THE DUMBEST PRODUCTS
IN CAPTIVITY

Many times I see products which make me ask, "What were they thinking?" Here is a list of the weirdest and strangest products:

  1. Combination Flashlight and Ballpoint Pen

    They put the flashlight on the other end of the pen, pointing away from the pen point. So you can't see what you are writing in the dark.

    Another version is a keychain with a flashlight on the other end - pointed away from the keyhole.

  2. Art Kits That Still Use the Obsolete Primary Colors

    new primaries The correct primary colors of pigment have been known since 1934. They are magenta, yellow, and cyan (see image at right). These primary colors are based on the science of color vision.

    So why do art companies still provide sets designed around the obsolete primaries? Excepting use with certain kinds of oil paints, the old primaries (red, yellow, and blue - see lower image) are useless. The new primaries work with almost all media.

    Yet they still make these nice sets of colored pencils, crayons, chalks, and/or watercolors with the old primary colors in mind, and make the following mistakes in constructing them;

    Why do these companies put out such stupid art sets? See my article:

    Teach the Correct Color Theory in School

  3. Schylling and Ohio Art Color Changing Tops

    In the same error, these companies produced the toy tops at left for children, using the old primary colors. As the top spins, the gears connected to the stationary stand on the bottom slowly turn the three wheels, changing the color bands seen inside the top.

    Ohio Art Top Schylling Top Old Colors Author's Top New Design New Colors
    ohio art top
    schylling top orig
    original top colors
    my top
    schylling modified
    revised top colors

    The page author owned the Ohio Art top as a child (around 7 years old).

  4. Collapsible Coffeepot (for easier storage)

    This was a set of concentric conical rings that can be pulled tight to form a coffeepot. It was based on a collapsible drinking cup that was also intended for carrying in a knapsack for camping.

    The problem is that it could collapse while in use. When heated, the segments expanded at different rates, and it collapsed, spilling water on the fire (and maybe the user). This was rare with the cup.

    A collapsible dishpan is sold that works the same way. It could collapse by itself the same way.

    A set of collapsible measuring cups that works the same way is being sold. I wonder how accurately they measure each time they are expanded. And will these collapse if put down?

  5. Suction-Cup Safety Grab Bar

    tile remover This was sold to be a safety grab bar used for entering and leaving a bathtub. It has lock levers that increase the suction. The catalog photo shows it attached to a tiled wall.

    The page author bought one of these. It pulled the tiles off the bathroom wall when a handicapped person tried to use it.

  6. Lamp with Erroneous Maximum Bulb Wattage Label

    The lamp has a label saying not to use a bulb larger than 60 watts because the socket is not designed to handle more power.

    The problem is that they then added a conversion based on the number of lumens the bulb emits, saying not to use a CFL larger than 13 watts or an LED larger than 9 watts.

    A stupid lawyer must have required this. The socket is designed to handle 60 watts no matter what kind of bulb is inserted. It is the heat from current in the socket, not the amount of light emitted, that can cause the hazard.

    Or maybe they were afraid the brighter bulb would fade the lampshade.

  7. Monogrammed Products (various kinds of items)

    Various kinds of items are sold with monogram letters on them, including wall hangings, trivets, draperies, plates, silverware, glasses, bedspreads, seat covers, etc. The problem is that they offer only 12 to 16 letters of the alphabet. If your surname is Quillen, Ulrich, or Zimmermann, you are out of luck.

  8. NFL Team Logo Products (and teams from other sport leagues)

    These are items similar to the monogrammed items above. Like the monograms, the vendor provides only 8, 12, or 16 teams, instead of all of the teams in the NFL. The logos of other sports, other leagues, and college teams are also sold in the same way. But if your team is not on the list of available logos, you can't have one with your team on it.

  9. tuba mirum Tuba Mirum???

    The poster in a record store said "Tuba Mirum". With a picture of a tuba???

    The phrase "Tuba Mirum" is in Latin. It means "Wonderful trumpet". The Latin word "tuba" means "trumpet". The phrase has nothing to do with the musical instrument we call a tuba. Tuba Mirum is a part of the Requiem Mass used in the Catholic Church.

    (Update - the page author found out that this poster was made to sell a CD made by a tuba player. It does not contain any part of the Requiem Mass.)

