15 Incredibly Stupid Ways People Made Their Millions
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A selection of stories outlining the stupid ways people made their millions.
Inventions are important. They're the reason life has become so easy for us, and technology so accommodating. The market for inventions is enormous, and hundreds of new ones are patented every day. Since not everyone is a genius, many of them fall into obscurity immediately as inefficient or unimportant ideas. However, sometimes the silly ones we might be quick to dismiss are unexpectedly more profitable than the conventional method of doing whatever it is the newfangled thing does. Here are 15 weird and ridiculous ideas that made people rich.
1. Pet Rock
The Pet Rock is undeniable proof that people will buy just about anything. It's literally a rock with googly eyes glued to it, but the inanimate companion grossed a couple million dollars in 1975. The fad only lasted for that year before dying out, but the Pet Rock carriers, equipped with breathing holes and a straw as if for a real animal, proved irresistible for those wishing to give silly and ironic Christmas gifts.
Really having to pee can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings ever. You can’t concentrate on anything else, you fidget, you frantically search for the bathroom. But what if you’re out in public and don’t know where to find one? Poppin’ a squat it picking a dark corner isn’t always an option, and many establishments have bathrooms restricted for employee or customer use only. Conveniently, anyone with a cell phone can now find the nearest public restroom just by texting a short number for a small fee.
Do dogs really need goggles? No. Do they want them? Probably not. Does anyone sell them? Of course -- and they've made more than a million dollars off the idea. Giving dogs goggles is about as useful as giving a goldfish a monocle and cane, but that didn’t stop the company Doggles from doing their very best. At $80 a pair, Doggles is a multi million dollar company.
If you think about it, looking at the photo above (and ignoring the fact that this product shouldn’t exist in the first place), there’s no reason that goggle s for dogs should look the same as those for humans. The bridge of a dog’s nose isn’t directly between his eyes like a human, so this design is a little strange. They pretty much look like Seth Green’s character from Can’t Hardly Wait.
4. Million Dollar Homepage
How much is a solitary pixel floating around in cyberspace worth? Alex Tew thought $1 per pixel was a reasonable price. Tew was just about to begin studying business at the University of Nottingham, but the idea he came up with to fund his education proved that he already possessed the sensibility of a successful businessman. Tew bought a web domain, laid out an area of 1,000,000 pixels, and sold them in 100-dollar blocks. Ads ranged from online casinos, to Target and everything in between. This was The Million Dollar Homepage.Tew came up with the idea in August of 2005, and by New Year’s Eve, every pixel bar but one had been sold. Not only did Tew make a whopping $ 1,037,100 gross from his relatively simple idea, but he also managed to attract some big name clients, like Tenacious D.
5. Mungo & Maud’s Petite Amande Dog Fragrance
Even more absurd than dog goggles is the concept of a dog perfume. It's true that wet, dirty dog smell is an awful one... But how about wet and dirty mixed with floral extracts? It's like spraying air freshener in the bathroom -- it doesn't cover up the poop smell, just sort of hangs on top of it like an additional layer of sense assault. Here's an idea: give your dog a bath. If the dog is clean, it won't smell so bad. Don’t just cover the smell up like some French hooker from the 1700s. The fact that this invention has earned over a million dollars is downright ridiculous.
Another case against Petite Armande is that dogs have an exponentially stronger sense of smell than humans do. The animal most likely finds it unpleasant to be sprayed with irritating odor concentrates. If the smell is strong to us, it must be a billion times stronger for the dog. Suit yourselves, perfumed-pup-lovers, just don’t complain when Timmy’s stuck in a well an you bloodhound Biff can’t find him because his sense of smell is masked by the wafted aroma of Lassie Chanel No. 5.
6. Lucky Wishbone Co.
Amazingly, this might be the silliest product yet – which is definitely saying a lot, considering the cavalcade of weird stuff that’s preceded it. Wishbones are traditionally considered lucky, and are taken from an animal (which is typically being consumed) to break in half between two people. Holding each end of the tiny bone, the two parties pull until it snaps, and decide which player is the ‘lucky’ one according to who has the larger portion. However, Lucky Wishbone Co. doesn’t sell real wishbones. It sells fake little plastic ones, at around about a dollar each. This abortion of an idea also makes its creators the a ton of money.
Get a postal address in the North Pole, pretend you are Santa Claus and charge parents 10 bucks for every letter you send to their kids. Well, Byron Reese has sent over 200,000 letters since the start of that business in 2001, meaning he's made a multi-millionaire dollar fortune.
One of the best ways to make money out of people has always been taking advantage of their naïveté and dreams, and who's more naïve than kids? Byron Reese, sprung for a postal address in the North Pole, a place he'd never been, so he could pretend to be Santa. Even worse than the mall Santa who lets kids sit on his lap and drinks malt liquor in the parking lot, in some intangible way.
Reese writes back to the letters himself, but never reveals his true identity. At first, this sounds quite sweet, but consider this: What if little Susie (they are always called Susie) wants a little doll which Mommy and Daddy can't afford? Is Santa going to say ‘no’? What if little Jessica (she’s rich and has a last name like DuBois or something) wants a pony, and Santa’s all like ‘I think that’s a bit much to ask, little Jessica. Ho ho ho!’ but then Jessica’s parents buy her a really awesome pony with a Bose sound system and five LCD monitors? Then Santa all of a sudden seems nonexistent. Another million-dollar idea, this time one that depersonalizes one of the most beautiful mysteries of childhood by making it a capitalist business.
8. Excused Absence Network
Are you too lazy to show up to work or school on time, but don’t want to waste your creativity on coming up with your own excuse? The Excused Absence Network is a service which caters to all the lying employee’s needs; from a missed math test all the way to skipping out on your own wedding. The notes aren’t just those ‘little Johnny had a sore throat today’ notes from mom – these are excuse notes that look as though they come from a hospital or doctors office for just $25 per note.
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