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The latest fake news story to go viral claims that, due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Philip Morris has decided to start selling Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes, marketed under the brand name "Marlboro M".

The fake news story was posted on the satire site "Abril Uno" on January 21st. From the article:
Phillip Morris, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization bandwagon and start producing marijuana cigarettes. Marketed under the brand “Marlboro M”, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington when it becomes commercially legal there later this year...

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States, Phillip Morris also has set aside a huge $15 billion advertising budget just to promote the new “Marlboro M” and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to start marketing the product to consumers in the beginning of 2015...

Phillip Morris shares hit an all-time high on the marijuana news and shot up to $998.00 from $83.03 just a few hours after the announcement went public.

It seems like more and more fake news sites are popping up every day. For instance, Abril Uno (which is Spanish for April 1st, i.e. April Fool's Day) only came into existence on January 14, according to the whois data. And less than two weeks later, they've already got a viral story.

On the subject of marijuana cigarettes, the Legends & Rumors site notes that back in the 1960s and early 70s a rumor circulated alleging that the big tobacco companies were eagerly anticipating the day when pot would be legal, and that many of them had already registered names for their planned marijuana cigarettes. In March 1971 tobacco-company executives sent letters to Rolling Stone magazine denying these rumors.
Categories: Business/Finance, Products
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Comments (0)
That was the name of the faux merchandise that artist Plastic Jesus placed in Los Angeles-area Best Buy stores last week. He priced it at $99.99.

It took a couple of days for the Best Buy staff to realize the Useless Plasticboxes were there, and then they were removed. I wonder where they are now? (I checked eBay, but they weren't there yet.)

Comments left on Plastic Jesus's site:

— OMG Apple is coming out with one? I'm getting on line right now!

— Yes, but it'll be white, cost twice as much and be incompatible with the version currently available.


Categories: Products
Posted by Alex on Tue Aug 20, 2013
Comments (0)

I came across the above complaint in Gleanings in Bee Culture (1896). It seems that a door-to-door salesman was going around selling something he called "Prof. Humbolt's Electric-Light Fluid," which had absolutely nothing to do with electricity or electric lighting. The term "electric" was thrown into just about every product name back then to make products sound more scientific and modern.

As far as I can tell from the description, this "electric-light fluid" was a powder (not a fluid!) that people could add to the kerosene or coal oil in lamps. Supposedly it made the lamps burn brighter, smoke less, and reduced the risk of them exploding. Kind of like those fuel additives that are sold today that are supposed to increase your car's mileage per gallon.

Of course, as the complaint indicates, Prof. Humbolt's electric-light fluid did absolutely nothing, except separate people from their money.
Categories: Products, Scams
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 31, 2013
Comments (1)

Nettie has informed me that ThinkGeek is selling Bonsai Kittens. They're stuffed toys. Therefore, "No cats kittens or kittehs were harmed in the creation of this product." Still, it's seems to be like waving a red flag in PETA's face. They must figure that enough time has passed so that all the furor over bonsai kittens has calmed down.

In fact, ThinkGeek also seems to have acquired the bonsaikitten.com domain name. I guess no one else wanted it. The last time I checked it had become a spam portal, with a few ads for cat food and pet medications on it. However, ThinkGeek aren't hosting the original site there. Instead the URL forwards you directly to ThinkGeek's product page for their bonsai kitten dolls.

I remember when the Bonsai Kitten site debuted back in 2000, and people were absolutely apoplectic about it. I posted a description of it here on the site, pointing out that it was a hoax, and that was enough for me to start receiving quite a few email threats, from people describing how they were going to stuff me in a little glass jar to see how I would like it. They must have thought that I was somehow supporting the site rather than debunking it.

I may have to get a few of these dolls for old times sake.


The original bonsai kittens


Update: Something weird is going on with the bonsaikitten.com URL. The link I posted here redirects people to ThinkGeek. But I posted the same link on twitter, and that directs people to a spam site. I don't know why.
Categories: Animals, Products
Posted by Alex on Mon May 07, 2012
Comments (7)
An article recently appeared in various British newspapers telling the story of one Tom Boddingham who ordered a size 14.5 slipper from Monster Slippers. But due to a translation error, the factory in China that makes the slippers sent a size 1450 slipper instead.

monster slipper

Polly Curtis at the Guardian thought the story smelled a bit fishy. And with the help of some people on Twitter, she soon figured out that "Tom Boddingham" coincidentally looked identical to Joseph Jennings, the online retail manager for Monster Slippers. In other words, the entire story was a PR stunt.

The thing about stories like this, which pop up with amazing regularity, is that the debunker actually can't help but publicize the PR hoaxer even more by repeating the story. Which plays into their hand. For instance, I'm now aware of Monster Slippers, and I never would have been if it weren't for the Guardian article. P.T. Barnum was very aware of this phenomenon. He would sometimes purposefully spread rumors debunking his own hoaxes in order to generate renewed media interest.

So you have to wonder, would it be better simply to ignore these PR stunts, and thereby not give the PR people the publicity they're looking for? It's a bit of a dilemma. Though my feeling is that the debunkers should never be blamed for doing their job. (Thanks, Laurie!)
Categories: Advertising, Products
Posted by Alex on Thu Oct 20, 2011
Comments (5)
On the left is Avon's Derma-Full X3 Facial Filling Serum. On the right is the T-Virus from Resident Evil. Notice a resemblance? A lot of people have.



When I first saw this, I thought it must be some kind of internet joke. Avon wouldn't really design one of its products to look exactly like a well-known fictional virus with the power to animate dead tissue and create an army of zombies? Would they? But as far as I can tell, that's exactly what they've done. (Thanks to Kingmonkey!)
Categories: Fashion, Products
Posted by Alex on Fri Mar 13, 2009
Comments (6)
An inflatable santa outside, artificial spray-on snow frosting the window, a plastic Christmas tree standing in the corner, and round out the mood by slipping a hi-def fireplace video into the DVD player.
Categories: Products
Posted by Alex on Tue Dec 23, 2008
Comments (0)