  10. Kitchen Cooker Makes a Single Food

    Many kitchen devices are sold that are intended to make only one kind of food. These include pizza cooker, lasagna cooker, egg poacher, devilled egg filler, butter melter, banana peeler, peach shaver, corn butterer, wine cork remover, salad spinner, etc.

    Most people can do these things with the kitchen equipment they already have. They don't need special devices to make each kind of food. And often there is often no room to store all of these special devices in a small kitchen.

  11. Draft Stopper Fits Under Door

    This is a roll of plastic that fits under the door, with half of the roll on each side. It prevents drafts from going under the door. It works fine if the door is indoors, or if another door or a portico (porch overhang) keeps rain off the device. But if the door is exposed to rain, it brings rain water into the house.

  12. Winter Boots that Look Sharp, but are Not Waterproof

    Most of those nice looking winter boots they sell are not waterproof. When the snow melts, your feet get very wet. And in some cases, getting the boots wet makes them fall apart.

    On the other hand, boots that are waterproof don't keep your feet warm.

  13. boob lights Boob Ceiling Lamps

    These 11-inch to 13-inch ceiling lamps are generally shaped like women's breasts, and they are sold in pairs in a package that makes them look like a huge bra. I wonder how many people bought them because they subconsciously saw boobs.

    A marketing booby trap?

  14. Microwave Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry

    The problem with this is in the instructions. It tells the person cooking it how to thaw and cut up the chicken. Then it tells the cook to "stir the vegetables into the meat." At that time, the vegetables are still frozen into a solid block.

  15. Chicken Marsala

    The problem is evident when you look at the picture on the box. The caption underneath says:
    SERVING SUGGESTION
           KEEP FROZEN.

  16. Computer Keyboards with rub-off-ish letters

    Nice keyboards, except that the decals they made the letters out of rub off the keyboard keys, leaving you puzzled about which key is which. Mold the letters into the keytops, please.

  17. Olestra (diet cooking oil used in diet products)

    For many people, it comes with a built-in enema.

  18. "Universal" tool

    This kind of "Swiss-Army tool" has 10 or more tools built into one device. The problem is that combining the tools makes each tool harder to use. Also, you can't use two of the tools in the set at the opposite ends of the same bolt.

  19. plastic flex hinge All Kinds Of Containers with Flexible Plastic Hinges

    These include pencil boxes, food containers, CD carriers, cosmetic cases, and other kinds of containers. They are all made of a cheap flexible plastic.

    The problem is that the hinges wear out and break off. Then the container becomes useless.

  20. Hands-Free Cell Phone Devices

    They don't make cell phones any safer to use while driving, because the cell phone removes the driver's brain from the road.

  21. Dust Mop Slippers

    It looks like a good idea until you try it:

    1. They are quite slippery on smooth floors. Don't lose your balance.
    2. All the dirt comes off at once if you have to go into a carpeted room.
    3. You get a clean zone down the center of the room with dirt left at the edges.
    4. Don't wear them on stairs.
    5. The washing machine won't clean them like the instructions say it will.
  22. Shelf Set Folds Up For Storage

    Once you set it up and fill it up with items (videos in the page author's case) it will never again be folded up unless you put it in the moving van to move to another house.

  23. Simply Fit Exercise Board

    Keep using it in the same place and see the hole worn in the rug.

  24. pill sorter Seven-Day Pill Organizer

    Violates many state laws that prohibit keeping prescription drugs in anything other than the original bottle with the prescription label on it.

  25. Ambulatory Taco

    This is supposed to be a lunch you can carry with you, make in a microwave oven, and eat while you walk. However, it was not nearly as easy to prepare as it looks in the pictoral instructions:

    1. The pouch full of tortilla chips would not stand up in the microwave.
    2. It took two hands to get the meat and the sauces out of the packets. This left no hand to hold up the chip pouch.
    3. The taco sauce bag would not tear open. Scissors were required.
    4. The taco sauce was 5-alarm sauce. The consumer should have been warned.
    5. Some of the meat and sauces would not come out of the pouches, wasting the materials.
    6. The pouch fell over in the microwave, making a mess.
    7. Often this is another built-in enema.
  26. Solar-Powered Yard Light

    These work well when they are new, but they rarely last longer than two years. The following are the most common reasons these lights fail so early.

