thu Sep 15, 2005
Comments (26)
I always feel guilty when I don't update my weblog regularly. Like when I was finishing my book and didn't have time to post, or this past week when I got the stomach flu and didn't feel like sitting at the computer. The guys at Blogoriented have an ingenious solution to this problem. They're outsourcing blogging:

We are outsourcing blogs to China. Our general business model is a two tiered effort to hire Chinese citizens to write blogs en masse for us at a valued wage... These blogs will pop up in various areas of the net and appear to the unknowing reader to be written by your standard American. Our short term goal for these original blogs is to generate a steady stream of revenue through traditional blog advertising like google adwords... The long term goal is to generate a large untraceable astroturfing mechanism for launching of various products. When a vendor needs to promote a new product to the internet demographic we will be able to create a believable buzz across hundreds of ‘reputable’ blogs and countless message boards. We can offer a legitimacy to advertisers that doesen’t exist anywhere else. The second tier of our plan is a blog vacation service where our employees fill in for established bloggers who need to take a break from regular posting.

All this smells a lot like a hoax to me. It also smells like a hoax to the author of this article. If these Chinese bloggers have such a perfect command of English that they could effortlessly pass for "standard Americans," then they should blog as themselves. That would be more interesting than pretending to be American.

As for the blog vacation service, that's not a bad idea. I've thought about having guest bloggers step in when I don't have time to blog. Or I could invite readers to submit posts and pay a buck or two per post that I choose to put on the site (as a way to share the Google adsense revenue). Interesting thought.
Categories: Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Aug 19, 2005
Comments (13)
For all those occasions when a kid would come in handy (I can't think of any), offers the solution. Just call them up and they'll send a kid over. They rent out kids for proms, birthday parties, father/son events, etc. And if you'd like to make a little bit of extra money by hiring out your kid, they'll arrange that too. (Yes, the site is a hoax).
Categories: Business/Finance, Websites
Posted by Alex on Fri Apr 22, 2005
Comments (21)
What is it with this thing about begging for money to pay for plastic surgery? It's become the new online phenomenon, as if the most deserving people in the world are those who need a tummy tuck or boob job. As it happens the guy who created Upgrade My Wife is hoping to get both those surgeries for his wife. And he wants internet surfers to pay for them. He writes:

I created this web site because my wife has been considering a tummy tuck and breast augmentation for quite a few years, but neither of us knew how much it would cost. She made the appointment to see her doctor and went through the consultation. Her surgery quote from the doctor is only good for 30 days and is a whopping. $12,750. All I need to do now is pay for it!

Unlike Caias Ward, this guy isn't even willing to do anything to earn the money. Plus, as is always the case with such things, there's no guarantee the money will go towards the stated purpose. The likelihood is that he'll never raise $12,750, so after a few months he'll probably take whatever money he's raised and spend it on something else.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Sun Apr 17, 2005
Comments (14)
The Baltimore Sun reports on the case of Mike Bolesta, who was recently arrested for the crime of paying a bill with $2 bills. This seems to be an example of an urban legend come to life--the urban legend being the one about a clerk in a store who doesn't realize that $2 bills are legal money and reports a customer who uses them to the police. In the case of Mike Bolesta, he did use A LOT of $2 bills, 57 of them in all, to pay a bill at Best Buy. But still, there doesn't appear to have been any good reason for the store to have him hauled away to the police station for this. (via Slashdot)
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 12, 2005
Comments (30)
image Was the Nike Swoosh (which is perhaps one of the most famous corporate logos in the world, second only to McDonald's golden arches) really designed by a graphic design student who got paid only $35 for it? It sounds like an urban legend playing off of Nike's use of cheap Asian sweatshop labor. But apparently the story is true. At least, the Nike website confirms it. The swoosh was designed in 1971 by design student Carolyn Davidson, and she did only receive $35 for it. However, in 1983 the company gave her a gift of stock as a token of their appreciation.
Categories: Business/Finance, Urban Legends
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 06, 2005
Comments (7)
image Would this thing actually work? It's described as an ultrasonic stain remover that "will remove virtually any clothing stain, no matter how stubborn." The fact that the ad copy keeps repeating the phrase 'utilizes ultrasonic technology' without actually explaining how or why it's supposed to work makes me skeptical. I guess the ultrasonic sound waves are somehow supposed to break up stain particles? If it did work as advertised, it would be useful. (via Red Ferret)
Categories: Business/Finance
Posted by Alex on Wed Apr 06, 2005
Comments (28)
Zug's Credit Card Prank was widely linked to a few years ago. This is the prank as he describes it: Every time you make a credit card purchase, they're supposed to match your signature against the one on the back of your card. Nobody seems to check anymore, so I tried to see how far I could push it with wacky signatures like "Mariah Carey" and "Zeus". Now Zug has posted a sequel to the Credit Card Prank in which he makes his signatures even wackier and tries to discover what he can get away with. He draws pictures of Shamu, diagrams of the large intestines, and musical notes. They're all happily accepted.

Zug's prank is amusing, but I think the reality is that signing the card and receipt only secondarily serve the purpose of verifying your identity. The primary purpose of the signatures is to demonstrate that you've agreed to the terms of the contract with the credit card company. As long as you sign something (doesn't really matter what it is), the credit card company can say that you've acknowledged and agreed to the terms of the contract, and therefore you have to pay them back. I found this out a couple of years ago when I got into an argument with a post-office employee who refused to take my credit card that had 'See ID' written on the back of it. Turned out that the post-office employee was in the right. If you haven't signed the back of the card, then technically you haven't finalized your contract with the credit card company, and the card shouldn't be accepted.
Categories: Business/Finance, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Tue Mar 29, 2005
Comments (16)
'Billionaires for Bush' placed the American Social Security System up for sale on eBay. Apparently it was quickly pulled, but Billionaires for Bush has archived the auction on their own site:

Due to the surprising failure of carefully staged "conversations" across America to convince the American Public that Privatizing Social Security is a good thing, we have decided to take matters into our own hands. As a favor to President Bush and offered exclusively here to the winning bidder who meets our reserve, (must be a private Brokerage Firm, see details below) Billionaires For Bush can't wait to pull the switch on retirement security by circumventing Congress, the Will of the People, and good sense. Why not cut right to the chase? Concurrent with White House Goals and the Cato Institute, we're AUCTIONING OFF SOCIAL SECURITY!
Categories: Business/Finance, eBay, Pranks
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 24, 2005
Comments (3)
The rumor I heard was that McDonalds would be outsourcing the job of taking orders at the drive-thru window to some company in North Dakota, because the minimum wage in North Dakota is only $5.15, whereas it's higher in other states, so they figure they can save some money. In other words, you could be going through a drive-thru in San Diego and giving your order to some guy in North Dakota. This struck me as very odd. But it appears that the story is basically true, except that McDonalds denies that its reasons for doing this has anything to do with trying to pay their employees less. They claim that when employees have to take orders over the drive-thru mic and deliver food at the same time, they start making a lot of mistakes. So this is just an effort to make the system more efficient. Maybe. But I've read Fast Food Nation so I know that McDonalds is one of the worst companies in terms of underpaying their employees, and I'm guessing that they are hoping this will reduce labor costs.
Categories: Business/Finance, Food
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 18, 2005
Comments (81)
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