    1. The plastic the lamp is made of photodegrades or biodegrades and falls apart.
    2. The electronics are not sealed from the weather and are damaged by moisture.
    3. The electronics malfunction because moisture causes unwanted conductive paths.
    4. Insects get into the case and build nests that damage the electronics.
    5. The cheap battery included leaks and damages the circuitry.
    6. The solar panel does not collect enough energy for a cloudy day.
    7. It's easy for a thief to steal it.
  27. truck too long Pickup Trucks Too Long for Standard Parking Spaces

    These trucks are so long that they either occupy two parking spaces or stick out into the driving aisle between rows of parking spaces. Also, a driver in the next space can't see around the too-long truck to be able to back out.

  28. Any Product Attached to a Window or Wall by a Suction Cup

    The suction cup always lets go at the most inopportune time. An indoor-outdoor thermometer held by suction cups fell and broke, spilling the colored liquids on the rug. Also, a pretty sun catcher on another window fell and shattered.

  29. A Coffee Cup or Teacup with a Compartment for a Cookie or a Teabag

    When you take a drink, the cookie or the teabag falls out onto your lap.

  30. Crystal-like Light Cover

    This clips onto a bare lightbulb to hide the bulb and socket. But it won't work with a compact fluorescent squiggle bulb.

  31. Toilet Bowl Light

    This causes the toilet bowl to light up when it is approached at night. The first problem is that you need other light to use the toilet anyway. The second problem is when unsuspecting Uncle Ralph with the heart condition is surprised by the sudden light, has a heart attack and dies.

  32. Laser Christmas Light Show

    This works well - too well. Airplane pilots have reported blinding laser strikes from some of these devices.

    There are non-laser versions that are safe.

  33. Solar Powered Motion-Detector Outdoor Light

    What do you do if the places you need these most are places where the sun never shines?

  34. LED spectrum gap LED Light Bulbs have Gaps in their Spectral Emissions.

    The light from these bulbs has parts of the spectrum missing, making the colors of some objects appear to change to other colors. The missing colors are deep red, cyan, and violet.

  35. CFL spectrum gap CFL Light Bulbs have Large Gaps in their Spectral Emissions.

    The light from compact fluorescents has just bright lines in spectrum. The rest of the spectrum is missing, making the colors of some objects appear to change to other colors.

  36. Incandescent spectrum gap Incandescent and Halogen Light Bulbs have More Red than Blue.

    The light from these bulbs is a continuous spectrum, but the blue end of the spectrum is much weaker than the red end, giving the bulbs a yellow or orange color. This makes the colors of some objects appear to change to other colors.

  37. Colored CFL and LED Light Bulb Models have very different spectra.

    You have to hunt to find colored light bulbs that can be used for RGB or other color mixing purposes. Many produce leakage colors that are not the desired color.

    Some versions are purposely made to simulate the awfully leaky incandescent bulb filters they are intended to replace. Others are just white LEDs with colored plastic caps.

    Too often the businesses that sell them see the use of these bulbs to be nothing but parties, and often change suppliers without warning.

  38. CFL and LED Light Bulb Models are changed every year or two.

    If you find a light bulb you like, they will discontinue it. Then you will have to find something new that exactly replaces it.

    Often the new version has a different spectral distribution, upsetting any scientific or engineered purpose you bought the bulb for. In other cases, the new bulb might not fit in your fixture. The new bulb might be brighter or dimmer. Some new versions have transparent globes with fake filaments inside.

    Too often the business that sells them sees the use of these bulbs to be nothing but illumination, and often changes suppliers without warning.

  39. Stroboscopic disc New Fluorescent or LED Bulb Won't Work 60Hz Calibration Strobe Disc

    The new bulb has a built-in power supply in the base or fixture that rectifies and filters the 60-Hz power to give either a steady DC output or one that flashes at a much higher frequency. This removes visible flicker in the room, but also makes the bulb useless for calibrating a rotating object.

    The disc shown is intended for calibrating the speed of a phonograph record turntable. Right click on the disc and choose View Image to see it better.

    Use an old fluorescent fixture or a neon night light to correctly use the disc.

  40. Storage Solution Shelving Devices for Corners

    In some houses, there are no available corners. In the page author's house, there are few available corners. Every corner has a doorway, a closet, a window, a fixture (e.g. sink), a kitchen counter, an appliance hookup (e.g. washing machine) or something else that keeps it from containing a storage device. Each bedroom has one corner for the bed. There are only three corners left that are not inside closets, and they are already occupied.

  41. Storage Solution Shelving Devices that Hang on Doors

    Some houses have no swinging doors. They have arches, sliding doors, pocket doors, accordion doors, open entrances to halls, stairways, and other kinds of doorways. Some swinging doors open against adjacent walls, leaving no room for the storage devices. The page author's house has only 4 swinging interior doors, and all of them open against adjacent walls.

  42. tuba remote Every Appliance has a Remote Control

    There are several problems with this:

    1. Devices often use the same frequencies, causing remotes to activate the wrong device.
    2. Some functions are not available without the remote. Loss or failure of the remote means loss of those functions.
    3. When you buy the device used, you usually don't get the remote. So you don't have those functions.
    4. A media center can have as many as 10 remotes (The page author's has 9: TV set, Cable, VCR, DVD, CD changer, CD recorder, Surround sound, Radio, and Air filter. Only 2 of them are actively used. The others are used only for the functions that are not included on the control panel.
    5. When the power fails, every device with a remote forgets all of your settings and has to be reprogrammed for the proper settings again. These settings include speaker levels, display mode, surround mode, cable channels, radio stations, equalization, and others. Devices without remote controls have physical knobs that retain their settings.
    6. A device with a remote control cannot be turned on and off with a timer.
    7. Constantly looking for the lost remote.
    8. Remote controls are provided on devices that do not need remote controls (e.g. light bulbs, thermostats, refrigerators, microwave ovens, alarm clocks, fans and other devices). Some of them expect you to use a cell phone instead.
  43. Every Appliance has Menus

    There are several problems with this:

    1. A Menu can be a hazard in a car or other device where you can't take your eyes off what you are doing.
    2. Menus take longer to use than simple controls, wasting time.
    3. Menus become troublesome when it is hard to figure out which submenu contains the function you want.
    4. Menus often need remote controls, with all of the disadvantages listed above.
    5.    (•  ) (•  )   

      When the power fails, every device with a menu forgets all of your settings and has to be reprogrammed for the proper settings again. Devices without menus have physical knobs that retain their settings.
    6. A device with menus cannot be turned on and off with a timer.
    7. Menus are provided on devices that do not need menus (e.g. light bulbs, thermostats, refrigerators, microwave ovens, alarm clocks, and other devices).
    8. Many devices expect you to have a cell phone and control menus through that phone.
  44. Products and Contests That Require Cell Phones to Access Them

    This keeps people who do not have or want cell phones or who have the wrong cell phones from accessing the device or contest.

  45. Products That Require Bluetooth

    This keeps people who do not have or want wireless devices from using them. Many people don't want wireless devices for security reasons.

    Some devices use the same frequencies and interfere with each other.

  46. wireless Products with Wireless Connections

    This keeps people who do not have or want wireless devices from using them. Many people don't want wireless devices for security reasons.

    Some devices use the same frequencies and interfere with each other.

  47. Everything Connects to the Internet, Often Through WiFi

    Internet connections are not needed for most devices. Internet connections can cause the following troubles:

    1. Devices often fight over WiFi connections.
    2. In apartment buildings, neighboring computers can take over your devices.
    3. Criminals can see your files and security cameras.
    4. Hackers have taken over Internet connected appliances and used them to hack into other computers.
    5. Criminals can unlock your internet-accessible house or your car.
    6. Hackers have taken over internet-connected cars and caused them to crash.
    7. All of the WiFi and Cell Phone connections emit radio waves that can possibly cause cancer.
    8. Many devices expect you to have a cell phone and control them through that phone.
  48. shaped car lights Cars with Strangely Shaped Lights

    Car makers have made strange shapes using the parking or running lights. But when seen in the dark of night, other drivers can't tell if it is a car, a motorcycle, or an advertising sign.

  49. Tree Dazzler Christmas Lights

    This has most of the disadvantages of a product with menus and remote controls.

    1. It forgets your settings when it is off.
    2. The device cannot be used with a timer. It will not turn on with the timer. The control box must be used to start it.
    3. There is no way to shut off the Tree Dazzler with the control box. It must be unplugged or turned off with an external switch.
    4. The colors available in some modes are based on the obsolete primary-secondary color set (red orange yellow green blue violet white pink) instead of the prettier new primary-secondary color set (red orange yellow green cyan blue magenta white).
  50. Products That Periodically Need Replacement Accessories to Keep Working

    Such products include air filters, sink drain cleaners, special lamps (e.g. LED), computer printers, tape recorders, house cleaning devices, pet waste collection devices, pet toys, scented items, and other products that use accessories that are used up.

    When the company discontinues the product and its accessories, the product you bought will soon become useless.

  51. wacky bike light Illegal or Dangerous Accessories Sold for Bicycles

    Many companies are selling "safety" devices for bicycles which are illegal to use as directed on bicycles in most states:

    1. Front white reflectors for use in lieu of a headlight (useless if the car is not heading straight toward the bicycle - very dangerous when a car has just overtaken and passed a bicycle because the driver can't see the bike to return to his lane - must have a real headlight at night)
    2. Flashing red lights to warn drivers of the presence of the bicycle (allowed in addition to a steady red light or reflector, but not alone and not on the front)
    3. Flashing yellow lights to warn drivers of the presence of the bicycle (allowed in addition to a the lights required by law, but not alone)
    4. Flashing white lights to warn drivers of the presence of the bicycle (allowed in addition to a the steady white headlight, but not alone and not on the back)
    5. Extremely bright flashing red lights or flashing lights with unusual flash patterns (fool drivers into thinking the bicycle is an emergency vehicle)
    6. Lights flashing faster than twice a second (flashing at the brain's alpha frequency can disrupt normal thinking or cause an epileptic seizure)
    7. Sirens
  52. pill bottle opener Geriatric-Patient-Proof Pill Bottle Caps

    These "childproof" bottle caps require such excessive strength or dexterity that geriatric patients cannot open them. They have to find strong dexterous children to open them.

  53. Third Brake Light Blinks Twice Before Coming On

    These confuse drivers who use the lights to determine the amount of braking. They might make sense when free-flowing traffic has to stop suddenly. But in bumper-to-bumper traffic, they quickly become annoying.

  54. Products with the Salt Removed.

    The product does not taste the same with salt sprinkled on it as it tastes with the salt mixed into the recipe. Removing the salt from all products to satisfy the few with low-salt diets is just plain wrong.

  55. packaging opener Impossible to Open Products.

    The packaging is so strong that the user can't get into it. This includes those plastic blisters that require you to have tin snips to cut them open, sauce packets that won't tear open (you have to get scissors), and the CD and DVD cases that require many multiple steps to get them open.

  56. CD Jewel Boxes that Break too Easily.

    The jewel box is too fragile. It can crack or break, the hinges break off or the tabs holding the booklet break.

  57. CD Storage Devices Hold Just the CD.

    Most of the CD storage devices sold today hold just the CD, not the jewel box. This means you lose all of the notes about the content of the CD.

  58. Pull Tails used to Open Pieces of Chocolate.

    The tails don't work. They break in two, don't open the package, or knock the conical top off the chocolate (which then falls and is lost in the rug). After a party, the tails are found all over the floor.

  59. Plastic Label/Tag Ties Injected into Fabric.

    The label and price tag are more important than the product. Pulling on these can damage the garment. And if the T-end is injected between layers in the garment, you can't get it out. Cutting it off leaves the plastic end inside the garment.

  60. Price Tags with Glue so Strong That Removing them Damages the Product.

    These cause damage to the produce from tearing, residues, or little bits of the tag left on the product. Often a special solvent is needed to get the tag off.

  61. electric fan dust Electric fans with a small spacing between the vanes of the fan guard.

    These become clogged with dust often, blocking air flow.

  62. Light Fixtures with Hard-To-Get Proprietary Replacement Bulbs.

    This makes it hard to fix the fixture when the bulb fails.

  63. Light Fixtures with Nonreplaceable Light Bulbs.

    This requires replacing the entire fixture when the bulb fails.

  64. Tagless Shirts and Underwear Still Itch.

    Shirt and underwear makers took the tags out of the shirts and printed the label on the inside back of the garment after customers complained that the tags itch. But the garments still itch because the ink used for the label is what itches, not the tag itself.

  65. Car Dashboards and Stereos Require Disassembly to Change Bulbs.

    Too many car dashboards and car stereos require major disassembly when a bulb burns out and must be replaced. Many of these have the bulbs soldered into place. Because of labor costs, it is often cheaper to replace the entire circuit board or stereo.

  66. "My Pillow" Clones

    They do all that is advertised, but they give off gases that some people are sensitive to. The page author can't breathe around one.

  67. self-crashing car Self-Crashing Cars

    The self-driving cars various companies are making are far from crashproof:

    Self-driving cars will never totally have the ability to understand the situation like human drivers can do. Computers can't be taught intuition.